I found this interesting post about the prayer wheel and I thought I'd share it on the blog.
(I think I started liking the use of prayer wheels ever since I had observed H.E. Garchen Rinpoche spinning it in such a serene, blissful manner.)
"It is said that prayer wheels are used to accumulate wisdom and merit or good karma and to purify negativities such as bad karma. The idea of spinning mantras comes from numerous Tantric practices where the Tantric practitioner visualizes mantras revolving around the nadis and especially around the meridian chakras such as the heart and crown.
Therefore Tibetan Prayer Wheels are a visual aid for developing one's capacity for these types of Tantric visualizations. The spiritual method for those practicing with a prayer wheel is very specific (with slight variations according to different Buddhist sects). The practitioner most often spins the wheel clockwise, for the direction the mantras are written is that of the movement of the sun across the sky. However, on rare occasions advanced Tantric practitioners such as Senge Dongma, the Lion-Faced Dakini spin prayer wheels counterclockwise to manifest a more wrathful protective energy.
Before, during and after the practitioner turns the wheel, it is best to focus the mind and repeat the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra, as this increases the merit earned by the wheel's use. Intoning the mani mantra with mindfullness and the “Bodhicitta” motivation dramatically enhances the effects of the Tibetan Prayer Wheel. However, it is said that even turning it while distracted has benefits and merits and it states in the lineage text that even insects that cross a prayer wheel’s shadow will get some benefit.
Each revolution is as meritorious as reading the inscription aloud as many times as it is written on the scroll, and this means that the more Om Mani Padme Hum mantras that are inside a prayer wheel then the more powerful it is. The wheel must not be spun too fast or frantically, but held upright (if a hand-held wheel) and turned smoothly with the motivation and spirit of compassion and bodhichitta (the noble mind that aspires to full enlightenment for the benefit of all beings). Which, it’s been stated, are some of the benefits attributed to the practice of turning the wheel. It helps wisdom, compassion and bodhichitta arise in the practitioner.
The practitioner should also repeat the mantra as many times as possible during the turning of the wheel, and keep a calm meditative mind. Also, there’s a Tibetan Buddhist tradition of asking the Buddhas and bodhisattvas to dedicate any accumulated merits that you may have gathered during practice to all sentient beings. This is standard with Tibetans completing any Buddhist practice including the practice of the prayer wheel."