A prayer wheel is an object of worship used in several Buddhist countries
but has been particularly developed in Tibet.One of the explanations for the invention of this object is the Buddhist phrase "to turn the wheel of the Dharma" (which means to teach
the doctrine of the Buddha) and which will have been taken here in a material sense .
The ancient texts mention a meeting between the one who will become Buddha Sakyamuni and Buddha Dipankara .During this meeting the future Sakyammuni Buddha makes an offering to Dipankara and expresses the wish to become himself
an awakened for the sake of all sentient beings and the Buddha Dipankara speaks to him
of a "Dharma wheel" that he entrusted to the Nâgas and that will be a clever way to get enlightenment. The Nâgas would have been the holders of prayer wheels for millions of years before transmitting this "clever means" to achieve enlightenment to humans .The Buddha Dipankara having, according to the legends, lived during 100,000 years and having only transmitted
the practice of the prayer wheel to the Nâgas, which means that he himself received this practice and is not the origin .
There are many types of prayer wheels depending on the mantra they contain, the most common is the Mani Khorlo (or "Mani Wheel") which contains the Chenrezig mantra , but there are also some Thardo Khorlo in recent years that contain a selection of mantra in addition to that of Chenrezig .
A traditional prayer wheel consists of a cylinder filled with mantras and able to rotate freely about an axis .According to the beliefs associated with this object, operating such a mill has the same spiritual value as reciting the mantra that is inside, the mantra being supposed to spread like this in the air as if it were pronounced and have a positive influence on the environmentfrom the mill .
The prayer wheels are most often arranged in long series and are set in motion one after the other by the faithful passing in front of them .The mill must be rotated clockwise, so that the mantra is read in the direction in which it was written .
Although we hear in most cases of "Tibetan prayer wheels" this object of worship is present in several other Asian countries .
Japanese prayer wheels .
Korean prayer wheels .
Prayer wheel in Mongolia .
A bronze prayer wheel in a park in the United States !
A prayer wheel of the Bönpo tradition in Nepal .
A derivative of the prayer wheel: a rotating library (in a temple in Japan)
A GIANT prayer wheel in Tibet
Most often, prayer wheels are manually activated, but Tibetans have shown great ingenuity and started a long time ago to design prayer wheels that can work with
wind, water, fire and more recently with electricity .
On a tibetan monastery roof in Nepal : a prayer wheel working with wind !
Wind prayer wheels in Buthan .
Modern version of a wind prayer wheel .
Manufacture of "wind" prayer wheels .
Water prayer mill, powered by small stream .
The wheel that turns a big prayer wheel using the water of a river .
Prayer wheel operating through the heat of a light bulb, there is the same type of mill operating through the heat of a butter lamp .
Solar prayer wheel !
And finally some virtuals prayer wheels .
The prayer wheel is one of the most unusual objects of worship of Tibetan Buddhism, it is very often sold to tourists by the shops of Kathmandu .The design of a prayer wheel meets simple but strict ritual rules , and unfortunately after studying these rules and handling / disassembling a very large number of prayer wheels, I can assure you that the vast majority of current production has nothing to do with a real prayer wheel and can in no way
have the slightest beneficial effect .
Your webmaster in a Nepalese shop with "aged" (dirty) mantra rolls .
Other examples of incorrect and burned mantra rolls to make them look old !
Between prayer wheels without mantra, those where the mantra are badly printed (or even worse placed upside down or rolled upside down !), those largely filled with newspaper (!!!), those full of mantra that were burned (to give them an old appearance!), those who turn with difficulty, those who squeak ... and again I do not speak yet about trees of life and diagrams missing, because then it will be 100% of current production that would be considered as unusable or even downright evil .Indeed if the mantra are placed upside down in a prayer wheel, instead of accumulating merits by turning it, you lose merits!
Karmic consequences produced by the use of a defective prayer wheel are described in the Tantra and are frankly scary ...
The prayer wheels available today are just good to serve as a base, the mantra inside are to be redone in 100% of the cases .
