Buddhist Prayer Wheel

Prayer Wheel at Boudhanath Stupa

Prayer Wheel at Boudhanath Stupa

Prayer wheel cylindrical in shape (Mani Wheels in Tibet) is a devices used for spreading spiritual blessing and well being.  Mostly made from metal or wood, the prayer wheel contains rolls of prayer (mantra) OM Mani Padme Hum, written numerous times on paper and the same prayer is decorated outside of the cylinder in an ancient Tibetan and Indian scripts. Used mostly by the Buddhists of Nepal and Tibet during prayer to acquire good karma and decontaminate bad karma, and also is believed to help them develop compassion and wisdom by spinning the prayer wheel.


Three Buddha Park in Swambunath

In the center the Amitaba Buddha statue, at his left side Avalokiteshvara and to the right Padmasambhava.

According to the Tibetan tradition the prayer wheel was introduced by a famous Indian Buddhist scholar Arya Nagarjuna. The Tibetan text also says the prayer wheel was brought to Tibet by the well renowned eight century Indian Buddhist teacher Padmasambhava, and afterward practiced by the great Indian Buddhist masters Tilopa and Naropa and later passed it on to the Tibet’s well known yogis. Since then the Prayer Wheel has been passed on to numbers of enlightened teachers all around the world.

Symbolism and Spiritual Belief of the wheel

A Tibetan woman in Kathmandu with her prayer wheel

A Tibetan woman in Kathmandu with her prayer wheel

The Buddhist or Tibetan prayer wheel symbolizes the universal law and reflection of that law in the morals of human. The rim of the wheel represents the cycle of birth, death and rebirth; a cycle of suffering that Buddhists endeavors to set them free from. The core of the wheel indicates freedom, while the spokes symbolize the various pathways to achieve liberation. There are in general eight spokes or more, in multiples of eight, refer to the noble eight fold path, the way to the end of suffering as taught by the Lord Gautam Buddha.

Buddhists, mainly within the Tibetan tradition have a belief just touching and turning a prayer wheel brings inconceivable purification and hoards implausible merit. The Prayer Wheel is a physical expression of recitation of mantra, as the spinning of the wheel and the round movement of the written mantra inside and out is the same to the speech of the human voice. The rotation of the wheel is a form of speech for the turning of the wheel of Dharma, described as the Buddha’s first teaching. Always spun clockwise, It is also believed turning of the prayer wheels helps gain insight and compassion.

Om Mane Padme Hum the Mantra

The colored mantra in Tibetan with the six syllables

Colored mantra in Tibetan with the six syllables.

The prayer (mantra) on the outside and inside of prayer wheels is a six-syllable mantra has several versions. The literal translation is “the jewel in the lotus,” or “praise to the jewel in the lotus” or, basically, the “jeweled lotus”.

Types of Prayer wheels

Mani Wheel: Also known as hand wheel the Mani wheel has a cylindrical shape mounted on a metal shaft or pin set into a wooden or metal handle that rotates on a round bearing which are usually made of Turbinella (conch) Shell. The cylinder is attached with chain, the weighted chain allows itself to spin by slight rotation of the wrist.

Water Wheel: A prayer wheel that is turned by flowing water. It is said the water that is touched by the wheel is said to become sacred and carries its purifying power into all life.

Fire Wheel: Turned by the heat of a candle or electric light. It is believed that the light released from the prayer wheel cleanses the negative karmas.

Wind Wheel: Turned by wind. The wind that touches the prayer wheel helps ease the negative karma of those it touches

Stationary prayer Wheel: Many monasteries and Buddhist pilgrimage have large, fixed, metal wheels set side by side in a row. Devotees can turn the wheels simply by sliding their hands over each one.

Electric dharma Wheel: “Thardo Khorlo,” as these electric wheels are occasionally known, includes one thousand copies of the mantra of Chenrezig and many copies of other mantra, and are powered by electric motors.

Types of Prayer wheels in Pictures

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