Om Mani Padme Hum

The mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is in the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-European language family, and is distantly related to English. The Tibetan language is a member of the Sino-Tibetan family, and is distantly related to Chinese, but not at all to Sanskrit, though due to geographic proximity and religious/cultural influence, Tibetan has been heavily influenced by Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is most often written in the Devanagari script, which developed in north India about 1000 years ago, from ancestral scripts derived ultimately from the Brahmi script, which appears in the Emperor Ashoka's rock edicts of the 3rd century BCE. The Brahmi script was the ancestor of all the native scripts of south and southeast Asia, from Tibetan in the north, through the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and numerous defunct scripts of pre-Muslim Indonesia.

Although Sanskrit is commonly written in Devanagari, technically it is not strictly identified with any specific script (as, say, the Greek language is with the Greek script), and can be, often has been, written in the various scripts of the cultures/nations for whom Sanskrit is a sacred language.

For instance, in south India Sanskrit is written in the local Tamil, Kannada and other scripts, in northeast India in the Bengali script, etc. And of course Western scholars write Sanskrit in an adapted Roman script which, though perhaps not "authentic", works as well as the various native Indian scripts.

The situation is similar for the Pali language, which is written in different scripts -- Sinhalese, Burmese, Thai, Roman -- by the various peoples who have preserved the Pali Scriptures.

And Sanskrit can be written in the Tibetan script, easily done since the Tibetan script was derived from a native Indian script which in its time was used to write Sanskrit. In fact much of the Mahayana scriptures we have today only because they were preserved in Tibet, having been lost in India. Because Sanskrit can be written in Tibetan script in an exact, letter-for-letter transcription, these preserved scriptures can fairly easily be restored to the original Sanskrit versions.

The Tibetan script was developed in the 7th century CE, and adapted from a northwest Indian script that was one of the ancestors of Devanagari. As with the adapted Arabic script used to write Persian (a totally unrelated language), the adapted Cyrillic used for Mongolian (ditto), and various other similar "accidents of history", the Tibetan script is not a very good fit for the language, as Tibetan is a very different kind of language than the Indian language(s) whose script was adapted to write Tibetan (which was not a written language previously).

The Om Mani Padme Hum mantra is commonly seen written in two scripts: Tibetan and Ranjana, the latter another of the ancestors of Devanagari which was commonly used in north and northwest India about a thousand years ago, and survives today as a "liturgical" script for Buddhist scriptures (commonly seen in old manuscripts of Mahayana sutras) as well as for the Newari language spoken (and written) by the semi-Tibetan Newar ethnic community in Nepal.

In the graphic above showing six versions of the mantra, the first line is written in Devanagari, for reference (though it won't usually be seen in this script), with the sacred syllable "Om" in the standard stylized version. The second line is also Devanagari, with "Aum" written out in standard letters. The third line is the Ranjana script (often seen in talismanic usages, painted or carved in varying versions on surfaces, jewelry, etc.), also known as Lantsa script. The fourth, fifth and sixth lines show how the mantra is written several ways in the Tibetan script, depending on whether it is treated as straight Sanskrit transliterated into Tibetan letters, or written as if it were a Tibetan sentence.

The first Tibetan-script version is simply Sanskrit written in Tibetan letters: the six syllables om ma ni pa dme hum directly corresponding to the syllables written in Devanagari and Ranjana. In the second, the syllables are still written in Sanskrit form, but they are separated by the Tibetan "tsek" syllable marker (the little dot between the letters); this is a kind of senseless hybrid, since Sanskrit doesn't require the syllable markers, though Tibetan does. The third version has been fully "Tibetanized", with the word "padme" divided into Tibetan-style rather than Sanskrit-style syllables, i.e. "pad-me" rather than "pa-dme": in fact the words are still Sanskrit, they haven't been actually translated into Tibetan (for instance, the Sanskrit "mani", "jewel", would be "norbu" in Tibetan), but they are written "as if" they were Tibetan.

It is due to this "Tibetanization" that the mantra's pronunciation in Tibet has changed from the Sanskrit "Om Mani Padme Hum" to "Om Mani Peme Hum" -- because in a native Tibetan word the syllable "pad" is pronounced (in the standard Lhasa dialect) "pe". ("Hum" is also often spelled "hung"; the sound at the end of the word is not actually either consonant, but a nasalization of the previous vowel, like the "n" in the French name "Jean".) The common Tibetan name Pema is a similar case, actually written "Padma" (the nominative form of the Sanskrit word for "lotus"; "padme" is the same word in a different case, indicating "in") but the "pad" syllable drops the final "d" and flattens the vowel.

Although Buddhist teaching, concepts and scriptures were thoroughly translated into Tibetan as Buddhism was imported into the country (over the course of several centuries), as noted above many Buddhist scriptures were also preserved by simply transposing the Sanskrit texts into Tibetan letters. Thus, when studying Tibetan Buddhism, one encounters material in both Tibetan and Sanskrit, all written in the Tibetan script. While terms like "buddha", "bodhi", "samsara" are usually written in Tibetan translation ("sangs rgyas", "byang chub", "khor ba") in Tibetan-language works, mantras and similar formulaic items are usually preserved in the original Sanskrit.

taken from


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to seeks for your advise whether i can write or print 'OM MANI PADME HUM' on a paper and burn when i finished my prayer. the intention is to assist my ancestor, karma debt, spirits & etc. freem from suffering.

Your kind advises are very much appreciated.



email :

Anonymous said...

Which line is written in Newari?