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TIBETAN PRAYER FLAGS
Tibetan Prayer Flags
 
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Tibetan Prayer Flags in Tibet are called Lung Ta (wind horse), which is both literal of the image, and symbolic of the action of the  flags. A typical prayer flag has at its central images a horse bearing threee flaming jewels on its back. Around the hourse are 20-odd mantras - powerful ritual utterances - each dedicated to a particular diety.The idea is that by hanging these tibetan prayer flags in high places such as from the top of stupas and across mountain paths, the Wind Horse will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings.

To me there are few things more beautiful than colorful tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the wind-sometimes waving gently, sometimes raging, a dance of shadow andlight. Tehre is perhaps no simpleer wayto creat god merit in this troubled world f ours than to put prayer flags up for the benefit of other living begs. 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 acivated and carried by the wind across the countryside. All beings that are touched by the wind are uplifted and a little happier. The silent prayer are blessings spoken on the breath of nature. Just as a drop of water acan permeate the ocean, prayers dissolved in the wind extend to fill all of space.

The tibetan prayer flag tradition have a long continuous history dating back to ancient tibet, China, Persia and Nepal. The tradition has now reached the west and is rapidly gaining popularity. The meanings behind tibetan prayer flag text and symbol, indeed behind the whole idea of prayer flags, are based on the most profound concepts of Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy.

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

History of Tibtean Prayer Flags

Acording to some lamas prayer flags date back thoursnd of years to the Bon tradition of prebuddhist Tibet. Shamanistic Bonpo presits used primary colored plain cloth flags in healing ceremonies. Each color corresponded to a different primary element - earth, water, fire, air and space - the fundamental building bolcks of both our physical bodies and of our enviroment. According to Eastern medicine health and harmony are produced through the balance of the5 elements. Properly arranging colored flags around a sick patient harmonized the elements in his body helping to produce a state of physical and menta health.

Colored prayer flags were also used to help appease the local gods and spirits of the mountains, valleys, lakes and streams. These elemental beings, wehn provoked were thought to cause natural disasters and disease. Balancing the outer elements and propitiating the elemental spirits with rituals and offerings was the Bonpo way of pacifying nature and invoking the blessings of the gods.

It is not known whether or not the Bonpos ever wrote words on their flags. The preBuddhist religions of Tibet were oral traditions; writing was apparently limited to government bookkeeping. On the other hand the very word, 'bonpo,' means ' one who recites magical formulas" Even if no writing was added to the plain strips of cloth it is likely that the Bonpos painted sacred symbols on them. Some symbols seen on Buddhist prayer flags today undoubtedly have Bonpo origins, their meaning now enhanced with the deep significance of Vajrayana Buddhist philosophy.

From the first millennium AD Buddhism gradually assimilated into the tibetan way of life reaching great zeal in the ninth centruy when the religious King of Tibet invited the powerful Indian meditation master, Guru Padmasambhava, to come and control the forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche, as he is popularly known, bound the local Tibetan spirits by oath and transformed them into forces compatible with the spread of Buddhism. Some to ther prayer seen on flags today were composed by Guru Rinpoche to pacify the spirits that couse disease and natural disasters.

Originally the writing and images on prayer flags were painted by hand, one at a time. Woodblocks, carefully carved in image relief, were introduced form China in the 15 th century. This invention made it possible to reproduce identical prints of the same design. traditional designs could then be easily passed down from genetration to generation.

Famouse Buddhist masters created most prayer flag designs. Lay craftsmen make copies of the design but would never think of actually creating a new design. There are relatively few basic designs no real innovations to the printing process have occurred in the past 500 years. Most prayer flags imported to the West today are woodblock rpinted. Some shops are now starting to produce prints made from zinc faced blocks that can be etched photographically resulting in finer detail than the hand carved woodblock. Natural stone ground pigments have been replaced by printing inks, usually having a kerosene base. Most of the companies in the west prefer to use silkscreen printing techniques as wood carving is a time consuming skill requiring lengthy apprenticeship.

