At tonight’s meditation group, I introduced the class to the famous mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum.’ This is the heart mantra associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, known in China as the goddess Guan Yin, and in Japan as Kannon. S/he is a representation of the purest emanation of universal compassion. Chanting his mantra directly activates that source of infinite compassion within us, and is a great way of opening our hearts and minds. Whatever hardness, cruelty, or rigidity there is within us can be softened and dissolved through using this mantra.
Avalokitesvara’s name is often translated as ‘Regarder of the Cries of the World’ or ‘The Lord Who Looks Down (in compassion’). Omnipresent and omniscient, he is aware of all the suffering in the world, and has vowed not to enter nirvana until he has attained liberation for all beings.
Tibetans have a special relationship with Avalokitesvara, whom they call Chenrezig. Every Dalai Lama is believed to be an incarnation of Chenrezig, including the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
Let’s take the mantra apart for a moment, and examine its inner meaning:
Om is one of the most ancient sacred syllables of the Sanskrit language. Expressing the inexpressible profundity of the source, it is believed to the background tone of the universe. Sages have often reported hearing it in deep trance, and the same has been acknowledged by DMT experimenters.
Mani means ‘jewel’ and ‘padme’ means lotus, and so is often translated as the ‘jewel is in the lotus.’ But, given the spiritual depth of these words, it is better to conceive of them as sonic symbols, as opposed to the playthings of grammar.
The jewel is symbolic of the jewel of Buddhahood that resides within us, often without us being aware of it. The lotus symbolizes our physical being which, though planted in the mud of the world, is still capable of blooming to a state of glorious infinite awareness. So, the infinite is within the temporal – the Buddha is within the muck – that is the central message encoded in this teaching.
Hum is another sacred syllable included at the end of many mantras. If Om represents the primordial energy of the universe, then Hum is the portion of that energy we are able to channel through ourselves, and consciously or unconsciously use to contribute to creation. John Blosfeld associates it with the concept of Te or Tao in Action in Taoism.
Make this mantra this single-point of your attention, and it will bring you inexhaustible happiness.