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When the breeze blows Buddhist prayer flags, harmony, happiness, and good fortune are spread among all living beings. These prayer flags are squares of colored fabric with symbols, mantras, sutras, and prayers that enhance the spirits and lives of anyone nearby. The flags fly anywhere that Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism live.
Prayer flags were first used for healing ceremonies in pre-Buddhist Tibet 1,000s of years ago. As time went on, sacred symbols were painted onto the prayer flags. By the 15th century, wood block prints were being used to printing text and designs on the flags. The wood blocks made it possible to standardize the designs and pass them down from generation to generation.
Prayer flags come in sets of five, with each flag in a different color to represent the elements: yellow for the earth, green for water, red for fire, white for clouds, and blue for sky. The most prevalent symbol on prayer flags is the Wind Horse carrying the Wish Fulfilling Jewel of Enlightenment, which preseents good fortune. Other symbols seen quite often are the Eight Symbols of Good Fortune, the Seven Possessions of a Monarch, and the Union of Opposites.
The text on the flags are mantras, sutras, and prayers written in Tibetan script. Mantras are Sanskrit syllables that are repeated during meditation that controls the energies of existence. A sutra is a short teaching based on the wisdom of Shakyamuni Buddha. Prayers are aspirations and good wishes written by Buddhist masters over history.
There are many types of prayer flags. The Wind Horse (Lung- ta) flags increase the good fortune energy of any beings nearby. The Wind Horse is shown in the center of a flag with the Four Dignities in the corners: the Garuda, the Sky Dragon, the Lion and the Tiger. The Victorious Banner prayer flag protects against enemies, diseases, and other obstacles. The Health and Longevity prayer flag has mantras and prayers for long life and health, as well as a Buddha’s sutra on long life. The Wish Fulfilling Prayer flag increases good fortune and protects against famine, natural disasters and war.
Prayer flags may be hung from trees, poles and laundry lines. Our of respect, prayer flags should not touch the ground, and they should be burned when worn out. Buddhist prayer flags are a beautiful way to enhance the harmony and good fortune in our environment.