20 May 2012

Mantra of a Living Buddha(?)

Someone recently sent me a picture of a bracelet with a mantra on it, asking if I could translate it. The mantra seemed to transcribe as 

ༀ ཨཱཿ ཧཱུྂ གུ རུ བྷྱཿ ཉ༔ ཨ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔ ཧ༔ པཪྨ ས མ སེདྡྷེ ཧཱུྂ 
 oṃ aḥ hūṃ guru bhyaḥ ña a śa sa ma ha parma sa ma siddhi hūṃ 

There is a difference between ཿ and ༔ , the former (visarga) affects the sound, the latter (gter tsheg; treasure mark) seems to be decorative. The syllables decorated with the ༔ are a series of bīja or seed-syllables, some times called a thödröl (thos grol) mantra. The symbol is used with terma (gter ma) or revealed teachings. There is a minor error here ཉ༔ should read འ༔ which would transcribe as 'a. So the sequence in the middle is:

'a a śa sa ma ha

This is sometimes written as a ah sha sa ma ha. Some sources say that this mantra requires a special transmission before it can be used. The mantra seems to be associated with passing through the bardos. 

The word parma might be a Tibetan word, or more likely a corruption of padma པདྨ. The more I look at it the more it seems that padma was what was intended. 

In the word གུ རུ བྷྱཿ (i.e. gurubhyaḥ) the last syllable is badly formed (the top should join up with the vertical stroke on the right), but it must be this. In Sanskrit is the dative plural from of guru, and means 'to or for the gurus'. In Tibetan salutations one sometimes sees 

namo gurubhyaḥ namo buddhāya namo dharmāya namo saṅghāya  
homage to the teachers, homage to the Buddha, homage to the Dharma,
homage to the Saṅgha

So the mantra, with these minor corrections appears to read: 

oṃ aḥ hūṃ gurubhyaḥ 'a a śa sa ma ha padma sama siddhi hūṃ 

With this in mind we start to see references to whose mantra this on the internet. It's the mantra of a self proclaimed Living Buddha, by the name of Lian Sheng, the founder of the True Buddha School. He's apparently popular in East Asia, though not uncontroversial. Lian Sheng seems to be a Chinese form of the name Padmasambhava and the mantra employs elements from the Vajra Guru mantra: oṃ aḥ hūṃ vajra guru padma siddhi hūṃ; plus the bardo mantra: 'a a śa sa ma ha

Though he is said to be a "Living Buddha" and have 5 million followers I had never heard of him before today. I'd suggest caution in taking him at face value.