The flag for your country. The flag for your state. There are so many flags you can fly.
You can fly the flag that represents allegiance to a religion or to an athletic team. You can let your “freak flag” fly. But, there’s one flag that we can all fly for peace, no matter which side of the political divide we fall on. It doesn’t divide us by politics or religion, by race or creed, or by gender or sexuality.
This flag is a prayer flag, and while it originates in Tibet, it defies religion or any other barrier. Prayer flags are meant to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. They don’t carry prayers, but the flags themselves are prayers, or good intentions, or however you’d like to classify them. They are meant to spread peace on the wind. It’s the intention of the prayer flags that make them beautiful and special.
We can choose to make our own prayer flags or to buy them. The colors of the prayer flag are meant to represent planet Earth’s elements (fire-red, water-green, earth-yellow, air/wind-white, and sky/space-blue), as well as the cardinal directions of north, south, east, west, and center.
The flags fading colors symbolize the peaceful energy sent out into the world—they’re meant to fade, to unravel, to be torn by the wind and rain with time. They can be given as gifts to promote peace and good fortune. They can be flown horizontally or vertically, but like any flag, they are not meant to touch the ground. Instead, they’re meant to be hung high to catch the breeze.
Tibetan prayer flag websites even offer templates with symbols for good fortune and mantras to include a specific intention with the prayer. Eight of the auspicious symbols that may be included on the flag are the dharma wheel (symbolizing the law of the universe), the victory banner (symbolizing wisdom and overcoming obstacles), the endless knot (symbolizing meditation and knowledge), the parasol (symbolizing protection from evil), the treasure vase (symbolizing wish fulfillment), the lotus (symbolizing purity and spiritual growth), and the conch shell (symbolizing enlightened teaching).
While this originates in Tibet, these flags are not limited by religion. They aren’t sending out prayer to a particular God or gods. Instead, they are meant to convey peace and good will and have that positive energy blown out into the world on the wind.
It’s beautiful if you think about it. It’s more beautiful still when you consider that the breakdown of the flags are an important part of the tradition. Like us, these flags age. Time takes a toll, as do hardships. Yet, we are strong. We are capable of sending out our strength and positivity and contributing to peace in our world. We endure, even when we think we can’t. Our edges fray, and we show the dirt of the lives we have lived. Yet, still we go on, putting our energy into the world.
Regardless of the flag we choose to fly or what it means to us, we can unite under the auspicious energy of prayer flags. We can agree that we all want peace—and if we agree on that, isn’t it possible for us to find a way to make it happen?
Isn’t there a possibility, however remote, that we can find a way to bridge our differences and to live together in harmony?
I’d like to think so.
Until then, I think I’ll make my own prayer flag and watch the wind blow those joyful, peaceful thoughts out into the universe.
I will choose peace—even when my soul twists up in anger and cries out against injustice.
I will choose peace—even when my intellect claws and snaps at the confines of a world that still hasn’t learned from its dark history.
I will choose peace—even when my soul is shaking, haunted by the wrongs I’ve witnessed and the ones I’ve unwittingly perpetuated through my own ignorance.
I will choose peace—even when I want to go to war on against hatred and ignorance.
I will choose peace, even when I want to burn it all down—every single white robe or message of hate scrawled on a wall or shouted from mouths that would be better put to praying for the peace I seek.
I will choose peace. And I will start with a prayer. But not the kind of prayer that begins with an appeal to a deity and ends with a tidy bow wrapped around it in the form of an amen or a genuflection. This prayer is the kind that is made from simple cloth in bright colors and is wrapped up tightly with our desire for peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom.
We hang them high and hope that our peaceful energy, raw authenticity, and incredible love will fly out and touch others. It is a reminder of hope and an unspoken, but deeply felt, prayer for peace.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: WikiMedia Commons
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Callie Rushton