The Meaning of OM MANI PADME HUM

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1087)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche explained the profound meaning of the Chenrezig mantra at Kopan Course No.  31, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov–Dec 1998. This teaching is excerpted from Lecture Six of the course. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Chenrezig, painted by Nepali-Tibetan artists. Photo courtesy of FPMT.

Regarding MANI PADME, the main part of the mantra, MANI refers to the method side of the path to enlightenment and PADME to the wisdom side. What it shows is that MANI is method and PADME is wisdom. The wisdom and method to reach liberation from samsara, from the Lesser Vehicle path, that method and wisdom is contained in this MANI PADME. And also the whole bodhisattva’s path of the Mahayana Paramitayana, the method and wisdom are also contained in MANI PADME. Then, within the Mahayana, the Secret Mantra Vajrayana method and wisdom, the lower tantra method and wisdom and the highest tantra method and wisdom are all contained in this. Such as with Kriya Tantra, the yoga having sign and yoga without sign, that’s wisdom. So method and wisdom in the lower tantra is contained in MANI PADME, and the highest tantra method and wisdom, all that is contained in this.

The whole of existence comes in the two truths: conventional truth and absolute truth. And conventional and absolute truth are contained in MANI PADME as well as the method and wisdom of the path to enlightenment. That is contained in this. Then also the base, path and result—the conventional and absolute truth is the base, method and wisdom is the path, and the result is the goal to be achieved: the dharmakaya and rupakaya. And the unification of these two, the holy mind and the holy body of a buddha—the whole thing is contained in this.

Now the meaning of OM MANI PADME HUM. HUM, it is mentioned it is like saying, “Hey,” when we call someone like our mother we say, “Hi Mum.” So when we say “Hi” it makes her pay attention to us. So the HUM is like saying “Hi,” to persuade Compassion Buddha’s holy mind to pay attention to us. It could also mean to establish the root of the blessing in our heart. However, by persuading the holy mind, we establish the root of the blessing in our heart and can actualize the method and wisdom contained in the MANI PADME in our heart. Then due to that, by completing the path of method and wisdom, we cease all the defilements including the seed, the subtle imprint of the delusions. So, it purifies our ordinary body, speech and mind.

Then our body, speech and mind are transformed into the vajra holy body, holy speech and holy mind of Compassion Buddha, which is signified by the OM. OM is made of three sounds: AH, U, MA. The three sounds signify the vajra holy body, vajra holy speech and vajra holy mind of Compassion Buddha. By actualizing the remedy, the path of method and wisdom, we purify our ordinary body, speech and mind, which is transformed into Compassion Buddha’s vajra holy body, holy speech and holy mind. Then we are able to do perfect work for all sentient beings, to enlighten them. This is just a tiny bit of what the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM means.

From this, however, we can understand that OM MANI PADME HUM contains the entire teachings of the Buddha: the Lesser Vehicle teachings, the Paramitayana teachings and the tantra teachings. All the teachings of the Buddha are contained in OM MANI PADME HUM.

One thing to mention, especially for those who are new, if this is the first time you have done a course here, the first time you have heard the lamrim, just knowing how to practice for one day, for those who want to continue to do the practice, to make life meaningful. I’ll explain like this just to give you an idea. First thing in the morning, there is the practice of integrating the five powers into one lifetime, integrating the practice of five powers. One of the powers is called the power of attitude, which is the motivation, how we are going to live our life, how we are going to spend our life. The motivation we have, the power of attitude, making plans for our life. So, the first thing we should do is think like that, and while we are doing this, we can chant OM MANI PADME HUM. The mind does the meditation and the mouth recites OM MANI PADME HUM. In this way, we get two practices done! If we have a commitment, we get the commitment done while our mind is doing this meditation. Anyway, especially if our life is so busy, with so many engagements, and it is difficult to find the time, this is a way of getting things done.