Monday, March 30, 2009

MPOW #10 - Mantras 101: "Om mani padme hum"

It is a commonly held belief in some scientific, philosphical, religious, and spiritual domains that the universe began with a single word, a hum, vibrations throughout all of existence. From Sanskrit, the word "Om" elongated is the sound of the creation of the universe that has expanded throughout all of time and place. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1). Many powerful mantras begin with the word Om. Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama gave a lecture on "Om mani padme hum" one of the most common mantras of Buddhism. Due to its power and rich history, this makes for a great introduction to mantras.

It is very soothing and beneficial to recite this mantra. In reciting it, you add your voice to the millions and millions of chanters who have come before you chanting this many trillions of times, and the millions and milliions who will come after.

The Practice - Reciting "Om mani padme hum"
From your meditative position, relax, clear your mind. When you are ready, recite the mantra "Om many padme hum." You can say it or sing it; you can do it within your head or aloud. Play with all of these and see what works best for you. Recite it over and over again in a relaxed timing. You may think of it as waves crashing on the shore, a planet revolving, a marquee scrolling. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

"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." (Dalai Lama)

This is just an intro to mantras, and I won't be too prescriptive with this one. Just get in there and feel it out. Play with it. Have fun. Over future MPOWs, I will explore different ways to use this mantra, different mantras to use, and explore different mindsets that you can be in with mantras. For now, I recommend starting on the basics, just reciting the mantra over and over again, feel the repetition soothe over you, feel the meaning sink within.

My Experience with this Mantra
I first saw mantras on the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm. I felt as awkward about the idea as Larry David does in just about every situation on the show. I wanted to try it, and I had wanted to try it for a while, but did not know where to start. A few years later, I finally put it into practice.

When I began, I thought that the mantra might be a crutch for not being able to free my mind directly. I wanted to learn the real way, the hard way. I found the sanskrit words goofily foreign. When I began with the mantra, I also felt this was the case, but that it was worth a shot. I sat in half-lotus (kind of painful in the hips) on my couch (which made it less painful). From that position, I started to practice saying the words internally. Ugh, it felt awkward. I was not sure that I was internally pronouncing them right. I was not sure if I should sing them or say them. I am not confident in my singing voice. I noticed all of these things. Overcoming them was an early and important step for me.

I then shifted to trying to say them aloud, even sing them aloud. I did it tentatively at first. What if someone in the adjacent units could hear me? How embarrassing that would be. I explored that for a while as I continued. As I heard my own voice, evenutally my timidity subsided. My voice became strong and rhythmic. I liked the sound of it. It was quite pleasing. I was pleased with myself for trying it and for doing it. This, I realized, was my ego. "I just witnessed my ego! That's how this is supposed to work!," my ego said to me. At that moment, my voice cracked. I realized the trap. The ego had me again. I was proud of my observing skillz, then I was embarrassed all over again. Ego, ego. I watched it fade out. Eventually, I began reciting in a soothing pattern, I continued and continued. I lost track of time. The thinking part of me thought about stopping, but the conscious presence in me just witnessed the thinker and didn't pay him any mind. I was just rolling with it, so comfortably, so naturally, I didn't want to stop. Sure, the words are profound, but they did not mean anything to me at the time. Just saying the words, the rhythm, the power of those 6 syllables, extended from somewhere free of their meaning. Both sound and meaning in the same words, both so important. How efficient! I just kept going and going... give me shades, pink floppy ears, and a big drum. Throughout the day, I would continue the chant while driving, while parking. It saturated me and soothed me.

I dedicate this post to Jo Ann Ong, who has introduced me to many important things in my life, including meditation, Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama.

Request for Comments, please share your experiences

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very interesting! I just discovered your blog in a totally random way (researching feed problems) and am glad to have found it. I look forward to reading more!