Prayer Wheel is an example of Buddhist technology. This technology allowed the faithful to multiply the number of prayers they expressed by millions. This is because prayer wheels are filled with copies of mantras (sacred spells associated with particular deities). For instance, the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, “om mani Padme hum.” The mantra is printed on fragile tissue paper as many times as possible. In some cases numbering in the millions. The paper is wrapped around a spindle and covered with a protective cylinder. In recent years, microfilm technology has billions, even trillions of prayers, to be invoked with just one turn of the wheel.
Prayer wheels range in size from small hand-held wheels to large wheels set into a building wall, like moveable pillars. Hand, wind, water or firepower turn them. When part of a temple, people will circle the building clockwise and turn the wheels as they walk. Thus, they benefit from circumambulating the sacred building, and the prayers sent up by the prayer wheel.
How and why Prayer Wheel?
Many Tibetans use Prayer wheels every day, sometimes for hours on end. Worshippers turn prayer wheels to accumulate merit, help all beings in the world, and purify their karma (intentional actions). They are part of meditation practice. According to Lama Zopa, Rinpoche, “To benefit sentient beings, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas manifest in the prayer wheel to purify all our negative karmas and obscurations, and to cause us to actualize the realisations of the path to enlightenment.”
Turning a prayer wheel with millions of mantras inside is the equivalent of saying those millions of mantras. Multiplication of benefit is also performed by prayer wheels powered by wind and water. Whatever wind or water that touches the wheel will become blessed by the wheel and purify whatever else it touches of negative karma.
Pilgrims make their journeys with prayer wheels in hand or as part of their pilgrimage. They will turn prayer wheels at the monasteries they are visiting. With every turn of a prayer wheel, the deity whose mantra is therein inscribed emanates from the wheel in bodies as numerous as the mantras. For example, suppose there are one million Manjushri mantras in the prayer wheel. In that case, one million emanations of Manjushri will go forth with each turning of the wheel. Then, proceed to benefit the beings of the world. However, the benefit of spinning the wheel with a concentrated mind is one hundred thousand times greater than spinning it with a distracted mind.
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