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The Tibetan Hung (sometimes called Hum) symbol is one of the most distinguished symbols in Buddhism. Central to the ancient Tibetan prayer or mantra – “Om Mani Padme Hung,” this symbol embodies the profound wisdom of Buddha’s teachings and the path toward enlightenment. As the Dalai Lama himself has said, the mantra is “great and vast” because it encapsulates all of the Buddha’s teachings in these four words.
The Mantra Containing Hung
According to Buddhism, all beings have the potential to transform their impure body, speech, and mind into that of a Buddha. Therefore, “Om Mani Padme Hung” is a powerful mantra that symbolizes purity and wisdom and eliminates negative karma and all the obstacles in one’s spiritual development.
The mantra is at the heart of Buddhist tradition and can be found across India, Nepal, and Tibet. Sometimes it’s etched in stone, and at other times it can be seen on prayer flags. By chanting this mantra, you can cleanse yourself of negativity and release light and pure energy into one’s body.
What is the Hung Symbol?
Although we tend to call it a symbol, the hung is actually a syllable within the mantra rather than a visual symbol. “Hung” itself is not a standalone symbol like, for instance, the cross in Christianity or the Star of David in Judaism. But as the most powerful word of the Tibetan mantra, signifying unity and indivisibility, it’s often the most popular option for tattoos, jewelry, and art.
The Tibetan Hung symbol is graceful, compelling, and personal, and serves as an inspiration for a variety of decorative accessory. It soothes the senses and brings positive energy. There are many reasons for wearing the Tibetan Hung symbol:
- It allows you to detach from the ego and clear the mind
- It releases the karma that may be holding you back
- It manifests the way of life you wish to accomplish
- It purifies the body of everything except the inner awareness
- It brings love and compassion into your life
- It surrounds you with harmony, peace, understanding, and patience
The Tibetan Hung symbol heals the body and soul and shows the oneness and unity, not just of the self, but also of the world and community. It’s often used in pendants, bracelets or on charms to keep close as a perpetual reminder of the mantra.
“Om Mani Padme Hung” – Breaking Down the Syllables of the Mantra
The mantra contains six syllables – OM MA NI PAD ME HUNG. Each syllable represents one of the six principles of Buddhist existence and is a prayer in itself. Let’s break down the meaning of each syllable:
- OM: The sound of the universe and divine energy; it represents generosity, purifies the body, pride and ego.
- MA: Represents pure ethics; purifies speech, envy, and lust for entertainment.
- NI: Represents tolerance and patience; purifies the mind, and personal desire.
- PAD: Represents diligence and perseverance; purifies conflicting emotions, ignorance, and prejudice.
- ME: Represents renunciation; purifies latent conditioning as well as attachment, poverty, and possessiveness.
- HUNG: Represents the unity of method and wisdom; removes the veils that cover knowledge; purifies aggression, hatred, and anger.
Meaning of the Mantra and Hung Symbol
To understand the meaning of the Tibetan Hung symbol, we need to know the implications of its words. Since it is challenging to translate Sanskrit into English, the interpretation of the mantra differs across cultures. However, the majority of Buddhist practitioners agree upon these universal meanings:
Om is a sacred syllable in Indian religions. It is believed to represent the original sound of all creation, generosity, and kindness. Buddhism does not assert that everybody is pure and free of faults right from the beginning. To reach the state of enlightenment, one needs to gradually develop and transform from impure to pure. The next four words of the mantra represent this path.
Mani means jewel, and it represents the method aspect of this path and the altruistic intention of becoming compassionate, patient, and loving. Just as the jewel removes a person’s poverty, the enlightened mind can take away all the difficulties one can face. It fulfills the wishes of a sentient being and leads you to the full awakening.
Padme means lotus, which symbolizes wisdom, a sense of inner sight, and clarity. Just as the lotus flower blossoms from the murky waters, so is wisdom helping us rise above the worldly mud of cravings and attachments and reach enlightenment.
Hung means unity and something that cannot be torn apart. It represents the unshakeable force that holds together knowledge and altruism. The purity that we want to develop can only be achieved by the indivisible harmony of method and wisdom.
Om Mani Padme Hung
When put together, the mantra is a vivid portrayal of our situation as human beings. The jewel is understood to represent bliss, and the lotus our human condition – raising from the muck and mire into a beautiful flower. Therefore, enlightenment and bliss is an unconditional, natural state of radiant awareness, that can coexist with even the gloomiest conditions. By repeating this mantra over and over again, you invoke love and generosity and connect with your innately compassionate nature.
You will find many videos online with the Om Mani Padme Hung chant, some going for over 3 hours. Because it’s a calming and soothing chant, some prefer to use it, not only during meditation, but as a background sound during their day.
The Tibetan Hung symbol represents our journey from generosity to wisdom. It reminds us that no matter how confused or distracted we might be, our true nature is always pure, knowing, and enlightened. It also teaches us that only through the combined practice of infinite altruism, compassion, and wisdom, can we transform our body, speech, and mind into that of a Buddha.