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Om, Jewel in the Lotus, Hum

September 10, 2009

Probably the most popular mantra in the Vajrayana tradition is Om Mani Padme Hum (pronounced by the Tibetans as “Ohm Mah Knee Pay May Hoong). It has been translated in many ways, such as “Homage, to the Jewel in the Lotus.” However, the more likely translation of the Sanskrit is, “Om, Jewel in the Lotus, Hum.” There are many layers of meaning in this mantra. On one level of practice, each syllable serves to transform the afflictive emotions.

Om—Bliss and pride

Ma—Jealousy, lust for entertainment

Ni—Passion, desire

Pe—Ignorance, prejudice

Me—Greed, possessiveness

Hum—Aggression, anger, hatred

However, this mantra has even another level of meaning. It can also represent the path to Buddhahood itself. Om can represent the juxtaposition of the samsaric and enlightened mind. Mani can represent “bodhicitta,” what I call the engine of enlightenment as the “method.” Padme can represent “Wisdom perceiving Emptiness.” And, Hum can represent the Unity of Method and Wisdom.

Yet another layer of meaning occurred to me. I was reflecting on the very phrase “jewel in the lotus.” I thought to myself, “What is this jewel in the lotus?” Then it hit me: the jewel is the ultimate nature of the mind itself. My true nature is the jewel. I am the Jewel in the Lotus. You are the Jewel in the Lotus. We are the Jewel in the Lotus. The jewel is the enlightened mind. It is indestructible, and pure. It cannot be touched by sin or damaged by anything we do. It is completely pure. It is the “Diamond Mind.” You might ask, “Why do you say diamond?” I say diamond because of the great clarity is exhibited by a diamond. Let’s say that we were able to find a diamond that was the size of a large store window. Imagine that window to be, however, a foot thick. If we were to look at that one-foot thick window from the side, the window would still be perfectly pure. We would still be able to look through it. However, it were glass, the side would look green and opaque. That window would be extremely hard. We couldn’t cut it with anything but another diamond. The diamond is often a metaphor for the enlightened mind itself.

But, what about the lotus? The lotus can have several layers of meaning. For example, why is it that we most often cannot see the nature of the mind directly? We cannot see that jewel because it is hidden by our fundamental misperceptions of reality. In Buddhism, when we talk about ignorance, we do not mean the lack of knowledge. If that were the case, then we could achieve enlightenment by simple input of information. What is meant by ignorance is that fundamental misperception of ultimate reality. That jewel of the enlightened mind is hidden by the lotus as a flower that has not yet bloomed. The word “Buddha” which we translate as “awakened one” has another meaning. The word in Sanskrit is related to the same word which is the origin of our English word, “to bud.” In this case, the word “Buddha” refers to the budding or blossoming of the mind. In this case, the Lotus blooms—it opens—to reveal the jewel of the enlightened mind. This jewel has been there since beginningless time, but has only been obscured by the petal of the lotus flowers that had yet to bloom. The lotus is our fundamental misperception of reality. The lotus is our false notions of self.

So, how do we cause the lotus to bloom? I do not have room to answer this question, nor do I yet have the full wisdom to do so either. However, I do know that as we come to recognize ourselves for who we really are, we can begin to blossom the mind. As we peel back the false layers of the idea of self, we can see who we really are—The Jewel in the Lotus. So often we confuse our true nature with the lotus, but we are the Jewel in the Lotus. It is taught that this is the mantra of Avalokiteshvara—Chenrezik—Guan Yin, etc. However, the nature of your mind is Chenrezik. In fact the nature of your mind is the same of all the Buddhas. As Milarepa said, “There are no other Buddhas apart from your own mind.”

I pay homage to the Jewel in the Lotus—to your true nature and mine…

Xian Tan Ju Shi

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