Secret of the Four Auspicious Animals on Prayer Flag

Secret of the Four Auspicious Animals on Prayer Flag

A prayer flag is better known as 'Lung ta' in Tibet. This in fact means 'Wind Horse'. It is a symbol of the mind and the wind can be ridden since it is viewed as a vehicle. There are several religious materials and beliefs including four auspicious animals on a prayer flag, a mala and more.

A mala is essentially a string of beads and is mainly for counting mantras. Traditionally a mala would have 108 beads however; they can also have less number of beads like 54, 27, 21, and 18. This does not usually include spacer beads since such beads are only in such a mala (necklace) for the purpose of decoration and thus do not have any spiritual value.

This article goes on to explain several artifacts of religious significance, the correct method in which one must use them and the religious significance of them.

What is a prayer flag?

It is a colorful rectangular cloth that is popular in Tibet. As the belief goes the origin of the prayer-flag is from Gautama Buddha. Battle flags that are put to use during wars have prayers on them for many reasons. It is found in Tibet where it is now strung on mountain sides and near the Himalaya peak. There are several reasons why, one of it is to bless the surroundings.

A Tibetan prayer-flag is a set of five flags of different colors and each has its significance. It is necessary to arrange this in a specific order and goes like this from left to right, Blue, White, Red, Green, Yellow. They represent different elements like blue for sky and space, white for air and wind, red for fire, green for water and yellow for earth.

This flag often has several symbols. The most common one is the traditional 'Lung ta' (strong horse) with three flaming Jewels on its back. The flaming jewels are a Buddhist symbol for Buddha, Dharma, Sangha that signifies Buddha, Buddhist teaching and Buddhist community respectively.

There is often a misconception that a prayer-flag is for the purpose of prayer to God. Instead it is a method of promoting peace, strength, compassion and wisdom to all. It is common to hang these flags on high places to bestow blessing on all as the wind passes over all flags.

There are many types of prayer flags in Tibet; this articles goes on to describe the significance of the four auspicious animals on a prayer-flag and several other Buddhist Artifacts that easily available online.

Significance of four Auspicious Animals on Prayer Flag

A prayer flag with four Auspicious Animals is known as 'The four Dignities'. This represents sacred qualities and attitude on the path to enlightenment for Bodhisattva. Such a flag has the following four Auspicious Animals in print:

  • Garuda:
A Garuda represents fearlessness. It symbolizes 'Fire' and is also known as a Khyung which is an eagle bird deity. Garuda also known as Eagle is the king of the birds. It is derived from the root Gri. The human upper body, big eyes, beak, with short blue horns, and yellow hair, bird's claws and wings represents the Garuda. It is popular for symbolizing the space element and power of the Sun that can dry up the waters. They hunt snakes and thus control them. It represents spiritual energy, and they can stretch out their wings and soar into space. It also represents freedom of mind.
  • Sky Dragon
A Dragon represents gentle power and symbolizes water.
  • Snow Lion
Snow Lion represents clear awareness and symbolizes the Earth. Lions are symbolic in Buddhism as the "Sons of Buddha" (Bodhisattvas). Those who have attained a high level of spiritual development are Bodhisattvas beings. They practice six paramitas like Charity, Patience, Morality, Effort, Wisdom, Concentration. There are also four other that are derived from the basic six like skill, power, vows, and knowledge. The follow the Bodhicitta and have vowed to renounce happiness of highest enlightenment and remain present in the world till all beings are free from suffering.
  • Tiger
A Tiger represents confidence and represents 'Air'.

Other Buddhist Artifacts

Prayer flag is just one of the many Buddhist Artifacts from Nepal, Tibet and others parts of the world. The other popular Artifacts include:

  • Mala Beads:
Mala is Sanskrit for Garland and are prayer beads worn since ancient times. It has a great significance in Buddhism and several other religions.
  • Incense:
Incense is handmade by people (Nuns) in Kathmandu, Nepal from only natural ingredients (herbal).
  • Singing Bowls:
Several types of handmade singing bowls are available from antiques old to some of the recent ones.
  • Jewelry:
Special jewelry like earings, necklaces, special malas, wrist malas, etc also holds traditional value.