What is Om mani padme hum?
This is one of my favourite mantras and I often recite it whilst knotting my mala beads (I like to think I’m sending a bit of compassion out with each mala in a world where it’s much needed!) . I find that after a while it creeps into daily life too and find myself chanting it internally whilst shopping or taking the kids to school, making me smile and bringing me back to the quiet happiness I feel when absorbed in the mantra at home! It’s also the mantra that I would when I’m starting to feel negative as it is one of positive transformation and truly does shift my mood and mindset.
Om mani padme hum is considered the most revered and potent mantra and is the most widely used devotional practice in Tibetan Buddhism (and indeed other schools of Buddhism).
The mantra is visible everywhere in Tibet and is often recited throughout everyday tasks or at times of stress or negativity. It is thought to invoke a compassionate nature.
In Tibetan Buddhism it is pronounced ‘om mani peme hung’ and is often simply called the mani mantra.
What does it mean?
There are several different interpretations of the meaning of Om mani padme hum although most consider it to be an invocation of the bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshvara.
Some consider the meaning of the mantra to have little importance as the sound extends beyond meaning and has a profound meditative and transformative effect in itself. Others however (including the current Dalai Lama-Tenzin Gyatso) insist that the meaning of each part of the mantra must be considered during recitation in order to truly experience the effects of the mantra.
Literally translated, Mani means Jewel and Padme means in the Lotus. Om and Hum have no literal meaning but are ‘divine sounds’ with Om being the primordial sound of all creation and existence and hum considered similar to amen.
Om mani padme hum is most commonly interpreted as ‘Behold! The jewel in the lotus!’
Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso considers the mantra to mean (Om) pureness of body, speech and mind, (Mani) jewel-symbolising the intention to become enlightened for altruistic causes and compassion, (Padme) lotus- wisdom and (Hum) the indivisibility of each part in order to achieve pureness. Together this takes the meaning that in order to achieve pureness of body, speech and mind (as Buddha) in order to benefit others and ease suffering (living in compassion), one must adopt BOTH the methods and wisdom of the Buddhist path.
Some schools of Buddhist thought split the mantra into its six syllables and link each to one of the six paramitas (perfect virtues considered key to Buddhist life).
Om purifies pride and ego through the paramita of generosity.
Ma purifies lust and jealousy through the paramita of ethics.
Ni purifies desires through the paramita of patience.
Pad purifies ignorance and prejudice through diligence.
Me purifies possessiveness and greed through renunciation.
Hum purifies hatred and aggressive nature through the paramita of wisdom (which the others build towards and is our Buddha nature mind).
Both of these ideas express the thought that Om mani padme hum contains the essence of all the teachings of the Buddha and it is therefore considered a very meaningful mantra.
The symbolism of the lotus is worth looking at in regards to the mani mantra. A lotus is a beautiful pure white flower whose roots lie in mud. The jewel in the lotus can also be given to symbolise the fact that we all have the capability of pureness and wisdom if only we can rise above the mud and impureness in our lives and our person.
How to use the mantra.
The mantra can be chanted alongside a Mala to keep track.
Alternatively, you could chant in time with a teacher or chant leader or even a track. It is possible to find some truly mesmerising tracks on youtube and try to tune yourself in to the sounds and even join in yourself.
If you like to listen rather than chant whilst meditating, there are some nice musical interpretations of Om mani padme hum. (I can recommend the soundtrack Om Mani Padme Hum by Buedi Siebert. Track 11 is a lovely Mantra version of Om Mani Padme Hum Hri – with Hri being the seed syllable, thought to contain the essence of the bodhisattva).
Prayer wheels or mani decorated with Om mani padme hum can be spun whilst chanting or meditating upon the mantra.
Some people maintain that even just looking at the image of Om mani padme hum can bring the desired effect of the mantra, so mani stones, jewellery or artwork with the image could be a nice way to use the mantra.
Prayer flags are often painted with the mantra and it is believed that the wind blowing through these flags will carry the mantra and therefore compassion wherever it blows.
If you’re wanting to know how to use the mani mantra in a mindfulness meditation, I’ve attached a link to a video of Shinzen Young. Shinzen Young is an American monk originally ordained in the Japanese Shingon tradition. He teaches Vipassana meditation and in this video he discusses the different ways to meditate whilst chanting Om mani padme hum and follows it up with a chanting session (the recording is a bit shaky so I expect the sound experience was much more profound in person, but it will give you a very good insight of how to use mani mantra nonetheless). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpG3HaCFPbo shinzen young