By: Tyler Sit
March 17, 2014
In Tibetan Buddhism, the prayer flags are called “wind horses” because they carry the prayers of the Buddhists through the mountains. Their bright colors fill the north Indian landscape, especially in sacred Buddhist sites.
While I have had quite a few talks with Buddhists about wind horses, I do not know nearly enough about them—the details of the prayers that they have written on them, the history of this tradition, or even what prayer exactly means in Buddhism— to call this tradition my own. I grew up in a Methodist part of America, and the closest thing to prayer flags that I had encountered is “Christ is Risen!” banners that the Stitching Committee made before Easter.
The temptation that I had to appropriate the wind horses for Christian purposes was palpable—they are so beautiful and colorful and the image of horses carrying prayers was so striking. “Prayer is prayer, right?” I rationalized as I started to do a Trinitarian blessing on some wind horses.
“Well,” I stopped myself, “yes and no.” Prayer from the heart is prayer from the heart—I certainly believe that—but contemporary Americans all-too frequently commits the sin of religious homogenization. Just because I believe that God is among all people and that prayer helps us connect to God, that doesn’t mean that that is how the Tibetans would want this tradition to be used.
I went to a rocky outcropping on the mountain and said the Lord’s Prayer alongside the wind horses. On my way back, the bright yellow, blue, white, red, and green cloth fluttered overhead gracefully. For this trip, at least, I think it would be best for the wind horses to do what they were intended to do, and I can simply enjoy them as a Christian friend.
Tags...: Thinking Out Loud