What Could Mean More? Om Mani Padme Hum

Om mani padme hum is an ancient mantra that is related to the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, and with therefore the Dalai Lama, who is considered to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara.

Avalokitesvara: Bodhisattva of Compassion
Avalokitesvara: Bodhisattva of Compassion (From hand-made applique thangkha created by Tibetan artisans at the Norbulingkha Institute near Dharamsala.)

Tibetans, who typically pronounce the mantra as “Om mani peme hung,” believe that Avalokiteshvara, who we call Chenrezig, has a very special connection with Tibetans as our protector.

In Tibetan, we say, “Chenrezig po kang chen pay lha kyel,” which means: “Chenrezig is the Tibetans’ Buddha.” By practicing Chenrezig’s mantra, we believe that we can accumulate merit and purify our delusions.

Let’s look  at how Tibetans pronounce om mani padme hum, in this video:

Every Tibetan child is taught the mantra by our parents, and we all use it very commonly in daily life, and especially if we make a prayer walk (kora) or go to the temple, or pray using a rosary (mala).

Basically, any mantra is “a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of ‘creating transformation.'” 2 See also our posts on the Green Tara mantra, White Tara and her mantra, and the Buddha Shakyamuni mantra.

This mantra naturally comes to our hearts in any kind of difficult situation. For example, when I was in an earthquake in Dharamsala once, when the earth started shaking, I automatically started praying, “Om mani peme hung.”

Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Mani Padme Hum

Many people recite the mantra thousands of times in a day as part of their daily prayer practice. (If you’re interested in experiencing the beautiful sight and sound of walking in a crowd of Tibetans humming mantras, check out our How to Visit Tibet post.) We also print it on prayer flags that blow the prayer to the winds, carve it on stones, and insert papers printed with it inside holy statues and in prayer wheels.

Almost all Tibetans recite the prayer, even though many of us don’t know the meaning.

The most common meaning offered for the mantra is usually something like “Behold! The jewel in the lotus!” or “Praise to the jewel in the lotus.” But it is almost impossible to give one exact meaning for “om mani padme hum,” since it has been interpreted in many ways. Below, you can see His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s interpretations.

Also, we might say that its meaning as a spiritual sound goes beyond the literal meaning of its syllables.

The Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum From Two Buddhist Masters

From His Holiness the 14th 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 … symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha…. The path is indicated by the next four syllables. MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the … altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassionate and loving…. The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom…. Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable HUM, which indicates indivisibility…. Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean 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….

— His Holiness the Dalai Lama, www.sacred-texts.com and Wikipedia3

From Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

The mantra Om Mani Päme Hum is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom. So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?

— Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones,  ISBN 0-87773-493-3

Links:

Books:

Kindness, Clarity and Insight, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has a chapter on this topic.

Footnotes:

1.The first known reference to the mantra is in the Karandavyuha Sutra, “a Mahayana sutra that was compiled at the end of the 4th century or beginning of the 5th century” A.D. (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karandavyuha_Sutra)

  1. Feuerstein, G. The Deeper Dimension of Yoga. Shambala Publications, Boston, MA. 2003. (Via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantra)
  2. Several web sites contain the same information, and we have not been able to locate the original source of the information, though the transcription is attributed to Ngawang Tashi (Tsawa) of Drepung Loseling, Mundgod, India.

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Updated on January 25, 2020. First published on December 22, 2018.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Naresh says

    Hi, I would like to get so help to write some Tibetan script. I need hi res editable SVG file of the major mantras, eg:

    Om Mani Padme Hum

    OM Tara Tuttare Tare Soha

    Om Ami Dewa Hrih

    I sincerely appreciate if you could point me in the right dirrection

    Thanks

  2. Pat says

    In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: The spiritual Classic and international bestseller, Appendix 4: Two Mantras, Sogyal Rinpoche, Rinpoche offers beautiful meanings of the two most famous mantras in Tibet along with the story of Avalokiteshvara.

    “The two most famous mantras in Tibet are the mantra of Padmasambhava, called the Vajra Guru Mantra, OM AH HUM VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUM, and the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, OM MANI PADME HUM. Like most mantras they are in Sanskrit, the ancient sacred language of India.”

