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Pago Pago harbor from the top of the crater wall.

Om, Mani, Padma, Hum

The cable-car sways just enough to be exciting, not enough to be terrifying. Freddy and I ride to the crest of the mountain in the early morning. The sky is a deep blue and visibility is excellent. We slide back the door and clamber down onto the cement skirt, lugging all my camera gear. Off to the north there is an old building housing all the radio and TV antenna gear for Tutuila. We walk through it and out the other side. Here we find an overlook with a stunning view of the harbor entrance. I set up the Olympus on my tripod and select a polarizing filter and the 24-mm lens.

Bill's book on Tibetan Mysticism has both elated and deflated me. Elated because it is a discourse on Om Mani Padma Hum - one of the most ancient and most basic mantras. And it turns out that these ancient words are the formulation that I have been working on all these years;

Om is To Be. The coming together of the elements and energy towards the focus of being.

Mani is To Change. The mixing of the elements and energy in the focus that creates something brand new and different - the change that manifests awareness.

Padma is Direction, the change in change. The unfurling of awareness into the multitude of pathways of becoming.

Hum is the observer moving through space and time along the trajectory created by Om, Mani, and Padma.

Om Mani Padma Hum is, in fact, the thread of awareness in chaos.

While this is an exciting revelation it is also depressing. Not because the ancient Tibetans knew about it several thousand years before I experienced it personally, but because ... if the meaning has been successfully buried all these millennia, and if modern attempts by so many able writers, poets and philosophers have failed to bring this understanding into the center of human awareness.....

We start the long hike down the ridge back to town. There is a path - almost a road in places - winding along the crest of the old volcano crater wall. Clouds are forming in the depressions of the ridge and the mountain forest is made of old, exotic trees, unusual orchids and lilies, climbing vines and primitive cycads. We amble along, walking through the mists and scents of tropical mountain wilderness.

"So what now?" Freddy takes my hand.

"Finish the slide shows, 'A healthy island is a happy island' and 'Island Beautification.' Finish the station breaks. See if we can plant the idea of the living island here in Tutuila. Practical stuff. Action, not words." I stop and dig out my strobe, take a close up shot of a small spider on a big yellow flower.

A small spider spinning its life from the cosmos on the crater wall of Tutuila.

We continue on, entering a forest where the trees are all dead, still standing; their old skeletal limbs reaching up into Sky; covered with a miniature world of mosses, ferns and orchids.

One tree is still alive. I stop and stare at it.


I visualize the flow of earth atoms - hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, minerals - flowing into the roots of the tree. Sunlight entering the leaves.  The flow of energy from above, the water and nutrients from below. OM. The flowing inwards towards the focus of the tree.

The cloud forest on top of the crater wall of Tutuila.


The mixing together. The molecules of water reacting with the molecules of chlorophyll and the energy of sunlight to form sugars, and carbon dioxide. Mani, the formula of becoming, changing, mixing together in the behavior pattern of the tree. Mani.



The unfolding. The branches reaching out, growing towards the sun. The formation of flowers and seeds. Creation of shade and homes for myriad creatures. The uplifting of water from the soil via transpiration and the creation of the island cloud. Unfolding dreams of tree, growing from the Om and the Mani. Tree becoming from the seed to this ancient being.


The movement of the tree through time. The dropping of seeds to carry the dream onwards. The dropping of leaves and branches to create soil for the seeds to grow in. The ongoing development of the ecosystem of the cloud forest and its outreach to the crops and gardens and plants and animals and people of Tutuila. Hum.

"Well, that's good. But after the slide shows, then what? Maybe we should go to Tonga." Freddy brings me out of it again.

"Maybe. I don't know. We've got to paint Moira's bottom, she's really fouled." We walk out of the dead forest and through a bamboo jungle. It's cool and refreshing and green. Om Mani Padma Hum flows through me and all the living creatures I see around me.

Om, the inward flow of perceptions, breath, becoming. Mani, the mixing of these with my memories in the focus of myself. Padma, my footsteps moving me forward through the forest, unfurling a pathway into the future. Hum. Feeling myself moving easily, confidently, into the future.

A web of intercommunicating plants in the cloud forest on the crater wall of Tutuila

Every few minutes I see something especially beautiful and I stop and photograph it. A leaf, a small arrangement of orchids, a tree branch galvanized in blue sky, Freddy laughing and running along the path. My mind cycles round and round the problem of communicating.

Words and mantras possess no power of their own. They concentrate already existing forces; as a magnifying glass contains no heat but concentrates the mild warmth of the sun into incandescent heat.

Words become so common they turn into irresistible compulsion. Knowledge becomes belief. Belief without the guidance of experience becomes insupportable superstition. What was once religious ecstasy and inspiration turned into dogma and finally into compulsion. Super-stitia = left overs.

Govinda says Mantra comes from Man, to think and tra, a tool.

A tool to create a mental image. Om Mani Padma Hum. I wonder how many people fully realize the meaning behind those words. How many just think they are magic words - like a magnifying glass would be magic to people a thousand years ago.

Om Mani Padma Hum, is a tool to focus awareness on the process of coming together, changing into something new, and the resulting unwinding of the thread of awareness into the future. When directly observed by awareness the thread of awareness becomes an experience; real, vibrant, whole; connecting consciousness to the vast web of intercommunications learning to be our living planet. A thread of awareness creating every living creature all at once.

Om Mani Padma Hum I say over and over as I walk along the pathway on the rim of the ancient volcano. Poetry - the rhythm of the words - breaks down normal rational barriers by uniting the thought processes of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

As the fiber of the words blend with my perceptions of the experience another layer of meaning blossoms.

OM. The coming together. This is also love. It is desire for the sunlight, the water, the food, the air. I exhale and do not breathe in again.

Seconds pass.

All my other thoughts are slowly submerged beneath a growing, urgent desire to breathe in again.

I want to breathe in.

I must breathe in.

Seconds later there is nothing in the world I want more than to breathe in.

I focus on the word overlay OM/LOVE and my desire, my desperate desire to inhale. So I do. And as the air enters me, cool and sweet with the mist of the clouds, I think Mani and see the overlay of Joy.

Om is Love, the desperate need, the deep desire, the wanting to bring into yourself. I want it. I need it. I must have it. I will die without it. Love. OM. 

Mani is Joy. The wonderful feeling of attainment when you get what you desire. The victory shout of awareness as it attains the oxygen, the water, the food, the sunlight, the sexual gratification, the achievement sought for so long. Joy. Mani.

And as I breathe regularly, feeling the sweet joy of breathing in the delightful cool misty air and happily seeing Freddy, my love, walking along, looking at the flowers in the cloud forest on the rim of the ancient volcano, I realize the overlay of Padma is Peace. The calm that follows the storm of desire and the shout of joy. Om/Love. Mani/Joy. Padma/Peace.

Hum/Harmony. The knowledge that you can do it again, whenever you want. I harmonize with the world around me, I am competent, able to compete successfully. My abilities are proven. I wanted. I got what I wanted. I am peaceful. I can do it again. Hum. I feel the Humm like a throbbing vibration propelling me into the future.

All living things go through this cycle. To be, To Change, To Have Direction. Desire, Joy, Peace, Harmony. Om Mani Padma Hum. The cycle of becoming at each level of being. The Thread of Awareness in Chaos. Every cell in my body is humming along with the chant, Om Mani Padma Hum, and with the cycle of breathing, and the synchronized beat of my heart circulating my blood, and the flood of vision, smells, and the caress of the soft wind on my skin.

"Planet Earth calling Richard, come in please." Freddy says.  We have reached the paved road. Back to the real world of make-believe.


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