MANTRA CARVING IN THE HIMALAYAS
Mantras are like the graffiti of the Himalayas, except nobody will be upset if you ‘deface’ a stone near them. They are not intended to shock or entertain, but to liberate. Mantras carved on stones are a common sight in the Himalayan region. People choose a boulder in an inspiring location such as a pilgrimage road, a river or a mountain pass. Wind, water and time then tirelessly read these syllables and spread them in all directions. The ‘sound’ of the mantras is said to pacify the conflicting emotions that wage war inside and outside our mind. The intention in carving a mantra should be a fervent wish to alleviate the suffering crushing this world.
Prayer wheels, with mantras painted on the outside and tightly rolled mantras packed inside, are found near temples and sacred sites. They must be turned in a clockwise direction and the movement ‘activates’ the blessings of the sacred syllables.
According to its etymology, Man means ‘mind’ (in Sk. Manas) and Tra means ‘to protect’ (Sk. Traya). A mantra is therefore a sacred formula protecting the mind of the person reciting it. It does, of course, very much depend on the intention of the practitioner. Reciting a mantra mindlessly or with a selfish attitude will bring, at best, no benefit. Reciting it with the wish to help others will, on the contrary, benefit oneself and others greatly.
In the Vajrayana tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, also called ‘The Secret Mantrayana’, mantras are widely used as skillful means to bring forth spiritual accomplishments. One can also find mantras in Hinduism and the two Japanese esoteric Buddhist traditions called Tendai and Shingon.
Mantras are said to be the expression of absolute reality (Sk. Dharmata), the primordial vibration that gives birth to the spontaneous presence from which every phenomena manifests. This sound, analogous to ‘The Word’, is the creative dimension of the universe.
Some mantras, such as the ‘Chenrezig’ mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hung Hrih’, are widely spread and practiced. They support one’s spiritual practice on mindfulness and compassion. The incomparable 20th century master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, offers a way to practice this Chenrezig (Bodhisattva of compassion)mantra as follows:
“The mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hung’ is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching. When you say the first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.
So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?”
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones