A prayer flag is a colorful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes. Prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bon, which predated Buddhism in Tibet. In Bon, shamanistic Bonpo used primary-colored plain flags in healing ceremonies in Nepal. Traditional prayer flags include woodblock-printed text and images.
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. By hanging flags in high places the Lung ta, the Windhorse, will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags, which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
Because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used on clothing. Old prayer flags should be burned. Old prayer flags are replaced with new ones annually.
Some believe that if the flags are hung on inauspicious astrological dates, they may bring negative results for as long as they are flying. The best time to put up new prayer flags is in the morning on sunny, windy days.
In Feng Shui, we use prayer flags to promote good fortune and to ward off danger. The 5 colors represents the 5 elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Metal and Wood). Hanging assorted prayer flags at home will invite in much auspicious energy.