A little info on the mantra we used in class this month (Feb 2014):
See the bottom of the page for a rendition by Deva Premal.
You will find an interpretation by the Dalai Lama given below. I found it difficult to understand, so I broke it down a little for my classes.
OM – the sound that contains all sounds, the syllable that contains all syllables. This is a symbol of our inherent Buddha-hood. All our motivations, pleasures, sufferings, purity, impurity can be contained in the sound OM without exclusion. Therefore, as we chant OM we can image an acceptance of ALL parts of us, reaching ultimately to integrate them into the Buddha-self. We are at once a seed, and a fully-bloomed lotus.
MANI – the JEWEL. The Dalai Lama calls this the method of meditation. First there is the intention for uninterrupted awareness. The breath is our best teacher for this: keep coming back to the breath, which itself is uninterrupted. I see it as a precious treasure. When we develop the skill to follow the breath and calm our mind, to find tranquility within ourselves, along with compassion for all that disturbs us (both within and with-out) we are developing a precious sanctuary to dwell in, to carry with us. Like wearing a royal gem of incalculable value.
PADME – the LOTUS. The lotus represents wisdom. You may know that the lotus grows out of the mud…I see the dirty old mud as a good thing! It is thick, sticky, and dense with NUTRITION, it holds our ROOTS! So, when we are attached to a distraction, thought, difficulty, we think “oh, that is a little mud – it is a nutrition, a little lesson for me.” THEN, you compassionately go back to the JEWEL method of following your breath – as if by following the breath you were growing the stem of your lotus out of the mud towards the sunlight – towards Buddhahood.
The Dalai Lama explains that the wisdom of non-duality is very important. I use the following image to explain: imagine you are a lotus seed, warm and cozy in your mud at the bottom of a pond. You look up to the surface of the water and see the refracted light – separate beams of light shining down. You grow upwards (using the breath meditation as the stem of growth) and eventually break the surface of the water. You see, not separate beams of light, but ONE SOURCE of light – the sun. This is the wisdom – seeing connection instead of separateness between each other.
On the meaning of: OM MANI PADME HUM
The jewel is in the lotus or praise to the jewel in the lotus by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet
It is very good to recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. The first, OM, is composed of three pure 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 separate? All Buddhas are cases of being 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, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.
The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non- contradiction where as there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing that persons are empty of self-sufficient or substantial existence, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality (that is to say, of difference of entity between subject and object), and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are may different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realizing emptiness.
Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable, HUM, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to one consciousness in which there is a full form of both wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom. In the mantra, or tantra vehicle, it refers to one conciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five conqueror Buddhas, HUM is the is the seed syllable of Akshobhya- the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.
Thus the six syllables, OM MANI PADME HUM, mean that in dependence on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure 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 (UTTARA TANTRA) all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (TATHAGATAGARBHA), that is to be transformed and full developed into Buddhahood.
(From a lecture given by His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet at the Kalmuck Mongolian Buddhist Center, New Jersey.) Transcribed by Ngawang Tashi (Tsawa), Drepung Loseling, MUNGOD, INDIA