Mani stones are a Tibetan Buddhist tradition and they dot the landscape in Tibet as well as Nepal and Bhutan. They are mysterious stones carved with the Sanskrit mantra OM MANI PADME HUM (oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ). Carving mani stones and placing them in the landscape is a devotional practice, considered to be a meditation. You will find them by rivers and trails, at the entrance of monasteries and villages, often placed together in mounds and cairns. Like path-finding signs on a spiritual journey.
If you continue your travels in these sacred lands, you may also see the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra spinning on prayer wheels and fluttering on prayer flags blowing in the wind.
Often referred to as the Mani Mantra, OM MANI PADME HUM is very ancient, highly meaningful and one of the most revered of all Buddhist mantras. In fact the Dalai Lama says that all the teachings of the Buddha are wrapped up in this one little 6-syllable phrase.
The Dalai Lama meditates and chants for COMPASSION with OM MANI PADME HUM, and you can listen to it on the Inner World album launched in July 2020 on the occasion of his 85th birthday, with 42 minutes of mantras and chants set to soothing music.
Mantra meditation is one of the easiest and most effective meditation techniques you can use. The traditional mantra is a word or a phrase in the ancient Sanskrit language that encapsulates a higher ideal. Repeating a Sanskrit mantra over and over (either aloud or silently) is an excellent way to stay focused during your meditation practice, so you can gain the many benefits of the practice more quickly. Focusing on the mantra will help you to side-step the busyness of your mind and move it away from negative thoughts. But mantra is much more than just a tool for concentration. Ultimately, mantra meditation can transport you to a higher state of peaceful awareness.
OM MANI PADME HUM is one of the most universal mantras. I was first introduced to it when I took my Mindfulness Yoga teacher training from two ordained Buddhists (a unique program!). The lovely vibrations we experienced through the melodic chanting of OM MANI PADME HUM were soothing and healing.
I am not Buddhist. But the philosophies and the practices to help us transform our mind and become the best person we can be, not just for ourselves but also for others and the world, really resonates with me. Mantra meditation is one of those practices. And OM MANI PADME HUM is one of the most beautiful and powerful you can choose to use, easy to remember and easy to say, even if it’s just quietly to yourself.
What does OM MANI PADME HUM mean?
Pronounced OM-MAH-NEE-PAD-MAY-HUM, it’s a 6 syllable mantra related to Avalokitshvara the Bodhisattva of compassion and love. It's the embodiment of loving kindness.
The centre of the mantra, MANI PADME, translates to “the jewel is in the lotus”, and it is surrounded by two sacred seed syllables: OM (the primordial sound of the universe that connects us to universal vibration and spiritual energy) and HUM (the all-encompassing, unwavering spirit of wisdom and enlightenment).
We could possibly imagine that the sacred lotus was our heart, and that we have only to search within ourselves to find the hidden treasure of joy, love and compassion. And by reciting the mantra over and over we can call on universal energy to cultivate our own inner wisdom in order to clear away the mud until we find our pure loving self. That's my interpretation.
The meaning is deep and complex and can be interpreted in many ways. His Holiness the Dalai Lama explains it in his book Kindness, Clarity and Insight.
“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 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. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states and their being transformed into the pure. …
The path [to pure body speech and mind] is indicated by the next four syllables [MA-NI and PAD-ME].
Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method—the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. …
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 whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. …
Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility. … Hum is the seed syllable of Akshobhya—the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.”
For some people, this powerful mantra is a pathway to enlightenment. For others, keeping an image of the mantra in some form or repeating it with good intention within your meditation practice is a profound reminder to look deep into the centre of your soul to find beauty. And a reminder to embrace the fundamental human qualities such as compassion, kindness and love.
Sacred Scripts: A Meditative Journey Through Tibetan Calligraphy, by Tashi Mannox
The Mantram Handbook: A Practical Guide to Choosing your Mantram and Calming Your Mind, by Eknath Easwaran
Sacred Sound: Discovering the Myth & Meaning of Mantra and Kirtan, by Alanna Kaivalya
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