A Buddhist Prayer Wheel is a hollow cylinder made of wood, metal, leather or coarse cotton. The mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is traditionally embossed on the wheel. The mantra is particularly associated with “Shadakshari” form of legendary “Avalokiteshvara”. As Dalai Lama is believed to do the incarnation of Avalokiteshvara so the mantra is specially respected by his devotees. Primarily used by Buddhists of Tibet and Nepal as hand held prayer wheels, it is believed that spinning a prayer wheel is as effective as reciting sacred text aloud.
The idea of spinning mantras originated from various Tantric practices where the mantras are visualized revolving around the “nadis” and meridian charkas such as brain and heart. The wheel is spinned clockwise with compassion and devotion. The practitioner should keep calm, meditative mind and repeat the mantra as many times as possible while spinning the prayer wheel to develop wisdom, “bodhichitta” (full enlightenment for benefit of all beings) and compassion. As per myth – spinning the wheel by one revolution evokes 50 blessing.
Inside the prayer wheel there is a scroll with the same mantra repeated several times. The prayer wheels come in different sizes and types. Some are small, attached to stick and made to spin by hand. Medium sizes are found at monasteries near the gate, devotees spin the wheel before passing gates. There are larger prayer wheels turned by flowing water. The water touched by the wheel is believed to be sacred.
Many Buddhists believe that prayer wheel is “Wheel of Law” that has been set in motion by The Buddha.