The Six-Syllable Mantra in Tibetan Buddhism
The Jewel in the Lotus
Mantras are a very important and powerful way to affect consciousness. Mantras are sounds which are repeated in specific ways having particular significances. The word Mantra comes from Sanskrit, the root “man” means mind and “Tra” can be translated as training or protection. Mantras also signify the great primordial sound emanating from Emptiness. In Buddhism, namely Tibetan, the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is very well-known and important to the practice.
The first word Om is a sacred seed syllable. The word Mani means “jewel”, Padme is the “lotus flower” (the Buddhist sacred flower), and Hum represents the spirit of enlightenment. The Dalai Lama stresses the importance of meditating upon the meaning of this mantra while it is being chanted. And is quoted
”Om symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes 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…”
The mantra Om Mani Padme Hum has countless other meanings and significances. The colors are symbolic and important. They are the primary colors that are important in all of Buddhism: yellow, green, white, blue, and red. The five colors relate to five elements. They also relate to five afflictions, the five poisons, and other aspects of the teachings. The sixth color, which in this particular image is black. The six colors relate to the six worlds, the six bardos, the six Paramitas, the six types of beings, and more.
Padmasambhava, who brought Tantra to Tibet, emphasized the importance of this mantra in this quote
“Avalokitesvara [Chenrezig], gazes with overwhelming compassion towards all the six classes of sentient beings, who are tormented by misery. The compassion that has the Dharma as its focus is the six syllables of Om Mani Padme Hum….The virtues of the six syllables are immeasurable and cannot be fully described even by the Buddhas of the three times. Why is that? It is because this mantra is the quintessence of the mind of the noble Avalokitesvara, who continually looks upon the six classes of sentient beings with compassion. Thus, the recitation of this mantra liberates all beings from Samsara.” – Padmasambhava, from Sanglingma “The Lotus Born.”
The mantra is seen quite frequently within the common well-known symbols of Tibetan Buddhism such as Tibetan prayer flags and prayer wheels. These can be small hand-held wheels, or even giant ones that take several people to turn, being filled inside with thousands and thousands of this mantra written on paper. The larger prayer wheels have millions of this mantra written down. The reason it is on prayer wheels and prayer flags and written on stones is because when the mantra is put in motion, it puts energy in motion.
The Jewel in the Lotus is a very powerful spiritual tool towards enlightenment and the lessening of suffering. Chanting this mantra can bring great inner peace has countless benefits for all sentient beings. Feel free to spin the prayer wheels inside the Temple the next time you visit Lohan Spiritual and Cultural Center in Las Vegas.