But what is the significance of this mantra? What are the benefits you can reap by chanting it? And most importantly, what does it mean?
Let me clarify that last question. What I mean to discuss is “What is the deeper meaning?”. I’ll provide the literal translation in just a moment, and then we’ll analyze it.
Origins of the Mantra
This mantra was said to have been created by the Buddha Amitabha’s disciple and friend Avalokiteswara. This bodhisattva was the embodiment of kindness. According to the Karandavyuha Sutra, this mantra came from the “innermost heart” of Avalokiteswara. The innermost heart is considered to be the purest form of Avalokiteswara’s kindness.
Avalokiteswara’s teacher, the Buddha Amitabha, passed on this teaching to Gautama Buddha. Gautama Buddha stated in the Karandavyuha Sutra that this was “the most beneficial mantra”. He also said that he had asked every existing Buddha for the best mantra and received this one from Amitabha.
That’s enough history for now. Time for some translations.
The Meaning of the Mantra
The translation of this mantra is quite complex.
- Om stands for the sacred sound.
- Mani Padme (or manipadme, depending on who you ask) stands for the jeweled lotus.
- That was the symbol of Avalokiteswara, Amitabha, and Amitabha’s pure land.
- The reason that the jeweled lotus is a symbol of all three of these pure individuals (or places) is that a lotus stays beautiful even in mud. The lotus is a symbol of purity everywhere.
- Also, the jeweled lotus symbolizes rebirth in the pure land.
- Finally, hum represents enlightenment.
Well, that’s one explanation. It was written down by Trijang Rinpoche, the teacher of the 14th Dalai Lama.
The 14th Dalai Lama, H. H. Tenzin Gyatso, has his own (more simple) interpretation of this mantra. Like the Gautama Buddha, he agrees that it is very beneficial to recite this mantra. The Dalai Lama says that
- Om represents both the impure body-mind of a person on the path to enlightenment, as well as the pure body-mind of a Buddha.
- Mani, the jewel, symbolizes the method of enlightenment. That is, the intention to become enlightened, being compassionate, and being loving. All three of these things go hand in hand.
- Padme, the lotus, symbolizes wisdom.
- Wisdom and the method to enlightenment must form an indivisible bond. So, that is hum, indivisibility.
The Benefits of the Mantra
Okay, I know everybody that’s hung around through that ordeal is interested in knowing the benefits. Get to the good stuff already! That is probably what you’re saying. Okay, okay, patience, please.
So I’ll list out the benefits now.
- A vision of Avalokiteswara.
- Rebirth into a pure land of Amitabha.
- Countless types of samadhis, including the one of “rejoicing in infinite kindness”.
- The development of immeasurable compassion.
- Accumulation of infinite good karma. (The Buddha Amitabha is one of the few people said to have infinite good karma. It took him countless lives to accumulate it. It’s clear that just chanting this mantra thousands of times won’t get you this, you must also be kind and do good deeds.)
- The accomplishment of the six perfections. (I’ll explain in a minute.)
Yeah, that’s it. I really hope you didn’t hope for golden lotuses to shower down on your house and give you infinite light and life. Just kidding. Maybe.
The Six Paramitas
Now, what are the “six perfections”? And what does om mani padme hum have to do with them?
Well, the mantra has six syllables, and each represents a form of perfection (paramita). These are essentially a different version of the qualities of the Five Wisdom Buddhas.
- Om – This sound represents generosity. This purifies pride and ego.
- Ma – This sound represents ethics. This purifies jealousy.
- Ni – This sound represents patience. This purifies excessive passion and desire.
- Pad – This sound represents diligence. This purifies ignorance and prejudice.
- Me – This sound represents renunciation. This purifies possessiveness and greed.
- Hum – The sound hum represents wisdom. This purifies aggression and hatred.
Well, that’s a lot of information. Here’s a quick roundup:
- This mantra came from Avalokiteswara and was passed on to the Gautama Buddha by Amitabha Buddha.
- It literally means “sacred sound, help me rebirth in the pure land, and let me ascend to the heights of enlightenment,” (slightly paraphrased).
- It represents the body and mind, the method to enlightenment, wisdom, and the indivisible bond between the method and wisdom to attain enlightenment.
- You can get many benefits by chanting it and leading a kind life.
- Finally, it represents the six paramitas (perfections): generosity, ethics, patience, diligence, renunciation, and wisdom.
One more quick thing: If you choose not to take some time to chant this mantra or meditate, I can tell you of one way to get all of these results, albeit maybe not as quickly – Kindness!
Kindness is the most important thing here. If you choose to disregard everything else that I have written, that’s okay. Just do this one thing, and you will make several lives better.
Om mani padme hum
Thank you for reading!
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Note: Below is the Zen Garden GIF I created and used as this post’s featured image. If you liked it, you can get it from here: Giphy.