Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sending blessings with the breeze

Some of you may have seen these colourful Tibetan prayer flags before.

The Tibetan word for prayer flag is Dar Cho. “Dar” means to increase life, fortune, health and wealth. “Cho” means all sentient beings. Prayer flags are simple devices that, coupled with the natural energy of the wind, quietly harmonize the environment, impartially increasing happiness and good fortune among all living beings.

Prayer Flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras. Tibetan Buddhists for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside. It is said that this writing of mantras on cloth and placed high in the mountains, it will provide whoever sees it with the cause and good fortune to become enlightened.

Tibetan tradition considers prayer flags to be holy. Because they contain sacred texts and symbols they should be treated respectfully. They should not be placed on the ground or put in the trash. When disposing of old prayer flags, the traditional way is to burn them so that the smoke may carry their blessings to the heavens.

Prayer flags are said to bring happiness, long life and prosperity to the flag planter and those in the vicinity. Dharma prints bear traditional Buddhist symbols, protectors and enlightened beings. As the Buddhist spiritual approach is non-theistic, the elements of Tantric iconography do not stand for external beings, but represent aspects of enlightened mind i.e. compassion, perfect action, fearlessness, etc. Displayed with respect, Dharma prints impart a feeling of harmony and bring to mind the precious teachings of the Buddha.

Prayer Flags can be raised and hung in horizontal displays or printed on long narrow strips of cloth that are tied on vertical poles. Prayer flags on ropes are printed on 5 different colors of cloth (yellow, green, red, white and blue) so sets are always in multiples of 5. Pole flags are either a single solid color or the 5 colors sewn together into one flag. They range in different heights. Pole flags often have colored streamers or “tongues” that are imprinted with special increasing mantras meant to increase the power of the prayers written on the body of the flag. It is also common to see displays of many prayer flags on poles erected around monasteries and pilgrimage sites.

Placing prayer flags in and around one’s home or business imparts a feeling of harmony, increases the spiritual atmosphere and brings to mind the teachings of enlightenment. By placing prayer flags outdoors their sacred mantras are imprinted on the wind, generating peace and good wishes. The vibration of mantra can control the invisible energies and forces that govern existence. Continuous repetition of mantras is practiced as a form of meditation in many Buddhist schools.

Flags are flown on auspicious days when the stars are in auspicious arrangements according to Tibetan almanac. Flags are flown by families from all economic backgrounds, and they are flown on such important occasions as the third day of the Tibetan New Year, marriages, and official functions. Flags are also hoisted in the event of interferences, or illness, in order to avert further misfortunes.

I once dreamt that one of my aunts was in a room. She was holding in her hands some colourful cloth in red, blue, green, white and yellow, all rolled up. She was wondering what to do with the cloth which upon closer look, I realised they were tibetan prayer flags. I showed her how the prayer flags should be hanged high up on the ceiling. The entire room transformed eventually into wonderful displays of prayers and colours. I felt so happy seeing the flags in that dream, because my aunt was in real life recuperating from cancer then.

Recently I chanced upon and bought these mini prayer flags, which are inscribed in Sanskrit with Green Tara's root mantra, Om Tare Tutare Ture Soha. Tara was born from the compassionate tears of Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin). As he shed tears for the countless suffering beings one tear transformed into Green Tara who then manifested her 21 other forms. Green Tara represents the active energy of compassion, the mother who offers aid and protection and who swiftly eliminate one's obstacles. The purpose of this flag is to spread compassionate blessings.
Just to side track, after I bought the Tara prayer flags, it so happened that Dro-Phen Ling was conducting the Tara puja one of the past weekends, so I brought my prayer flags  to be blessed by Geshe-la and the many monks. Also I brought along my mini Tara statue, and a Green Tara amulet disc, to be blessed as well. Both were just consecrated recently. I cannot emphasize more the importance of attending pujas but that warrants another blog entry altogether.

Here's a closer look at my mini Tara who is always with me. The mantra disc of Tara with her golden image can be hanged in any places - car, office desk, or handbag  (but should not be placed on the floor) to call on Her blessings in projects, examinations and all endeavors. Recite her sacred mantra for instant assistance to actualize material and heartfelt wishes. Keeping her image near, one can be surrounded by her spiritual aura.

Behind the prayer flags, I wrote down the names of all the people I know - my gurus, family, buddies, friends, Dharma friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, and even my ex-bosses whom I worked for many years. I even wrote down the names of a couple of people whom I do not like very much (we are supposed to love thy enemies and to develop compassion for them, right?).

On one of the auspicious days, I hanged these blessed prayer flags on one of my windows in the house, and let the wind send blessings to all whom the prayers were dedicated to. When raising prayer flags, proper motivation is important. If they are put up with the attitude “I will benefit from doing this”, that is an ego-centered motivation and the benefits will be small and narrow. If the attitude is “May all beings everywhere receive benefit and find happiness”, the virtue generated by such motivation greatly increases the power of the prayers.

I quote the below excerpt written by Timothy Clark, copyright of Radiant Heart Studio:

To me there are few things more beautiful than colorful prayer flags fluttering in the wind- sometimes waving gently, sometimes raging; a dance of shadow and light. There is perhaps no simpler way to create good merit in this troubled world of ours than to put prayer flags up for the benefit of other living beings. Prayer flags are not just pretty pieces of colored cloth with funny writing on them. The ancient Buddhist prayers, mantras and powerful symbols displayed on them produce a spiritual vibration that is activated and carried by the wind across the countryside. All beings that are touched by the wind are uplifted and a little happier. The silent prayers are blessings spoken on the breath of nature. Just as a drop of water can permeate the ocean, prayers dissolved in the wind extend to fill all of space.


  1. looking forward to your blog on the importance of attending puja!

    when you are free, can you discuss Tara more and also your personal or other peoples' personal experiences in praying to her.


  2. I'm afraid I'm not so qualified to explain more. Perhaps you can search the internet or talk to the buddhist centres or the Sangha. The benefits are as written in the Buddhas' teachings. ;)


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