After chanting a non-English mantra for some time, I finally learned its definition and discovered a gem of wisdom while contemplating its meaning. Meditating will never be the same, and I want to share with others a little of the enlightenment it’s provided me.
Om Mani Padme Hung.
It is from India and has been incorporated into the Buddhist practice in Tibet. Some claim the mere vocalizing of the words helps to clear the seven major chakras as each syllable corresponds to a different point within, stretching from the crown to the root chakras.
The meaning is difficult to translate into English. Losang Samten, a lama and spiritual leader of the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia, transcribed two separate versions in a “prayer book” for meditation on compassion. He wrote that “Om” stands for the body, speech and mind, while “Mani” reflects the jewel; “Padme,” the lotus; and “Hung” (or “Hum”), as the “essence of compassion.”
Some practitioners say this is all one needs to know about the teachings of the Buddha.
Losang further explains that each syllable can be used as an “antidote” against the six imperfections of mankind. Om is the antidote for ignorance; Ma for hatred; Ni for miserliness; Pad for attachment; Me for jealousy; and Hung for negative pride.
I first heard the sound of “Om” when the Beatles met with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India and learned transcendental meditation in the 1960s. Om is supposed to represent the sound of the universe. It is pronounced “Ooom,” as a long or over-long nasalized vowel. According to Ami Ray, the author of the book “Om Chanting and Meditation:
Om is not just a sound or vibration. It is not just a symbol. It is the entire cosmos, whatever we can see, touch, hear and feel. Moreover, it is all that is within our perception and all that is beyond our perception. It is the core of our very existence. . . . It is an eternal song of the divine. It is continuously resounding in silence on the background of everything that exists.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, says that Om helps us to understand our basic selves. “Om is composed of three letters, A, U, and M.” he said. “These symbolize the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.” (See this link for the full description.)
Mani symbolizes a jewel that can help transform ourselves. “Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty . . . (or difficulties) of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.” the Dalai Lama said.
Padme means the lotus, a flower that rises above its base roots, in this case muddy water, and provides the world with beauty. It represents wisdom, and “is is not sullied by the faults of mud,” according to the Dalai Lama.
Hung or Hum describes the “essence of compassion.” It can manifest in the final process of the chant. Practitioners say it purifies and helps a person focus on others rather than themselves, thereby lifting their own spirits by targeting someone else’s pain and suffering in an effort to console and help those in need.
I tried it. Just thinking of helping someone else is amazingly uplifting. Try it yourself. It’ll work like a charm!