Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spreading Good Will and Compassion through the Winds...

Prayer Flags are quite a common sight here in Santa Cruz, California where I live. I see them on porches, over entranceways, strung along fences and between trees in gardens. Without giving too much thought to their cultural significance or symbolism, I can respond to the way in which their cheerful colors and light cotton fabrics interact with the wind and the sky.  Somehow they manage to embody both peace and power as I watch them billow softly against a serene blue sky.

Prayer Flags and Mani Stone in the Morning Mist
Tarboche, Tibet (en route to Mt. Kailash)
In South Asia and the Tibetan Plateau, you see them everywhere. They are an intrinsic part of the landscape, seemingly timeless and mysterious. They can be found at significant religious sites and at high mountain passes where their blessings are thought to be activated and spread to all corners of the world by the wind.

Spreading Good Will on the Wings of the Wind
between Bhumthang and Trongsa, Bhutan
Boudhanath Stupa
Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
 Timber Temple and Flags
Bhumthang countryside, Bhutan
There are essentially two types of prayer flags. Lungta (or Lung ta, translating to "wind horse") flags are strung horizontally and Darchor (or dar chor, translating to "increasing life, fortune, health and wealth of all sentient beings") flags are raised vertically. They come in sets of five colors that represent the elements (blue is sky, white is air, red is fire, green is water, and yellow is the earth), and it is believed that the balance of these five elements creates health and harmony. 

Waterfall en route to Tiger's Nest
(Taktsang Palphug Monastery)
Paro, Bhutan - 2009
Samye Monastery
Yarlung River Valley, Tibet
While some believe that the practice of hanging prayer flags originated in the Bon tradition (which predates Buddhism), others trace its origin to the Sakyamuni Buddha, whose prayers were written on flags carried into battle.

Buried in Prayers
Yungbulakang Fortress Palace
Zedang, Tibet - 2009
What I find particularly wonderful about prayer flags is that they are raised not to benefit a singular need, but to spread wisdom, strength, compassion and peace to all.  With time, the flags become an element of the landscape. The writing and colors fade.  Old flags sit alongside new ones. The cycle of life continues...

All of the images posted here are available for purchase as 8x10 and 5x7 fine art prints and A2 size greeting cards (all printed on archival water color paper) at http://DigitalYak.etsy.com/.  Be sure to send me a message if there is something you'd like that you don't see listed, or if you'd like a custom size or item, as I truly enjoy creating one of a kind items that hold special meaning. Thanks!!

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