THE MEANING OF OM MANI PADME HUM
H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
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 letters, A, U, M. These symbolise the practitioner's impure body,
speech and mind; they also symbolise 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
beings who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became
enlightened; Buddhism does not asset that there is anyone who from the
beginning is free from faults an 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 indicted by the next four syllables.
MANI, meaning jewel, symbolises the factors 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 fulfils the wishes of
sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened
fulfils the wishes of sentient beings.
The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolise wisdom. Just as
a lotus grows from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so
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 realising impermanence, wisdom realising that persons are
empty of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that
realises the emptiness of duality - that is to say, of difference of
entity between subject and object - and wisdom that realises the
emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types
of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realising emptiness.
Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and
wisdom, symbolised by the final syllable HUM, which indicates
indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of
method and wisdom refers to wisdom affected by method and method
affected by wisdom. In the mantra, or vajrayana vehicle, it refers to
one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and
method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of 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 of a path that 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 the Great Vehicle (Uttaratantra), 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 (Tathagatabarbha)
that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.