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The Hexagram and Om

The HexagrOmThe HexagrOm

Om Mani Padme Hum

"Om Mani Padme Hum" is the oldest and most important mantra of Tibetan Buddhism, usually translated from Sanskrit as "Om, jewel in the lotus, hum." The jewel is enlightenment arising in the lotus of human consciousness, and the encompassing outer syllables are profound seed sounds. This is the holiest of Tibetan mantras, associated with Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and is an expression of compassion for all beings as well as a longing for liberation and enlightenment. In each of his incarnations, the Dalai Lama is considered to be a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara.

Om Mani Padme Hum

The Tibetan form of the Mani mantra is shown above, and each Tibetan character represents one of its six syllables, which are linked to the six modes of existence in the bhava-chakra ("Wheel of Life"). The Wheel of Life is divided into six segments: the upper half contains the higher realms of gods, antigods (jealous gods) and human beings, while the lower half contains the nether realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings. Each being is born into one of these realms of existence according to its karma, and books like the Tibetan Book of the Dead detail ways to ensure rebirth in the higher realms and avoid the lower ones. The syllables of the mantra of Avalokiteshvara are assigned to the realms so that all beings in every realm may be taught the way to liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

Created by Robert Mills, the HexagrOm symbol places each syllable of the mantra on a point of a hexagram, with the balancing center of the star containing the powerful Om symbol itself. The cyclical setting of the syllables in order around the points of the hexagram mirrors the repetition of the mantra, both in its spoken form and in the prayer wheels found in Buddhist temples. The hexagram itself is a symbol that combines liberation (the spiritually-aspiring upward triangle) and compassion (the universally-immanent downward triangle), and as such makes a powerful synthesis with this most revered of mantras:

Om Mani Padme Hum