Monday, November 14, 2005

Festival Flags #2

Festival Flags #2
Originally uploaded by Other Andrew.

The weather turned quite hot in the late afternoon, and Bodhi and I retreated to the cooler (but also packed) Newtown Hotel. I ran into a couple of guys I knew. A guy from my course at the Buddhist centre, and an old friend of mine who I've known for something like 25+ years, but who I had sort of drifted away from in the past few years.

We reconnected just like we'd seen each other yesterday, and interestingly he has recently started to read about Buddhism and was interested to the point where he recently had the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum tattooed on his arm. He's been through a rough patch in the past couple of years, which I didn't know about, and we had a good long chat and lots of laughs. I'm meeting him and a bunch of his friends for dinner on Thursday night. Even though I wasn't drinking, and the guys I was with were getting progressively sloshed, it was nice to hang out and great to see my old friend Brendan in particular. I'm looking forward to seeing him again on Thursday night, and to getting out and socialising with a group of gay guys that I haven't met before.


duane said...

what does "Om Mani Padme Hum" mean?

The Other Andrew said...

Duane, it's hard to give a literal translation. I hope I explain this ok, I'm not really a terribly experienced student, but here is my understanding of it. (If anyone wants to add something please chime in!)

It's an invocation of Avalokiteshvara/Chenrezig, who is the embodiment of the compassion aspect of the Buddha. It's Sanskrit, although the pronounciation changed slightly when it was taken from India to Tibet. In most religions when you pray you are calling for blessings upon yourself, but with the mantra of compassion you are primarily asking for those blessing to benefit others. This intention in saying the mantra is very important. The mantra is more than just that, it also encompasses other essential Buddhist concepts, some writers have said that all the essential teachings of the Buddha can be encompassed in the mantra. Saying the mantra is a very important compassion exercise.

duane said...

Awesome explanation! I have a tattoo of equanimity in Tibetan, and I would love to get something else meaningful that people can reduce to "what does that mean". No seriously... love it.

Bodhi said...

Duane, my dharma-brother Andrew is most correct in stating that its hard to give a literal translation for this one. There are indeed many levels of intrepretation contained within this single mantra. There is a common English translation which is often given as either "Hail the Jewel in the Lotus" or even "The Jewel is in the Lotus", but one must remember that this is but really only a partial translation and one way of looking at it. Here's a brief and further explanation by the Dali 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 is composed of three letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.
Can impure body, speech, and mind be transformed into pure body, speech, and mind, or are they entirely separate? All Buddhas are cases of beings who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states arid their being transformed into the pure.

How is this done? The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method-the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.

The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing that persons are empty, of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality-that is to say, of difference of entity between subject an object-and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realizing emptiness.

Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom. In the mantra, or tantric, vehicle, it refers to one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five Conqueror Buddhas, hum is the seed syllable of Akshobhya - the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.

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. It is said that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within. As Maitreya says in his Sublime Continuum of the Great Vehicle (Uttaratantra), all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (Tathagatagarbha), that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.

(From a lecture given by His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet at the Kalmuck Mongolian Buddhist Center, New Jersey.)

The Avalokiteshvara Mantra would have to be my personal favourite. I love to chant it everywhere, either silently or out loud. And it looks awesome as a tattoo :-)

The Other Andrew said...

I had to smile when read that you's written 'Dali Lama', and then I pictured His Holiness with a Salvadore Dali style moustache. :-)

duane said...

do you have a link or a photo so I could see what it looks like... tattoo idea!!!

The Other Andrew said...

Duane, there is an illustration of the mantra in two different scripts here:

Otherwise a Google search should turn up some other clear pics of it in Tibetan script.

Bodhi said...

Dalai Lama, Dalai Lama, m'kay!

We need to work on this clinging obsession you have to spelling and grammar. And if anyone can beat that out of you, even if its a case of just gradually wearing you down over time, then moi is certainly up to the challange.

Anyhoo ...

This reminds me of a funny story in the Lama Surya Das book Awakening the Buddha Within, when he relates to first coming back to America having found his calling as a Tibetan Lama. Having being brought up as Jeffrey Miller, a "nice Jewish boy" in Brooklyn, his mother now jokingly refered to him as the Deli Lama.

By the way Duane, I was gunna email you a pic of Om Mani Padme Hum, but after looking on your blog realised you did not list your email address. Andrew is right, though, as plenty of good pics can easily be found by Google or search engine.

Bodhi said...

Or Duane, check out: