Tibetan prayer flags are traditionally used to promote peace, wisdom, compassion, and strength. It is commonly thought that prayer flags offer prayers to God. They do not. Tibetans believe the wind will blow the prayers and mantras in to the surroundings, spreading goodwill and compassion.
The colours used for prayer flags are thanks to their pre-Buddhist usage. Native Tibetans used blue, white, red, green and yellow to honour the nature gods of Bon, their shamanistic religion. Each colour represents the five elements, in a particular order;
- blue for sky or space
- white for air or clouds
- red for fire
- green for water
- yellow for earth
As Buddhism grew the flags were adapted to contain Buddhist symbols and mantras, and are hence known as prayer flags.
It is natural that prayer flags fade and fray. Indeed, they are intentionally left unhemmed for this to happen. This is symbolic of the inevitable passing of all things. New prayer flags can either be hung over the old ones, or the old ones can be taken down and burnt releasing the last of the blessings.
To buy your own set of prayer flags and support Tibet Relief Fund please head over to enlightenedgifts.org.