Information On How To Fill A Prayer Wheel
How To Build A Prayer Wheel Correctly
For a more extensive explanation please refer to Lorne Ladner's book The Wheel of Great Compassion, published by Wisdom. To purchase this book online, please go to
How to Wind the Microfilm in the Prayer Wheel
First check the end of the film and carefully trim the page if it has been cut mid frame. Dispose of the piece as with other Dharma materials.
Next, ensure the film is the correct way up and running in the correct direction. This is vitally important! We are working to get a clearer indicator on the beginning of the film. It should say “beginning” readable by the eye on the front of the film. (Bear with us we are currently working on this).
If you are unable to see the word “beginning” with your eyes try placing a white piece of paper behind the film helps or using a jeweler’s loupe is good too, if it does not say this you will need a microscope. Note: most microscopes flip the images upside down….
Properly preparing the central shaft:
Before you actually wind the film around the central shaft you have to have the central shaft properly prepared. In order to do this you need to have the “Tree of Life” mantra wound around the shaft. This mantra is below in a PDF. Once this mantra is taped, with the mantra facing out so you can see it around the shaft, the film can then be wound around the shaft and mantra.
Once you have determined the correct direction in which your film is going, then simply tape one end of the microfilm to the center shaft of your prayer wheel, make sure that when all the film is wound around the shaft that the OMs are going around first when you spin the prayer wheel.
Once you have spun the needed amount of microfilm around the central shaft you will need to mark on the remaining film with an indicator to indicate which direction the mantras are going so you know which way is up when you pick the film up next.
The other important ingredient in building an authentic prayer wheel is putting two very specific mandalas into the prayer wheel. These mandalas are in PDF’s below and can be printed out on paper and then glued to the inside lid and inside base of the prayer wheel where the film will sit in between. The earth and sky wheels must be lined up exactly correctly. To do this, align the 'hung’s'. The 'hung’s' need to be one above the other facing each other. The Earth wheel goes facing out so that the printing can be seen, on the inside bottom of the prayer wheel with the prayers or microfilm sitting on top of it. The Sky wheel goes on the top inside of the prayer wheel, over the top of the prayers or microfilm, also facing out so you can see the printing. These mandalas are best fitted to the inside of the "lid" of the prayer wheel and the inside of the base of the prayer wheel facing each other with the Hung’s (as in Om Mani Padme Hung, not to be mistaken as the center syllable of Hri), lined up one over the other.
Once you finish winding all your film around the shaft and if you include any paper mantras those should all be either taped or saran wrapped down around the microfilm so they are tightly bound and won’t fall. Then you will cover the mantras in the 5 colors of the Buddha Families. In small prayer wheels you can use different colored electrical tape but in big prayer wheels you will need to use cloth. So each color gets wrapped around the prayer wheel from top to bottom. Ex. White at the top, then yellow next, then blue, then green, then red, all the way so that no film or mantra paper is exposed. This should be done neatly and tightly so it lasts. You can wrap it and tie it or even mache it to the mantras…
Prayer wheel completion:
Once the tree of life shaft mantra is fixed around the central shaft, the film is wound properly and going in the correct direction around the shaft and the Earth Mandala is on the inside bottom and the Sky mandala on the inside top and the five colors are wrapped around the film, then the inside of your prayer wheel is done~
Then comes the outside: Lama Zopa talks about the importance of adorning the outside of the prayer wheel with Sanskrit syllables that say OM Mani Padme Hung and using the 8 auspicious signs as embellishments. These can be painted on, or carved or embossed out of metal and adhered. He also recommends adorning the prayer wheel with precious gems and strands of pearls as well as placing an umbrella over the top of it if it is to be a large stationary wheel that is spun as you walk around it~
If Microfilm Is Too Expensive
A prayer wheel should be full, but it doesn't have to be full of microfilm if it is too expensive. An alternative and cheaper way to fill a prayer wheel is to make many copies of the mani mantra onto paper using a photocopy machine and then after you are finished placing the microfilm in (as much microfilm as you can afford), then wind the paper mantras around the shaft in the same way as you did with the microfilm. If this is done in the best way with the means that you have then the merit is very good. In time you can always purchase more microfilm and slowly work on replacing the paper mantras with the film mantras. Soon we will have a PDF of tiny Mani mantras available for printing.
How To Include Texts
If the texts are on microfilm then of course they need to be wound around the shaft correctly (in the right direction). If they are texts that have pages they can go in flat like a whole book being laid inside the prayer wheel, usually on top of all the wound mantras or next to the microfilm if there is room along the edges.
Download the Earth and Sky Wheels (pdf)
Download the Life Tree Mantra (pdf)