How can a mantra be a path to liberation?

http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-hung.htm
Moreover does this indicates dilution in Buddhism

Soon after his Enlightenment the Blessed One, while he was still living near the Bodhi Tree under which his very fruition of Nibbana took place, a priest dedicated to the murmuring of mantras (huṃhuṅkajātiko brāhmaṇo) - i.e. a grumbler - came to see him and made a question that resembles pretty much yours:

“what things make one a brāhmaṇa?”

Of course, the priest being a devotee of the “mantrayana” himself was probably after confirmation of his spiritual career.

Interestingly the Buddha’s answer to the mantra guy was not in the direction of mantras being of any help. Instead, this motivated him to make the following utterance:

“That brāhmaṇa who has removed bad things,
Not grumbling [i.e. not by chanting mantras],
(but by being ) free from blemish, self-restrained,
With perfect understanding,
and the spiritual life accomplished,
Righteously he might speak a word about the Brahman,
For him there is no arrogance anywhere in the world.”
– Ud1.4

As far as I am concerned this is the only case in the Early Buddhist Texts in which the Buddha address the topic this way.

All other occasions are related to prayers and rituals, which indeed could be equated to what today we know as the Buddhist practices of murmuring / grumbling mantras and the exegetical traditions behind those mantras.

In northern Buddhism (aka Mahayana and vajrayana) mantras are very important and usually justified as upaya, skillful means. I can’t recall reading anything about upaya in the early Buddhist texts.

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In the Thai Forest tradition, many of the practitioners like a mantra practice using the single world “Buddho”.

I think the most plausible explanation of the success of mantra practice, where it is successful, is that for people who have verbally active minds in gives them one fixed phrase to focus on so that the other chatter can die down. It’s no different than focusing on the breath to calm other sankharas.

If that is the case, then it doesn’t matter whether the phrase used is “buddho”, “om mane padme hum” or “Jackie Robinson”. But maybe using a phrase with a bit of devotional significance adds a little zip to the right effort.

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It doesn’t fulfill the core of Buddha that is let go
How is that even related

Yes, eventually you need to let go of even the mantra, just like you have to let go of the sensory awareness of the breath.

If memory does not fail, the exegetical tradition around the mantra you mention does involve visualisation of bodhisattas and most importantly colour discs from which or in front of which these deities should arise at the mind eye.

As the practice deepens, the verbalisation should give space to the meaningful visualisation of such things, the meaningful visualisation of such things in turn should give room for absorptions into the enlightened qualities these things inspire and represent.

The absorption into such qualities should in turn empower one’s insight and aspirations to attain full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

This is how it relates to the Buddhist teachings, but again, this is very specific to the northern traditions. As far as I am concerned it is not found in the earliest Buddhist texts and probably was not taught by the Buddha himself.

Recommended links:

What is a Mantra?

General Kriya Tantra Practice

Inspiration (“Blessings”) and Its Relation to Mantras and Oral Transmission

Furthermore, the brahmavihara approaches involve using some kind of visualisation/imagination. Is it at all significant whether you use breath, mantra, kasina, metta, walking, body parts, etc to develop samatha? The standard pericope is, in short, “abandon the hindrances and enter jhana”, with no mention of what method to use.

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I don’t think any mantra in any of the Buddhist traditions is considered a path to liberation/awakening. Even among those using mantra in the mahāyana or tantrayana, it is a tool (mantra = manas (mind) + tra (tool/instrument)) that was added to a toolbox of methods. Just as it isn’t jhāna alone, or right livelihood alone, or any other factor alone that leads to liberation. If we just regard mantra as a meditation subject and if it actually leads to jhāna, as @mikenz66 pointed out: the subject of meditation is never mentioned in the jhāna formulas. Even if mantra practice doesn’t lead to jhāna, does it lead to other positive dhamma qualities like sati, tranquility, gladness, etc?

