[NOTE: All Around This World lessons are never religious in nature; when we learn about music or culture from a country that references religious observance or belief, we always do so from a musical or cultural perspective. This lesson introduces a mantra that is important in Buddhism, and many would consider it a religious practice. If this doesn’t work for you, don’t worry; the lesson’s goal is not to teach a religioius practice, but rather to introduce kids to the general idea of meditation, which is important in Tibet (and many other places!). You may certainly replace the mantra with any sounds or a mantra of your own.]

A MANTRA is a “spiritual utterance” – a sound or set of words repeated and resonant, most often in the context of a BUDDHIST chant. Tibetan Buddhism’s central mantra is “OM MANI PADME HUM.” Some Buddhist scholars say the six syllables represent the “six perfections” a Buddhist must strive to attain on the path to enlightenment.

There are many translations and interpretations of this mantra. According to the 14th Dalai Lama, “OM…symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind…MANI,, meaning “jewel,” symbolizes … the altruistic intention to become enlightened, PADME meaning lotus” (the lotus flower), “symbolize(s) wisdom…HUM indicates indivisibility….Thus the six syllables 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.”

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