When the Chinese took over Tibet they destroyed much of everthing having to do with Tibetan culture and religion. Prayer flags were discouraged but not entirely eliminated. We will never know how many traditional designs hve been lost forever since the turmoil of China's cultural revolution. Because cloth and paper prins deteriorate so quicly the best way to preserve the ancient designs is by saving the woodblocks. Woodblocks, often weighing several pounds, were too heavy for the refugees to lug over the Himalayas and woodblocks no doubt made wounderful firewood for Chinese troops.Most of the traditional prayer flags today are made in Nepal and India by tibetan refugees or by Nepali Buddists from the Tibetan border regions.

 
Tibetan Prayer Flags Texts

Ealy in the 7th Century the Tibetan Kig Song Tsen Gompo sent his minister to India to lern Sanskrit and writing. The Tibetan script we see today on tibetan prayer flags was modeled after an Indian script used at that time. Texts seen on prayer flags can be broadly categorized as mantra, sutra and prayers.

A mantra is a powr-laden syllable or series of syllables or sounds with the capacity of influencing certain energy dimensions. The vibration of mantra can control the invisible energies and occult forces that govern existence. continuous repetition of mantras is practiced as a form of meditation in many Buddhist schools. Mantras are almost always in Sanskrit- the ancient language of Hinduism and Buddhism. they range in lenght from a single "seed syllable" like OM to long mantras such as the " Hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva." They are not ralyy translatable; their inner meanings are beyond words.

Probably the oldest Buddhist mantra and still the most widespread among Tibetans is the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. OM MANI PADME HUNG! Printedon prayer flags the mantra sends blessings of compassion to the six worldly realms.

Sutras are prose texts based on the discourses directly derived from Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha who taught in India 2500 years ago. Many sutras have long, medium and short versions. Prayer flags use the medium or short versions. One short form of sutra often seen a rayer flags is the dharani. Closely related to mantras, dharanis contain magical formulas comprised of syllables with symbolic content. They can convey the essence of a teaching or a particular state of mind. The Victory Banner (Gyaltsen Semo) contains many lines of dharani. Praise to the 21 Taras, the Long Life Flag and the White Umbrella are also examples of Tibetan prayer flags using Sutras.

For purposes of categorization all the other text seen a prayer flags can fall under the general term 'prayeres.' These would include supplications, aspirations and good wishes written by various masters throughout the history of Mahayana Buddhism.

 
Tibetan Prayer Flags Symbols

In an article this sixe ist is impossible to adequaltely explain the meanings of all the symbols used on Tibetan prayer flags. Symbols by definition have meanings larger than their mere apperance. In the case of sacred Buddhist symbols the meanings are often hinting at vast notions beyond words. Long treatises have been written on the meanigns os such symbols. Listed below are brief meanings of some of the more commom symbols.

The Wind aHorse (Lung-ta)carrying the "Wish fulfilling Jewel of Enlightenment" is the msot prevalent symbol used on prayer flags. It represents good fortune; the uplifting life force energies and opportunities that makes things go well. When one's lung-ta is low obstacles constantly arise. When lung-ta is high good opportunities abound. Raising Wind Horse prayer flags is one of the best ways to raise one's lung-ta energy.

The Eight Auspicious Symbols (Tashi Targye) is one of the msot popular symbol groupings among Tibetans and also one of the oldest, being mentioned in the Pali and Sanskrit cononical texts of Indian Buddhism. These Eight Symbols of Good Fortune are:

The Parasol- which protects from all evil

The Golden Fish-representing happiness ans beings saved from the sea of suffering

The Treasure Vase- sign of fulfillment of spiritual and material wishes.

The Lotus-symbol of purity and spiritual unfoldment.

The Conch Sheel-proclaims the teacings of the enlightened ones.

The Endless Knot-symbolizing meditative mind and infinite knowledge of the Buddha.

The Victory Banner-symbolizes the victory of wisdom over ignorance and the overcoming of obstacles.