Personally, although I hold the EBT’s as the source of highest wisdom, I find some elements of the later Buddhist movements useful (moreso than much of what became “Theravāda”). I also greatly enjoy learning about Indic religions throughout time: Jainism, Upaniṣads, Saṃkhya, Patañjali Yoga, Haṭha Yoga, and the various Tantras. None of them really speak to me the same way the EBT’s do but I think there is something of value in all of them.

Regarding the Buddho mantra found in the Thai forests; that might have come from some remnant of the mahāyana days of the Khmer Kingdom. Before there was a Siam or Ayudthaya, the Khmer had an empire encompassing much of what is now modern day Thailand, Lao, and Cambodia. There might even be some tantrayana influence in Thailand: some people get sak yant tattoos with supposed special properties, protective amulets are very popular, etc. (Tantra is much more “magical” than the earlier Buddhist movements).

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Of course it matters cause using mantra u r conditioning ur mind
After that u tell to let go isn’t that funny
While in breathing or annapanna u r not conditioning anything. ur not creating n than making ur mind to let go of it in fact from the very moment u start breathing u r in a state to watch ,not giving any importance (sati) n let go

Sure, there are more and less active ways of establishing samatha (tranquility). The Brahmaviharas, recollecting the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and some other approaches described in the suttas are quite active, watching the breath less so.

Yes I do agree as u see through history of Khmer it reveals that there was not consistency of Buddhism as rulers at that era also were hindus great example is angor wat suryawarman 2 built it was a Hindu later on it was adopted by Buddhist temple
I can see their history was mixture of Hinduism n Buddhism
Like wise vajrayana is diluted by Brahmins of that time by texting it in Sanskrit as in Hinduism mantra is given atmost importance (yagna is full of mantras)

I’m not so sure that it was Brahmins that were the major influence on the development of vajrayana. I think it was just a prevalence of tantric (Śaivite) thought at the time. Being the “in thing” was also probably the reason for the adoption of sanskrit in Northern Buddhism. This was evidently a gradual adoption as scholars now classify a “Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit”, which is described as somewhat between pāḷi and sanskrit. Classical Sanskrit (not Vedic Sanskrit) was just very popular at the time that these traditions were forming. Sanskrit was the language of all the great works: literature, poetry, philosophy, etc. (many not having to do with Brahminism).

You mention the Yajna ritual of Vedic Brahminism. But I don’t think that’s where vajrayanic Buddhism gets it’s mantra influence from, it comes primarily from the tantras. I don’t think mantra is given utmost importance in most of the systems that use them, both Buddhist and “Hindu” Tantras. If you give Tibetan Buddhists for instance a fair chance, you might find that though they have differing opinions on certain subjects and have some additional tools and techniques, many are genuinely and urgently concerned with awakening.

I wouldn’t call the later traditions diluted. In fact, they might actually be clarifying in some ways. They can call to attention certain aspects of the Dhamma that were once centrally important but had fallen to the wayside.

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If you look into histroy Sanskrit were mastered by Brahmins n also they were so much influenced by Buddhism that many merely adopted it but as time passed the brahmical class wanted to be superior As all Brahmins were not converted to Buddhist heads of community wanted to save brahminism n in order to be virtuous n prosperous among others( sects or religion or tribe )of that time they have always tried to vanish buddhism time after time
Buddhism was outcasted n demolished from india after ashoka era pushyamitra sung a brahmin did so by declaring rewards on heads of buddhist monks they gradually diluted buddhism by mixing it with hindu values…
Mantra n yagna (ritual form of mantra) has been given atmost importance in hinduism
If you read Hinduism buddha is an avatar of vishnu :joy:

Plus at the time of buddha locals spoke pali and not sanskrit .sanskrit was and studied by specific community and not locally otherwise why would buddha preach in pali n not in sanskrit !

So what? :confused:

Instead of wasting time re visioning a history that was not even properly and neutraly recorded, we should indeed rejoice and be thankful for the fact there were people who, in times of no technology and much less social and political stability, preserved as much as they could of what was handed down by Buddha’s direct and enlightened disciples to future generations.

