Mantras are words grouped together in such a way as to create transformation in our lives, and the uplifting energy that resonates out from speaking the well-known Tibetan mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' is compassion. As we'll see, spirituality and science both agree on this: there is true power in combining sounds with intentions. Mantras like 'Om Mani Padme Hum' can be thought of as the basic building blocks of intention, gifted from the Universe. They are simple tools that you can use, and apply to them the details of how you'd like to see your intentions unfold in this world.
Combining sounds into mantras is akin to combining words into sentences: when they unite together, they take on a whole new meaning. Here is how the age old Buddhist mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' came together to form a new, positive energy that helps uplift your own life, as well as the world around you.
The Ancient Beginnings of Om Mani Padme Hum
Building a Better World
The four words and six syllables that make up 'Om Mani Padme Hum' were first mentioned in the Indian text Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra and are believed to date from the 1st century A.D. This Sanskrit mantra is associated with 'Avalokiteshvara', who is a bodhisattva representing the compassion of all the buddhas. A bodhisattva is someone who has achieves the ultimate state of enlightenment or nirvana, and chooses to stay behind to help others do the same. In Tibet, the bodhisattva 'Avalokiteshvara' is also known by the names 'Chenrezig' or 'Shadakshari' ('Lord of the 6 Syllables').
According to ancient myth, 'Avalokiteshvara' (aka 'Chenrezig') was at his task of helping everyone achieve enlightened, but became despondent when he realized that despite all of his hard work, there were still many people suffering in the world. This is when the presiding Buddha of all buddhas, Amitabha, stepped in to gift Chenrezig with a thousand arms and many heads so that he could more easily do his work. Another version of the story holds that Chenrezig has four arms that represent Buddhism's four immeasurables: compassion, loving kindness, joy, and equanimity. Today, the Dalai Lama is considered by Tibetan Buddhists to be an incarnation of 'Avalokiteshvara'.
Pronunciation and Meaning
In Tibet the pronunciation of 'Om Mani Padme Hum' is slightly different than the phonetic syllables imply. There are actually two traditional ways to say it: Om Mah Nee Pad May Hung or Om Mah Nee Peh May Hung. The literal meaning of each word is Universal Consciousness (Om) Jewel (Mani) Lotus Flower (Padme), and Gratitude, Integration, or the Finite in the Infinite (Hum).
The more subtle meaning of this mantra is about stepping away from your own ego story that tells you who you are and what you represent in order to be able to better understand others' viewpoints, needs, and desires. The compassion it represents is meant to help people integrate any dualistic or polarity thinking that shows up in their lives, and form a new understanding that unites us in loving solidarity with others.
Forming Sound Into A Sacred Shape of Peace and Healing
The Science of Geometric Shapes
You may be wondering just how the sound and intention behind a mantra like 'Om Mani Padme Hum' forms into physical reality. The science of cymatics is an emerging field that helps us understand the simple and natural mechanisms that occur when we speak words out loud that are infused with intention. It has gifted us with the tools to be able to physically capture each mantra's sounds as they turn into sacred patterns.
The name cymatics was adopted from the Greek word for wave: ta Kyma. This widespread research explains and captures visually how different sound waves vibrate at different frequencies, and how each frequency interacts with different mediums - such as sand and water - to form unique geometric patterns. In fact, certain intense sound interactions with water can create not only geometric patterns, but also energetic bursts of light! This process is known as sonoluminescence.
Interestingly, these geometric shapes take form at what scientists call 'zero points'. This is the space in between sound, when no vibrations are present. In other words, geometric patterns form in response to sound, but they do so at the exact moment of silent stillness. This gives new meaning to the expression 'Silence is Golden'.
The Sacred Shape of Om Mani Padme Hum
So what exactly does the sacred shape of 'Om Mani Padme Hum' look like when it's chanted aloud?
If you watch this cymatic's video closely, it will reveal a lotus flower forming, with divergent yet symmetric lines connected to it. These lines represent the idea that we all are different aspects of Source (zero point), yet with compassionate intention and words we can come together in beauty, balance, peace, and harmony. Flowers such as the lotus are universally considered symbols of beauty because they are physical forms, and yet they contain a delicate, almost ethereal quality that makes them appear radiant. This makes them seem both a part of this world and a part of the divine realms, all at the same time. The lotus flower represents purity of thought and healthy detachment from conflicts, which are both great skills to have when focusing on creating a more compassionate world.
The Benefits of Saying 'Om Mani Padme Hum'
Perhaps the most exciting part of sacred geometry is how it reveals to us the ways in which we can reshape our lives into healthier, more emotionally coherent ones. In fact, research has revealed that the compassion inherent in 'Om Mani Padme Hum' creates better cognitive abilities in people, including better memory and a faster ability to complete tasks. As Tibetan masters such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche points out, this may be because each syllable holds the frequency of a different quality:
- Om helps us practice generosity
- Mah assists with applying ethics
- Nee aids with patience and tolerance
- Pad teaches perseverance
- May boosts our concentration
- Hung bridges in wisdom
This is in line with other findings that have shown those who have a larger sense of purpose in life, which includes giving back to others, have better functioning in the parts of the brain associated with 'big picture' thinking and cognitive functioning. And the science of cymatics also reveals exciting therapeutic benefits to speaking, singing, and chanting aloud healing vibratory signatures that create beautiful sacred images, including their ability to balance your autonomic nervous system back to a healthy state. This plays a huge role in helping to reduce the stress associated with many leading medical conditions, and in boosting your overall energy levels and feelings of well-being.
This is why we chose the sacred Om Mani Padmi Hum symbol to be part of our clothing line. We also offer our beautiful 'Om' Short-Sleeved Unisex T-shirts which showcase the 4-part sacred shape representing this harmonizing sound (sometimes written as 'AUM' or 'OHM', with the 4th letter invisible to represent silence). The three curves on this shirt symbolize the waking, dream, and deep dream (meditative) states, while the dot at the top expresses the fully awakened state inherent in the infinite silence of the Universe.