Digital Prayer Wheel

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Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby Letha.. » Sat Mar 27, 2010 6:06 am

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Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying the mantra (prayer) Om Mani Padme Hum, invites the blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.

They also believe you can produce the same effect by spinning the written form of the mantra around in a prayer wheel (called "Mani wheels" by the Tibetans). The effect is said to be multiplied when more copies of the mantra are included, and spinning the Mani wheels faster increases the benefit as well.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has said that having the mantra on your computer works the same as a traditional Mani wheel. As the digital image spins around on your hard drive, it sends the peaceful prayer of compassion to all directions and purifies the area.

Right now, your hard drive is serving as a Mani wheel, because there are several copies of the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" on this page, and they are all stored on your hard drive in the cache for your browser.

The Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum

The Mani mantra is the most widely used of all Buddhist mantras, and open to anyone who feels inspired to practice it -- it does not require prior initiation by a lama (meditation master).
The six syllables of the mantra, as it is often pronounced by Tibetans -- Om Mani Padme Hum -- are here written in the Tibetan alphabet:

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The vowel in the sylable Hu (is pronounced as in the English word 'book'. The final consonant in that syllable is often pronounced 'ng' as in 'song' -- Om Mani Padme Hung. There is one further complication: The syllablePad is pronounced Pe (peh) by many Tibetans: Om Mani Peme Hung.

The mantra originated in India; as it moved from India into Tibet, the pronunciation changed because some of the sounds in the Indian Sanskrit language were hard for Tibetans to pronounce.

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The True Sound of Truth
An old story speaks about a similar problem. A devoted meditator, after years concentrating on a particular mantra, had attained enough insight to begin teaching. The student's humility was far from perfect, but the teachers at the monastery were not worried.

A few years of successful teaching left the meditator with no thoughts about learning from anyone; but upon hearing about a famous hermit living nearby, the opportunity was too exciting to be passed up.

The hermit lived alone on an island at the middle of a lake, so the meditator hired a man with a boat to row across to the island. The meditator was very respectful of the old hermit. As they shared some tea made with herbs the meditator asked him about his spiritual practice. The old man said he had no spiritual practice, except for a mantra which he repeated all the time to himself. The meditator was pleased: the hermit was using the same mantra he used himself -- but when the hermit spoke the mantra aloud, the meditator was horrified!

"What's wrong?" asked the hermit.

"I don't know what to say. I'm afraid you've wasted your whole life! You are pronouncing the mantra incorrectly!"

"Oh, Dear! That is terrible. How should I say it?"

The meditator gave the correct pronunciation, and the old hermit was very grateful, asking to be left alone so he could get started right away. On the way back across the lake the meditator, now confirmed as an accomplished teacher, was pondering the sad fate of the hermit.

"It's so fortunate that I came along. At least he will have a little time to practice correctly before he dies." Just then, the meditator noticed that the boatman was looking quite shocked, and turned to see the hermit standing respectfully on the water, next to the boat.

"Excuse me, please. I hate to bother you, but I've forgotten the correct pronunciation again. Would you please repeat it for me?"

"You obviously don't need it," stammered the meditator; but the old man persisted in his polite request until the meditator relented and told him again the way he thought the mantra should be pronounced.

The old hermit was saying the mantra very carefully, slowly, over and over, as he walked across the surface of the water back to the island.

The Meaning of the Mantra

"There is not a single aspect of the eighty-four thousand sections of the Buddha's teachings which is not contained in Avalokiteshvara's six syllable mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum", and as such the qualities of the "mani" are praised again and again in the Sutras and Tantras.... Whether happy or sad, if we take the "mani" as our refuge, Chenrezig will never forsake us, spontaneous devotion will arise in our minds and the Great Vehicle will effortlessly be realized."
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
-- Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones

People who learn about the mantra naturally want to know what it means, and often ask for a translation into English or some other Western language. However, Om Mani Padme Hum can not really be translated into a simple phrase or even a few sentences.

All of the Dharma is based on Buddha's discovery that suffering is unnecessary: Like a disease, once we really face the fact that suffering exists, we can look more deeply and discover it's cause; and when we discover that the cause is dependent on certain conditions, we can explore the possibility of removing those conditions.

