Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheels: What Are They & How To Use
Anyone interested in Buddhist practices and meditation may find themselves wondering about the ancient and mystical function of Tibetan prayer wheels.
Perhaps you would like further understanding of how different spiritual symbols can aid your meditation. These devices are used by Tibetan Buddhists to spread the intention of well-being and spiritual blessings. They can be a wonderful authentic addition to your own meditation and spiritual rituals.
Prayer wheels have been used in Buddhist practices for a variety of spiritual, magical and practical reasons. One of the most well known uses of the prayer wheel is to relieve suffering and misery for yourself and others and to bring you closer to enlightenment.
Traditionally, a prayer wheel acts as a physical manifestation of the Buddha’s teachings of the wheel of Dharma. Rolls of very thin paper are printed with the prayer or mantra Om Mani Padme Hum . This paper full of mantras and prayers is wound around an axle, mounted on a spindle and turned clockwise (you spin clockwise as the direction in which the mantras are written is as the sun moves across the sky).
As the prayer wheel is turned or spun, the prayers or mantras are recited with clear intention to bless all beings and bring peace to the world. Each turn of the wheel represents a repetition of the prayer or mantra. Tibetan Buddhists believe that silent or spoken repetition of this mantra Om Mani Padme Hum invokes compassion through the blessings and attention of Chenrezig.
Spinning the prayer wheel mindfully and with positive intention has the same effect as repeating the prayers multiple times. That is to say that each revolution of the wheel is equal in merit and benefits as it would be if a mantra or prayer were being spoken. Spinning the wheel clockwise activates and releases the sacred and spiritual power of the mantras. The turning of the wheel also invokes the spiritual assistance of enlightened beings, dharma protectors and deities.
In Buddhist teachings, benefits of the prayer wheel include the purification of past negative karma and the clearing of obstacles that stop us from becoming our higher selves (enlightened).
Other spiritual benefits (as recorded in Buddhist texts) include:
- Sending peace, love and happiness to all
- Raising your body, speech and mind into the body, speech and mind of a Buddha. In short, a holy transformation.
- Transforming your home and property into a peaceful, holy place.
- Purifying your body, speech and mind.
- Blessing all others close by to the prayer wheel and saving them from reincarnation in the lower realms (as animals)
- The accumulation of merit for yourself and other beings in the area.
- Protection from harm from spirits and negativity.
- Healing from sickness
- Radiates peace and kindness to humanity (acts to prevent war)
As you spin the prayer wheel, try to focus your mind and repeat the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra.
This helps to create a calm, grounded and stabilizing effect on your mind, which is at the heart of effective meditation. Prayer wheels are most beneficial when turned calmly and with a gentle rhythm.
As you turn, keep in mind the feelings of compassion, love, peace and happiness, the motivation to aspire to full enlightenment for the good of all. As you repeat the mantra, you create a calm, meditative focus and state of mind. The main aim as you turn is to do so with intention and mindfulness for what you are reciting and sending out into the universe with your mantra.
Visualizations with Prayer Wheels
As part of the positive intentions that you bring to mind when you spin the prayer wheel, you may also include visualizations in your mind. It’s important to see the wheel as an extension of the Body, Mind and Speech of the Buddha. Our body spins and moves the wheel, we recite the mantras or prayers with our speech and with our minds we visualize and use our intention to bless all beings and bring peace and happiness to the world. Spinning the prayer wheel while visualizing and meditating is an incredibly powerful practice. For example, visualizations could include:
Seeing beams of pure, bright light like sunlight, radiating out from the prayer wheel and purifying all negativity.
These beams of light can then bring peace and happiness to all beings and relieve them from suffering. Negativity is absorbed and then destroyed by the prayer wheel.
Focusing on a problem in the world such as fear, war, or tragedy and imagining the relief of suffering of those affected as you spin the prayer wheel.
Focusing your thoughts on love, compassion and the well being of others.
Praying and reciting “May all beings be happy. May All beings be free from suffering”
Reciting Om Mani Padme Hum – and while doing so focusing on the benefit to others and the strengthening of our own minds.
Visualizing the healing of someone specific you know who is sick, including yourself.
When to use a Prayer Wheel
You can adapt and use a prayer wheel to best suit your own beliefs if you like. Whatever prayers you feel most connected to can be used as a mantra from any tradition.
Spin your prayer wheel as part of your daily meditation ritual, upon waking up or before going to bed. You can also spin prayer wheels while you do other things like listening to the radio or to music, it is said that the prayers are still released even if you are distracted, but mindful intention while turning the wheel is preferred.
Different kinds of Prayer Wheel
Nowadays there are even digital prayer wheels that have just the same benefits. The Tibet Tech prayer wheels can contain over 84 billion prayers in Sanskrit mantras on 8 different DVD’s, each one blessed and consecrated. These Tibet Tech prayer wheels use traditional wheel design techniques combined with modern computer and DVD storage technology. This does not have any negative effect on the traditions and spirituality behind prayer wheels, for the spiritual intention and care that has been put into creating these new modern wheel is just as pure and mindful. What matters is the motive for all beings to be happy and free from suffering.