When we think of Tibetan Buddhism, we imagine ancient temples on the bleak slopes of the Himalayas, a refuge from the sufferings of the world, where the low, melodious chanting of scriptures can be heard, and where monks engage in meditative concentration on the nature of the mind and reality. Clouds of incense smoke waft over the landscape and pious pilgrims, both young and old, circumambulate the holy sites and white-washed stupas, chanting mantras and spinning hand-held prayer wheels.
Prayer wheels, a common part of Tibetan Buddhist paraphernalia, are often underrated by those new to Buddhism. Tibetans, however, believe that spinning prayer wheels (the bigger the better) is a powerful way of generating tremendous amounts of merit necessary for spiritual awakening and that installing prayer wheels in a place is an immensely effective way to transform the environment. Our prayer wheels are meticulously and specially prepared so as to guarantee they produce copious amounts of merits for the pilgrim to generate the spiritual energy necessary to complete the arduous journey to enlightenment. Hand held prayer wheels are convenient, easy to use and very powerful to bless our mind and environment.
Known as khorlo (འཁོར་ལོ།) in Tibetan, prayer wheels are hollow cylindrical wheels filled with mantras associated with a particular Buddha. These are placed on a spindle traditionally made from wood, metal, stone, leather or coarse cotton, and are spun while reciting mantras. They are also sometimes generically known as Mani Wheels or mani chökhor (མ་ནི་ཆོས་འཁོར།), although this term only applies to prayer wheels filled with the OM MANI PEME HUNG mantra, associated with Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.
These are the most commonly found types of prayer wheels. However, prayer wheels can be filled with the mantras of any deity. Common deity mantras used in prayer wheels include Lama Tsongkhapa’s Mig Tse Ma, and the mantras of Kalachakra, Vajrasattva, Dukkar and Guru Rinpoche. We have in our prayer wheel the mantra of Vajrayogini, the special deity who transports us to the realm of Keajra, her special abode.
Prayer wheels are a helpful method to gather more mileage in our spiritual practice which can bless our environment, our pets, our loved ones and ourselves.