In the high mountains, it is a simple way to gain merit by putting up prayer flags for the benefit of all beings. Prayer flags are ancient Buddhist prayers, mantras and symbols that have a powerful spiritual vibration carried by and into the wind.
Prayer flags date to ancient Tibet, China, Persia and India, and the texts and symbols are based in Buddhist philosophy. Pre-Buddhist shamanistic priests used colored flags in healing ceremonies, arranging them around the ill harmonising the elements for physical and mental health. Colored flags were used to appease gods and spirits of the mountains, valleys, lakes and streams, thought to cause natural disasters and disease.
Tibetan word for prayer flag is Dar Cho
“Dar” ~ increase life, fortune, health and wealth
“Cho” ~ all sentient beings
Traditionally in Tibet, prayer flags are in sets of five of five colors. The colors represent the five elements, and the Five Pure Lights and are arranged from left to right in specific order. Chinese medicine trusts health and harmony are produced through balancing these 5 elements.
The order of color is always: yellow, green, red, white and blue. In vertical display yellow goes at the bottom and blue at the top. For horizontal display the order can go from right to left or left to right.
Nyingma (Ancient Ones) School:
Blue ~ sky/space
White ~ air/wind/cloud
Red ~ fire
Green ~ water
Yellow ~ earth
When raising prayer flags proper intention is important. If they are put up with “I will benefit from this” – which is an ego-centered motivation, benefits will be small. If the attitude is “May all beings everywhere receive benefit and find happiness,” the virtue generated by such motivation increases the power of prayers.
Tibetan tradition considers prayer flags to be holy, and they bear sacred texts and symbols that need to be treated respectfully. They should not be put on the ground or in the trash. When disposing of old prayer flags the traditional way is to burn them so the smoke carries their blessings to the heavens.
Prayer flags move with the wind, quietly harmonising the world, impartially increasing happiness and good fortune to all beings. These prayers are blessings borne on the breath of nature. All beings touched by the wind are uplifted and a little happier. As a drop of water returns to the ocean, prayers dissolve in wind to fill the spacious sky.
May the winds rise to carry happiness along…
“For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world” – Shantideva prayer