Om Mani Padme Hum.
Or, in its original ancient language of Sanskrit — ॐ मणिपद्मे हूँ
If you’ve done any yoga in the past, this chant might be familiar to you. There are debates about its meaning, but “Mani Padme” is often translated as “jewel in the Lotus.” The Lotus flower is ubiquitous across India, East and South-East Asia. Growing in flood plains and slow-moving rivers, the seeds settle on the bottom of a water puddle or pond and can remain dormant for a long time. The oldest known germination is from 1300-year-old seeds that were found in a dry lake in north-eastern China; probably why it’s seen as a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture. Its reputation is also helped along by the fact the Lotus has been cultivated for over 3,000 years for its edible seeds, which are often used as a paste in Chinese pastries and in Japanese desserts.
As the Lotus flower grows up through the mud, it opens its pale white and pink petals to reveal an unblemished centre. Buddhism teaches that everyone has the potential to become enlightened; the way the Lotus grows in dirty ponds symbolises our own opportunity for purity and awakening. It is why the Buddha is sometimes depicted sitting on a Lotus flower. Overcoming pain and hardship in life to become enlightened, just as the flower grows in muddy water yet isn’t soiled by the mud. Many Hindu gods are also shown sitting or standing on Lotus flowers for just the same reason.
As a chant Om Mani Padme Hum has been around a while — probably since the fourth or fifth centuries. It is the most widely used mantra in Tibetan Buddhism and it is also used in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Taoism. Try chanting it out loud slowly and carefully…. Ommm… M-an-i… Pad-me… Hu-umm — and you’ll find it takes around five to six seconds to say. This is important — more on this in a moment.
James Nestor is an author and science journalist and his latest book is “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” which was published in 2020. It has been so popular that twelve months later it has been translated into thirty languages. Nestor says his book explores the “million-year-long history of how the human species has lost the ability to breathe properly.” Not breathing in the right way is creating huge problems for many of us — from snoring, to sleep apnea and…