Om Mani Padme Hum is a popular mantra in the religion of Buddhism and almost every lay person that follows this teaching will somehow know about it.
According to Buddhism, this ancient mantra is associated with the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. For the Chinese, Avalokiteshvara is normally known as 'Guan Yin' which translates to Goddess of Mercy in English.
The Tibetan, on the other hand, refers this bodhisattva as 'Chenrezig'. It is said that all the teachings of the Buddha are contained in this Om Mani Padme Hum mantra and which the Tibetan buddhists believe that saying the mantra (prayer) out loud or silently to oneself, would invoke HIS powerful benevolent attention.
Additionally, Chenrezig holds a special place in the heart of Tibetan people because they regard him as their proctector. This is because according to one of the dharma stories, Chenrezig is sent by Amitabha Buddha to look over the people of Tibet with the intention to help them to ending their sufferings.
Tibetan Buddhism also states that Chenrezig is renowned as the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas (TEN DIRECTIONS) and this is why HE is highly regarded in the Vajrayana Buddhism.
The Tibetans also believe that the Dalai Lama is an earthly manifestation of Chenrezig and that's why His Holiness is well respected by all the Tibetan people and also the followers of Tibetan Buddhism.
In Tibetan, this mantra is pronounced as "Om mani peme hung" and by practicing this mantra, it is believed that the practitioner will be able to accumulate merits and also purify his/her bad karmas and delusions.
It is very common that every Tibetan recites this mantra even though they do not understand the deep meaning behind it. For they know this mantra will bring peace and give them strengh when facing difficult situations or during turbulent times. One of my best friends that visited Tibet and Bhutan some years ago told me that he would hear this mantra played in almost every tea house that he stopped by.
Tibetan people recite this mantra thousands time a day as part of their daily prayer practice. Apart from that, they also carve this mantra on rocks and insert paper written with this mantra into holy statues and prayer wells. It is said that by doing this, the mantra's effects will be increased tresmendously.
According to wikipedia, a mantra is a sound, syllable, word or a group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".
On the other hand, Dr Deepak Chopra in "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire", explains that the word "mantra" is actually made up of two components: man, which is the root sound of the word "mind," and tra, which is the root sound of the word “instrument.” So the word mantra literally means “an instrument of the mind.”
And by uttering a simple pattern of these sacred sounds, the practitioner will gain an insightful experience towards what the mantra represents. It is believed that mantras can actually promote physical healing, magnifying the powers of the mind and also attracting abundance into your lives.
The most important aspect when reciting a mantra is actually lies in the pronounciation itself. Accurate pronounciation is crucial for the mantra to take effect and some even said that reciting a mantra without knowing the meaning will work too. However, according to some, by knowing its profound meaning, the power of the mantra will get magnified. This is absolutely true when the practitioner does it with focus and single-mindedly.
The Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum
Now, what is the meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum?
The middle part of the mantra, Mani Padme is often interpreted as "jewel in the lotus" and so it is translated as "Behold! The jewel in the lotus!" or "Praise to the jewel in the lotus".
However, according to Donald Lopez, Mani Padme is in fact addressing a boddhisattva called "Jewel-Lotus", which in fact an alternate attribution given to the compasionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. This mantra which is preceded by the Om syllable and followed by the Hum syllable, actually do not have linguistic meaning at all.
Please also note that both the Om and Hum sounds are actually the natural sound of the universe and they can be found everywhere in the mother nature. Even these sounds also serve as the "base" sound of every sound in the world.
In short, it could be concluded that this mantra is praising the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara which itself represents compassion. Practising this mantra tunes one mind into loving kindness and igniting the compasionate heart towards every sentient being including oneself.
Exact Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum
However, it is important to point out here that it is quite impossible to give one single exact meaning to "Om Mani Padme Hum". This mantra has been interpreted by practitioners in many other ways; however, it is yet to divert far from its base meaning of compassion. Please find below the interpretation by His Holiness Dalai Lama and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
From His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
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 … symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha….
The path is indicated by the next four syllables. MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the … altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassionate and loving….
The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom….
Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable HUM, which indicates indivisibility….
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….
— H.H. Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, "Om Mani Padme Hum" (from wikipedia)
From Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
"The mantra Om Mani Päme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching.
When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience.
Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom."So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?"
— Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones (from wikipedia)
Mantras can be practiced by everyone regarding of creeds and religions. And this is absolutely true with Buddhism as often it can be regarded as a form of teaching or a special kind of knowledge rather than a pure religion.
- The Origins of Om Manipadme Hum: A Study of the Karandavyuha Sutra: Alexander Studholme: 97807914539
The Origins of Om Manipadme Hum: A Study of the Karandavyuha Sutra by Alexander Studholme.
- Basic Tenets of Mahayana Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhism grew up in India as a critique of certain tendencies in the Hinayana, the earlier form of Buddhism. Mahayana means "Greater Vehicle" and Hinayana means "Lesser Vehicle" although adherents to Hinayana would prefer that Hinayana be tr
Deborah Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on March 16, 2015:
Thank you for your clear writing and elucidation of this mantra.
KenWu (author) from Malaysia on July 22, 2012:
Thanks Vinaya! Actually this mantra (and of course all other buddhist mantras) are from Sanskrit. Buddhism has its root in india and nepal.
Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on July 21, 2012:
Very good interpretation of the Great Buddhist Mantra. This Tibetan mantra also has Sanskrit equivalent.
KenWu (author) from Malaysia on July 18, 2012:
Hi soumyasrajan, thanks for the comment. Highly appreciate it!
soumyasrajan from Mumbai India and often in USA on July 18, 2012:
Very nice article Ken Wu. It was nice to learn about this mantra from so many different styles and views, you have explained so nicely. Pictures you chose are also very pleasing.