A Lung ta prayer flag is a colorful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes. Prayer Flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols, invocations, prayers, and mantras. Bhutan Buddhists for centuries have planted these flags outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside.
Prayer flags are said to bring happiness, long life and prosperity to the flag planter and those in the vicinity. Dharma prints bear traditional Buddhist symbols, protectors and enlightened beings. As the Buddhist spiritual approach is non-theistic, the elements of Tantric iconography do not stand for external beings, but represent aspects of enlightened mind i.e. compassion, perfect action, fearlessness, etc. Displayed with respect, Dharma prints impart a feeling of harmony and bring to mind the precious teachings.
Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colors. The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. The five colors represent the elements and the Five Pure Lights. Different elements are associated with different colors for specific traditions, purposes and sadhana. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. According to Traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.
By hanging flags in high places the Lung ta will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags, which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras.
The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.