Believed to help people in gaining merit and cleansing their karma, Hand Spinning Prayer wheels are cylindrically shaped wheels with sacred Buddhist scriptures inscribed in the form of mantras, which are to be chanted in a repetitive order.
The hand spinning prayer wheels are a common sight in the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. On the outside of the wheel, and as well as on the scroll within, the mantra “OM MANI PADME HUM”, which translate as “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus” in English, is engraved in brass. Hand spinning prayer wheels are intricately decorated by using small beads of red and blue jade. The red jade is supposed to introduce the energy of a warrior in the practitioner whereas the blue jade denotes peace and serenity. Most of the homes in Bhutan would have at least one hand spinning wheel since the wheel plays an important role in the day-to-day life of the Bhutanese.
Turning the wheel of Dharma has spiritual significance
The use of hand-spinning prayer wheels has spiritual, mental, and physical benefits. Buddhist texts speak of “turning the wheel of dharma” which led to the concept of the prayer wheel, a mechanical device that consists of an embossed hollow cylinder and a rod that runs through its height. Inside the rod is a tightly rolled-up scroll of mantras. This holy tool has handcrafted mantras engraved upon it. The recitation of a mantra by the practitioners in the form of a sacred syllable or verse makes the whole spiritual process more fulfilling. It is believed that the deity whose mantra is written in the prayer wheel emerges from the wheel with each turn of the wheel.
The Om Mani Padme Hum mantra
On most prayer wheels is engraved and inserted the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, a mantra of great importance in Buddhism.
Om — Refers to generosity. Chanting Om purifies the pride and ego from oneself. It is represented by white colour and symbolizes Wisdom.
Ma — Addresses the jealousy, ethics, and lust for entertainment in the body. The green colour represents this and symbolizes Compassion.
Ni — Represents patience and purifies one’s passion and desire. It is denoted by the colour yellow and symbolizes the Body, Speech, Mind.
Pad — Pad is diligence that removes ignorance in the human body. It is represented by blue colour and symbolizes Equanimity.
Me — Speaks to the eradication of poverty and possessiveness in the human body. Me is depicted by the colour red and represents Bliss.
Hum — Represents wisdom that nullifies the aggression and hate in the body. It is represented in black colour and symbolizes the Quality of Compassion.
The popularity of Hand-spinning wheels
In Bhutan, these prayer wheels are used by people of all ages daily, for even hours at a time. Worshippers spin these wheels to earn merit, protect from bad omens, and benefit all sentient beings in the world, by purifying their deeds. It is believed that a combination of chanting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and using the prayer wheel at the same time has the power to relieve the misery of all beings.