And this is alas true also for mills sold in Dharma centers, do not believe me on my word , get information and go to open one or two mills in these shops to see for yourself please !
Examples of mantra incorrectly placed .
On this page I will explain in a simple way what are the rules to respect to realize
a traditional prayer wheel yourself.You will quickly understand that what counts is not having a precious metal cylinder decorated with a nice
Tibetan alphabet mantra or script landzha or blessing the mantra by a Grand Lama, but to follow a number of simple set of ritual rules .
The cylinder that houses the mantra is not necessarily decorated, here a large undecorated copper prayer wheel in a Swayambunath Temple .
If you want to start making prayer wheels, I encourage you to buy the excellent book
"Wheel of great compassion" which gives many references of ancient texts and details the manufacture of a prayer wheel step by step .
Video showing the manufacture of a small prayer wheel . Fun but unfortunately the mill does not respect any ritual rules !
To begin, you will need to make or get a Sog Shingtree of life, this one was in Tibet traditionally made in greyhound or sandalwood, but failing that the wood of any tree is suitable as long as the fruits of this tree are not toxic . The wood should be placed in the direction that it has pushed (the top of the Sog Shingtree of life being the top of the original tree).Some ancient texts also speak of using iron to make the tree of life of the prayer wheels, which greatly simplifies the task ! A tree of life can be square or round, it does not matter, but it must at least be the same height as the cylinder in which it is placed (it can be longer if it serves as an axis) . The tradition specifies that on the tree of life itself one must place a certain number of sacred mantra and syllables, one can either engrave them in the wood, or draw them on paper and wrap it around the tree of life . (writing outside) .In some cases if the axis is fixed, a hollow shaft can be made (in tube) and the mantra can be wrapped around this tube .
These mantra are from top to bottom : 1) Om Sarya Vidya Svaha 2) Om Ah Hum 3) Om Vajra Ayushe Svaha 4)Om Supratisha Vajra Ye Svaha(this last mantra must be repeated as many times as necessary to completely cover the bottom of the tree of life)
We can write these mantras in Tibetan, Sanskrit, or Roman alphabet, which is to make no mistake in the mantra and not the alphabet used.If like me you can not read the Tibetan, just use an alphabet that you can read ... Here are these mantras in Tibetan in a printable version.
It is suitable in the case of a tree of life made of wood anointing with sandalwood oil , the mantra should be coated with saffron water to purify them regardless of the material that makes up the tree of life .
Here is the correct way to wrap Om Mani Padmé Hum Mantra, the Om in front is towards the beginning and the inscriptions are towards the outside (ie visible)
Some ancient texts say that the direction of winding is unimportant and that we can therefore place the Hum to the beginning ... but these texts are in the minority so lets rolls the mantra properly as it is not more work .
But in any case the mantra must remain visible once the roll is finished. The mantra roller should fill the volume of the cylinder where it will be placed
as much as possible without it being difficult to place or remove it .
Once the mantra roll is finished, place on top and under the "wheel of the sky" and the "wheel of the earth" , these two diagrams must be placed with visible inscriptions as shown in the drawing above .These diagrams were drawn by Most Venerable Zopa Rinpoche following the ritual instructions of the 4th Panchen Lama .Note that most often the axis of the mill passes through the wheels of the sky and the earth, that's why a round hole is provided .
Examples of incorrectly placed mantra and not completely filling the mill as they should .
Example of a correct mantra roll on a "homemade" solar prayer wheel from a rotating presentation stand .
Old and correct mantra roll .
Even old prayer wheels are often incorrect, here in an old prayer wheel I discovered off cuts puja texts in bulk as a mantra roll !
The mantra can be written by hand (in this case if possible mix a little saffron in the ink used), printed in the old fashioned with a block of wood or with a modern printer, the method is irrelevant, which the point is that they are drawn clearly and without burrs or erasures .Some sites have been producing microfilm mantras for a few years, which seems appropriate from a ritual point of view and makes it possible to place a very large number of mantra in a small prayer wheel .
