A precious lotus seed imbeds itself in muddy waters, settling to the dark soil below. Tenderly, roots emerge from the seed and penetrate deep into the earth. Sprouting upward, a seedling forms and sends its slender stalk towards the sun. Feeling the light of life, a blossom of the lotus flower bursts radiantly open. Within the gentle embrace of its petals lies a sparkling jewel.
When I recite the Buddhist mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum” I visualize the above scenario to help me comprehend its beautiful meaning. To rely entirely on an English translation would not quite suffice since the meaning of this mantra transcends its literal interpretation.
The visualized impression of this mantra is rich in symbolism. The lotus flower for instance represents wisdom and is called “padme”. The jewel inside the lotus symbolizes compassion, which is named “mani”. The muddy earth from which the lotus emerges is the insufferable state of humanity. Thus, the intention of chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum” is to invoke the qualities of wisdom and compassion, unified in a world that so desperately needs it. Inherent in this mantra is the faith that a compassionate wisdom can in fact blossom in our dark and muddy reality.
“Om Mani Padme Hum” is considered to be a bodhisattva mantra because its invocation brings innumerable benefits not only to one’s self but to all sentient beings. The unification of heart and mind is not only cultivated within the individual when the mantra is spoken, but is also meant to be a prayer for the entire world. The power in this chant is felt in its all encompassing blessing that we shall experience a transcendental wisdom both in ourselves and throughout all dimensions of space and time.
The bodhisattva associated with this mantra is Avalokiteshvara who, out of deep compassion for the anguish of others, postponed entering into the heavenly pure land until all of humanity was free from suffering. Also known as Chenrezig in Tibet and Kuan Yin in far east Asia, Avalokiteshvara is believed to be the deity appealed to when reciting this beautiful and healing mantra. A spiritual being of total compassion, he dedicates his existence to freeing others from their agonizing delusions so that they may become enlightened.
Chant the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” to summon the qualities of unconditional wisdom and compassion. Feel the unified influence of heart and mind both within yourself and in the entire world. Visualize that precious jewel held safely in the flower of the lotus. Om Mani Padme Hum!