What are Tibetan prayer flags for?

About the meaning of Tibetan prayer flags

All Buddhist Himalayan regions have them. Waving colorfully, they carry mantras for the good of humanity in all directions. Tibetan prayer flags are omnipresent in Ladakh too. But what exactly do they mean?

A general distinction is made between two types of prayer flags:

  1. Those that are installed horizontally and
  2. those that are attached vertically to a pole / trunk

The Ladakhi call their prayer flags Dar-chok. Dar means "increase life, happiness, health and prosperity" and Chok stands for "all living beings".

In the following we will deal with the horizontal prayer flags: they usually say that Lungta - the wind horse - at the center of the designs printed on fabric with wooden blocks.

There are many different ones, but the classic one looks like this:

Although there are single-colored prayer flags, most of them are alternate according to the 5 elements blue, white, red, green and yellow. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white the air and the clouds or the wind, red stands for fire, green the water and yellow the earth. If the elements that also guide us humans and our bodies are in balance, we are healthy and harmonious.

The Wind Horse or Lungta (Lung= Wind andTa= Horse) carries three flaming jewels (also Ratna called) that for Buddha, Dharma (the Buddhist teaching) and the Sangha (the Buddhist community) stand. The horse (Ta) itself stands for speed and the transformation from unhappiness into happiness.

There are several hundred mantras around the wind horse, such as the one for Guru Rinpoche, the one for Avalokiteshvara (Om mani padme hum) and for Manjushri. In addition to the mantras, prayers for longevity and happiness are often printed on them.

You can find them in the four corners 4 Highnesses: TheGaruda, who stands for wisdom, who Dragonwho is a symbol of the power that Snow lion, who stands for fearless joy and who Tiger, which symbolizes the confidence.

There are also those on many prayer flags 8 lucky symbols appropriate:

  • The umbrella that protects against all evil
  • The fish that represents happiness and salvation from the sea of ​​suffering
  • The treasure vase, which stands for the fulfillment of spiritual and material desires
  • The lotus, which stands for purity and spiritual development
  • The shell that stands for the teaching of the enlightened
  • The endless knot, which stands for meditative thinking and the infinite wisdom of Buddha
  • The victory banner, which stands for the victory of wisdom over ignorance
  • The Wheel of Teaching, which is a symbol of spiritual and universal teaching.

What are the benefits of hanging up prayer flags?

Prayer flags represent the promotion of peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. They do not carry - as is often assumed - prayers to the gods, no, the wind carries the prayers and mantras to all living beings and these should benefit them. The prayer flags are more than mere colorful decorative objects that spice up the barren landscape of Ladakh (or other regions), their spiritual benevolence is carried by the wind to wherever there is suffering and should make all beings a little happier. A nice thought and so easy!

But precisely because it is not a colorful decorative scrap, but so much more, you should be careful with it. Prayer flags should never be carelessly lying around on the ground, you shouldn't step on them and you shouldn't just throw them in the trash. Prayer flags that are not needed are burned or thrown into a river. Disposal is usually not necessary with the Ladakhi. Prayer flags stay there until the ravages of time dissolve them. New ones are added and old ones leave ... the way life is - a coming and going.