Prayer wheel

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Prayer wheel or mani wheel (Tib. མ་ཎི་ཆོས་འཁོར་, Wyl. mani chos 'khor) — a cylindrical wheel on a spindle around which is rolled paper (or in modern times microfilm[1]) with mantras, usually the mani mantra, written or printed on it. It is said that by turning the prayer wheel, you accumulate the same amount of merit as reciting the amount of mantras inside. This is accomplished through the clockwise turning of the prayer wheel which activates and releases the power of the mantras inside.[2]

The Mani Kabum tells us that Nagarjuna was encouraged by Avalokiteshvara to go to the land of the nagas to retrieve a very precious Dharma wheel that brings about swift liberation from the lower realms, through mere sight, sound, thought or touch. Nagarjuna went and requested the Bodhisattva Naga King to give it to him. The latter explained the nagas had received the dharma wheel from the Buddha Dipamkara before giving it to him along with practical instructions and encouraging him to build many prayer wheels powered by the four elements. Nagarjuna in turn passed these instructions to Simhamukha who passed them to Tilopa and Padmasambhava.[3]

Prayer wheels became so much part of spiritual life in Tibet, that Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche recalls; "In old Tibet, everywhere you looked, you saw people, particularly older people, spinning prayer wheels from morning to night, while reciting the mani mantra to relieve the misery of all beings."[4]


It is said:

Buddha Amitabha explained the benefits of the six syllables[5]
in order to benefit sentient beings living in dark times.
Someone who spins a prayer wheel
while simultaneously reciting the six syllables
has fortune equal to one thousand buddhas.[6]

Padmasambhava said:

Here is the purpose of prayer wheels:
for those who lack diligence to practice the oral instructions, and who abide freely, they bring the attainment of siddhis.
For those who are diligent, they function as supports for pure mantra recitation.
They can even purify infinite negative deeds effortlessly.
Even touching a prayer wheel just once can result in liberation.
They bring the effortless attainment of happiness, goodness and many enlightened qualities.[7]

Avalokiteshvara’s Guhyasamaja Tantra states:

Here is the visualization for a mani mantra prayer wheel:
From the great Dharma wheel rays of light emanate and completely gather the emotional poisons, suffering, and negative habitual tendencies – the seeds of the six classes of beings – without exception.
Then they dissolve back into the six-syllable prayer wheel.
Imagine that negative emotional states and karma, along with their seeds, and the habitual tendencies of the six classes of beings, along with their seeds, are burned, destroyed, and purified.
If you possess these oral instructions you will be liberated from the causes, conditions, and results of samsara, and from all negative emotions, karma, transgressions, and obscurations.
Prayer wheels are what sever the root of samsara.
This instruction is extremely secret and important for practice.
Radiating lights rays from the mantras of these precious wheels – the application of activity – penetrate all beings, the four immeasurables – are spontaneously established in their minds and the six paramitas are perfected.[8]


  1. Whereas traditional hand-held prayer wheel could hold only several thousand mani mantras, modern hand-held prayer wheels with microfilm inside can hold more than a 100 million!
  3. Lorne Ladner, The Wheel of Great Compassion - The Practice of the Prayer Wheel in Tibetan Buddhism, (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2000)
  5. i.e. the mani mantra
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.

Further Reading

  • Lorne Ladner, The Wheel of Great Compassion - The Practice of the Prayer Wheel in Tibetan Buddhism, (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2000)

External Links