Buddha taught many very different methods for removing the cause of suffering, methods appropriate for the very different types and conditions and aptitudes of suffering beings. For those who had the capacity to understand it, he taught the most powerful method of all, a method based on the practice of compassion. It is known as the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, because practicing it benefits all beings, without partiality. It is likened to a vast boat that carries all the beings in the universe across the sea of suffering.

Within the Mahayana the Buddha revealed the possibility of very quickly benefiting all beings, including oneself, by entering directly into the awakened state of mind, or Buddhahood, without delay. Again, there are different ways of accomplishing this, but the most powerful, and at the same time the most accessible, is to link ones own mind with the mind of a Buddha.

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In visualization practice we imagine ourselves to be a Buddha, in this case the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig. By replacing the thought of yourself as you with the thought of yourself as Chenrezig, you gradually reduce and eventually remove the fixation on your personal self, which expands your loving kindness and compassion, toward yourself and toward others, and your intelligence and wisdom becomes enhanced, allowing you to see clearly what someone really needs and to communicate with them clearly and accurately.

In most religious traditions one prays to the deities of the tradition in the hopes of receiving their blessing, which will benefit one in some way. In the vajrayana Buddhist tradition, however, the blessing and the power and the superlative qualities of the enlightened beings are not considered as coming from an outside source, but are believed to be innate, to be aspects of our own true nature. Chenrezig and his love and compassion are within us.

In the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon of enlightened beings, Chenrezig is renowned as the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Avalokiteshvara is the earthly manifestation of the self born, eternal Buddha, Amitabha. He guards this world in the interval between the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, and the next Buddha of the Future Maitreya.

According to legend, Chenrezig made a a vow that he would not rest until he had liberated all the beings in all the realms of suffering. After working diligently at this task for a very long time, he looked out and realized the immense number of miserable beings yet to be saved. Seeing this, he became despondent and his head split into thousands of pieces. Amitabha Buddha put the pieces back together as a body with very many arms and many heads, so that Chenrezig could work with myriad beings all at the same time. Sometimes Chenrezig is visualized with eleven heads, and a thousand arms fanned out around him.

Chenrezig may be the most popular of all Buddhist deities, except for Buddha himself -- he is beloved throughout the Buddhist world. He is known by different names in different lands: as Avalokiteshvara in the ancient Sanskrit language of India, as Kuan-yin in China, as Kannon in Japan.

As Chenrezig, he is considered the patron Bodhisattva of Tibet, and his meditation is practiced in all the great lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The beloved king Songtsen Gampo was believed to be an emanation of Chenrezig, and some of the most respected meditation masters (lamas), like the Dalai Lamas and Karmapas, who are considered living Buddhas, are also believed to be emanations of Chenrezig.

Whenever we are compassionate, or feel love for anyone, or for an animal or some part of the natural world, we experience a taste of our own natural connection with Chenrezig. Although we may not be as consistently compassionate as some of the great meditation masters, Tibetan Buddhists believe that we all share, in our basic nature, unconditional compassion and wisdom that is no different from what we see in Chenrezig and in these lamas.

We might have trouble believing that we are no different than Chenrezig -- but learning about the nature of compassion, and learning about Chenrezig, repeating his mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and imagining that we would like to be like Chenrezig, pretending that we really are just like Chenrezig, we actually can become aware of increasing compassion in our lives, and ultimately, the lamas tell us, awaken as completely wise and compassionate buddhas.
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby KMD » Sat Mar 27, 2010 7:10 am

Letha,

Your posts so often inspire or teach me something. Thank you!
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby AnnaS » Sat Mar 27, 2010 7:34 am

Thank you, I just loved this!
And I laughed at the story about the hermit, that is really a good one.
There is something about certain Buddhist beliefs that seem familiar to me, not that I may necessarily be understanding them correctly (or pronouncing them wrong, LOL) but this stands out to me:

In most religious traditions one prays to the deities of the tradition in the hopes of receiving their blessing, which will benefit one in some way. In the vajrayana Buddhist tradition, however, the blessing and the power and the superlative qualities of the enlightened beings are not considered as coming from an outside source, but are believed to be innate, to be aspects of our own true nature. Chenrezig and his love and compassion are within us.


