Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet/Volume 1/Om Mane Padme Hum


P. 76.

The following passages on this mystic formula are partly from Koeppen's Lamaismus (p. 59-60), and partly from an excellent article on Tibet in the 'Calcutta Review,' by Mr. Wilfrid Heeley, of the Bengal Civil Service, in which some paragraphs of Koeppen are condensed:

'Om mane padme hûm!—the primeval six syllables, as the Lamas say, among all prayers on earth form that which is most abundantly recited, written, printed, and even spun by machines, for the good of the Faithful. These syllables form the only prayer known to the ordinary Tibetans and Mongols; they are the first words that the child learns to stammer, and the last gasping utterance of the dying. The wanderer murmurs them on his way, the herdsman beside his cattle, the matron at her household tasks, the monk in all the stages of contemplation (i.e. of far niente); they form at once a cry of battle and a shout of victory! They are to be read wherever the Lama Church hath spread, upon banners, upon rocks, upon trees, upon walls, upon monuments of stone, upon household utensils, upon strips of paper, upon human skulls and skeletons! They form, according to the idea of the believers, the utmost conception of all religion, of all wisdom, of all revelation, the path of rescue and the gate of salvation! . . .

'Properly and literally these four words, a single utterance of which is sufficient of itself to purchase an inestimable salvation, signify nothing more than: "О the Jewel in the Lotus! Amen!" In this interpretation, most probably, the Jewel stands for the Bodhisatva Avalokiteçvara, so often born from the bud of a lotus flower. According to this the whole formula is simply a salutation to the mighty saint who has taken under his especial charge the conversion of the North, and with him who first employed it the mystic formula meant no more than Ave Avalokiteçvara! But this simple explanation of course does not satisfy the Lama schoolmen, who revel in glorifications and multitudinous glossifications of this formula. The six syllables are the heart of hearts, the root of all knowledge, the ladder to re-birth in higher forms of being, the conquerors of the five evils, the flame that burns up sin, the hammer that breaks up torment, and so on. Оm saves the gods, ma the Asuras, ni the men, pad the animals, me the spectre world of prêtas, hûm the inhabitants of hell! Om is 'the blessing of self-renunciation, ma of mercy, ni of chastity, &c.' 'Truly monstrous,' says Koeppen, ' is the number of padmes which in the great festivals hum and buzz through the air like flies.' In some places each worshipper reports to the highest lama how many om manis he has uttered, and the total number emitted by the congregation is counted by the billion.

Grueber and Dorville describe Manipe as an idol, before which stulta gens insolitis gcsticnlationibiis sacra sua facit., identidem verba hcec repetens: 'О Manipe, mi hum, О Manipe, mi hum; id est Manipe, salva nos!'—[Y.]