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Om Mani Padme Hum: The Meaning Behind the Popular Mantra

Meredith DeCosta
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Chanting in a yoga class may seem a little funny at first. I know it did to me! When you look around the yoga room, see everyone’s eyes closed, hands at heart center, and heads bowed while words are repeated over and over, you may feel unsure what to do. If you’re anything like me, you sat in silence listening to everyone around you repeat the sweet vibrations, hoping to one day figure out what the words mean.
 

So, why do we chant in yoga?

Chanting soothes the senses and sends energy to the parts of your body (or the chakra centers ) that most need it. Calming sounds are known to help heal the body and mind. Plus, with all the division in the world, chanting allows all voices to come together to show unity and oneness not just of the self, but of the community and world.
 
One special yogic chant is om mani padme hum. Those four melodic words are all the words on many of those colorful Tibetan prayer flags.
 
Om mani padme hum is Sanskrit, and it’s pronounced OHM-MAH-NEE-PAHD-MAY-HUM.
 
This rhythmic chant is an ancient Buddhist mantra. In English, it literally translates to “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.” This might not make much sense to new yogis or even to well-practiced yogis, but the mantra’s essence is powerful and pure. As the Dalai Lama said, its meaning is “great and vast” because all the teachings of Buddha are wrapped up in this one phrase.
 
There are lots of different meanings and different opinions on what each syllable means. Generally, each syllable represents one of the six goals of Buddhist existence and helps to heal or purify and bring forth the positive qualities associated with that goal.

  • Om = the vibration or sound of the universe; represents divine energy and generosity and purifies the ego
  • Ma = represents ethics and purifies jealousy
  • Ni = represents patience and purifies want or desire
  • Pad = represents diligence and purifies ignorance and judgment
  • Me = represents concentration and purifies attachment
  • Hum = the unity of all; represents wisdom and purifies hatred

 

 

So, why do yogis chant om mani padme hum?

1. It clears the mind, allowing you to detach from the ego
2. The words help release karmas that may be holding you back
3. These words can send out a message about the kind of life you wish to manifest
4. It empties the body of everything but an awareness of the inside
 
Many people consider this to be the most powerful, all-encompassing chant in yoga.
So, don’t be afraid in your next yoga class. Give it a try and chant away! Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum.
 

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Meredith DeCosta

Meredith DeCosta, PhD, RYT is an academic by day, yogi for life. She is a university teacher, researcher, and writer. When she's not at the university, she is practicing or teaching yoga, specializing in vinyasa flow and power classes. Meredith playfully blends a deep knowledge of asana with an infectious energy that encourages her students to feel lighter and brighter. Join her tribe of positivity.

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