Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Mani Mantra

Mani (Mantra) | Avalokiteshvara Main Page | Sutra Texts & Tantric Subjects | Tibetan Letters

OM MA NI PAD ME HUM (audio).

The Buddhist mantra - om mani padme hum - originates in the Karandavyuha Sutra written in prose dated to the 4th-5th century (possibly Kashmir). In Tibet the mantra was also popularised in the text of the Mani Kabum, a curious manuscript whose date appears to be anywhere from the beginning of the 2nd millennium up to the 15th century.

The images in this gallery are mostly initiation cards used in Tantric rituals. Paintings of the pureland of Lokeshvara, Potalaka, generally depict a self-arising stone image of Lokeshvara along with the mani mantra inscription.

The letters themselves are typically written in Tibetan script following the words and sounds of the Sanskrit mantra. The letters can also be found in the Nepalese Lantsa and Ranjana scripts which are often considered to be more decorative and formal. The Sanskrit 'seed syllable' HRIH is often added to the end of written formulas and represents the sound essence of Lokeshvara. However, this mantra syllable does not originate from the source text of the Karandavyuha Sutra and was added some time later.

There are generally two different ways of interpreting the meaning of the mantra. The earliest interpretation is followed by the Sakya, Jonang and Gelug traditions. The later interpretation is followed mostly by the Nyingma and some Kagyu traditions.

Jeff Watt 8-2016