Tibetan Prayer flags (Lungta) the Real Meaning

Tibetans hang prayer flags on all passes, bridges and on the roofs of houses. These flags are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and they have a history well over a thousand years old. Originally it was used mainly as a military sign, different tribes had their particular flag to represent their identity.

Gradually, with the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, the military flags were turned into religious prayer flags. Therefore, Tibetan Buddhists for centuries have planted prayer flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside. Prayer Flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, prayers, and mantras.

In general speaking, Tibetan Prayer flags have two distinguished types: – Vertical ones and Horizontal one. Vertical ones are known as Darchor meaning Flagstaff and Horizontal ones are known as Lung Ta meaning Wind Horse.  Vertical ones (Darchor) are rectangular cloth attached to the poles along their vertical lines whereas Horizontal ones (Lung Ta) are rectangular or square cloth connected along their top edges to a long thread. They are hung in a diagonal line between two objects. 

Prayer flags come in sets of five different colors arranged from left to right representing the five elements of nature. The five colors are in a specific order and at first and foremost the color comes the blue which represents the sky, white represent cloud or wind, red represents fire, green represents water and yellow represents earth.

Tibetan Medicine theory also starts with the five elements, mainly because the five elements form the entire universe. In our human bodies, the five elements combine to form the three Nyepa, or “elemental humor”. The three Nyepa form our characteristics of body, energy, and mind. Each person has a special combination of the three Nyepa, called the Rang Zhin. This is their elemental personality or humoral constitution. Therefore, the flags show that the harmony of these elements is important for the health of our human body as well as the earth. If the elements in our individual body or the earth are not balanced or harmonious then we will suffer from disasters.


Corresponding five elements in the human body

The comparison between the macrocosm of the earth and the microcosm of the human body is also fascinating:

Earth = body 20%

Water = water and blood flow 80%

Fire = heart and the divine spark

Air = lungs and oxygen

Ether = mind and soul

The elements also correspond to the five bodies, which are linked by the seven chakras (ether).

By putting up prayer flags up onto the mountains and on the roofs, Tibetans believed and prayed that the blessings of the sacred words are carried by the wind to spread everywhere and the world remain in peace and happiness.

The prayer flags should be hanged at a particular time as well. The best time to put up a prayer flag is in the morning on windy days. It is believed that prayer flags become the permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure, just as life moves on and new life replaces old one, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world continually mounting new flags alongside old ones.

The symbols and mantras on the prayers flags are sacred, thus they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used for clothing,

The old prayers flag should be burned once it is taken off. 

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A khata is a traditional ceremonial or offering scarf used widely in Tibetan culture and in Tibetan Buddhism for different purposes.

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