Om Mani Padme Hum
or, it’s just a little mud…
I see myself as a family of parts. There is a part of me that wants to bring her teddy bear to work – to look at the floor and curl protectively around herself when spoken to. There is a part of me that fears her place in the universe; fears being lost, as if floating in space and connected to earth by a thin cable – so I must touch nature everyday to remind her that we live on earth! Yet another part relays my consciousness a constant to-do list – the urgency of this list creates a forest fire of stress.
Now, Yoga teaches that there is purusa and prakriti. That there is the pure, Inner Light of Awareness, and the fractured, colored bits of mirror that is everything else in the world that we see and identify with and that MUDDY up our Inner Light.
According to yoga, we need to clear our inner vision of this MUD; to clean the mind completely in order to experience the bliss of our own Inner Light. In our everyday life we might only glimpse it – and then almost by accident during some moment of connection or generosity.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13
I experience my parts as a family, each one with a job to do. This is how they were born – at some point, a need or a fear or a task presented itself and they popped up to help, each a particular ripple in the sea of my consciousness. Most of the time I mistakenly identify myself only as one of these “ripples.” Most of the time I am acting out a part of myself.
(vŗittisārūpyamitaratra – Yoga Sutras 1.4 – When not in a calm state, mental activity blocks the Inner Light of Awareness)
With all of these various parts, an experience of integration is called for. That’s why the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra appeals to me. It is mysterious, almost erotic, a tantric vehicle of union. I call on this mantra to CLEAR my mind of MUD. To unite and integrate these parts back into the sea of consciousness. To rest in my True Self – the higher consciousness (often represented by a blossomed lotus). tadā drașțuh svarūpe ‘vasthānam – Yoga Sutras 1.3 – When the consciousness is un-rippled then Pure Awareness shines through and is experienced.
Now, my goal is simply to navigate this world with grace and compassion. Nirvana, Samadhi, Enlightment, Union I put off until next lifetime.
So I use this mantra to both honor and pacify the ripples in my consciousness. To remind my parts that the Light of Pure Awareness inside does not need protection, cannot be wounded or lost or lessened.
The Jewel is in the Lotus. The Buddha-Nature is Inside You. In Tibet, you can see this mantra inscribed on rocks in the mountains, as a reminder of this supreme teaching. (You can also see it at Sherpa House in Golden should Tibet prove a difficult journey)
When you recite the mantra, it helps to meditate on the meanings of the words, and even more helpful to transcend the verbal meanings and rest in the FEELING of the mantra, its vibration. The vibration of Unity, Compassion, and Transcendent Wisdom. What follows is one translation of OM MANI PADME HUM, adapted from a talk given by the Dalai Lama:
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, and impurity can be contained in the sound OM without exclusion. Therefore, as we chant OM we can imagine an acceptance of ALL our parts, 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 says the jewel represents the method of our 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. Then there is compassion – we try to cultivate a feeling of compassion for all that disturbs us (both within and with-out). With this method, we have a precious treasure: we develop a sanctuary to dwell in, that we will always 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 at the bottom of a body of water…I see the dirty 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, a difficulty, we can just 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. This is probably the most difficult part of meditation for me – when one of my parts is so fearful of something I am REALLY stuck in the mud. If only REMEMBERING to breath was as easy as it sounds…
HUM – ONENESS. The Dalai Lama explains that the wisdom of non-duality (the One-ness of All Things) 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 upward (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 being, each person, each part of yourself. Calming the mind so that you can experience the wisdom you already embody – that you are Pure Light.
There are many renditions of this mantras – one of my favorites is by John de Kadt, and can be found here