Buddhist Prayer Flags
Fly Messages of Hope and Peace...
Jeff Wright ...The Register-Guard - Eugene, Oregon USA
Today's riddle: What's red and green and yellow and blue and
white and flapping in the wind outside an increasing number
of Eugene homes and businesses?
A thousand prayers for peace. Or, more specifically, strings
of brightly colored Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags.
presence doesn't suggest a sudden rise in Buddha worship so
much as a jump in the number of people who, for personal or
political reasons, say they're drawn to the cheerful hues of
the flags and their underlying message of hope, peace and love.
Paul Carter / The Register-Guard
neighbors Roni Simone and John Coggins sit on the front
porch of her house in the Whiteaker neighborhood under
Buddhist prayer flags.
a reminder and a celebration and a message to the neighborhood
not to take life and love for granted," said John Coggins,
who was immediately agreeable when his next-door neighbor, Roni
Simone, asked if she could string a line of prayer flags between
their homes on Fifth Avenue in the Whiteaker neighborhood.
whose front porch bears a sticker declaring "The Goddess
is In," said she's not Buddhist but nonetheless takes delight
in seeing so many of the flags around town. "It makes me
feel as if, `Oh my God, we aren't lost yet.' "
to ancient Tibetan-Himalayan tradition, as wind drives the flags,
prayers are unleashed to the heavens, carried by Wind Horse.
As the square flags' edges start to fray and the vivid colors
begin to fade, all the prayers are said to be released.
five different colors are said to represent the five elements,
or the five different postures of Buddha: space (blue), water
(white), fire (red), air (green) and earth (yellow).
Eugene, the flags flutter in several neighborhoods, mostly on
the south side of the Willamette River. At least a half-dozen
outlets in town sell the flags, including Potala Gate, a Tibetan
gift shop on Willamette Street run by followers of local teacher
Lama Jigme Lodi.
shop opened a year and a half ago and continues to sell 10 to
20 prayer flags a day, said clerk Dona Forrand. Sales tend to
spike around holidays - such as the Tibetan New Year and even
the Fourth of July - "and haven't hit their peak yet,"
least 90 percent of those who come in to buy the flags have
no direct connection to Tibetan Buddhism, Forrand said. "But
they do recognize Buddhism as accepting of all thoughts,"
she said. "There's a lack of spiritual wholeness and I
think these flags fill a void."
Horizon Screen Print near Monroe, prayer flags now make up nearly
half the company's business, said proprietor John Lafky. The
world is full of "closet Buddhists" and prayer flags
"are a gentle way to express that," he said.
up a string of prayer flags, "and I guarantee you'll discover
all the other Buddhists in your neighborhood real quickly,"
and Pamela DuVall are serious students of Buddhism with prayer
flags at their home on East 34th Avenue. They say they have
no objections whatsoever to non-Buddhists displaying the flags.
more prayer flags, the more good karma," Dale said.
don't think Buddha would have minded," Pamela added.
Geneva Sutter put up some prayer flags in front of the four-unit
apartment complex - with her landlord's blessing - where she
lives on West Third Avenue. She said she has noticed a reduction
in theft, vandalism and other crime since the flags went up.
probably a coincidence, but it's a nice coincidence," she
Emerald Street, 75-year-old Hannah Wilson said she never would
have thought to buy the prayer flags that now hang between two
trees in her front yard. A friend gave them to her in February,
when she had surgery for cancer, "and they turned out to
be the perfect gift."
flag represents some kind of hope, and puts me in touch with
people who care about me," she said. "To me, they
symbolize a kind of prayer to the universe, for the well-being
of the universe. They just kind of lift me."