Om Mani Padme Hum are the six syllables of generosity in Tibetan Buddhism. The mantra invokes the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who embodies of the compassion of all Buddhas. Avalokitesvara has chosen to delay buddhahood until all other sentient beings are enlightened. The name Avalokitesvara means “who looks down upon sound” – aka the cries of suffering from sentient beings in need of help.
The mantra first appeared in the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra, a sutra which extols the many virtues of Avalokitesvara, in the 4th or 5th century. It is a Mahayana text and is interesting because it connects Buddhism to Hinduism. Many of the Hindu deities are said to have sprung forth from Avalokitesvara in this sutra.
Repeat the mantra to open yourself to the compassion of Avalokitesvara, and ease your suffering. Visualize the jewel in the lotus at the center of the Bodhisattva’s heart. The lotus unfurls and you are able to see the wishing jewel, a glimpse of liberation.
Om = the sacred symbol of the universe
Mani Padme = the jewel in the lotus (aka Avalokitesvara)
Hum = the closing symbol of wisdom.