Mantras in the context of Tantric Buddhism

by Aik Theng Chong, The Buddhist Channel, April 22, 2011

Singapore -- Mantras are instrument of the mind. Hence, for a mantra to be effective, both mind and thinking are required. If one is just to repeat the syllables and words, which are also likely to be unintelligible and waiting for something to happen, we will surely and certainly going to be disappointed. Mantras are not magical formula.

It has an inherent meaning and significance, which cannot always be expressed in words. It reveals connections which go far beyond possible explanation with words. It can be compared with the melody of music. Just as music has an inner significance and meaning which cannot be express in words, so also mantra has a deep inner significance and meaning which we have to take into account to understand.

There are differences between seed, pure, mixed and dharanis mantras, with each forms referring to different things. For example, each of the seed mantra is an expression of a certain direction of movement. When we chant the mantra OM and sense something all-embracing, universal, round, like our arms moving in a circle, we get the sense of the direction of movement this sound has.

In Buddhism the sound OM can only be used at the beginning and HUM at the end of a combined mantra. OM always precedes a combined mantra, and HUM closes it. OM stands for the all-inclusive universal level, whereas HUM leads into the depth of our heart. The sound moved from the universal level down to the individual level. It is an experience of the universal in an individual.  In Buddhism each seed mantra is also associated with a certain color and form.

Mantras which contain other mantric words beside these seed mantras and are located between OM and HUM or SVAHA such as OM MANI PADME HUM is called a ëcombinedí mantra. MANI and PADME have various meaning at different levels. In a literally sense it is translated as ëjewels in the lotus flowerí, with the word ëjewelí representing the three jewel of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It transcends the meaning associated with a precious stone. It can also represent the Buddha as embodiment of realized enlightenment, a potentiality in all of us. PADME stand for our spiritual centre, in this case our ëheartí. It is a locative meaning ëwithin the lotus flowerí, i.e. our innermost spiritual center. 

The lotus is a symbol of spiritual unfoldment of the holy and the pure. This symbolism may be seen in the following simile: Just as a lotus grows from the darkness of the mud to the surface of the water, only opening its blossom after it has raised itself beyond the surface, and remaining unsullied from earth and water which nourished it; in the same way our mind, born in the human body, unfolds its true qualities, represented by its petals, after it has raised itself beyond the turbid floods of passions and ignorance, and transforming the dark powers of the depths into the radiant pure nectar of enlightenment consciousness (bobdhicitta), the incomparable jewel (mani) in the lotus blossoms (padme).

The mantra OM MANI PADME HUM is also associated with such other Buddhist teaching as the six paramitas, the six Samsaric realms, colors of the five Dhyani Buddhas and the wisdoms they represent.

Mixed mantra refers to certain aspects of Buddhahood or to specific functions such as compassion, or discriminative wisdom. Dharanis are formulas which attempt to allow for a concentration or fixation of the mind. It is used in order to direct the mind to something and to increasingly concentrate it in this way. It is different from pure mantra as it can be translated word by word.

We need to know the meaning of a certain mantric sound, which direction it is pointing, what it stand for, before we can have confidence in a specific mantra. In chanting a certain mantra, we are suppose to use our inner eye to visualize the figure, color, movement and gesture which all together form a total unity. Without this knowledge, the mantra is without meaning. If we are to start chanting a mantra without first understanding the meaning behind it, it is a meaningless action as it is without life. One need to know the significance of the mantra; the background against which it stands and with which it is closely connected such as colors, visualizations, mundra, etc.

This basis has to be established first, and for that, a personal spiritual teacher is required to impart the knowledge so that one can understand the mantra, and to fill it full of life when chanting it and also using it in our daily meditation.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: