Prayer flags are simple tools that, combined with the natural energy of the wind, quietly harmonize the environment, generating happiness and good luck. Many people think that prayer flags are praying to God, but this is not true. Tibetans believe that the wind absorbs the prayers and mantras on the prayer flags and radiates goodwill and compassion to the environment.
The history of prayer flags dates back to ancient times. Shamanistic Bonpo priests used different colored cloths in healing ceremonies. Each color corresponded to a primary element – earth, water, fire, air, space. According to Eastern medicine, the harmony of these five elements maintains balance in the human body and the environment. The colorful flags placed around the patient were intended to help the patient find physical and mental health.
Colored flags were also used to appease local gods and spirits. According to their belief, it was thus possible to prevent them from causing natural disasters and diseases. Appeasing the gods and spirits through rites and sacrifices was the way to appease nature and obtain divine blessings according to the Bonpo priests.
It is not known whether the Bonpo priests wrote words on the flags. Pre-Buddhist religion was basically based on oral tradition, literacy was limited. On the other hand, the term "bonpo" means "one who utters magical formulas", so it is likely that sacred symbols were painted on the flags. Some of the symbols seen on Buddhist prayer flags are undoubtedly of Bonpo origin.
Originally, the images and text on the flags were hand-painted, but a technique discovered in China in the 15th century - printing carved images and text on blocks of wood - allowed the same image and writing to be applied to the flags and allowed the original design to be passed down from generation to generation. .
Famous Buddhist masters designed most of the prayer flags, and local artisans made copies, but they did not create new designs. Nowadays, we know relatively few basic models whose history goes back thousands of years. The range of images and texts printed on flags has expanded over time, but there hasn't really been any change in the flag production process in the past 500 years. Most flags are still printed in the traditional way, using patterns carved on wood blocks.
There are two types of prayer flags:
• Lung ta (horizontal) prayer flags are square or rectangular, with the shorter side tied on a string. They are usually stretched between two objects in high places such as churches, monasteries, columns and mountain crossings.
• Darchog (vertical) prayer flags are usually large straight rectangles attached to poles in vertical order. Darchog is often planted in the ground, in mountains, near rock piles and on roofs. "Dar" means increase in life, luck, health and wealth. "Chog": all sentient beings.
Everything - from the color to the figures and words on the flag - has a deeper meaning. Flags traditionally consist of five different colors that must be connected to each other in a specific order. Each color represents each element, in a certain order;
• blue for the sky and space
• white the air and the wind
• the fire is red
• green the water
• yellow the earth
In addition, they show directions - North, South, East, West and Center.
Good motivation is important when placing prayer flags. The prayer flag should not be displayed with selfish or limiting thoughts. When placing the prayer flags it is important to think that all beings will benefit from it and find happiness, this motivation greatly increases the power of the prayers.
Prayer flags should never be still or lifeless. The reason they are raised above the roof is so that the wind can play with them. It is said that they emit positive spiritual vibrations and that their spiritual meaning is carried by the wind like a silent prayer. It is considered disrespectful if the flags touch the ground. Therefore, they should always be suspended in a high place.
Buddhists change prayer flags annually on Tibetan New Year's Day, but the flags can be displayed on other days as well. It is believed that sunny and windy days are the best days to display the flags. Some believe that placing prayer flags on inauspicious astrological dates can bring misfortune. Unfavorable dates in the near future October: 14, 30, November: 10, 25, December: 7, 22, January (2018): 2, 14, 17, 29, February (2018): 10
It is natural for prayer flags to fade over time, symbolizing the inevitable passing of all things. But with this fading, the prayers of the flag become a permanent part of the universe. Tibetans keep renewing their hopes by placing new flags next to the old ones. The new prayer flags can be hung above the old ones. The contrast between the old and new prayer flags reminds us of transience and the natural cycle of life and death. But the old flags can also be taken down and burned, so the rising smoke conveys good wishes to the environment.
The texts displayed on prayer flags can be broadly classified as mantras and sutras.
A mantra is a powerful syllable or a series of syllables or sounds that affect certain energy dimensions. The vibration of the mantra can control the invisible energies and occult forces that govern existence. The continuous repetition of mantras is a form of meditation in many Buddhist schools. The language of mantras is almost always Sanskrit - the ancient language of Hinduism and Buddhism. They are not really translatable; their inner meaning is beyond words. Probably the oldest Buddhist mantra, and still the most common among Tibetans, is Avalokiteshvara, the six-syllable mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion. OM MANI PADME HUM. Printed on the prayer flag, the mantra conveys the blessing of compassion to the six worldly realms.
The sutras are mostly from Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha who taught in India just over 2,500 years ago. Many sutras have long, medium and short versions. Prayer flags use medium or short versions.