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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Blowing in the wind: Tibetan prayer flags a booming trend in Boulder

September 11, 2010

By Katie Lindberg,
The Colorado Daily
September 9, 2010

Tenzin Passang, owner of the Tibet Gallery in
Boulder, explains the meaning of the colors of
the prayer flags in his shop. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

You can see them pretty much around any corner in
Boulder: Bright, primary colored squares of cloth
strung together, floating in the wind or gently resting on porch railings.

These are Tibetan prayer flags.

The red, white, green, yellow and blue flags that
you see are, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition,
called "lung-ta," with lung meaning "wind" and ta
meaning "horse." These flags traditionally are
hung in hopes of good luck and fortune.

Within the Buddhist religion, these flags can be
used for merit making and sending out prayers of
good intentions through the wind. Although the
prayers with good intentions are pretty much the subject for any owners.

These flags have been linked to the hippie
counterculture of Boulder, but one may wonder
whether the owners and "hangers" of them -- not
to mention passersby -- truly know what they represent.

Tenzin Passang, owner of Tibet Gallery on Pearl
Street, said, "If people don't know what they
are, they come in interested. They will say their
neighbors have them and then want to know what they mean."

"I got them from my mom when she traveled to
India," University of Colorado senior Jenna
Rehnborg said, "because I'm obsessed with Mount
Everest and they're hung by people who summit it
and at base camps as prayers for the climbers."

Rehnborg admits to "not knowing how they're
supposed to be used," and said, "they're actually
in a drawer somewhere right now."

Erica Laley, a senior at Naropa University, does
not own prayer flags, but she knows the general gist of them.

"The prayer flags are meant to bring peace and
compassion," she said. "The different colors represent the different elements."

Laley can even name which element goes with each
color. She said she can credit knowing all of
this through some of the special core required
courses at Naropa such as Contemplative Practice.

As to whether Laley's fellow students and others
in Boulder actually know what their own prayer
flags mean, she said she's skeptical.

Holly Gayley is an assistant professor in CU's
Religious Studies department, specializing in
Buddhism and Tibetan literature. In her office
she has a small set of paper prayer flags hanging
above her doorway, but, according to tradition,
"If they're made of paper they're purely for decoration."

As to why so many in the Boulder area have prayer
flags adorning their porches or doorways, Gayley
credits the large Buddhist population in Boulder,
as well as her opinion that all things Tibetan
attract interest in the area as well.

Also, "Who wouldn't want to send prayers of compassion out into the world?"
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