The Dharma Wheel-symbol of spirtual and universal law

The Vajra (Tibetan: dorje) is the symbol of indestructibility. In Buddhism it represents true reality, the being or essence of everything existing. This pure
emptiness is unborn, imperishable and unceasing. The Four Dignities - These four animals: the Garuda, the Sky Dragon, the Snow Lion and the Tiger are seen in the corners of many Tibetan prayer flags – often accompanying the Wind Horse. They represent the qualities and attitudes necessarily developed on the spiritual path to enlightenment. These are qualities such as awareness, vast vision, confidence, joy, humility and power.

The Seven Precious Possessions of a Monarch –

Precious Wheel
Precious Jewel
Precious Queen
Precious Minister
Precious Elephant
Precious Horse
Precious General

These seven objects collectively symbolize secular power. They give the ruler knowledge, resources and power. In the Buddhist interpretation a comparison is drawn between the outward rule of the secular king and the spiritual power of a practitioner. To the spiritual practitioner the Seven Jewels represent boundless
wisdom, inexhaustible spiritual resources and invincible power over all inner and outer obstacles. The Union of Opposites (mithun gyulgyal) is an interesting group of symbols. These mythological beings are joined rival pairs of animals created to symbolize harmony. A snow lion and a garuda, normally mortal enemies, were combined to

form an animial with a snow lion’s body and a garuda’s head and wings. Likewise a fish was put together with an otter and a crocodile-like chu-srin was
married to a conch shell. These composed creatures are often put on Victory Banners for the reconciliation of disharmony and disagreement. Deities and Enlightened Beings – Deities in Vajrayana Buddhism are not gods as such but representations of the aspects of Enlightened Mind. Their postures, hand gestures, implements and ornaments symbolize various qualities of the particular aspect. The three main aspects of enlightened mind are compassion, wisdom and power, represented respectively by Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani. There are other images depicted on prayer flags that look very similar to the transcendental deities. These are actually enlightened human beings such as Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, and Milarepa. The Elements Vajrayana Buddhism divides the phenomenal and psycho-cosmic world into five basic energies. In our physical world these manifest as earth, water, fire, air and space. Our own bodies and everything else in the physical world is composed of these five basic elements. On a spiritual level these basic energies correspond to the 5 Buddha Families and the 5 Wisdoms. Prayer flags reflect this comprehensive system through color; each of the 5 colors relates to an element and an aspect of enlightened mind. It should be noted that there are two systems used so there is sometimes confusion about which color corresponds to which element. The order of the colors in prayer flag displays remains the same in both the systems. The color order is always: yellow, green, red, white and blue. In a vertical displays the yellow goes at the bottom and the blue at the top. For a horizontal display the order can go either from right to left or from left to right.
According to the Nyingma School (Ancient Ones) the color element correspondence is:
Blue – space
White – air (sometimes referred to wind or cloud)
Red – fire
Green – water
Yellow – earth
The New Translation Schools switch the colors for air and water but keep the rder of the colors the same.

 
Categories of Tibetan Prayer Flags

Tibetan prayer flag types can be divided into about two-dozen categories; half a dozen of which comprise a large majority of the flags we see today. Wind Horse (Lung- ta) flags are by far the most common prayer flag, so much so hat many people think that the word lung-ta means prayer flag. Their purpose is to raise the good fortune energy of the beings in the vicinity of the prayer flag. The wind horse, usually in pictorial form, always occupies the center of this flag. The outside corners of the flag is always guarded by the four great animals – the garuda, dragon, tiger and snow lion – either in pictorial form or in written word.
The texts on the flags differ; usually a collection of various mantras or a short sutra. The Victory Banner Sutra (Gyaltsen Semo) is the most popular. Victorious Banners are used to overcome obstacles and disturbances. Shakyamuni Buddha gave the Victory Banner Sutra to Indra, king of the god realm. Indra was instructed to repeat this sutra when going into battle in order to protect his troops and to assure victory over the demigods. The sutra has many protective dharanis to overcome obstacles, enemies, malicious forces, diseases and disturbances. Victory Banner flags display this sutra along with symbols such as the wind horse, the Eight Auspicious Symbols, the Seven Possessions of a Monarch and the Union of Opposites. Often there are special mantras added to increase harmony, health, wealth and good fortune. Health and Longevity Flags usually have a short version of the Buddha’s Long Life Sutra along with prayers and mantras for health and long life. Amitayus, the Buddha of Limitless Life is often in the center of the flag. Two other long life Deities, White Tara (peace and health) and Vijaya (victorious protection) are sometimes included.

