Buddhist Tibetan Prayer flags meaning and purpose

Tibetan Prayer Flags

Tibetan prayer flags are more than just a piece of art : their spiritual and cultural meaning is timeless and powerful.

Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. These gently waving prayer flags are said to send out positive energy, with the aid of the wind which pervades the area, bringing happiness and well-being to all. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

It’s a good omen to receive them as a gift.

Meaning of Buddhist Tibetan Prayer Flags

There are two kinds of prayer flags: horizontal ones, called Lung ta (Wylie: rlung-rta, meaning "Wind Horse") in Tibetan, and vertical ones, called Darchog (Wylie: dar-lcog, meaning "flagstaff").

Lung ta (horizontal) prayer flags are of square or rectangular shape, and are connected along their top edges to a long string or thread. They are commonly hung on a diagonal line from high to low between two objects (e.g., a rock and the top of a pole) in high places such as the tops of temples, monasteries, stupas, and mountain passes

Darchog (vertical) prayer flags are usually large single rectangles attached to poles along their vertical edge. Darchog are commonly planted in the ground, mountains, cairns, and on rooftops, and are iconographically and symbolically related to the Dhvaja.

History behind the Buddhist Tibetan Prayer Flags

While prayer flags are used mostly in Tibetan Buddhism, they actually have their roots in India where sutras were written on cloth. Sutras are short pieces of text derived directly from Shakyamani Buddha's discourses in India 2500 years ago. These prayer flag are powerful in that they create powerful vibrations that are carried by the wind to everyone in the surrounding. They are silent blessings that spread goodwill and compassion to all and bring happiness and prosperity to all touched by the wind.

The flags are most often found to be arranged in a particular order from left to right starting with blue, white, red, green, and yellow. These flags are commonly put up on the 3rd day of the Tibetan New Year, 'Losar' and on momentous occasions like marriages and other important functions. They are also put up to avoid illnesses and before embarking on journeys.

The flags embody the cycle of life, just as life is renewed, people put up new flags beside the old faded ones; it teaches us to embrace life's changes.

Colors in the Prayer Flag

These five colors of Tibetan prayer flags also stand for the five main directions, north, south, east, west and center and also for the five wisdoms in Buddhism which are compassion, wisdom of sight, harmony, kindness and perfect wisdom.

Each color in the flag symbolizes an element

  • Blue flags symbolizes SKY
    It signifies purity or healing. It is believed that when meditating on this color, anger can be turned to wisdom.
  • White flags symbolizes AIR
    If meditated upon, white can cut the delusion of ignorance and turn it into the wisdom of reality.
  • Red Flag symbolizes of FIRE
    In canonical texts, in Buddhism, out of the four 'great' elements, fire represents heat or energy, both internal and external.
  • Green symbolizes NATURE
    Water represents liquidity of motion. Some say meditating on this color can help one get rid of jealousy.
  • Yellow symbolizes EARTH
    Yellow represents solid elements. Internal earth elements would be bone, sinew, teeth and skin.

The meaning of 'Om Mani Padme Hum'

  • Om means "The sacred syllable"
  • Mani means "Jewel"
  • Padme means "Lotus"
  • Hum means "Spirit of enlightenment"

Reciting the mantra during meditation, can cure pride, jealousy, ignorance, greed and aggression.

When to put up the Tibetan Prayer flags

  • 10th and 22nd of the first, fifth and ninth months
  • 7th and 19th of the second, sixth and tenth months
  • 4th and 16th of the third, seventh and eleventh months>
  • 1st and 13th of the fourth, eighth and twelfth months
Some believe that if the flags are hung on inauspicious astrological dates, they may bring negative results for as long as they are flying. The best time to put up new prayer flags is in the morning on sunny, windy days.

Old prayer flags are replaced with new ones annually on the Tibetan New Year.

How and where are the Buddhist Tibetan Prayer Flags made

Each prayer flag is hand inked and hand printed. These flags are handmade primarily from cotton, a few variations in velvet and Satin, by local artisans in himalayan region of Kathmandu, Nepal.

Where to hang the Tibetan Prayer Flags

According to traditional belief, because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. Keeping flags on the ground is considered disrespectful. Old prayer flags should be burned.

Always hang them at a height, the frame of the doorway is considered one of the right places. Few people also hang these prayer flags on bikes (mostly Royal Enfield), cars, garden outdoors, offices etc.

Fading color of the flags is considered auspicious as it is told that the breeze carries the prayers.

Other names of Tibetan Prayer Flags

The Tibetan prayer flags are also known by the names such as Ladakh Flags, Leh ladakh Flags, Bike prayer flags, Car prayer flags, Nepal flags, Himalayan flags, mandala flags, lung ta flags, Darchog flags and many more...

Where to buy Tibetan Prayer Flags

If you are interested in buying Tibetan Prayer Flags you may buy them at our online store, many sizes, options and variety are available.

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