The first story in this series was published few days ago and can be read here – Best of Spiti – In Pictures.
The origin of ‘Mani Stones’ is as ancient as Buddhism. Buddhists began to mark stones with symbols, phrases and mantras as a means to express their faith for deities and spread positivity. Hence, you’re likely to find varied kinds of inscriptions, use of vibrant colors manifesting belief of the decorator. These are sacred, magical and mystic.
These decorated stones make you feel not just happy but also exude positivity.
Travelers to Spiti Valley (place inhabited by Tibetans) will encounter such stones / mound of stones pretty much everywhere. Since, we were on a road trip, we spent our maximum travel time on roads and every time we saw such beautifully and meticulously carved stones, we would stop to soak in beauty.
These ‘Mani’ stones come in different colors, shapes, sizes and also different inscriptions, texts or images but primarily one will find such stones inscribed with ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’.
Fortunately, I found this profound explanation of the powerful mantra by ‘H.H Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet’ in the sacred texts and I’m sharing the brief version. It is believed chanting of this mantra brings great benefits for mind and soul but one must contemplate on the meaning as well for the meaning makes the chant and its impact complete.
‘Om Mani Padme Hum’
The first, OM, is composed of three pure letters, A, U, and M symbolizing the practitioner’s impure body, speech and mind. The development of pure body, speech and mind comes gradually as one transforms from leaving the impure state into the pure.
MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factor of method- the altruistic intention to become enlightened, and be filled with compassion and love.
The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus flower grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non- contradiction where as there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence or inherent existence.
Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable, HUM, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to one consciousness in which there is a full form of both wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom. In terms of the seed syllables of the five conqueror Buddhas, HUM is the seed syllable of Akshobhya- the immovable, the unfluctuating, the one that cannot be disturbed by anything.
Thus together, the six syllables, OM MANI PADME HUM signify that in dependence on the practice which is in indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is also believed that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within.
Stay enlightened. Stay Happy.