The Wish Fulfilling Prayer (Sampa Lhundrup) is a powerful protection prayer written by Guru Padmasambhava. It is said to be especially relevant to our modern age and is good for raising one’s fortune, protecting against war, famine, and natural disasters, as well as overcoming obstacles and quickly attaining ones wishes. These flags often have Guru Rinpoche in the center and repetitions of his powerful mantra OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUNG. Praise to the 21 Taras was composed by the primordial Buddha Akshobhya. It was written into Sanskrit and Urdu by Vajrabushan Archarya and translated into Tibetan by Atisha in the 11th century. The first 21 Tara prayer flags are attributed to him. Tara was born from the compassionate tears of Avalokiteshvara. As he shed tears for the countless suffering beings one tear transformed into the Savioress Green Tara who then manifested her twenty other forms. The prayer to the 21 Taras praises all her manifestations. The flags with this prayer usually depict Green Tara in the center and often conclude with her root mantra OM TARE TUTARE TURE SOHA. The purpose of this flag is to spread compassionate blessings. Other prayer flag categories are too numerous to describe in this article but a few
of the more popular designs are listed as follows: Avalokiteshvara – Bodhisattva of Compassion, The Warrior-King Gesar, The White Umbrella for Protection, the Kurukulle Power Flag, Manjushri- Embodiment of Wisdom, Milarepa – the Yogisaint, and the Vast Luck Flag.

 
Raising Tibetan Prayer Flags

Tibetan prayer flags typically come on ropes to be 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 orthe 5 colors sewn together into one flag. They range in height from about 3ft to 40 ft or more. 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 plain white tibetan prayer flags on poles erected around monasteries and pilgrimage sites. Most of the imported tibetan prayer flags are printed on polyester or nylon blends. Surprisingly, good quality cotton is hard to find in Nepal and India. Wholesale price differences for tibetan prayer flags are often due to the different qualities of cloth. Tibetans don’t mind the gauzy low thread count cloth (the wind passes through it easily) but Americans tend to prefer finer quality materials. Synthetics vs. cotton is a matter of opinion. Some feel that polyester and nylon are more durable,some say they fade faster. Cotton colors tend to be richer and cotton threads are better for the environment (I frequently see pieces of prayer flags in birds nests around my studio). Radiant Heart Studios print only on high quality cotton or high cotton count polyester. Oddly enough it’s difficult to find good quality cotton in Nepal and India and what is called 100% cotton often has something else mixed in. Placing tibetan 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. Ropes of tibean prayer flags can be strung horizontally between two trees (the higher the better), between house columns or along the eaves of roofs. Sometimes they are strung at angle (be sure that the wind horse points uphill). Vertical Pole Flags look wonderful in a garden, try a prayer flag “grove” in a breezy area. Bamboo works the best for flagpoles but any wood, metal or plastic pole will work. When raising tibetan 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
nd the benefits will be small and narrow. If the attitude is “May all beings

Tibetan prayer flags are printed from wooden blocks on to coloured cotton - traditionally the five colours are blue, white, red, yellow and green. The flags deteriorate in the elements and are usually renewed each Tibetan New Year. Wandering pilgrims carry strings of flags with them to adorn the sacred sites that they visit.

We have got huge collection of these buddhist flags which are made by fine artist of Nepal and Tibet. We also have wholesale option if you want these buddhist flags in bulk. Please refer our "Wholesale Buyers" or “Order By Demand” section for detail or call us at 977-1-5547819 or Fax us at 977-1-5545657 or mail us at info@himalayanmart.com.

 
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