Thursday, March 1, 2012


In this past week’s classes we focused on the Sanskrit mantra OM Mani Padme Hum. Because our limited class time does not allow us to discuss the meaning of a mantra in depth, I am offering some more information here. It is my hope that it will enrich your practice.

The Mani mantra is a central prayer among Tibetan Buddhists, and is perhaps the most widely used of all Buddhist mantras.  It is open to anyone who feels inspired to practice it -- it does not require prior initiation by a lama (meditation master).

Since Sanskrit is a vibrational language and has many layers of meaning, it can’t be translated literally. The generally-accepted meaning is “Hail to the jewel in the lotus” or “Behold the jewel in the lotus.”

The lotus flower is a prevalent image that is found across Eastern traditions. It symbolizes purity, Divine wisdom, and represents our awakening into higher consciousness. Many Hindu gods and goddesses are depicted seated on a thousand-petaled lotus. In the yogic anatomy of the energy body, the crown chakra is imaged as a great lotus flower with a thousand petals, representing full spiritual realization.

A lotus flower grows out of the muck at the bottom of a pond. It rises up above the surface of the water and blooms into a magnificent flower.  Spiritual practice invites us to rise up out of the muck of our conditioning and habitual egoic mind states such as fear, judgment of self and others, self-doubt, greed, and resentment.  The blossoming lotus is our own natural compassion and love that wants to unfold in the light of awareness.  In the center dwells the shining jewel, the radiance that lives at the core of our being.  Eastern traditions teach that our true nature is compassionate and open-hearted. The practice of yoga opens the petals of our being and uncovers our radiant, divine essence.

The mani mantra is chanted for purification. Each syllable in the mantra is associated with a different positive quality, as well as a limiting mind-state to be purified.

The six syllables may be pronounced as:
The vowel in the sylable Hu is pronounced as in the English word 'book'.
(Note that many Tibetans use a slightly different pronunciation: Om Mani Peme Hung )

OM: cultivates generosity, purifies ego /pride
MA: cultivates ethics, purifies jealousy and lust for entertainment
NI: cultivates patience, purifies passion/desire
PAD: cultivates diligence, purifies ignorance/prejudice
ME: cultivates renunciation, purifies poverty/possessiveness
HUM: cultivates wisdom, purifies aggression/hatred

Many Tibetans recite the mantra thousands of times as part of their daily prayer practice. It is also printed on prayer flags that blow the prayer to the winds, carved on stones, and written on papers inserted into holy statues and prayer wheels.

The Mani mantra is associated with Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion (known in other Buddhist cultures as Avalokiteshvara and Kwan Yin). Chenrezig is a highly-revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism who inspires us to awaken to our own natural compassion and goodness.

Whenever we are compassionate, or feel love for anyone, or for an animal or some part of the natural world, we experience a taste of our own natural connection with Chenrezig. Although we may not be as consistently compassionate as some of the great meditation masters, Tibetan Buddhists believe that we all share, in our basic nature, unconditional compassion and wisdom that is no different from what we see in Chenrezig and in these lamas. 

We might have trouble believing that we are no different than Chenrezig -- but learning about the nature of compassion, and learning about Chenrezig, repeating his mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and imagining that we would like to be like Chenrezig, pretending that we really are just like Chenrezig, we actually can become aware of increasing compassion in our lives, and ultimately, the lamas tell us, awaken as completely wise and compassionate buddhas.

~gratefully borrowed from


In class this week, each student received a small. clear “jewel” to keep as a reminder of the magnificence that dwells within.  May we be compassionate with ourselves, on and off the mat, and may our lives be a blossoming that reveals the radiance that we truly are.

Hindu Goddess Lakshmi

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