Deckle edge

Tibetan Prayer Flags

Greg Brown

The vibrant colors, the sheer flimsy material, and the tender dance they perform as the wind twists and turns them, has always captured my attention.  They are gentle reminders of the power of hope, intention, and courage.  Whether they hang from the beams of my studio or jump on the breezes, they represent a spirit that refuses to die.  They symbolize the essence of peace and freedom as they flip and flutter on the winds of change.  They are unwavering in their ability to rise above the limits imposed by nationality, political affiliations, and religious dogma.   They are primary.  They are sacred.  They are symbolic.

The history of the Tibetan Prayer Flags begins thousands of years ago in an area of Tibet known as the Bon region.  Located high in the thin altitudes of the Himalayas, the Bon region pre-dates Buddhist Tibet .  There, priests used brightly colored cloths as an aid in healing and ceremony.  The colors represent the five elements: fire, earth, air, water and space.  According to Eastern philosophies, optimum health is acheived through a balance of the five elements.  By wrapping a patient in the flags, the ancient priests would perform healing ceremonies and rituals intended to bring balance.

The flags initialy carried hand-printed messages and prayers written in Sanskrit, an ancient Indo-Aryan language that is the classical language of India and Hinduism.  These messages were later replaced with block-printed images in the 15th century.  This technique allowed the flags to be mass produced and widely distributed.  Today the flags are manufactured using a variety of methods. The Tibetan word for the flags is "dar cho."  "Dar" translates as increasing life, while "cho" means to all beings.  

Together tossing in the the wind, the flags symbolize spiritual health and divine goodness.   Although their intial role was one of spirituality and healing, their role has changed over the years as they evolve to symbolize peace and hope to the oppressed and downtrodden.  Even though the flags have become contemporized, their message and appeal continues to enlighten and encourage all who watch them dance in the wind.

Chris Flisher


Deckle edge