Saturday, March 07, 2009

Prayer Wheel Design and Engineering

Herewith a lengthy and rambling diatribe on the subject of prayer wheels.If the objective is to spin mantras through space, then we're working right now. The internet itself is the largest prayer wheel in existence: billions of mantras fired from thousands of spinning hard drives, sent in packets to thousands of other spinning hard drives. I have some old RAIDS stocked with hundreds of billions of mantras that I could theoretically keep spinning forever. No less an authority than the XIVth Dalai Lama has signed off on the internet-as-living-organism, hard-drive-as-prayer-wheel concept. But, I wonder... is it the mantras we're spinning or the bytes?

Interesting philosophical premise, is it not?

And, what might the difference be?

Speaking personally, I prefer the old-fashioned, low-tech approach. A great, big cylinder filled with paper mantra rolls, spinning by hand, water, wind, or maybe even solar power.

Above are two very creative designs: Tibetan shrine cabinets with built-in prayer wheel cylinders. All sorts of blessings with one piece of furniture. They look like recent Chinese knock-ups (a knock-up is a pregnant-with-doubt knock-off of something that never really existed in the first place, made in the Beijing and Fujian antique factories by guys working with a Ng-Ka-Py hangover), but the vendor swears they are Tibetan, early 20th century, and I don't know enough to say whether that is accurate or not. (These days, temples come in by the container load, day after day after day... try Main Street, Alhambra, California... check out the basements).

These days, the go-to guy for big prayer wheels is Jim McCann, of Santa Cruz, California, seen below stuffing 64 billion mantras (on microfilm) .

Of course, these things aren't cheap (think several thousands of dollars), and you are immediately in the realm of Western Buddhist Dharma Center Enterprise Economics (i.e., one center develops a specialist niche and consumes the financial resources of other centers --- Buddhists aren't known for their open-handed cooperation).

So, what I am proposing is that the best and brightest minds develop a solution: something air-droppable, pack-mule transportable, eco-friendly, and really cool. Right now, I am leaning toward 55 gallon steel drums, enamel spray paint, sheet-brass exterior script, and Big Rig wheel bearings, solar powered (on the advice of an extremely gifted engineer) by, "an old Bodine variable speed DC fractional HP motor," from ebay. Here is maybe $100. in the drum (new), $100. in the motor (old), and $25. for the wrecking yard. Add in the solar panel, the frame, and the cost of printing the mantras, and you are in business. The objective is to bring it in for under $1,000.

Anybody out there up to the challenge?

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1 reader comments:

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