Tibetan Prayer Flags: The Real Meaning…

Tibetan Prayer Flags: The Real Meaning

Tibetan Prayer Flags: The Real Meaning

The Tibetan people have a long history and relationship with spirituality in their culture…so much so, that almost any thought of Tibet conjures up images of monks and temples in our minds. This is because Buddhism, the country’s major religion, has played a huge role in the development and history of Tibet since the 7th century and saturates nearly every part of the culture. This has lent itself to many cultural norms that are inseparably linked to their daily practice of going within. This even includes decoration.

In fact, Tibetans are known for creating decorations that remind them of Buddhism and the search for enlightenment.

The most well known (and perhaps iconic) example of this is the prayer flag.

The Origin of Prayer Flags

In many popular pictures of Tibet, prayer flags are prominently displayed…but why? Prayer flags aren’t just reminders for faith; their presence also serves a practical purpose: to spread ancient scripture.

Prayer flags actually originated in Hinduism, with their creation rooted in the origins of the Sutras. Since many monks would transfer the knowledge of the Sutras via the word of mouth, prayer flags became a convenient way of spreading the message of the the holy text in a broader way. In the 11th century, Atiśa (a popular Buddhist monk) brought the practice of printing on flags to Tibet. The practice took off, and after a period of time Tibetans began to string them everywhere.

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Mantras and Colors

But printing didn’t just stay with pure scripture…soon the flags began to hold more meaning. Flags were a convenient way to spread common practices, including mantras. A Mantra is a word or words that are believed to have spiritual or psychological significance. Often these words are repeated over and over again as a form of meditation. Putting the mantras on flags and stringing them up is a way to bless an area, such as a house, so that practitioners never forget the power of their inward practice.

The colors of the flag also have significance- in fact, they’re arranged in a special order that represents the elements. 

Blue symbolizes sky and space, white symbolizes air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. The balance of all the elements is said to bring about inward and outward harmony; and as the wind blows through them, the vibration of the prayers and spiritual intention behind them spreads to find fulfillment.

Supporting Tibetans

Prayer flags are a powerful way to remind us of an inward journey…and a great way to support the Tibetan people. Tibetans work hard, and that’s why we’re honored to help them spread the knowledge of their culture by bringing their prayer flags to the west. As time goes by, we intend to expand upon our offerings of Tibetan culture as much as possible, because we believe the mark of a conscious company is to represent those that are making a real difference in the world.


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Matt Caron

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Matt is the content manager of the Sivana blog, an enthusiastic Yoga teacher, and life voyager. He strives to inspire…

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