I am somewhat familiar with the Society of Friends (Quakers) and although they do acknowledge a deity they have a strong belief that that deity (the light) is within each person. So every person you look at, no matter how much you might dislike or disagree with them, has the spark of God within them. We are all equal in that way. If someone is doing something you regard as wrong, then you have to try to get them to see the truth that is within themselves. I.e., talk with them, try to convince them of the error of their ways. They may have the light within them but they are ignoring it.
Given this belief, there is no way they can condone war or killing of any kind. Quakers are always on the forefront of anti-war protests, trying to show their elected officials 'the error of their ways.'

Well, this is just my rough understanding and I don't think it's precisely the same as the Buddhist belief but the ideas struck me as similar. I remember seeing an interview years ago with the Dalai Lama in which someone asked him, don't you think there is a great deal of similarity between Christianity and Buddhism? and he said "No." Perhaps he thought the interviewer was being too facile and condescending....because there are of course some areas of overlap.

When I was teaching a class of Vietnamese students, some of whom were Buddhists or at least familiar with that tradition, I asked one woman to tell me about Buddhism and she summed it up in one sentence: "Don't kill people!" And then she laughed.

Well, I think "don't kill people" is at the very core of all religious beliefs. Yes, Islam too.
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby Letha.. » Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:27 am

AnnaS wrote:Well, I think "don't kill people" is at the very core of all religious beliefs. Yes, Islam too.


I agree. Isn’t it ironic that so many have been killed in the name of religion? :)
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby TominTN » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:10 am

Letha.. wrote:
AnnaS wrote:Well, I think "don't kill people" is at the very core of all religious beliefs. Yes, Islam too.


I agree. Isn’t it ironic that so many have been killed in the name of religion? :)
Letha


I see a pattern that I believe plays out in the evolution of religions. Typically, I believe that the person regarded as the "founder" -- Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Shankara, Buddha, Bahaullah -- is sharing their insights into liberation from suffering.

Followers with an incomplete understanding of the founder's teaching then want a set of rules to live by. The founder is talking about being liberated from rules and cultural constraints and living moment-by-moment in the presence and awareness of reality. The followers are not quite ready to go there yet, so they try to boil the founder's teaching down into rules to live by. No formulation can ever capture what is, so the rules always have the potential of becoming a burden in the long run.

In the best case, religious formulations can be like "training wheels" that we can use as a guide to get the feel of living in the Presence. Once we experience that moment-by-moment awareness, the formulations are no longer needed.** We know how to behave to be of help to ourselves and others without doing harm, and we're open to new information about what's harmful and what's helpful, so we're willing to adjust our behavior as new information becomes available through our experience. Like the training wheels, the formulations then need to be removed and laid aside so they don't interfere with the bike ride. In less desirable cases, religious followers confuse the guidelines with the goal and seek to impose their guidelines on everyone around them.

The teaching that was originally intended to offer liberation becomes a tool of control and oppression.

** That doesn't mean we necessarily begin violating the guidelines we once followed. Rather, it means we have begun to understand the reasoning behind them and that intelligence lives inside us and guides our behavior moment-by-moment. Once the understanding that produced the rules is alive in us, it transcends the rules, is no longer constrained by them, and no longer depends on them.
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby Letha.. » Sat Mar 27, 2010 9:33 am

TominTN wrote:In the best case, religious formulations can be like "training wheels" that we can use as a guide to get the feel of living in the Presence. Once we experience that moment-by-moment awareness, the formulations are no longer needed.** We know how to behave to be of help to ourselves and others without doing harm, and we're open to new information about what's harmful and what's helpful, so we're willing to adjust our behavior as new information becomes available through our experience. Like the training wheels, the formulations then need to be removed and laid aside so they don't interfere with the bike ride. In less desirable cases, religious followers confuse the guidelines with the goal and seek to impose their guidelines on everyone around them.

So, if I understand you, more evolved and enlightened individuals would have no need for the guidelines for living that are laid out in various religious texts. The texts and their guidelines could be discarded.

It reminds me of the Buddhist analogy of the raft.

“The path is a process to help you remove or move beyond the conditioned responses that obscure your true nature. In this sense the Path is ultimately about unlearning rather than learning - another paradox. We learn so we can unlearn and uncover. The Buddha called his teaching a Raft. To cross a turbulent river we may need to build a raft. When built, we single-mindedly and with great energy make our way across. Once across we don't need to cart the raft around with us. In other words don't cling to anything including the teachings. However, make sure you use them before you let them go. It's no use knowing everything about the raft and not getting on. The teachings are tools not dogma. The teachings are Upaya, which means skillful means or expedient method. It is fingers pointing at the moon - don't confuse the finger for the moon.”

