What Are Buddhist Prayer Flags?

Is there anything more comforting than the feeling of cool, crisp air as you walk past a row of colorful prayer flags?

Prayer flags are probably something many of us have seen flying in the wind at some point in our lives, so it’s a good idea to know their meanings.

Even if you don’t have a connection with Buddhism or any other religion for that matter, it’s worth considering why people choose to display these flags.

So, what do they symbolize? Read on to find out. In this blog post, I will also provide instructions on how to make your own Buddhist prayer flags. You can also use this as an opportunity to learn about the culture and spirituality behind these flags.

What Are Buddhist Prayer Flags?

Buddhism is a religion with so many rich traditions that it can be difficult to keep track sometimes! Buddhists use prayer flags for their spiritually uplifting function so that they may increase mental clarity and trigger positive changes in our lives.

The Buddhist Prayer Flag is typically a block-printed cloth that includes images and mantra quotes, and has some traditional meaning. Buddhist practitioners immensely value their symbols, ancient mantras, and connections to Buddhist prayer.

Photo: Buddhist Prayer Flags

The flags are said to carry prayers from the ground up into the sky and then scatter them in all directions.

There are many variations in the flags, depending on the purpose of the flag or the culture depicted on the flag itself.

What Do the Buddhist Prayer Flags Mean?

Prayer flags are rich in meaning and history.

Prayer flags are ancient religious symbols with ties to Tibetan, Chinese, Persian, Indian and Chinese cultures.

It is believed that the idea for the symbols and words written on the prayer flag originated from Tibetan Buddhism. Westerners are now becoming more familiar with this tradition.

In Tibet, the prayer flags with a vertical shape are called Dar Cho, where the word Dar means to enrich one’s life, to make one’s fortune better, or to bring health and wealth.

The term “Cho” refers to all organisms that are conscious. On the other hand, the prayer flags that have a horizontal shape are called Lung Dar.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that the flags help to spread good karma, and the flags are used to bless the villages, mountains, and land, as well as the people who live there.

It is possible that a prayer flag may lead you to pray to God and to your heart. The prayer flag, however, is not used to communicate with God. In nature, it spreads prayers and mantras for the welfare of all living things. Flags promote a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere, thereby improving life in general.

What Do the Colors of Buddhist Prayer Flags Mean?

Buddhist prayer flags come in five different colors, arranged according to an ordered pattern. Five fundamental elements on earth are represented by these colors. In order of appearance, the colors move left to right.

Prayer flags represent the union between heaven, human and earth.

Among the colors of the flag, blue symbolizes earth, white represents wind, red represents fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes the sun.

Each flag of a set represents a single syllable in the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’.

What Do Buddhist Prayer Flags Say?

Buddhism is something I admire and I find that prayer flags are a wonderful way to show your faith. They are straightforward to make, and can make a powerful statement about your beliefs.

Their rectangular shapes usually have prayers printed on them in Tibetan/other languages and are hung from bamboo poles. The flags help intensify natural beauty and create a sound similar to soft bells.

Photo: Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Flags

The flags contain many different prayers, and one of the most common prayers found in Buddhist prayer flags is “Om mani padme hum”. The literal translation of this chant/mantra is “Hail, the Jewel in the Lotus”. 

It’s not a mantra with one specific meaning. An array of values such as tolerance, renunciation, compassion and ethics are present here.

That’s why Dalai Lama said, “This single phrase encapsulates all of Buddha’s teachings.”

In order to understand the meanings of each word in the mantra, let us review: 

  • Om: symbolizes cosmic energy, effulgence, and supreme purity (the divine syllable). 
  • Ma: symbolizes integrity and purification from jealousy.
  • Ni: symbolizes patience and purifies lust.
  • Pad: symbolizes determination and clears judgment.
  • Me: signifies concentration and eliminates attachment.
  • Hum: signifies wisdom and eliminates hatred.

How to Make Buddhist Prayer Flags

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, prayer flags are seen as a sacred religious symbol, and then have been used for centuries to send prayers or good intentions out into the world. Prayer flags are traditionally seen in the Himalayan region, and across India, Nepal and Tibet.

Many overseas countries have a misconception of how expensive it would be, or what materials you need for a DIY project but in reality they’re inexpensive to put together!

But don’t worry if you’re not crafty – Below you will find links to buy preassembled prayer flags and banners on Amazon:

Check on Amazon

How to Make Your Own Prayer Flags

Making Buddhist Prayer Flags is an easy way to hang out on a lazy Saturday and make something that will brighten the mood for a while.

This is not only an easy craft project that will teach you about Buddhism, but it’s also a great activity to do as part of a larger lesson on world religions or as part of a unit study on Eastern philosophy.

If you want to create your own prayer flags, follow these instructions:

To create a prayer flag, some general guidelines can be followed:

a) Gather materials such as cotton fabric, string or twine, scissors, needle and thread. The fabric can be of any type, as long as it is lightweight to prevent the flags from being torn by the wind.

b) A square piece of fabric measuring 5″ by 11″ should be cut from a good quality cloth to make the flag.

c) Then fold a 3″ strip of fabric and sew it to the handle of the flag, which is the one that is used to lift and stick the flag.

d) After completing this step, the final size of the flag will be 5′′ by 8′′. On the surface of the flag you should print the images, symbols, or mantras that are responsible for the flag’s religious significance.

e) As a final step, the flags should be tied to a string or a strong bar and raised as high as possible. A tall pole with ropes or hooks should stand next to this frame which will hold up your completed flags high into the wind where they will flap about as if dancing across their poles harmoniously. To allow the flags to hang freely, it would be best to hang them along poles at a distance of no less than 1-1/2 times the flag’s length.

Video: How to make Tibetan prayer flags at your home!

The flag can be hung up in any environment as long as there is wind; however, if there isn’t then using an electric fan may help keep the flag fluttering. 

They are commonly seen outside of Buddhist temples or on mountains, but they may also be hung from buildings such as houses. You can hang Buddhist prayer flags outside during special days and festivals.

Parting Words

Prayer flags have been part of Buddhism for hundreds of years. They are used to spread peace and good thoughts around the world.

Some people also put up prayer flag to ward off bad luck or to bring good fortune and health to the home.

They have been used for centuries, and they continue to be important in modern times.

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