Om mani padme hum

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This Sanskrit phrase is an exclamation often uttered by Mahayana Buddhist devotees of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. In some ways, it could be said to be equivalent to the Christian ‘Praise the Lord!’ or the Islamic ‘God is Great!’

The phrase first appears in the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, dating from between the 4th and 7th centuries CE, but it was probably being used several hundred years before that. The first and last of the six syllables, oṃ and hūṃ, are vibratory sounds (praṇava) which have no meaning as such but function as an introduction and a conclusion. The four other syllables, ma ṇi pad me, mean ‘Jewel Lotus,’ an alternative name for Avalokitesvara, compassion being the most precious and gem-like constituent of the bodhisattva’s pure, lotus-like mind. Uttering Oṃ Maṇi Padme Hūm is believed to evoke Avalokitesvara’s help but it can also be an expression of devotion, of praise and, when chanted for prolonged periods, even a meditation.

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