Om Mani Padme Hum: The Most Popular Tibetan Buddhist Mantra

image credit:  Carmen Mensink  Dakini offers the lotus flower and mantra

image credit: Carmen Mensink
Dakini offers the lotus flower and mantra

Last week we talked about the importance of mantra in everyday life, in feng shui and in other outlets of holistic living (like meditation). As we discussed, a mantra is a mind tool, and each person may have a separate mantra that is meaningful for them. But there are some mantras that are widely used and considered especially important in certain practices. 

In fact, one of my favorite mantras and one of the most popular in Tibetan Buddhism is:

Om Mani Padme Hum

Om Mani Padme Hum translates to the phrase, "The jewel is in the lotus," alluding to the strong symbolism of the lotus flower in many Indian belief systems, including Buddhism. The lotus flower originates in a thick, muddy environment and blooms pure and beautiful to the surface. The Dali Lama has also said that this mantra can be interpreted as the jewel (which represents altruism) and the lotus (representing wisdom) in combination, which is where enlightenment is found. Om Mani Padme Hum is believed to hold all Buddhist teachings.

The Om Mani Padme Hum mantra is associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who is symbolic of the compassion of all the buddhas. In depictions, Avalokiteshvara is shown with a lotus in his left hand. Kuan Yin, the feminized version of Avalokiteshvara, is also related to this mantra in addition to the heart sutra mantra. 

As I mentioned in last week's post, though the meaning of the mantra is important and good to know, there is actually more to be experienced in the sound of the mantra as it is repeated. Also, since mantras are traditionally in Sanskrit, assigning a translated meaning to them can detract from their original interpretations and make them less meaningful. 

As it does encompass all the Buddhist teachings, Om Mani Padme Hum can be used in almost any situation. From cultivating compassion for yourself or another to finding solid ground to preparing for your day and more! In fact, a guide at the Rubin Museum shared that while visiting a family in Tibet, the family recited it regularly, which is said to purify on three levels - speech, mind, body - and remove negative karma. The more you recite Om Mani Padme Hum, the more merit you receive, and the more you begin to embody Avalokiteshvara. 

When do you find mantras to be most helpful? Are there any that you use daily that improve your life?

by Anjie Cho


What is a Mantra?

You'll find the term "mantra" throughout our posts, as it's an important part of feng shui, Buddhism and many spiritual practices including meditation and sometimes yoga. None of this matters, though, if you don't understand what a mantra is. 

Literally, the term "mantra" is a Sanskrit word meaning "mind tool," and that's exactly what a mantra is! Renowned meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg, defines a mantra as a sort of default saying that each of us has in response to happenings in our lives. These mantras can actually be positive (i.e. You're awesome) or negative (i.e. I knew you'd mess that up!). In fact, changing negative thoughts to more positive thoughts is one of the best ways to use a "mind tool." The repetitive action in using a mantra helps to set the grooves in our lives and thoughts, and historically, specific syllables are believed to invoke individual energies. 

Though the power of a mantra is said to be experienced through the listening, the repetition involved in using a mantra can be incredibly helpful in changing the way we react to certain events, speak to ourselves and even think about others. This direction (or redirection) of intention is one of the reasons we use mantras in feng shui, since BTB feng shui focuses so closely on intention. 

One of the most basic seed syllables that start most traditional eastern mantras is "Om". Om is actually much more than a single syllable sound used in typical meditation. Om is known as an elemental and universal sound, encompassing all and serving as a part of many revered prayers and chants across many belief systems. And actually, Om is not one sound, but a collection of three (A-U-M) that is said to represent beginning, middle and end (so...everything). Physiologically, it represents the entire range of human vocal ability, from the throat to the lips. 

Each person's personal mantra may be different, much like the varying mantras that accompany yantras and specific meditations. Be sure to check back next week, when we'll discuss one of the most popular traditional Tibetan Buddhist mantras, "Om Mani Padme Hum" and its importance. In the meantime, work to find your own mantra by choosing a word that lifts you, makes you feel connected and settles you into the groove you want. Sharon also recommends starting with a single word that you can associate with feeling the breath as you meditate

I'm looking forward to sharing the meaning behind one of my favorite mantras. Until then, what word(s) are you choosing for your personal mantras? Do you already have daily mantras? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

by Anjie Cho


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