Photographer's Note

Buddhist monks posing after their visit of Dalai Lama’s palace Potala in Lhasa, Tibet.


Potala Palace, named after Mount Potala, was the main residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, following an invasion by the Chinese and a failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese government.


Tibetan prayer wheels that you may see in these Buddhist monks’ hands (called Mani wheels by the Tibetans) are cylindrical devices for spreading spiritual blessings and well being. Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with many copies of the mantra (prayer) Om Mani Padme Hum, are wound around an axle in a protective container, and spun around and around.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying this mantra, out loud or silently to oneself, invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion. As the practitioner turns the wheel, it is best to focus the mind and repeat the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra. Not only does this increase the merit earned by the wheel's use but it is a mind stabilization technique that trains the mind while the body is in motion. The idea is said to have originated as a play on the phrase "turn the wheel of the dharma," a classical metaphor for Buddha's teaching activity.

There are many types of Mani wheels, but small hand-held wheels, like the ones shown here, are the most common by far. Tibetan people carry them around for hours, and even on long pilgrimages, spinning them any time they have a hand free. Larger wheels, which may be several meters high and two meters in diameter, can contain myriad copies of the mantra, and may also contain sacred texts, up to hundreds of volumes. They can be found mounted in rows next to pathways, to be spun by people entering a shrine, or along the route which people use as they walk slowly around and around a sacred site -- a form of spiritual practice called circumambulation.

Tibetan Buddhist Mani wheels are always spun clockwise because it follows the direction of the sun, and it matches the clockwise circumambulation of stupas. We were told that, the sea shells thru which the prayer wheels’ axis passes, are used later by the locals (when the small holes get larger thanks to spinning) to produce necklaces and are highly regarded as a precious item of a dowry.

With the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism into the West, new types of Mani wheels have come into being. Tibet’s spiritual leader Dalai Lama is said to have declared that having the mantra on computers works the same as a traditional prayer wheel. Since a computer's hard disk spins hundreds of thousands of times per hour, and can contain many copies of the mantra, anyone who wants to can turn their computer into a prayer wheel.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potala_Palace

Cropped and applied retouches.

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Additional Photos by Erdem Kutukoglu (Suppiluliuma) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 266 W: 105 N: 604] (3931)
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