Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week 33: Prayer Flags of Peace

   The book-of-the-week for Week 33 isn't really a book. There're no covers, no paper pages that are flipped one after the other, no spine, no title plate. But it does have lines of handwritten words and a carved lotus blossom with woodblock border that was printed on the letterpress. There are a series of hand-dyed cloth pages that are sewn together...bound... with gold silk thread. And the book, Prayer Flags of Peace, hangs between two tall oaks in the middle of a North Carolina forest... So perhaps they are it's spine and the forest is it's cover boards.

the pages, stung within the book that is a forest
   The exact origin of prayer flags isn't known, though the ancient Bon peoples of Western Tibet are said to have used prayer flags in the 7th century. Legend says that thousands of years ago the Shakyamuni Buddha wrote prayers on battle flags which were then used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. Indian Buddhist sutras were written on cloth banners by 640 CE and made their way by Indian monks to Buddhist monasteries in Nepal. Actual prayer flags were in existence in Nepal by 1040 CE when they were used in shamanistic rituals to bring good fortune and protection as well as to invoke blessings, healing, and harmony. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The Tibetans do not believe the flags carry prayers to gods, but that the wind blowing through the flags spreads the prayers and mantras into all pervading space. For that reason the flags are often set at high places, so the wind blowing through the flags will carry the blessings to all sentient beings.

Shamanistic Bonpo priests used primary colored plain cloth flags in healing ceremonies. Each color corresponded to a different primary element - earth, water, fire, air and space – the fundamental building blocks of both our physical bodies and of our environment. -Wikipedia

Finally, the prayer flags are arranged by color as follows: first is blue for space, then the white for air, next the color red signifying fire, then green for water, and finally yellow for earth. For the book Prayer Flags of Peace, a sixth color, purple was added. This color means a unifying element... the element of peace.  Each colored cloth is stamped with a woodblock print of a lotus blossom. Over each lotus blossom is a handwritten prayer corresponding to the color. At the bottom of each prayer flag is the mantra Um Mani Padme Hung...  a beneficial mantra... associated with the bodhivista for compassion... and the mantra recited to achieve perfection in the six practices... from generosity to wisdom. 

Here is what is written on the flags.

The blue flag says...

Peace, come in
enter through this gate  
and fill this place
with love 

Om Mani Padme Hung

blue flag
The white flag says...

Peace, sleep here
while dreams play out
the dramas of all times
and the white light
shines on the horizon.

Om Mani Padme Hung

white flag
The red flag says...

Peace, whisper the words
that will end all wars
in the hearts of man
and the kingdoms
of the world.

Om Mani Padme Hung

red flag
On the green flag is written...

Peace, fly in the wind
become like the breath
invisible,  irresistible, 
indomitable, inviolate
Surround us in Eden’s 

Om Mani Padme Hung

The yellow flag prayer says...

Peace, sing hymns
for the trees and the 
small creatures,
for the heavens and the earth
and for me.

Om Mani Padme Hung

yellow flag
And the last flag, the purple flag for peace prays...

Peace, spread your arms
and wrap the world
in understanding
and acceptance
for all.

Om Mani Padme Hung

purple flag

Prayer flags off a mountain in Nepal

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