Tibetan Prayer Flags
In Tibet or Nepal you will often see many prayer flags fluttering in the wind, like a line of colourful washing. They are usually red, blue, yellow, white and green. These colours represent fire, sky, earth, air and water respectively.
The prayer flags are printed with mantras (holy sayings), prayers, pictures of the Buddha, or of auspicious animals from Buddhist mythology, e.g. the wind horse, garuda bird, dragon, snow lion and tiger.
With each flutter of the wind, Buddhists believe, invisible prayers are multiplied and sent off into the air for the benefit of all living beings. The Tibetan name for prayer flag, 'lung ta', literally means 'wind horse'. The wind and the horse can carry things quickly and far.
Traditionally prayer flags are printed from woodblocks on to fabric. They are made out of very thin material, which quickly fades and wears out. This is a lesson in itself, since a central Buddhist belief is that nothing lasts forever.
Children might like to make their own, using prayers from Buddhism or their own faith, or even simple good wishes for the world and its inhabitants. Tissue paper or plain cotton fabric might be good media. Silk screen printing could be used to produce a simple design, while stencils would provide something simpler. Or children could simply draw their own designs. Prayers could be written on cotton using fabric pens. Traditionally prayer flags are A4 size, or a little smaller.
Some Tibetan Buddhist prayers:
May all beings have happiness and its causes,
May all beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all beings not be separated from perfect bliss,
May all beings live in equanimity, free of attachment and anger, believing in the equality of all that lives.
As long as space endures,
As long as sentient beings remain,
May I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world.
The Mantra of Chenresig – Buddha of Compassion
Om mani padme hum (pronounced 'om mani peymey hung')
One interpretation of this refers to 'the jewel in the lotus'.
The lotus represents our striving towards Enlightenment, while the jewel, which is revealed as it opens, represents our basic 'buddha nature' (or fundamental goodness) which was there all along.