As tattered rectangles of colorful cloth flap in the wind high above the mountains, prayers are being sent out to ward off evil.
Tibetan prayer flags are a common sight in the Boulder area. People displaying these flags believe they are religious symbols that ease hardship that life may bring.
According to Karma Wangmo, a nursing major in her third year at CU, Tibetan prayer flags are placed based upon recommendations from Tibetan Buddhist monks. The monks dictate when, where and how the flags should be placed.
If Wangmo were to place a prayer under her brother’s name, she would tell the monk her brother’s birthday and birth symbol, which are given based off the Tibetan calendar, and the monk would inform her of how to best place the flags, Wangmo said.
The monk suggests the best hours of the day and in which cardinal directions the flags should correspond with. The majority of the flags should be placed high atop a mountain because the environment is cleaner and wind is more likely, Wangmo said.
The flags are made with the colors red, yellow, white, green and blue and represent the elements fire, earth, sky, cloud and water. The names of the people or person you are praying for should be written on the flags.
The flags are generally placed on the first day of the Tibetan New Year, which is Feb. 18.
According to Tibetan Buddhism, each person will undergo a certain number of years of hardship. Wangmo still has two years of hardship that she must face.
“When I was 15 I became sick and wasn’t healthy,” Wangmo said. “My parents prayed for me, went to temple, lit candles and placed flags under my name so I wouldn’t be sick or unhealthy.”
When Wangmo turns 25, she expects to have another year of hardship.
Tibetan prayer flags are also used to ward off bad dreams and are placed when someone passes away so the deceased won’t stay on earth or wander around, said Wangmo.