Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

Explanation of the Mantra of Avalokiteshvara

The Late Venerable Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey

On June 8 1998 Ven. Thupten Rinpoche gave an Avalokiteshvara or "Chenrezig" initiation, with a minimum commitment to say the mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum once a day. Gen Rinpoche, in a series of lessons on the mantras of the five dhyani Buddhas, gave this teaching on the mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum.(c) Copyright Dhargyey Buddhist Centre.


The mantra Om Mani Pädme 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. Päd, 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?

The six perfections and the four ways of helping sentient beings are the tools employed by Bodhisattvas to achieve the state of enlightenment. The Buddha himself is quite emphatic about the importance of practising the six perfections when he says that the six perfections are the mother and the father, they are the two legs, and they are the protectors.

When you say the mantra it helps shut the door of rebirth in the six realms of existence and opens the door to be reborn in the pure land of the Buddha Amitabha. Om stops rebirth in the realm of the celestial gods which helps us overcome the suffering of the celestial gods' rebirths in the miserable realms of existence. Ma stops rebirth in the world of demigods which overcomes experience of demigods' suffering of constant strife and conflict with the world of celestial gods. Ni stops rebirth as humans precipitated by actions and delusions. This overcomes the suffering of poverty, the suffering of pain, and all kinds of human miseries. Humans, like many sentient beings, face many hardships, including the suffering of being born, of sickness of aging and of death. Päd stops rebirth in the preta realm as constantly famished beings and helps overcome their sufferings of constant thirst and hunger. The pretas, or hungry ghosts, suffer excruciating pains of hunger, thirst and fatigue as they travel long distances in search of nourishment. Me helps put and end to rebirth in the world of animals and overcomes their suffering of being unintelligent in some ways, of being unable to express themselves, of being constantly devoured by each other and of being eaten and mercilessly exploited by humans.

One doesn't have to be reborn there to understand the magnitude of suffering in the hell and preta realms. We can well understand the sufferings of the larger life forms of the two lowest realms. If we are born as animals we will live in constant fear and anxiety. At present we have the choice not to be reborn as animals, which are stupid in that they have no reasoning power to think about what is positive and what is not; about what is dharmic and what is not.

When you say Hum; the sixth syllable of the mantra, this stops rebirth in the hell realms and helps over come their suffering of heat and cold.

So stopping this rebirth within the six realms of worldly existence finally helps those who recite the mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum to be reborn in the blissful pure lands. Avalokiteshvara, the deity of compassion, who is the resident deity of The Blissful Pure Land has been requested by the presiding Buddha of The Amitabha Pure Land; "Initially nurture sentient beings, fulfil their material needs and teach and mature them spiritually; finally bring them to me." Such are the benefits of saying the easy to say mantra Om Mani Pädme Hum.

When you say the mantra it gives you many kinds of spiritual boons of realisation. Om gives you the supreme boon of enlightenment. Ma helps you achieve common boons of extra sensory perception and eight kinds of boons. Ni gives you the power to pacify sickness and calm, conquer and tame spirits and so on. Päd gives you the spiritual boon of increasing one's longevity and one's merit. Me gives you the boon of being able to have control over humans and over material possessions like food and so on. Hum gives you the boon of spiritual might to overcome enemies and hindrances.

On Monday night I was counting out the various kinds of delusions called the six root delusions. When you say Om it overcomes the root delusion of ignorance and so on. I won't be able to go into that deeply today.

The benefits of the mantra are explained in sutra. The mantra was originally said by "The Red Buddha". Buddha said that for so long he was unable to find this mantra, and was delighted on hearing this mantra. When the mantra was said by the Buddha the earth shook six times in wonderment.

It is said no one will ever become a Buddha without the guidance given by Manjushri. In the sutra called The Luminous Ornament of Wisdom, Buddha says that all beings who achieve enlightenment must depend on Manjushri. We could say likewise with regard to Avalokiteshvara. That is because you can not be enlightened without wisdom and compassion. Avalokiteshvara is in fact the collective compassion of all Buddhas, assuming a deity form. You can not be enlightened without developing compassion, therefore you must depend on Avalokiteshvara. Likewise with regard to the deity of wisdom; you can not be enlightened without correct wisdom understanding the ultimate nature of reality underlying all things that exist. Because of this Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri are in fact the deity forms of the path of wisdom and method.

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