I must break a vow to tell you this, but this won't be the first time I broke it.
It's 1969. I live in a commune near Massachusetts' Quincy Bay with my boyfriend Jon and with another couple, call them Richard and Barbara.
Jon, a Yoga instructor, hung out in Boston's Buddhist world so when he offered to teach me how to meditate using a mantra, I agreed. Soon I memorized "Om Mani Padme Hum" and learned to chant those words inside my mind. This mantra, beloved by Buddhists, means "The jewel in the lotus," the jewel being enlightenment.
One day Jon brought home staggering news. A famous Buddhist master, visiting Boston, had offered to give a personalized mantra to anyone who wanted it.
Did we want it? All four of us went.
Once there, we waited in a long line. An attendant told us that, when our turn came, the master would whisper the mantra in our ears. That was customary, he said. We, in turn, vowed never to reveal the mantra, also a common practice.
Finally I stood next to the master, a large man with a big head of black and gray ringlets. He lifted the hair off my ear, leaned forward, and whispered: "Om Mani Padme Hum."
That shocked me. I'd expected to receive a new mantra. Confused, I joined my friends.
We sat in a nearby coffee shop at a round table for four but said nothing. I felt eager to know if my friends received the same mantra as I had, but I'd vowed not to tell. So had they. Coffee cups danced on the table as we glanced at each other.
Barbara couldn't stand the suspense. "Om Mani Padme Hum! That's what I got. What did you guys get?"
Relieved we cried "Om Mani Padme Hum" and burst into laughter.
For a while, I thought the Master had deliberately deceived us. Then I realized that the personalization was his whisper into each individual ear, not the mantra itself. We had fooled ourselves into expecting an individualized slogan.
So I saw no reason to give up "Om Mani Padme Hum." By choice, it has been my mantra for fifty years.