Buddhism, veganic gardening, compassion, and the vegan life calls all to deepen our relationships with Mother Earth and each other. Live sustainably, authentically, and lightly on the Earth. Manifest compassion for all sentient beings. The world is an altar. Worship in love.
Fidget Spinner or Prayer Wheel?
You’ve probably seen photos of Tibetan monks and Tibetan
Buddhists carrying those curious looking, cylindrical, hand-held objects that
look like a cross between a brass wheel and a party favor. These are prayer
wheels, and are an ancient, venerated part of the Tibetan Buddhist practice.
Prayer wheels, whether of the hand-held variety, or the
larger, wall or floor mounted kind, originated in Asia – China to be exact – and found their way to Indian Buddhist practice, and finally, to Tibet, where they
were lovingly adopted.
Prayer wheels, called Mani wheels (Mani khorlo) in Tibet, are used for
specific, and a wide range of purposes. But briefly, inside each prayer wheel,
you’ll find a roll – like a receipt roll – of paper inscribed with prayers.
These prayers are almost always the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum (hence why they’re
called Mani wheels). A smaller, hand-held prayer wheel will contain thousands
of mantras: the large wall or floor-mounted Mani wheels may contain millions.
Buddhists believe that by spinning the wheel, the prayers
contained within it are disseminated to all sentient beings and the universe for
the purposes of blessing, purification, and accumulating merit.
Mani wheels are considered beneficial as an effective way
to amplify one’s own prayer life, and aside from blessing others, accumulating
merit for oneself. In Tibet, believers go through their days’ work and responsibilities
carrying Mani wheels in constant revolution. Pilgrims are always spinning Mani
As the effects of Mani wheels reach out to all sentient
beings, animals benefit from their use too. Buddhists are wonderfully aware of
the integrity of all the beings in the universe.
Mani wheels are also honored as tools to bless those whose
lives here have ended (and who now may inhabit the higher and lower realms),
encourage rebirth from lower realms, prevent harm from spirits and negative
beings, purify homes, make our bodies holy places to dwell, as reminders of our
impermanence, and as a practice that keeps the mind locked in prayer and away
from those things that prevent us from knowing our true natures.
Practitioners call it ‘turning the wheel of the Dharma’. We
have a large, brass, standing prayer wheel in our kitchen, next to our meal Gatha.
Its placement allows us to spin it many times a day. We spin it while we’re
making meals, cleaning, or just walking by. I spin it first thing in the
morning, and last thing at night.
Imagine sending prayers to the universe all day long. We
can do that in the privacy of our amazing minds, but Buddhists believe that the
wheel of the Dharma is beneficial even to insects that cross its shadow. In
other words, it’s considered a powerful tool for cultivating the merits of
wisdom, compassion, and a noble mind (bodhicitta) that aspires to enlightenment
for the benefit of all beings.
I believe that just the presence of a prayer wheel can
transform a place, making it peaceful and bringing purification to negative
karmas and thoughts.
I don’t have a hand-held Mani wheel. Like the prayer wheel
in our kitchen – which I acquired during a pilgrimage to Po Lin Monastery in
China – I hope to find a hand-held Mani wheel while on a pilgrimage, a journey,
or at a sacred location.
A friend let me try her fidget spinner recently. It was
interesting. It seems like a silly toy, but I understand its popularity: the modern mind is a cluttered and distracting place that needs rest. But better
than a fidget spinner, I commend to you the Mani wheel, which will accomplish
the same goal as a fidget spinner, but with many, many more benefits – benefits
that will reach far and wide, to all beings everywhere, to all of us who need