The Meaning of the 5 Prayer Flag Colors

Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colors. The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. The five colors represent the five elements and the Five Pure Lights. Different elements are associated with different colors for specific traditions, purposes, and sadhana. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. According to Traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.

Symbols and Prayers

The center of a prayer flag traditionally features a Lung ta (powerful or strong horse) bearing three flaming jewels (specifically ratna) on its back. The Ta is a symbol of speed and the transformation of bad fortune to good fortune. The three flaming jewels symbolize the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddhist teachings), and the Sangha (Buddhist community): the three cornerstones of Tibetan philosophical tradition.

Surrounding the Lung ta are various versions of approximately 400 traditional mantras, each dedicated to a particular deity. These writings include mantras from three of the great Buddhist Bodhisattvas: Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), Avalokiteśvara (Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion, and the patron of the Tibetan people), and Manjusri.

In addition to mantras, prayers for a long life of good fortune are often included for the person who mounts the flags. Images or the names of four powerful animals, also known as the Four Dignities, adorn each corner of a flag: the dragon, the garuda ( a mythical bird-like creature), the tiger, and the snow lion.

Tibetan Prayer Flag Uses

Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

By hanging flags in high places the Lung ta will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags, which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras.

The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.

According to traditional belief, because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used on clothing. Old prayer flags should be burned.

See also

What are Tibetan Prayer Flags?

When to Hang Tibetan Prayer Flags

Where to find Tibetan Prayer Flags for Sale

Buy Tibetan Prayer Flags Online

Buy mini-prayer flags

Buy vertical prayer flags

 

Sources: Tibetan Handicrafts Co-operative & Wikipedia