There are also recently prayer wheels whose mantra are on CD or DVD, which is absolutely contrary to ancient ritual instructions .
It is advisable to roll the mantra tightly, and that the person who makes the mantra roll is clean in the ritual sense (hands washed scrupulously and not having eatenno meat, no garlic, no onions and of course no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs)
Before you begin to wind up the mantra you have to indulge in a little meditation and if one has received the initiation of Dorje Sempa recite at least 21 times the mantra of 100 syllables .
The sheets of paper containing the mantra should be purified with saffron water before being rolled up.Especially good mark the top of the roll of mantra (by dyeing it in red) so as not to risk putting him upside down in the prayer wheel.Indeed once finished it is good to place the roll of mantra in fabrics to protect them from wearand we no longer see the mantra .
In some cases we can add various stones (turquoises, corals, pearls ...) in a prayer wheel, but it is not an obligation .
Traditionally most prayer wheels are filled with the Chenrezig mantra,
but it is correct to fill a prayer wheel with other mantras .
For example it is possible to design a prayer wheel filled with mantra of Sangye Menla(Buddha of Medicine) for a sick person, a prayer wheel filled with mantra of Dzambhalla (Buddha of Wealth) for a seller or a prayer wheel of a deity of long life foran old Lama (or your grandma !)
Here are some printable mantras to fill your prayer wheels
The size of the mantra roll should be calculated according to the size of the container, the roll to fill as much as possible the mill without being "stuck" . In the case of "desktop" mills where the roll is visible it must be left enough room to turn easily .At the mechanism level, there is no ritual rule, so a simple fixed axis is usable, usually by adding a movable washer in the lower part of the mill to facilitate movement, traditionally this washer is in conch or bone .
Of course if you want and if you are handyman it is possible to design magnetic prayer wheels (with two permanent magnets in the form of rings repelling each other) or on ball bearings, the only limit being your ingenuity !
As for the energy that will power your mill, the most common is manual, but it is possible, as we have seen above, to design prayer wheels that are powered by wind, water, heat or even electricity . Again, the only limit is your ingenuity, but in any case In this case, it must be ensured that the finished mill will ALWAYS turn clockwise (the only exception being the Bönpo prayer wheels which must turn in the other direction) .
Office prayer wheel made in a Tibetan refugee camp, nothing to do with mantra copper prayer wheels with improperly printed improperly printed mantra offered to tourists in the shops .
Here the container is a simple plastic pot, but the mantra roll is correct and this mill turns very easily.Saffron is seen in the bottom of the pot .
This kind of mill is made "by Tibetans, for Tibetans"and anyway it is sure that 99% of tourists would not buy what some would describe as "A kid's prayer wheel made in an old plastic pot"
It is sure "cheap & ugly" BUT it is correct from a ritual point of view
and will do the job for many years .
The cylinder that will contain the mantra must be strong and waterproof .
The most used materials are metal, wood and sometimes bone for small prayer wheels .
It is good if possible to decorate the cylinder with mantra but it is not an obligation .
Regarding the portable prayer wheels, they must be equipped with a cord
and a weight to be able to turn them .The cord must be at least the same length as the radius of the cylinder and be well fixed to it, otherwise by turning it will fly away .
As for the weight it must be quite heavy, preferably metal or stone. We can settle for a weight made of fishing lead or use any object having a shapeand a suitable weight .Avoid bluntly shaped objects, just "in case"
the cord comes loose, so you are not going to knock off your temple neighbor
or break a window .
Prayer wheel repaired with a ... coffee tin !
Old prayer wheel, made from a ... box of English cakes in the shape of a carousel, we can still guess the shape of the horses with the children on it ! As a counterpoise we find an old Tibetan coin, a lama seal and a shell (private collection of the webmaster)
Old prayer wheel in yak leather, it is of course totally impossible to check the mantra inside without destroying this object.
The counterpoise is composed of a stone (probably from a sacred site) stitched in leather . (private collection of the webmaster)