An astonishment a day- 
drives your depression away...

My prayer mill and emigration to New Zealand. 

Alan Rogers, who in the 1980's  worked on computer programs for the automatic recital of prayers was not at all new to this area. Automatic praying has been done for years by the Tibetan Buddhists, and to this day we still have prayer wheels that either work on the same principle as the rattle used in the Catholic Church, or alternatively are driven by wind or water (I wonder if domestic animals have ever been used, similarly to the use of dogs in Europe for turning of a rotating spit).

The classical Tibetan praying wheel consists of a drum that rotates on an axle attached to a handle, also weighed down on one side with a hanging pendant which allows a rotational motion to be achieved. Many praying wheels are works of art, but it is also worthwhile to look at the technology behind them. My mill has a beautiful brass handle with a bone inset with precisely chiseled depictions of Buddha. The handle is extended with a dark, hard wood mounted with decorative nails. Inside this handle is a metal spike on which the actual drum rotates. Between the handle and the drum a washer is located that further assists the rotation. The drum itself is made of bone, finished with brass caps on either end, decorated with turquoise and red coral. Sculpted into the bone are two identical inscriptions written in the Tibetan alphabet.  These inscriptions are the well known mantra "Om mani padme hum" which translates to "Oh jewel of the lotus flower! Hum!" The axle is then finished with a cone-like lotus bud made from a very hard wood. The weight hanging off the drum on a metal chain is a small figurine of the Buddha. Buddhist mantras can be heard here 



The drum itself is empty inside, it is made of a thick long bone, with marrow cavity. If one carefully takes the cap off the drum, inside is found a scroll covered with handwriting on both sides. Each rotation of the drum is equivalent to the reciting of the prayers or mantras on the scroll. On the attached photograph of a Lama one can see a prayer wheel in action. 

I have not been to Tibet, during the eighties when I was headed in that direction, I reached only as far as Nepal. Tibet has been under Chinese occupation for years. At the main square in the old Kathmandu, a man came up to me, very similar to the one in the photo, and offered me his praying wheel for a couple of dollars. I gladly accepted his offer.

Years later, already when I was in New Zealand, I started to compare the writings on the drum with the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" and I was amused to find that they were upside down. It then became obvious as to why karma had thrown me into this corner of the world, where everything is upside down compared with Poland. I must confess that in moments of meditation and depression, I have used the wheel, if only for reasons of stress relief. And the fact that the mantras have been upside down, karma correct my position and now everything is as it should be. 



(C) (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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March 2003