Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying the mantra (prayer), Om Mani Padme Hum, out loud or silently to oneself, invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion. Viewing the written form of the mantra is said to have the same effect - it is often carved into stones, like the one pictured above, and placed where people can see them. Spinning the written form of the mantra around in a Mani wheel (or prayer wheel) is also believed to give the same benefit as saying the mantra, and Mani wheels, small hand wheels and large wheels with millions of copies of the mantra inside, are found everywhere in the lands influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.
The Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum
Each of the 6 syllables has certain Sanskrit meanings that are important. These oppose certain internal forces that cause suffering.
- Om (ohm)- Om is the sound or “vibration” of the universe. This sound is the most important of all; but in the context of chanting and mantras, it is meant destroy attachments to ego and establish generosity.
- Ma (mah)- Removes the attachment to jealousy and establishes ethics.
- Ni (nee)- Removes the attachment to desire and establishes patience.
- Pad (pahd)- Removes the attachment to prejudice and establishes perseverance.
- Me (meh)- Removes the attachment to possessiveness and establishes concentration.
- Hum (hum)- Removes the attachment to hatred and establishes wisdom.
It is said that all the teachings of the Buddha are contained in this mantra can not really be translated into a simple phrase or sentence.
The Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum by H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
The first, OM is composed of three letters, A, U, M. These symbolise the practitioner’s impure body, speech and mind; they also symbolise 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 beings 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, symbolises the factors 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 fulfils the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfils the wishes of sentient beings.
The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolise wisdom. Just as a lotus grows from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realising impermanence, wisdom realising that persons are empty of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that realises the emptiness of duality - that is to say, of difference of entity between subject and object - and wisdom that realises the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realising emptiness.
Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolised by the final syllable HUM, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom.
In the mantra, or vajrayana vehicle, it refers to one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of 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 of a path that 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. 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 the Great Vehicle (Uttaratantra), 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 (Tathagatabarbha) that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche - Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones
Cause of Suffering
All of the Dharma is based on Buddha's discovery that suffering is unnecessary: Like a disease, once we really face the fact that suffering exists, we can look more deeply and discover it's cause; and when we discover that the cause is dependent on certain conditions, we can explore the possibility of removing those conditions. Buddha taught many very different methods for removing the cause of suffering, methods appropriate for the very different types and conditions and aptitudes of suffering beings. For those who had the capacity to understand it, he taught the most powerful method of all, a method based on the practice of compassion. It is known as the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, because practicing it benefits all beings, without partiality. It is likened to a vast boat that carries all the beings in the universe across the sea of suffering. Within the Mahayana the Buddha revealed the possibility of very quickly benefiting all beings, including oneself, by entering directly into the awakened state of mind, or Buddhahood, without delay. Again, there are different ways of accomplishing this, but the most powerful, and at the same time the most accessible, is to link ones own mind with the mind of a Buddha. In visualization practice we imagine ourselves to be a Buddha, in this case the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig. By replacing the thought of yourself as you with the thought of yourself as Chenrezig, you gradually reduce and eventually remove the fixation on your personal self, which expands your loving kindness and compassion, toward yourself and toward others, and your intelligence and wisdom becomes enhanced, allowing you to see clearly what someone really needs and to communicate with them clearly and accurately. In most religious traditions one prays to the deities of the tradition in the hopes of receiving their blessing, which will benefit one in some way. In the vajrayana Buddhist tradition, however, the blessing and the power and the superlative qualities of the enlightened beings are not considered as coming from an outside source, but are believed to be innate, to be aspects of our own true nature. Chenrezig and his love and compassion are within us.In doing the visualization practice we connect with the body and voice and mind of the Buddha by the three aspects of the practice. By our posture and certain gestures we connect with the body, by reciting the words of the liturgy and by repeating the mantra we connect with the voice, and by imagining the visual form of the Buddha we connect with the mind. Om Mani Padme Hum is the mantra of Chenrezig. In the words of Kalu Rinpoche, "Through mantra, we no longer cling to the reality of the speech and sound encountered in life, but experience it as essentially empty. Then confusion of the speech aspect of our being is transformed into enlightened awareness." That enlightened awareness includes whatever we might need to understand in order to save any beings, including ourselves, from suffering. For that reason the entire Dharma, the entire truth about the nature of suffering and the many ways of removing it's causes, is said to be contained in these six syllables.