A look into Prayer Flags, a symbolic Buddhist artifact with an ancient and manifold history, and how they represent impermanence.
In the West, we constantly want to replace old things. Shirt has a hole? In the bag for the Salvation Army. Microwave making that funny noise again? In the garbage it goes.
Well, prayer flags don’t work that way. In the Himalayan region, you see them dancing on mountaintops, in valleys, or along the road. Anyone can put them up. The flags are often just left to the passing of time (though old ones can be burned, spreading merit in smoke). Freshly hung, they’re bright, seen for miles. The wind changes them. First they get a little stringy along the bottom. Designed to slowly fray, they’re not made for endurance. As the sun hits, day after day, they fade. Soon the flags are near illegible, turned almost gray. Yet, this seems to increase their merit. By the time they disintegrate, the space around them feels different, lighter. Prayer flags, like anything, are highly impermanent.
The prayer flag has a long history, dating back to ancient Tibet, China, Persia, and India. The flags are inscribed with symbols, prayers, invocations, and mantras.
The wind carries the blessings to all living beings. While mountains are their ideal location, if you don’t have a mountain handy, the flags can also be hung pretty much anywhere, as long as they’re off the ground. I know a woman who hangs prayer flags on her clothesline, much to the detriment of drying clothes. If your neighbors complain the flags are starting to look a bit ratty, just tell them “it’s for your own merit.” I’m sure they’ll believe you.