Below are excerpts from teachings our precious guru, HE Garchen Rinpoche, has given over the years on the practice of spinning prayer wheels.
HE Garchen Rinpoche Guru Yoga Teachings 2009 at Garchen Institute: Benefits of Spinning the Prayer Wheel
“There are some practitioners who have a strong aspiration to engage in practice and although they really want to practice, due to some karmas they have accumulated in the past, they have not the opportunity to practice and they are under the power of someone else and so they cannot practice.
For them it becomes very important to look for skillful means to engage in practices. For example, if you spin a prayer wheel which is very easy to spin, all the virtues of body speech and mind are contained. There is a physical virtue, a virtue of speech and a virtue of mind when you spin the prayer wheel.
For example, when you hold it in your hands the difficulty of spinning the prayer wheel is the virtue of the body. Then the prayer wheel is filled with mantras and so however many mantras are in that prayer wheel, you will receive the benefits of verbal prostration. So then these mantras as you spin it contain all of the deities and their mandalas. And these mantras are radiating and merging to the outside and fall down like rainfall and pervade all sentient beings mindstreams through the power of love and compassion of the one who is spinning the prayer wheel. So that is the mental prostration. Also it is a mental training of mindfulness because if one spins the prayer wheel and becomes distracted then one will just lose the prayer wheel. So all of the virtues of body, speech and mind are contained within the practice of spinning the prayer wheel. So it is a very beneficial practice.
It is important to understand the benefits of spinning a prayer wheel. And because they are of so much great benefit, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok has ordered 10,000 prayer wheels to be distributed in Taiwan. And I also brought them to this country because I feel the people of this country also need the prayer wheel. So the benefits are inconceivable. So there are some people who make them maybe a little bit too big and when they are too big, maybe it isn’t so good because then one will have no wish to spin them all the time because it is too difficult to spin them all the time. So, it is better to use a smaller prayer wheel and then you can always spin the prayer wheel, you will not get tired of it. And also it is benefitting your body – it is good for your body. So basically all the body, speech and mind virtues are contained in spinning the prayer wheel.
So continuously without interruption you are accumulating virtue of body speech and mind. You can even keep the prayer wheel in your hand at night when you go to sleep. So this way day and night you are accumulating great merit. When we talk about it in terms of merit, there are some who don’t really want to spin a prayer wheel, but still they want the merit. So for example, somebody working for a hundred dollars a day is working very hard because in the end one receives the hundred dollars of the day, because one receives something. But in the same way, what we want to receive is the money for future lifetimes and that is the merit. We will take merit with us from lifetime to lifetime. So these are the benefits of spinning the prayer wheel.
And when we do so, we do so with a beneficial intention and so we also accumulate meritorious actions of generosity, moral discipline and patience. Because the one who is spinning the prayer wheel, if you spin the prayer wheel with bodhicitta, at the same time you are accumulating generosity, moral discipline and patience. And so depending on moral discipline you will achieve a precious human incarnation. Depending on patience you will achieve a long life and a pleasing appearance and you will encounter harmonious friends. Then depending on generosity you will achieve prosperity and wealth. All of these practices have their root in loving kindness and compassion, the intention to benefit sentient beings. So we all do want to accumulate merit and we just don’t know how to accumulate merit. We want the merit but we don’t know how to accumulate the merit. And so as it is said if you want to know how you were in the past, look at your present body and if you want to know your future, look at your present actions. It is just that we don’t know the means to accumulate merit. And so spinning this prayer wheel is an excellent means to accumulate merit through body speech and mind continuously.
And then it is also said that the one who is spinning the prayer wheel is benefitting all the beings surrounding one. It is said that any being embodied or disembodied who sees such a prayer wheel will not be reborn in the lower realms and will be reborn temporarily in the higher realms and experience the happiness of the gods and humans. So the prayer wheel is truly very precious. Continuously we accumulate causes for merit. So it is just that people don’t know how to accumulate merit that they don’t want to spin a prayer wheel. But when we engage in such action and cultivate loving kindness and compassion, then this will lead to a decrease of our self grasping and ultimately we will attain liberation depending on such practices. So these teachings also were spoken by the unmistaken speech of the Buddha himself. So the benefits of spinning a prayer wheel are really inconceivable and they contain the virtuous actions of body speech and mind.
So when you think about it, I am always spinning the prayer wheel, also when I first came here. So when I first came to America, to this country, I did not buy my own plane ticket, somebody else got the ticket and when I arrived I had no food to eat, so the mother Jacki was taking care for us for three months and she gave us food to eat. Then after that we established this center and how this center has been established was only depending on the altruistic mind, a true beneficial wish for sentient beings and all the other emanations of bodhisattvas with bodhicitta. So this has been for the benefit of this country. And in the beginning when I first came here, I had really nothing. I had not even food to eat and so Jacki was feeding me like a bird mother feeding a little bird.