    Also, a place to find great inspiration is http://living-and-dying.org/ which has many personal stories of how this book based on the teachings of the Buddha and the great masters of Tibet have benefited their lives.

  3. maleka star says

    I. Am grateful for these insights. Reciting of om mani padme hum has been the most comforting & affirming reality to date in this grand illusion – for me takes me out of myself & the selfish thoughts of suicide or the discomfort of the human existence allowing my trickster mind peace -that all is. As it is!
    I Am OM…………………………………….

  4. Jonathan MacMillan says

    Can anyone chant/recite/use the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra?. Even without proper/formal initiation?.

    I have recently purchased my first mala and am a little hesitant to simply go ahead and “assume” a mantra.

    For that reason, I have settled with the SOHAM mantra based on its natural/God given nature.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,
    Jonathan

    • Yolanda says

      Hi Jonathan,
      It’s no problem to recite om mani padme hung without a formal initiation or transmission. It’s nice if you get the blessing from your teacher, but not at all required. This is true for all of the mantras on our website.

      Our best to you!

      • Jonathan MacMillan says

        Hi Yolanda

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly.

        I have another question however. Is there a specific rhythm or pace or speed with which to recite the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra while using my mala?.

        I’m just a bit concerned about my breathing when I recite the mantra with my mala.

        The only other reference I have is with the SOHAM mantra which has the simple SO on the inhalation and HAM on the exhalation.

        Any help and guidance would be greatly appreciated.

        Thank you again.

        Sincerely,
        Jonathan

  5. Jonathan MacMillan says

    Hi Yolanda

    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly.

    I have another question however. Is there a specific rhythm or pace or speed with which to recite the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra while using my mala?.

    I’m just a bit concerned about my breathing when I recite the mantra with my mala.

    The only other reference I have is with the SOHAM mantra which has the simple SO on the inhalation and HAM on the exhalation.

    Any help and guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you again.

    Sincerely,
    Jonathan

    • Yolanda says

      Hi Jonathan,
      There is no special rhythm or pace or speed for reciting om mani padme hum. You may find that your speed or rhythm changes from time to time and that is fine. We hope this helps. It is great that you are working on saying your mantras the best way that you can, but remember that the most important thing is that your motivation is good — and after that everything is very small in importance, meaning if you say your mantras with a good heart and spirit, with the intention of growing compassion, any way that you do it “technically” honestly doesn’t matter at all.

  6. thomas says

    Thank you for being a part of the great illusion, without you my heart would be empty. Even though I don’t practice, I can’t help myself from loving you all so very much, and at times I miss you terribly! I have chanted in the past om mani pedme hum, even though I didn’t know what it meant, the mantra felt gud inside my being. Thanks from the heart eternally. Love & Peace

  7. Radha Raghoebir mrs says

    Dear sirs,

    I would like to print the english meaning of the mantra’s Ohm mani padme ohm and Ohm tare tutare ture svaha, but from your website there is no print option.

    Kindly I request you to sent me the abovementioned english meanings. I really love those mantras and I am very glad that I have found the meaning of it.

    Appreciated a lot.

    Regards,
    mrs. Radha

  8. Heidi says

    Hi! I am planning on tattooing om mani padme hum on my body, but when i search the sentence in Sanskrit it seems like there are several ways of writing it? The picture you have here on this post, the one by Christopher J. Fynn, can i tattoo that one? Is that the correct way of writing the sentence in Sanskrit? I’m gonna link a page with a picture of different ways of writing it, it was that page that made me confused..

    http://nyima108.blogspot.no/2006/07/om-mani-padme-hum.html

    • yowangdu says

      Hi there,
      Thanks for asking. This made us notice we had a slightly wrong spelling. We changed the spelling on our post so now it is the correct one. Note that this one on our site is transliterated Sanskrit in Tibetan writing. You can compare the one on our page now with the 4th one on the nyima108 blog. That one on that page has a slight error — an extra dot. Hope this helps.

