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Buddhist Mantras: Deities, Stories & Meaning

Buddhist deities include the masculine Buddhas, female Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The masculine Buddhas are more well-known than their feminine counterparts. However, there are almost always counterparts to form a balanced pair.

Some mantras are expressing principles or ideas rather than personified deities. Buddhist mantras are generally meditative, meaning they have simple melodies rather than complex arrangements. There are traditional mantras below as well as original melodies.

Avalokitesvara (Kuan Yin): Bodhisattva of Compassion

Avalokitesvara is a Buddhist deity who embodies the Bodhisattva ideal of compassion. Avalokitesvara evolved in Tibet into the female buddha Kuan Yin. The main mantra associated with Avalokitesvara is the six-syllable mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum.” This mantra literally means, “Hail to the jewel in the lotus!”

Kuan Yin is a Buddhist deity meaning mercy and compassion. She is a Buddhist savioress or bodhisattva. She has taken a vow to save all beings from suffering, foregoing full Buddhahood  until all sentient beings are free. Kuan Yin comes as a Mother to dispel all illusion. A beautiful legend is that Kuan Yin was on the threshold of heaven when she paused and heard the anguished cries of the world. She then returned to earth to help all who are suffering.

Medicine Buddha: Doctor of the Body, Mind and Soul

The Medicine Buddha is described in Mahayana Buddhism as a doctor who cures suffering using the medicine of his teachings. He is also known as the Medicine Master.The oldest known references to the Medicine Buddha are texts from the seventh century. The Medicine Buddha is the name of a bodhisattva: one who has pledge to remain with earth until all beings are liberated. The Medicine Buddha relieves suffering at all levels: mental, physical and spiritual.

This mantra emphasizes the word “bekandze” meaning “the elimination of suffering.” Bekandze is repeated three times for the removal of suffering on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels. The three repetitions can also be viewed as eliminating the three poisons of ignorance, hatred, and attachment. 

Read full article on the Medicine Buddha Mantra.

Padmadevi: Queen of the Lotus

This is a chant to Pandaravasini, one of the five female Buddhas associated with the Dhyani Buddhas. Pandavarsini is the consort of Amitabha. The five Dhyani Buddhas are said to have existed since the beginning of time. They represent or symbolize divine principles or forces. They are self-born. The word dhyani is derived from the Sanskrit dhyana meaning “meditation.” The Dhyani Buddhas are also called Jinas, meaning Victors or Conquerors.

Her name means the White Robed One which suggests that she is vested with purity. Pandaravarsini’s mantra is “Om Padmadevi Pushpadevi Pam Svaha.”  Padma means a lotus flower and devi means a goddess or queen. Pushpa also means a flower. This mantra honors Pandaravasini as the goddess of the lotus and of flowers. Music by Kathleen Karlsen.

Tara: The Shining Star

Tara is a Buddhist deity known as the goddess of liberation. In the Tibetan pantheon of deities, Tara is the consort of the Dhyani Buddha Amogasiddhi. Her name means “star.” The word-name Tara is variously interpreted as Shining Star, Liberator, Rescuer, Savior, or One Who Ferries Across.

Tara exists as a goddess in many traditions and countries, including Hinduism, Polynesian mythology, Druidism, Finland (Tar, Woman of Wisdom), Roman mythology (Terra, Earth Mother), and South America (the goddess Tarahumara). 

Tara is considered to be the most powerful female deity in the Buddhist pantheon. There are 21 major forms of Tara, sometimes associated with colors. This is the Green Tara Mantra.

Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen Sacred Mantras & Symbolic Art

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

Vocal Medicine Book

Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore concepts from East and West related to the power of singing. Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life. Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey with mantras, chanting and kirtan. Benefit from Kathleen’s years of research into the power of sacred music. Topics in this book include:

  • Achieve improved emotional health through mantras
  • Create a happy brain through singing
  • Extensive discussion of sound and the chakras
  • Connections between sound, color and healing

Buddhist Deities Article Summary

This article features several Buddhist deities including Kuan Yin, the Medicine Buddha, Pandavarasini and Tara. The articles provides a description of these Buddhist deities and videos with examples of mantras to each of them.  

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