I think the tricky part is knowing if you still need the raft. Have you crossed the river or are you still in the middle of the river or have you not even started your journey? And if you are a strong swimmer perhaps you can jump off the raft before you reach the other shore and just swim for it. :)
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby AnnaS » Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:20 am

Good post, TominTN, I enjoyed reading that.

My husband has relatives who are Jewish and some are observant Jews who keep kosher and observe various 'laws' in their daily lives. I enjoyed meeting his uncle who is a Rabbi and learned a lot from him. This Rabbi explained to me that the rules, for example not using technology during the Sabbath, are not meant to make people suffer. If someone is sick, of course you pick up the phone and call for help. And so forth. Well, he is an interesting guy because he kind of likes to poke at people who are a little too pious. I think that he sometimes breaks rules himself on purpose, in order to show (by his example) that the rules can be stupid, God doesn't want people stupidly following rules, God wants people to think.
This is in response to what you said about religion becoming a tool of oppression.
I'd love to write more about this, but the list of things to do here at home is not getting shorter, so must resist.
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby LauraA » Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:41 am

Great thread - interesting posts. Whether or not we need "training wheels" is a very individual thing. Also, many may not really need them, but enjoy them. The biggest problem that I see with religion is when it is used to exclude people and to decide that one group of followers of one religion have all of the answers, and that these are the only answers. I know that there is much to learn and enjoy from all religions. I became a Unitarian many years ago, and now attend a very liberal Methodist church sometimes. I love the music, and like their idea of inclusion. I don't take any bible stories literally, love many things from many religions. To me, what is important are the questions, not the answers. We need to take care of ourselves, each other, and this beautiful earth. Take care, LauraA
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby Gramma Jackie » Sun Mar 28, 2010 7:35 am

I agree with you Laura. My husband and I have been toying around with attending the Unitarian Church. We went one Sunday when the head of the local humanist group spoke. I thought it was a rather eclectic (but sort of weird) service though because they rang a big Chinese gong, then sang Amazing Grace (and even though I love the instrumental part, I hate the phrase "that saved a wretch like me."). Then a man read from the Gettysburg address (and no it wasn't anywhere close to being a patriotic holiday) and then the humanist spoke and they closed with another Christian song. Really strange. I realize they are all inclusive, but it was strange to me at least. I really miss the fellowship of going to church. But that's ALL I miss. I have decided that what I really need is to commune with nature and let the world be my chapel. So I joined the Audubon Society. :D

p.s. Actually I have dedicated my backyard deck as my "chapel." It overlooks a large pond and I enjoy nothing more than to go out early in the morning when the sun is just coming up and drink a cup of coffee while I watch the world around me awaken. It is the solace I need before I start my day and for me takes the place of prayer. A giant heron is usually my only fellow parishoner.
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby afreespirit » Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:29 pm

Gramma Jackie, I agree with you about the phrase "that saved a wretch like me." In fact, "Amazing Grace" has been done to death--enough already!

Audubon Society totally rocks, as does your "chapel". Thoreau, anyone? ;-)
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby alias » Mon Mar 29, 2010 3:52 pm

Thank you for explaining the prayer wheel, Letha. I wasn't sure what that was about.

Do you know of a group that chants the mantra on CD? I've heard it online and thought a CD would be helpful.

You should write a column for Shambhala Sun magazine!
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby Letha.. » Mon Mar 29, 2010 4:20 pm

Hi Alias,
I’m afraid I’m not aware of any groups that chant this mantra on CD.

If I was going to write an article for a magazine on the topic of spirituality it would probably be for Skeptic Magazine. :) http://www.skeptic.com/
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby petero » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:58 pm

Letha.. wrote:multiplied when more copies of the mantra are included


Always back up your data.

Letha.. wrote:
...and spinning the Mani wheels faster increases the benefit as well.


Finally, a reason to justify shelling out for the more expensive 15,000 RPM drives!

Good naturedly,
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Re: Digital Prayer Wheel

Postby Letha.. » Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:20 am

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