Madam - Norbulingka institute gardensThis is the garden at Norbulingka Institute, in Dharamsala.

I’ve written before about this lovely place: a college of sorts that preserves the ancient crafts of Tibet.

There’s a peaceful garden with a little cafe; which incidentally does great cakes. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that is a thing of great import in my life. In fact generally Tibetan culture seems much more secure on baked goods than Indian culture, which is much more sweet based. I know that it is these fine details of cake matters that you, dear reader, have come to rely upon me for. Ahem.

Anyway, I sat in this lovely garden with my new chums from the yoga retreat and absorbed the harmony of the planting, the cake and the birdsong.

And as I gazed on the prayer flags rippling in the wind, replete with cake and at one with the world… I realised that I have no idea how prayer flags work. None.

Do you put them up with a prayer? Do you have them blessed? What do they do? How do they actually work? What, frankly, is the point of them?

Well you can’t call me an enquiring mind, as it took me well over 8 months to get round to googling the matter. Though in my defence I did ask one of my companions who’d actually been to Tibet. She pretty much shrugged and said ‘have you tried the coffee cake?’

And as I am easily distracted by either shiny things or cake… the matter left my mind. But for some reason, this week it returned.

So, I did some googling, and as I am a kind soul, I shall share you the effort and just tell you. It’s rather lovely, actually.

Prayer flags work by having the wind move across them and disseminate good feelings, such as compassion and kindness into the world. The wind takes the prayers from the cloth and shares it for the good of everyone. It also spreads the good vibrations from temples and other holy places. That’s why you find them in densities near such special places.

Madam - Norbulingka institute templeYou also find them on mountain peaks, where the wind is particularly strong and the prayer flags will have most effect by being up high.

They’re put up philanthropically to heal the world and spread as much positivity out into the general populace.

As the prayers fade on them they are considered to be working – and they’re replaced regularly, usually on Tibetan New Year, which is around Chinese New Year, give or take a few days.

The middle of a traditional flag features the ‘wind horse’ lung-ta which is the spiritual being that helps spread the good feelings. Incidentally if you ever hang prayer flags – make sure the wind horse is riding uphill. Apparently it’s not a good thing at all if they’re the other way round.

So there you have it. Prayer flags, a public service.

I’ve been so charmed by all this, that I’ve decided to get some for my apartment. I’m in an incredibly good mood at the moment – loving my job helping people and generally in love with my life. So why not spread those good feelings a little with some philanthropic flag raising.

I’ll post a pic when I’ve picked up some flags from the Tibetan Centre downtown.

I can tell you’re excited.


As I’m talking about Norbulingka, I’ll post the little video I shot in the Temple there for this weeks 1 Minute holiday on Friday.

Or check out this 1 minute holiday at the Dalai Lama’s temple, up the hill from Norbulingka.

Video : 1 minute holiday : Sunrise over the Dalai Lama’s Temple

Or just read some more posts from my visit there:

Signage Sunday : Not made in China
Video : What I was really doing in Punjab
She is my world

Do you know a lot more about prayer flags than I do (it wouldn’t be hard)? If you’d like to share in the comments, then I’m all ears!