  9. Khnom says

    Sanskrit, I believe, is a series of sounds that trigger the brain toward the goals of the words. That is, to speak Sanskrit is to massage your mind to simulate in your mind the feelings associated with the Sanskrit sounds. If everyone returned to speaking and thinking in Sanskrit, we would have the possibility of attaining AND LIVING IN enlightenment all the time.

  10. James Rapai says

    The mantra is actually ‘Om-manipadme-aham.’ Om is of course a well-known and often-used invocation which is considered the sound representation of the Supreme. Aham means ‘I am.’ It’s not hum. Mani means ‘jewel-like’ or ‘precious’ or ‘divine,’ and padme means ‘lotus’ or ‘unsullied like lotus’

    So, the mantra says: ‘Om… I am divine and unsullied like a lotus.’ In others words, the mantra is similar to ‘Aham brahma-asmi’ and proclaims the classic self-realization mantra: ‘I am spirit!’ Indirect meaning being, ‘I am not this body.’ While the Sanskrit mantra leaves it at that, the Buddhist mantra wanting perhaps to go a step further, also emphasizes the unsullied nature of spirit soul. I am unsullied spirit! Meaning, I am not the (contaminated) body. (Kindly delete my earlier comments!)

    • george says

      wow I have never seen or heard the aham version you claim. what source do you use? I do not have a single source for my semi-personal interpretation but I would like to share it with you and here it is: Om of course according to the upanishads is (a) waking state of mind (u) dream state of mind and (m) deep sleep state of mind and finally Turiya which is the anusvara which is the underlying ever-present current of awareness i.e. the substratum of the three previously mentioned states of mind: Christ consciousness, Buddha nature, Nirguna Brahman etc. Turiya is that jewel to be treasured and sought after. the Lotus is the symbol of Vairagya/disspassion/free of attachment as the lotus is unstained by the muddy water from which it grew i.e. the muck does not stick to what does not cling. hum is the krodha bija that lord shiva uses to project the fire from his third eye to burn up evil and all desires. thus from the end to the start of the mantra: hum brings one the state of the lotus of detachment, in that state and only in that state can one receive the jewel i.e. realize Turiya/emptiness i.e. enlightenment. Ahamkara free so to speak. anyways let me know where you found the version of the mantra you claim.

    • Vijay says

      James,

      I loved your interpretation and agree with it completely. Many of the Sanskrit mantras have layers of meaning and nuances that talk uniquely to us. So it is OK, according to me, to interpret mantras and make them personal to us.

      This is a beautiful mantra and reflecting on its meaning is so refreshing, invigorating and empowering.

      Best wishes
      Vijay

  11. Giyah says

    Hi in the evening was searching how to get rid of negative karma and stumbled on this Mantra. Though I have heard this mantra before its the first time I read about it , heard it on YouTube and downloaded it ! I was in great great distress since evening I’m feeling calm and peaceful ! I’m going to chant it as much as possible , Thanks Om Mani Padme Hum ! Also read about praying to 35 bodhisattvas !

  12. Danni says

    Hello, I’m curious if you can refer me to a site where I can learn more about Buddhism. Also, I noticed there is a Buddhist (temple?) by my house. Would they welcome me and my questions?

  13. Sudipta says

    Is it necessary to be initiated, to receive empowerment (Wang); in order to receive/bring benefit by reciting OM Mani Peme Hung? That is do I need Chenrezig empowerment?

      • Sudipta Mukherjee says

        Thank you for your swift reply; however I have not yet (due to lack of opportunity / karma) formally taken the refuge vow in the Three Jewels……. . Can I still recite it for benefit of others & myself ?

        appreciated.

        Sudipta

          • Sudipta Mukherjee says

            Thanks yet again. I was in Bodhgaya recently; as an ignorant being, looking for a Lama to bless my Rosary. In Karma Monastery I found H.E Beru Khyentse Rinpoche who was conducting a puja.

            After waiting for 2 hours as I approached Rinpoche (through a translator monk); with my request – I was briefly disappointed when he just tapped my Rosary and (what seemed like) waved me away.
            Later it somehow dawned on me, that THAT tap of the hand from H.E was ALL the blessing that was required ! That is although H.E is not my Guru, he is yet a living embodiment of Buddha nature; and that his gesture (whatever it is) is sufficient for me !

