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Buddhist Prayer Wheel

Permanent Display
Library Atrium

Hand-forged by craftsmen in India, the Buddhist Prayer Wheel on display at the Alvin Sherman Library was blessed by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet during his historic visit to Nova Southeastern University on September 18, 2004. The prayer wheel was donated by local philanthropist Albert Miniaci.

What is a Prayer Wheel and how is it used?

Buddhist prayer wheel in the Alvin Sherman LibraryThe use of the prayer wheel as a mystical and religious practice dates back to at least 400 C.E. in China. The idea of the prayer wheel may have originated with a play on words of “turn the wheel of the daharma” a metaphor used for the teachings of the Buddha.

There are many types and sizes of the prayer wheel, ranging from small enough to hold in your hand to the large example donated by Albert Miniaci. Some have been decorated very simply, with a metal, cloth, or leather covering. Others have been made into breathtaking works of art.

The prayer wheel has a head cover and a foot cover. The head cover faces the sky; the foot cover looks toward the earth. They are connected by a cylindrical body and an axle that is wrapped in rolls of paper. The letters of the mantra (prayer) face outward.

Prayer wheels are used to spread spiritual blessings and well-being throughout the universe. Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with many, many copies of the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, printed in an ancient Indian script or in Tibetan script, are wound around an axle in a protective container, and spun around and around.

It is suggested that you recite the mantra of Om Mani Padme Hume while turning the prayer wheel. This action activates the mantra’s powers through the spinning of the wheel. This is the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, which is recited continuously by many Tibetans. According to tradition, a single revolution evokes a powerful and benevolent blessing; ten revolutions purify an amount of sin the size of a mountain. This mantra can be found carved on rocks, written on prayer flags, embossed on jewelry, and inside of most prayer wheels. Its physical presence is understood to offer protection to those nearby. It is customary to turn prayer wheels in homes first thing in the morning and last thing before bed at night. Also, many people carry them and rotate them throughout the day.

Who is the Dalai Lama?

The Dalai Lama is the traditional head of the Tibetan people and the spiritual leader of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The current Dalai Lama, the 14th in a line of Buddhist spiritual and temporal leaders of Tibet, fled to India during the revolt against Chinese control in 1959 and today, from exile, promotes Tibetan religious and cultural traditions.

The 14th Dalai Lama (loosely translated “Ocean of Wisdom”) was born Lhamo Thondup on July 6, 1935 in Taktser, a small village in far northeastern Tibet. In 1937 Tibetan monks began scouring the countryside northeast of the capital city of Lhasa on a mission to find the successor to the 13th Dalai Lama, who had died in 1935. As dictated by centuries of tradition, the monks relied on dreams, oracles, and omens to lead the way, and at last they came to a farmhouse in the village of Taktser. Inside they found a two-year-old boy whom they subjected to an exhaustive series of tests. It is said that when they tested him, Lhamo correctly identified objects belonging to his predecessor, which convinced the monks they had found the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. On February 22, 1940, he was officially installed as spiritual leader of Tibet.

The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet blesses the prayer wheel.Today the Dalai Lama is widely regarded for his humanitarian efforts. His struggles for peace and freedom have made him one of the most recognized and regarded political and spiritual leaders in the world. He spends much of his time traveling to speak out against communism and for peace.

On September 18, 2004, the Dalai Lama made an historic visit to Nova Southeastern University where he addressed the public, university students, faculty and staff in an outdoor venue in front of the Alvin Sherman Library. During his visit, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters was conferred upon His Holiness by NSU President Ferrero. His Holiness also blessed the Buddhist Prayer Wheel which is now displayed in the library.

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About the Dalai Lama:

About Buddhism and the prayer wheel:

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