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On the meaning of OM MANI PADME HUNG
Praise to the jewel in the lotus
by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

It is very good to recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUNG, but while you are doing it, you should be reflecting on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. The first, OM is composed of three letters, A, U and M. These symbolize the practitioner’s impure body, speech and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

      Can impure body, speech and mind be transformed into pure body, speech and mind, or are they entirely separated? All Buddhas are cases of beings who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who, from the beginning, is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states and their being transformed into the pure.

      How is this done? The path is indicated by the next four syllables. MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factor of method– the altruistic intention to become enlightened, with compassion and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, the altrustic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty or difficulties found in cyclic existence and solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfils the wishes of sentient beings, the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfils the wishes of sentient beings.

      The two syllables PADME, meaning lotus, symbolizes wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom.

 There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realising that sentient beings are empty of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality (that is to say, of the segregation created between subjects and objects) and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main one is wisdom realizing emptiness.

      Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable HUNG, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to wisdom supported by method and method supported by wisdom. In the mantra or Vajrayana vehicle, it refers to one’s consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one non-differentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five Conqueror Buddhas, HUNG is the seed syllable of Akshobhya– the immovable, the non-fluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.

      Thus the six syllables OM MANI PADME HUNG, means 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. It is said that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within. As Maitreya says in his SUBLIME CONTINUUM OF GREAT VEHICLE (UTTARATANTRA), all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in thir own continuum. We have within us the seed ofp urity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (TATHAGATAGARBHA), which is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.

** this passage is transcribed, with the original source from my prayer book “The Concise Sadhana of Chenrezig”. May the merits of sharing this teaching be dedicated to all sentient beings’ present and future happiness… may all be led onto the noble path of enlightenment. May all beings grow in wisdom and receive the conditions to learn and apply the Dharma (TRUTH –> my translation) in their lives. May I recover from all illnesses and be led to conditions where I could benefit as many as possible. Thank you!


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