His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, will visit Birmingham, Alabama for a four-day weekend beginning Oct. 24, 2014. Public and private events are being planned, including an address by the Dalai Lama at Birmingham's Regions Field on Oct. 26. The visit will feature a theme of human rights. If you know anything about the history of civil rights in America, you know this is a big deal. Mayor William Bell says it's an honor for the Dalai Lama to visit Birmingham, the scene of large civil rights protests in the early 60s.
MLK's non-violent work towards achieving racial freedom and equality is similar to the Dalai Lama's own message of loving kindness and compassion. We undoubtedly live in a more free world because of both MLK and His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL). Our issues of race, hatred and bigotry are certainly improved. Yet, this visit by HHDL to Birmingham is spectacular and momentous.
In his letter from a Birmingham jail, King names complacency as “do-nothingism.” So, we propose some do-somethingism. This prayer flag project is a way to mobilize the love in our hearts and to do something to contribute to the Dalai Lama’s exquisite message. Each prayer is a vote for love. The flags will be an ephemeral record of human kindness. They represent our desire to connect and contribute–to create a more peaceful world. MLK paved the way for the first Black U.S. president almost 50 years later.
What of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exiles? They are still without their land, home, and country. Every flag reperesents a prayer for peace and the resolution of the great injustice of exile as well as countless other personal prayers from around the world. This project can be summed up best by a quote from Mother Teresa: “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.” That is do-somethingism. This project allows us all to do one small thing–to create one prayer–in honor of this holy visit. The prayer flag project celebrates the healing, growth and change that have taken place in Birmingham and beyond, as well as to pray for the changes still needed.
Join the effort and make a flag! The flags we collect from around the world will adorn sacred civil rights sites in Birmingham during the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Your prayer will join thousands of others in an artful display of handmade prayers. It may only take you a few minutes to make, but you will become a part of something much bigger–a global conversation about peace, loving kindness and meaningful creativity.
SO, WHAT ARE PRAYER FLAGS?
A prayer flag is a colorful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges high in the Himalayas. Commonly strung at sacred sites, traditional prayer flags include woodblock-printed text (mantras) and symbols.
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
Prayer flags have caught on in our modern, western world. People are hungry for meaning and connection. Many are inspired to create handmade interpretations of traditional prayer flags. They may look different from Tibetan flags, but the spirit is the same. The act of creating a prayer flag is a blessing in itself. It feels wonderful to pour the love from your heart into a piece of art meant for the wind.