“Om mani padme hum” (Tibetan: there is no translation directly, the pali or sanskrit is always used. Pronunciation varies, see the transliterations).
This is probably the most famous mantra in Buddhism, the six syllabled mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit. Chenrezig in Tibetan). The mantra is particularly associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara. The Dalai Lama is said to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, so the mantra is especially revered by his devotees.
Here is the sound of the mantra as chanted by a Tibetan refugee: and .
In English the mantra is variously transliterated, depending on the schools of Buddhism as well as individual teachers.
Possible transliterations include:
- Om Ma Ni Pe Me Hum
- Om Ma Ni Pad Mi Hung
- Om Ma Ni Pe Me Hung (Tibetan version)
- Om Man Ni Be Mi Hom (Chinese version)
- Om Mani Banme Hum (Korean version)
This mantra possesses many meanings, a popular translation is “Hail the jewel in the lotus”. Om = Hail, Mani = Jewel, Padme = Lotus and Hum sums it all up.
Another meaning is purification of the six realms of existence in suffering.
|Om||bliss / pride||gods|
|Ma||jealousy / lust for entertainment||jealous gods|
|Ni||passion / desire||humans|
|Pe||stupidity / prejudice||animals|
|Me||poverty / possessiveness||hungry ghosts|
|Hung||aggression / hatred||hell|
Karandavyuha Sutra definition
The first known description of the mantra appears in the Karandavyuha Sutra, which is part of certain Mahayana canons such as the Tibetan. In this sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha states, “This is the most beneficial mantra. Even I made this aspiration to all the million Buddhas and subsequently received this teaching from Buddha Amitabha.”
H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama’s definition
“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 symbolize the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha”
“The path is indicated by the next four syllables. 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”
“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. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatzo,
Gen Rinpoche’s definition
- The mantra Om Mani Pädme 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. Päd, 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?
— Gen Rinpoche, Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones (ISBN 0877734933)
Donald Lopez’s definition
Donald Lopez provides a thorough discussion of the mantra and its various interpretations in his book Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (ISBN 0226493113). Lopez is an authoritative writer and challenges the conventional analysis of the mantra as “The Jewel in the Lotus”, an interpretation supported by neither linguistic analysis nor Tibetan tradition. He suggests that Manipadme is actually the name of a bodhisattva, a form of Avalokiteshvara who in any case has many other names, including Padmapani or lotus flower in hand. The Brahminical insistence on absolutely correct pronunciation of Sanskrit broke down as Buddhism was exported to other countries where the inhabitants found it impossible to reproduce the sounds. So in Tibet, for instance, where this mantra is on the lips of many Tibetans all their waking hours, the mantra is pronounced Om mani peme hum.
Karma Thubten Trinley’s definition
Karma Thubten Trinley says, “These are the six syllables which prevent rebirth into the six realms of cyclic existence. It translates literally as ‘OM the jewel in the lotus Hung’. OM prevents rebirth in the god realm, MA prevents rebirth in the , NI prevents rebirth in the , PAD prevents rebirth in the , MI prevents rebirth in the , and Hum prevents rebirth in the .”