The Meaning Behind Prayer Flags

The sight of sun soaked prayer flags waving in the wind can send an uplifting serenity to the soul, and understandably so, since to hang a prayer flag is to send a message of positivity to the world!

Often seen fluttering along the Himalayas, (and now Waukesha!) the most commonly used prayer flags are the primary colored Wind Horse, which stand for good fortune. Meant to be hung at the highest point possible, prayer flags can be placed indoors or outdoors to carry a feeling of peace and harmony to all. For flags placed outdoors, it is believed that the wind traveling through the flags will carry its message of peace to all those touched by the breeze.

Each of the five colors used has a special order and meaning, representing the five elements:

blue -sky

white - wind

red - fire

green - water

yellow - earth.

It is a Tibetan belief that these five elements help keep us in the balance of good health and harmony. On Wind Horse prayer flags, the horse is the central flag image, while the outside flags are guarded by four great animals: the garuda (a bird-like creature), dragon, tiger and snow lion.

Often times there will be a woodblock-printed message on each flag, which is typically a mantra or a short sutra, and tend to vary flag to flag. However, the symbols and words on each flag are held sacred by Tibetans, and should be respected as so. Do not wear them as clothing or cast them on the ground with disrespect. A prayer flag is meant to be hung until it has become completely faded and/or tattered (a sign that its message has been fully sent out into the universe) when this happens, the flag is meant to be burned.

The best times for hanging prayer flags are shown below, but sunny, windy mornings are ideal. A beautiful thought to hold in mind as you hang your prayer flags is: “May all beings everywhere receive benefit and happiness.” As this is the sacred energy your prayer flags will be sending out into the world, one of peace, happiness and wisdom - for all.  

Prayer Flags hanging here at Plowshare. All handmade, fair trade in Nepal.