Firstly what is a Mani Stone? Mani Stones are stones or rocks (mostly flat) carved with Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, particularly om mani padme hum (which recited brings blessings from the deity Chenrezig) . These stones can be colourful and of different shapes, covered in beautiful images and Tibetan texts. Artistic and traditional Mani Stone carvers can usually be found living close to monasteries.
You will find Mani Stones all over Tibet as they are one of the most common forms of prayer for the people. The stones are intentionally placed in places of nature such as streams and mountains. A mound of stones can be commonly found in areas where the locals are unable to access a temple for their worship.
These sights of worship can be small to large. Some are shaped into a stupa or temple, some are built like a wall or placed into walls as offerings. The largest Mani Stone mound consists of 200 million stones. It is located in Xinzhai Village and believe it or not is now 300m long, 80m wide and 3m high! It is said to have been started by a Buddhist 300 years ago.
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So how are these stones used as worship? The Mani Stones are considered very spiritual and are used as a direct line to divine manifestation. It is said that whatever you desire or whatever your goal you can come to create it with the aids of a Mani Stone. Each stone is therefore unique, carved with the inscriptions of their desires or feelings at that moment in time. Inscribing is a meditative act which creates a ritual in the carving itself.
Coming upon a mound of Mani Stones one must circle the stones in a clockwise direction offering prayers and mantras. It is common to leave offerings of scripts, divine objects and other engravings amongst the mounds of stones. These mounds and walls are all different colours, sizes and covered in different texts creating beautiful, creative shrines all over the country. No one is alike and no one is the same day after day as they are constantly added to.
Some mounds will be topped with the skeletal head of a Yak. The Yak is a religious totem of Tibetans and although it looks rather vikingish it actually represents their connection to the heavens. Placed atop these divine mounds creates a further link for their prayers on the Mani Stones to be heard by the Gods.