Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Mani Padme Hum
Out of the many mantras (sacred prayers) that have permeated world culture, Om Mani Padme Hum has arguably become the most well known. It is both a spiritual vocalization for meditation and sacred symbol for many Asian cultures. The mantra touches many aspects of Buddhism, from the conceptually to the cultural.
It is important to note that the first syllable of the mantra, Om (sometimes written as Aum), it itself a powerful symbol and known in certain circles as its own mantra. Om, among other things, represents the totally of existence and is used as a sacred sound at the beginning and end of many Buddhist and Hindu texts. To hear a student or priest produce Om with extreme focus can alone be an incredibly stimulating and fascinating act.
"Behold the jewel in the lotus" is considered to be one of the more widely accepted translations of the mantra. It is revered by the followers of Dalai Lama as the mantra is associated the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of compassion), who the Dalai Lama is widely held as being the reincarnation of. The Dalai Lama has said that Om Mani Padme Hum expresses the wholeness of Buddhism and a means of becoming a Buddha. There are multiple interpretations of the mantra, some very esoteric, some not. To lay practitioners it is seen, at most basic, a symbol of wisdom, compassion and spirituality.
In the Himalayan region the mantra is seen on temple stupas and represented on various mediums such as bracelets, tingshas and rings. Prayer wheels contain a scroll in which the mantra is written thousands of times and spinning the wheel in a clockwise motion is considered not only to be auspicious but also a way to spread the power and effect of the mantra. When the bone disc at the base of the wheel is finally milled away the complete energy of the wheel is then let into the world. In certain forms of Buddhism the use of a prayer wheel is seen as an efficient means to achieve merit, which is used to obtain a better position within the Wheel of Life in one's next incarnation.
Mani stones represent the belief that simply being in proximity of a written or carved mantra can be a productive way to spread the mantra and the creation of such an object is held to be as a form of prayer and very auspicious. They can vary in size, from considerable slabs of stone to something you can fit in your pocket. Typically placed to be passed from the left side (the clockwise direction in which the world turns) along routes, spiritual places (sources of water or mountain tops) or near temples in Buddhist regions in Asia. Mani stones can be seen from time to time in other parts of the world in gardens and similar locations.
Tibetian prayer flags contain many mantras, including Om Mani Padme Hum, as well as text from Buddhist sutras. As the wind blows from the hung flags, the energy of the written text is said to carry from the flags and thus through the air. While there are various ideas held about when to replace flags, some consider old, tattered prayer flags to be very auspicious. You can see prayer flags all over the Himalayan region, from town centers to spiritual places and even at the base and summit of Mount Everest.
As with many aspects of Buddhist and Hindu text, mythology, and symbolism, there can be an overwhelming complexity and various interpretations that may come off as daunting. However, from a basic understanding one can still obtain productive mental, philosophical, and spiritual stimulation.