The Curious Case of the Buddhist Prayer Wheels automation


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How many times have you visited a monastery and came across the Buddhist prayer wheels?

They are there, almost everywhere. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition believes that spinning these wheels has the same effect as verbally reciting the prayers. The Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is most commonly used as the sacred message. Hence these wheels are also known as Mani Wheels. Invented as early as 9th century CE, these prayer wheels made us wonder about the smartness of the ancient pilgrims and how technology inspired them to automate their daily prayer ritual into an effective, time-saving innovation.

Here’s a list of a few types that we came across:

Hand prayer wheels 

Cylindrical, metallic shaft set into a wooden handle that turns on a circular bearing commonly made of Turbinella (conch) shell. The cylinder itself is affixed to a cord or chain terminating in a metal weight allowing it to be spun by a slight rotation of the wrist. This one is most commonly used by pilgrims and followers alike for the day-long prayers.

Stationary prayer wheels

These Buddhist wheels are most commonly seen in the monasteries. Large fixed metal wheels which are kept side by side in huge numbers. The visitors are expected to rotate them with their hands while walking across them.

Water wheels

These are Buddhist prayer wheels that are turned by flowing water, like a turbine. The water which touches these wheels is also considered holy.

Wind wheels 

These types are rotated by the wind. They are often found in and around Buddhist houses, made by basic artifacts like water bottles, paper etc. Supposedly, the wind that touches the prayer wheel helps to negate bad influence.

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Fire wheels

Usually found in the monasteries, these Buddhist prayer wheels are turned by the heat of a candle or melting butter. The light emitted thereby is said to purify negative karma.

Electric wheels 

These are the latest addition to the Buddhist prayer automation framework. Powered by motors, often accompanied by lights, these prayer wheels are somewhat looked down upon by the staunch believers.

Solar wheels 

Often found on car dashboards, these wheels are more of a touristy souvenir item and their religious powers are rarely discussed. They have a solar panel which helps converts solar energy to mechanical energy thus resulting in the required rotation.

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These prayer wheels make us wonder how technology can influence our lives, even in the abode of God.

Want to share your stories or experiences about how technology is influencing today’s religious practices? Comment below or write to us at editor@blankslatechronicles.com.

 

About Anandita Dasgupta

Anandita is a techie, an adventurer and a closet romantic. She eats to survive and backpacks around the world for nourishment. Her practical worldview is reflected in her crisp and relatable writing style. She writes on a wide range of topics, but her core areas of interest are travel, career and culture!

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Anandita Dasgupta

Anandita is a techie, an adventurer and a closet romantic. She eats to survive and backpacks around the world for nourishment. Her practical worldview is reflected in her crisp and relatable writing style. She writes on a wide range of topics, but her core areas of interest are travel, career and culture!

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