An introduction to Tibetan Prayer Flags
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras printed on the flags will be blown by the wind to spread the goodwill and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
By hanging flags in high places, Tibetans believe the winds will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags, which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras.
The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
According to traditional belief, because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used on clothing. Old prayer flags should be burned.
The Tibetan Prayer Flag Project 2019
In the project, the Tibetan children at Kyitsel-ling Tibetan Children’s Education Center ( Kyitsel-ling) will themselves make the prayer flags manually. In doing so, they will be actively engaged in a colorful and fascinating facet of Tibetan culture. And, we believe that this will be hands-on cultural transmission – the very best way to learn about our culture.
There are several different prayers that can be printed to the flags. One of the most popular prayers is the traditional Lunga ta or Wind Horse prayers.
Translated to English, the words on Wind Horse prayer flags say:
“May the rain fall at the proper time.
May the crops and livestock be bountiful.
May there be freedom from illness, famine, and war.
May all beings be well and happy.”
There are five flags of different colors in a set of Tibetan prayer flags. The five flags are in order according to their color and meaning:
Blue symbolizes the sky and space
White symbolizes the air and wind
Red symbolizes fire
Green symbolizes water
Yellow symbolizes Earth
All proceedings from this project will directly benefit Tibetan elders on our program and so the children will be engaged in their task knowing that their hard work is going to benefit the elders.
So we feel this project is a win-win situation where the children are engaged in a hands-on learning experience of one facet of their culture and the elders are blessed by the work of the children.
Care has been taken to ensure that all materials used are biodegradable – including the cotton material for the prayer flags and the cotton thread that strings the flags together. The best prayer flags are those that can be totally decomposed and become part of the earth again.
At this time the children have just started printing the prayers on the flags. The next stage is to stitch the five different colors together and complete a set of prayer flags. Finally, they will ship it to TCEF and we will then have them for sale on our website.
Tibetan Prayer Flags made with love by Tibetan children to benefit Tibetan Elders.