Oh Jewel of the Lotus
That’s how people translate this ocean floor deep mantra 💭
OM MANI PADME HUM:
I didn’t think much about the meaning of it when I got to know it.
I was around 10 years old. In between childhood & teenage years. I’d spend a lot of time with my grandma Elena in a small town close to Moscow, Russia.
My grandma had this mantra in Tibetan Sanskrit painted on a scroll hanging on her wall. As you can tell, she wasn’t your regular nana. No, this woman was one of the first to practice yoga in USSR. She was interested in crystals, chakras & even in New Age literature. All while being a Christian.
These were early 2000s. CDs were kicking in slowly; however, our time was spent around tape player. Together we listened to Boris Grebentshekov’s mantra album. We would sing it again and again, swaying & circling around her room.
I grew up & got real into Indian spirituality as well as hyper esoteric everything. When I had dreadlocks, Elena would frequently start conversations with “Remember, when you had your beautiful locks...”
I’d be embarrassed by those unnecessary comments & change the topic.
Right around that stage of mine when I had dreadlocks, quit university & became ultra spiritual, I lived with her. For about 3 years we would share quite a bit of time together. Mostly blissful. However, I was a growing woman with surges of rebellion, desire for ultimate freedom of roaming the world & being an artist.
In the end of our time together as roommates I painted her this mantra with the hope of seeing it on her wall. I left Russia for Canada in search of better life & creative education I couldn’t find back home.
About 6 years later I left Russia my grandma died.
It happened over my (very rare) visit to the Motherland. I felt like I had to go back that time around, the pull back was incredibly strong. I persevered issues with visa & ticket and got to fly to Moscow in the middle of winter. I stayed with my grandma yet again!
She was so sweet, still taking care of everyone & doing her best in her condition of very unfortunate autoimmune illness destroying her body for last 20 years. She’d dedicate her life to taking care of her grandkid, my nephew. In my eyes embodied lots of buddhist values in the end of her life as well, in stubborn zen kind of ways. She’d also shave her head or wear her hair very short. After a life of service to others & a toxic relationship with her husband, that had worsened her health, she finally seemed free, appreciating every day.
I spent two weeks with her before she was hospitalized. After one more week she passed away from complications of a simple surgery. During our last phone call together with her & my mom it felt clear, that it could be our last chance to talk. We treated it very casually, like we were going to talk to her the very next day. We wanted her to feel calm.
Same year I decided to get a tribute to her & our relationship on my body. Om Mani Padme Hum was the most obvious choice. I hired a tattoo artist Zaeya Winter, who then used a method of “stick&poke” to get this on my body. It took us five hours & three sessions to complete it. Through the entire process we were listening to that infamous mantra album by Boris Grebentshekov we found on YouTube. Soft sounds of ancient wisdom, now coming out of the laptop, enveloped us & made the pain seem to have a meaning.
The actual meaning of this mantra is a topic of theological dispute & takes pages. I like the general idea of every syllable representing a virtue to meditate on as you pronounce it. Other beautiful explanations include transformation of impure body, speech and mind into pure ones of a Buddha as well as capacity to purify others’ negative karma even by a touch of your breath 🤯 I guess, all while you pronounce it?
All in all, even if I don’t get to see Om Mani Padme Hum on her well, I get to see it every day embedded on my body. Body with Elena’s DNA in it. Spirit, that was fortunate enough to absorb the knowledge of her ancestor.