So the merit really is bodhicitta, love and compassion. And love and compassion is Chenrezig. And Chenrezig is symbolized with the mani mantra. And when Drubwang Rinpoche was here, he said “You don’t need to do any other practices, you just need to recite OM MANI PADME HUNG, OM MANI PADME HUNG. That ‘s all you need to do.” And you spin the prayer wheel and if you spin that wheel, everything you are wishing for – you wish for money, you wish for a boyfriend, you wish for a girlfriend, you wish for a house, you wish for the happiness of future lifetimes, everything you will receive from doing that.
So I really don’t have any great qualities or great learnings and just the other day my nephew, the umze Gape Lama said to me – “Now you have been in America for ten years and still you don’t even know how to count from one to ten in the English language.” And so it is true, I really don’t have any learning and still I accomplish much with spinning my wheel. ”
HE Garchen Rinpoche Winter Teachings Phowa 2011 at Garchen Institute
Prayer Wheels as Prostration
“Whatever you do that benefits others is a physical prostration, a physical virtue. Even if you cannot do a physical prostration, if you have some physical limitations, there are still other methods to accumulate physical prostrations, for example, the spinning of a prayer wheel. When you spin a prayer wheel, you accumulate the virtue of body, speech, and mind. The spinning itself is the virtue of the body, like a prostration. The speech is that the prayer wheel is filled with mantras. And the mind is that you remain undistracted while you are spinning a prayer wheel. It is a very good practice, because it is easy to perform and very meaningful. So even if you think you cannot do physical prostration, there is still another method, there are many methods, for example, spinning a prayer wheel that already is a physical prostration. Basically, anything that you do with your body in order to benefit others is a physical prostration.”
Prayer Wheels Phowa and Faith
” Power of faith. Disciples or practitioners have different aspirations and inclinations. You can practice according to your inclinations. For some practitioners, they prefer to practice the method with the winds and some others prefer the visualization. Some even think “Nothing works for me. I’m not good at any of that.” Then they grow tired and then they don’t want to practice. But actually to cultivate faith is most important. If you just cultivate unchanging faith, that is the best method. For example, we have mentioned the benefits of the prayer wheel. It is taught if you have a prayer wheel and your entire life you have great faith into your prayer wheel, then when you die and you have the prayer wheel above your crown on your pillow and someone tells you “The prayer wheel is there [by your crown]” and you hear that, you know it’s there, then your consciousness will go there and that becomes a phowa practice. It serves the function of a phowa practice. It really has that power. I have personal experience with that. I am really someone with a lot of suffering experiences. For example, one time in Tibet, we had a car accident. And during the accident, I not in the slightest thought about “I could be hurt.” I didn’t think that. I was just wanting to hold my prayer wheel—protect my prayer wheel. Then, nothing happened [that is, no one died or was hurt in the car accident]. I really felt “this is really very powerful—it is really true what the Buddha has said.” Such is the power of faith. If you just understand the power of a dharma wheel, a prayer wheel. So, wherever you focus your attention, your consciousness will go there. That is the great quality of faith. Therefore, there is no need to grow tired of practice.
During this time when I had this car accident, I really especially cultivated trust and faith. When we had this car accident, there were five people in the car. The car flipped over and it was totaled. We came out of the car. We were wearing thick clothing, but it was completely torn and blood was coming out. But when we emerged from the car, we realized that this had happened. I hadn’t even thought about this during the accident. None of the 5 people in the car were hurt. And I really felt that this was the compassionate protection of Tara, of the prayer wheel. That experience caused me to cultivate even greater faith. So these powers actually exist.
Most important is that we need the cultivation of faith. First, when we train in phowa, we first cultivate that faith and then we train in the visualization, over and over again, according to our sadhana.”
Benefits from simply touching a prayer wheel
Just touching a prayer wheel brings great purification of negative Karma and obscurations and all beings in the area where the prayer wheel is built will be saved from rebirth in lower realms.
HE Garchen Rinpoche’s essence prayer wheel instructions shared with us by a devoted disciple from Sydney Australia 2014
“After receiving teachings from Rinpoche, during the blessing, in Sydney, Australia 2014, I asked Rinpoche about how to practice with a prayer wheel. He gave a simple teaching explaining that as you spin the prayer wheel you imagine countless Avalokiteshvaras coming out of the prayer wheel like light and merging with sentient beings, blessing and liberating them.”
We welcome any teachings you have received on the benefits of prayer wheel practice from HE Garchen Rinpoche or other teachers. Please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May all beings drowning in the rivers of suffering be pervaded by the blessings streaming through our body speech and mind in the prayer wheel!