Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheels
Prayer wheels or Mani wheels are a device used in Tibetan Buddhism to accumulate merit and to spread spiritual blessings. The wheels come in many different forms but all consist of a prayer filled drum spun clockwise on its axle. The drums are filled with the Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra ranging from hundreds in the small Wheels through to millions in the large Wheels. Prayer wheels are to be found around all temples and monasteries
in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India and where these are to be found there are throngs of Tibetan Buddhist monks pilgrims and lay people participating in a clockwise circumambulation or Kora. As they go they spin the wheels always in a clockwise direction. Manu also carry the hand held Prayer wheels. Working in much the same way these Prayer wheels work by rotating the wrist.

       

The Hand held prayer wheels have a long handle from the barrel. They also have a weight attached to the barrel to aid momentum whist swinging the wheel. Around monasteries and temples are often found very large wheels many metres high that take great strength to turn. In many mountainous regions where water flows freely can be found water powered prayer wheels working in a similar manner to a water mill. The wheels are always spun clockwise. This enables the mantra to to be read as it would from a page and follows the clockwise circumambulations of those doing the kora
The Mantras in the Prayer Wheels are nearly always Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum is a mantra particularly associated with the four-armed form of Avalokiteshvara / Chenrezig. Mani means "the jewel" and Padma means "the lotus". It is the six syllabled mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan Chenrezig). The mantra is especially revered by the devotees of the Dalai Lama, as he is said to be an incarnation of Chenrezig or Avalokiteshvara.

 
   
 

According to the lineage texts on prayer wheels, prayer wheels are used to accumulate wisdom and merit (good karma) and to purify negativities (bad karma). In Buddhism, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have created a variety of skilful means (upaya) to help bring practitioners ever closer to realizing enlightenment. The idea of spinning mantras relates to numerous Tantric practices whereby the Tantric practitioner visualizes mantras revolving around the nadis and especially around the meridian chakras such as the heart and crown. Therefore, prayer wheels are a visual aid for developing one's capacity for these types of Tantric visualizations. The spiritual method for those practicing with a prayer wheel is very specific (with slight variations according to different Buddhist sects). The practitioner most often spins the wheel clockwise, as the direction in which the mantras are written is that of the movement of the sun across the sky. On rare occasions, advanced Tantric practitioners such as Senge Dongma, the Lion-Faced Dakini, spin prayer wheels counter clockwise to manifest a more wrathful protective energy. As the practitioner turns the wheel, it is best to focus the mind and repeat the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. Not only does this increase the merit earned by the wheel's use, but it is a mind-stabilization technique that trains the mind while the body is in motion. Intoning the mani mantra with mindfulness and the "Bodhichitta" motivation dramatically enhances the effects of the prayer wheel. However, it is said that even turning it while distracted has benefits and merits, and it is stated in the lineage text that even insects that cross a prayer wheel's shadow will get some benefit. Each revolution is as meritorious as reading the inscription aloud as many times as it is written on the scroll, and this means that the more Om Mani Padme Hum mantras that are inside a prayer wheel, the more powerful it is. It is best to turn the wheel with a gentle rhythm and not too fast or frantically. While turning smoothly, one keeps in mind the motivation and spirit of compassion and bodhichitta (the noble mind that aspires to full enlightenment for the benefit of all beings). The benefits attributed to the practice of turning the wheel are vast. Not only does it help wisdom, compassion and bodhichitta arise in the practitioner, it also enhances siddhis (spiritual powers such as clairvoyance, precognition, reading others thoughts, etc.). The practitioner can repeat the mantra as many times as possible during the turning of the wheel, stabilizing a calm, meditative mind. At the end of a practice session, there is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition of dedicating any accumulated merits that one may have gathered during practice to the benefit of all sentient beings. Then Om Ah Hum 3 times. This is customary with Tibetans upon completing any Buddhist practice, including the practice of the prayer wheel.

 
 

How to take apart and re-assemble a Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheel

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