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Prayer Flags across cultures

When I was in VT, I noticed an abundance of prayer flags. They were in both urban and rural areas, strung across houses, trees and barns. I heard there are also strung across the waterfront in Burlington – quite a distance from where I saw them in Brattleboro. Some I came upon were still brightly colored, others were faded and tattered. I wondered if this was a Buddhist message or perhaps the new VT state flag?! Ok, I knew the latter was unlikely, but I was curious enough to do some research.

Wikipedia says: “A prayer flag is a colorful panel or rectangular cloth often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside or for other purposes. Unknown in other branches of Buddhism, prayer flags are believed to…predate Buddhism in Tibet.”

There are two kinds of traditional flags, one translates as Wind Horse – an aspect of the divine -  thought to carry blessings depicted by the images and mantras on the flag to all beings and that the air is purified and santified as it passes over the flags.Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags blowing in the wind are believed to spread the good will and compassion to all.

The colors of the flag represent the Five Elements of Sky/Space, Air/Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth. In Tibetan belief, the 5 Elements promote Health and Harmony to both people and nature. I think of this, now each time I look at the prayer flags that I brought home with me.

Ah-ha. It all comes back to the union of Nature and ourselves. And when we can look to and care for all our Elements, we will have the freedom to find the path to our true selves.

ps. I looked up the VT State Motto, which is, “Freedom and Unity”


4 Responses to “Prayer Flags across cultures”

  1. phyllisdiehl Says:

    how interesting hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…i didn’t know anything about this, thanks for bringing this stuff to me….as usual i am an eager student, and always enjoy learning from you…..

  2. Roger Hartsell Says:

    or. in the words of J. Hendrix, “Let my freak flag fly…”

  3. Roger Hartsell Says:

    Or in the words of Jimi Hendrix, “Let my freak flag fly…!!!”

  4. Roger Hartsell Says:

    Another flag issue: I was doing my back yard in a medieval/mystic theme with some statues, stockade fence with gothic arches, and some flags. First, some Fiji/polynesian tall, skinny flags, then made some vertical medieval looking banners. When I wanted to adopt Kira, I had to sacrifice flags because they looked “tacky.” Is everything a matter of compromise; trade-off?

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