Traditionally, the flag is made of cloth torn into a rectangular shape. A horse bearing three flaming jewels is drawn in the center, with each jewel representing a cornerstone of Tibetan philosophical tradition. The four corners each have an animal: dragon, tiger, snow lion, and garuda (a bird-like creature). Across the entirety of the flag, mantras are printed, each for a deity, as well as prayers for a long blessed life for the person hanging the flags. The Prayer Flags are made in five colors and are arranged left-to-right in a specific order: blue (sky/space), white (air/wind), red (fire), green (water), and yellow (earth). All five colors are balanced, so health and harmony are created.
The flags are connected along their top edges to a long string and hung on a diagonal from high to low between two objects in high places, like the tops of temples, monasteries, and mountain passes. The belief is that prayers written on the flags will be blown by the wind to spread goodwill and compassion to all beings. The wind carries the messages out into the world, surrounding and helping those it touches. The fading print and fraying edges of the flags over time remind us that nothing is permanent, that we are to welcome life’s changes as it is all part of a cycle. When flags become worn, they may be removed and respectfully burned, or simply left hanging with new flags overlapping them.
Creating Peace Flags with children is a beautiful, tangible way for children to express their wishes to the world. Before beginning to create their flags, be sure to have all the supplies ready: paper or cloth in the appropriate colors, markers, paint, stickers, glitter, glue, and string to hang the flags. You want your kids to be calm and peaceful when creating their flags, so doing this right after savasana is perfect. After a brief explanation of the flags’ tradition, invite children to make their own Prayer Flag in hope of uniting all people with the spirit of peace and harmony. They should express their wishes for the world. They can use words and artwork. Perhaps provide a few quotes or vocabulary words to use (like shanti, shalom, unity, compassion, etc.). You could also use the traditional flag art as inspiration, using four animals that best represent the strengths or wishes the children have. Or, the horse in the center could become their school mascot and the wishes could be for their classmates.
Then, as a group, decide where to hang the flags. Choose someplace you’ll see often, so that each time you look at the flags, you can send out a thought of peace, kindness, and generosity. You might also pick an outdoor location, to demonstrate the fraying and fading of the flags, reiterating impermanence and being aware of the moment.
The United Nation International Day of Peace is celebrated each September 21st. This would be a perfect opportunity to create Peace Flags in celebration and support of world peace.