A Praying Wheel is an exclusively Tibetan Buddhist praying instrument which always bears the mystical word ‘OM MANI PADME HUM’ [Jewel in the Lotus of the Heart] numbering six syllables in the mantra of Avalokitesvara. The syllables are carved outside the wheel as well as kept inside the wheel printed in the paper in numerous numbers. It is generally made of a cylindrical body of metal, penetrated along its axis by a wooden or metal handle. The cylinder can turn around the handle, with a slight rotation of the wrist, thanks to a cord or ballasted chain, which keeps it in movement. Inside this cylinder, written on paper or skin, are esoteric texts, usually invocations (mantra), the most common being that of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion (Avalokitesvara).
These prayer wheels may be small and carried by pilgrims, or larger and fixed to the gates of monasteries or around stupas and chortens. Each turn of the cylinder generates as much merit as the reading of the sutra or the formula enclosed therein. All these objects are also called chockor in Tibetan, ‘Wheel of the Law’. Some are very large and, enclosed in small structures, turn under the action of a ‘mill’ driven by waterpower and electric motors.
Tibetans use prayer wheels to spread spiritual blessings to all sentient beings and invoke good karma in their next life. They believe that every rotation of a prayer wheel equals one utterance of the mantra, thus the religious practice will in return help them accumulate merits, replace negative effects with positive ones, and hence bring them good karma. The religious exercise is part of Tibetan life. People turn the wheel day and night while walking or resting, whenever their right hands are free while murmuring the same mantra. Buddhists turn the wheel clockwise. Bon followers turn the wheel counter clockwise.