As I walked one sunny, quiet morning in Kathmandu to the Indian Embassy to pick up my visa, I heard this song. It wasn’t the first time I heard it playing outside a Nepali store, nor was it the last time. But for whatever reason I had to go in and find out what the song was.
All this happened in a daze. In reality, I should have gone straight to the embassy. Each delayed minute in getting there represented a newly arrived person who would delay me a further five minutes, but it didn’t matter. I had to inquire about this song.
I went into the store and asked the guy about the song. He said it was from this CD, prominently displayed on the checkout counter. I don’t have a CD/DVD player on my computer, so I asked if I could just buy the MP3s.
Then I thought for a minute, that this was Tibetan/Buddhist music and it’s probably bad karma to buy MP3s (the store owner would make 100% profit on the sale) but if I bought a CD then some of the money would at least propagate down the chain. I doubt any gets back to the artists since everything in the store was pirated, but still.
Below is the song, titled Om Mani Padme Hum.
The meaning of the song is complicated. Below is an explanation by Gen Rinpoche.
“Om” it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity.
“Ma” helps perfect the practice of pure ethics.
“Ni” helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience.
“Päd”, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance.
“Me” helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration.
The final sixth syllable “Hum” helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.
The Dalai Lama explains it as:
“It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast… The first, Om […] symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[…]”
“The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method: (the) altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love.[…]”
“The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom[…]”
“Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility[…]”
“Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha[…]”
In my case, I have no explanation for why this song seemed to speak so loudly to me in Nepal before I knew of its deep meaning. I don’t know why it has so taken hold of me. I can listen to it over and over again without getting bored. Whether on a long bus ride or in the heart of a busy city, this song seems to keep me calm and centered.
I have no doubt that if I ever have dementia like this old man, this will be the song to reawaken me and my spirit.