Our traditional Tibetan prayer flags are inscribed with symbols and words that are said to carry prayers and hopes into the breeze and across the lands. If you’ve ever wondered what all that Sanskrit writing means, read on!
The words on the prayer flags are a combination of mantra, sutra, and prayer. They aren’t directly translatable into English, as each mantra is an expression of an intention, energy, and the vibration of the sound. You might say that their inner meanings are beyond words.
A mantra is a powerful word or set of words with the capacity of influencing certain dimensions of energy. It is said that the vibration of mantras can control the invisible energies that govern existence. It’s the sound and the utterance of it that is said to have those powers, even without thinking about or necessarily understanding exactly what it is you’re saying. Buddhist monks will repeat a mantra over and over as a form of meditation, and a way of sending that energy out into the world. Similarly, the prayer flags send that energy out just by being hung!
One mantra that is on most prayer flags is OM MANI PADME HUNG, which is the mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion. Printed on prayer flags, this mantra sends blessings of compassion to the world.
Sutras are prose texts based on the words of the historical Buddha who taught in India 2500 years ago. One sutra often seen on prayer flags is the dharani. Similar to mantras, dharanis contain magical formulas which are comprised of symbolic letters and pieces of words. Read out of context, they make very little sense, but when on the flags they convey the essence of a teaching or a specific state of mind.
Text on the flags beyond mantras and sutras can be classified as prayers, and they include supplications, aspirations, and positive wishes written by various masters of Buddhism throughout history.
So in a nutshell, the words on prayer flags are all about sharing good vibes with the world!
You can learn more, including what the pictures on the flags mean, from this post here on our blog: prayer flags explained!
Get your own traditional prayer flags here!
What prayers or positive intentions would you like to send out to the world?
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