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Om Mani Padme Hum

Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus - ॐ मणिपद्मे हूँ

Yeshe Tsogyal

Mantras in another language represent a challenge for many people if they are not clear on the meaning yet arriving at a meaning can be something of a challenge. When I was first introduced to this mantra it was something new age and sweet, and for some people around me who had distanced themselves from Western society, it represented a point of difference and that they were members of the club.

The origins of the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is  associated with Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion.

For many years I had the idea that when reciting this mantra that by offering praise to the jewel in the Lotus was akin to offering praise to the essence of life or the point of existence from where life emerged. Many years on that same meaning still fits and is synonymous with Om Namah Shivia that for me is the Hindu equivalent because Shiva represents the possibility from which all existence emerged.

To the Western mind this might not make any sense, why offer praise to something that happened in the distant past? It now seems that while the universe may have come into being so many billions of years ago, the process of creation continues within all life as new cells grow in die which includes of course our ability to procreate.

Life emerges from a backdrop of the unknowable referred to as emptiness and without emptiness we would not exist in a similar way that light could not exist without darkness. A simple way to use this mantra is to recite it verbally or silently within your mind and at the same time direct your sense of appreciation for being to the very source of creation.

There is nothing to believe, try it out and if it works then all is well and good, continue but if it doesn't work simply discard it and move on. Many people find this recitation helpful in calming the mind and relaxing, others find it a mental challenge that opens doorways to using their minds in different ways.  When emptiness is realised, one knows oneself as  part of existence, wisdom and true compassion flows. ~ NZ Yogi

The jewel is in the lotus or praise to the jewel in the lotus
by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet

It is very good to recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. The first, OM, is composed of three pure letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

Can impure body, speech and mind be transformed into pure body, speech and mind, or are they entirely separate? All Buddhas are cases of being who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states and their being transformed into the pure.

How is this done? The path is indicated by the next four syllables.

MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factor of method- the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.

The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-
contradiction where as there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing that persons are empty of self-sufficient or substantial existence, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality (that is to say, of difference of entity between subject and object), and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are may different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realizing emptiness.

Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable, HUM, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of
method and wisdom refers to one consciousness in which there is a full form of both wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom.

In the mantra, or tantra vehicle, it refers to one conciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five
conqueror Buddha's, HUM is the is the seed syllable of Akshobhya- the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.

Thus the six syllables, OM MANI PADME HUM, mean that in dependence on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is said that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within.

As Maitreya says in his SUBLIME CONTINUUM OF GREAT VEHICLE (UTTARA TANTRA) all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (TATHAGATAGARBHA), that is to be transformed and full developed into Buddhahood.

"Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha."

(From a lecture given by His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet at the Kalmuck Mongolian Buddhist Center, New Jersey.) Transcribed by Ngawang Tashi (Tsawa), Drepung Loseling, MUNGOD, INDIA

More on Wiki and there are other versions of the mantra on youtube.

First published March 2014 and updated March 2019

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