            Any comments, that you can add ?

          • yowangdu says

            Hi Sudipta, It seems to us that your attitude is correct — viewing the positive and having a good intention are both wonderful ways to be!

  14. Louis Silva says

    Why is it so rare to find the final word of Om Mani Padme Hum: Hri (Dignity)? Why is this not included in the explanations of the meaning of
    this mantra since Hri is the real jewel in the lotus?
    Thank you.

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Louis, Normally Tibetans don’t include the hri — we don’t know why really. We’re sharing the common usage among Tibetans. If you learn more about it, please share.

  15. Sakhal says

    Hello, I am a 17 year old boy. I am glad.. just like that haha 🙂

    I wonder if one with bad habits can recite ”Om Mani Padme Hum” and it still has effects?

    Also what if I don’t have compassion but I believe in ”Om Mani Padme Hum” would it still work and help me?

    Also I realized I am more compassionate than before. I have started chanting this mantra at least 300 times a day. Yesterday I chanted it 1080 times 🙂

    I would be very glad if we could talk together more easily. Peace and love to you and everyone, but mostly you! haha

  16. Pete says

    Hello,

    I wish to assist you. “Bad habits” are a mind tuned in to the selfish side of humanity because they are not considerate of the sanctity of self or helping others. All they do is fulfill the desires of the imagination of self and that is a distraction from real self. So if you recite the mantra a million times it will be honed on getting rid of the imagined self and only after it has done that will it help real self.

    The easiest way is to get rid of imagined self and live as real self. When real self thinks, speaks, and walks, the world and all those in it, including real self, feel blessed because they are blessed. Recognizing bad habit is a step, but it is also a hinderance as the recognition is not what makes imagined self go away, action and action of inaction does. As they say, “… the sound of one hand clapping”.

    Peace on you 🙂

  17. Vikki says

    Hi I am very interested in buddhism and have found your website very useful. I sometimes find it difficult to control my thoughts when I meditate so usually follow a guided meditate. I am going chant Om Mani Padme Hum.

    • Cambo Matt says

      The average adults attention span is about 20 minutes. The average college students attention span is 40 minutes. The more you chant the better you will become and your attention span will grow. Be emotionally & spiritually kind to yourself. Things take time.

  18. Mary says

    Hello. Can I chant Tibetan mantras even if I am from another religious? I also ordered a necklace with the mantra
    Om Mani padme hum and I look forward to wearing it.
    Best wishes

    • JgBEWA says

      Tattoos were very popular in the time of Buddha as they are today. Many Asthetics today have spiritual tattoos, and I am sure it is tattoos on many of them. I have it about 10″ long on my lower left arm.

    • Cambo Matt says

      I have a”Om mani padme hum.” Tattoo. My suggestion would be to think long and hard about it. Do not be impulse. Place the tattoo where you can read it and still cover it up. Examine your motive for this particular tattoo. If it is to aid you in chanting / prayer then great. If it’s a fashion statement, please don’t get it.

  19. BiffBarff says

    To:
    Louis Silva says

    January 15, 2018 at 3:34 am

    Why is it so rare to find the final word of Om Mani Padme Hum: Hri (Dignity)? Why is this not included in the explanations of the meaning of
    this mantra since Hri is the real jewel in the lotus?
    Thank you.
    The word Hri (Hrih) is the secret empowerment word for the whole mantra.
    It is only used by a “initiated” person mostly through a Hindu (not Buddhist) ritual.
    That is how i have understand it in the 1970′ ees. We can recognise eachother and know who is a insider so to speak. At that time i saw it sort of openly on the backside of the LP from Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights” and knew: i am not alone…
    Well, you never really are, are you?…
    Love to you, hope it helps a bit.

  20. James Lewis says

    OM is the great syllable, the sound and vibration of the changing universe, mani ped me is the diamond that cuts through illusion and reveals prajnaparamita, Hum is the unification of the knowledge

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