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
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
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.