Wasting time with blame games, fault finding and finger pointing would only make sense if the records of the Buddha’s Dhamma and Vinaya had become extinct.

The reality is that this is far from being true.

The Four Noble Truths and its respective tasks have been beautifully preserved, not only in Pali, but as well in Sanskrit, Chinese. Beyond words, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis still exist nowadays living a life worth living, endeavoring with all their hearts and minds in the Path.

We better make the Dhamma our focus and occupation above all.

If we really feel sorry for the cultural choice people in India made by abandoning the Buddha Dhamma we should be then discussing ways to generously and kindly offer it back to them - in a way that they gain by themselves an understanding of how valuable is this thing their ancestors ended up giving up.

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How can u say its time wasting Buddha always said do not follow blindly even if he himself ask to .he said to contemplate it
U must know what is wrong n what is right ask questions
Find them
Why do not you find clear n similar instructions in every tradition on how to do meditation as at time of buddha it was way to nibanna he himself found the way to nibanna via meditation .
Isnt this important??
His teachings (knowledge out of enlightenment )was saved on leaves that after long period after his death
Way to enlightenment (meditation ) is lesser described . is that missing ?? Or is that diluted
There is no proof that particular tradition is the way buddha taught meditation they are interpretations that it is related to this and that

Not if you don’t pay attention to what the mantra means but are simply becoming absorbed in the sound, in the process of speech production so to say. I used ‘buddho’ or words ‘right-left’ interchangeably when I wasn’t able to concentrate properly during my walking meditation. It was always a huge help, and my final condition was not different from the usual way of meditating. You may use mantras as the entry point into the ‘state to watch’ you mentioned, I don’t really see why not. In fact, I think you any sensation as this entry point as long as you don’t cling to its meaning. In turn, thinking about breathing too much can obstruct your breathing meditation as well.

You may argue that becoming absorbed is conditioning as well. True, then all meditation is to some extent conditioning.

I am afraid this is false, Pali is most likely to never have been a spoken language. It might be in fact an artificial language designed to be comprehensible for the largest number of people possible. It is also almost universally accepted among scholars that the Buddha never taught and preached in Pali. Which language did he preach in? I think we’ll never know. Is it really so important?

The problem is that you should check your data against an authoritative source, and what you consider such a source is always a personal decision. If you are a Vajrayana Buddhist, Buddhist Trantric texts can be authoritative for you, so you check you data against them. If you, like me, think that the EBTs should be our authoritative source, then the Vajrayana style mantra meditation will be a wrong practice for you. Choosing your authoritative source is a fairly difficult decision that can be influenced by blind faith, historical arguments. personal preferences, trust into people you think to be your ethical teachers, personal experience of ritual and meditative practices, communal and social pressure, discussions with your peers, etc. So, if the Tibetan Buddhist believe for some reason the mantras are super-duper-great, fine, okay, they can do it any time they want to. If you think this is wrong, then don’t use it in your practice, that’s just fine too. Yes, there is one way to Nibbana only, but we cannot be 100% sure what this way is. We should go down our own path. If someone follows another path, then I think the most appropriate reaction to it - unless it is physically, psychologically or ethically harmful, of course - could be just one word: ‘Whatever.’

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Today the language might change but i can not think it was possible at that time that it may change within 30 decades only

If they tried so hard to demolish Buddhism and sanskritization was part of this, why did they go to such great lengths to preserve the original teachings in the form of the āgamas (Chinese, Tibetan, Gāndhārī, etc.)?

To me, that appropriation is a sign of respect.

Could you substantiate your argument a little bit? I am afraid I don’t quite understand it.

Besides, I would highly recommend reading this paper as an introduction to the current sholarly theories about the language of the early Sutta transmission. I somehow sense that it is possible you are not quite in the know about the current state of the research (if you are, I apologize :slight_smile:)