As you walk in the courtyard of the monastery, you can see flags of different colors hanging around the monastery building. These are Prayer flags. Flags may contain mantras, prayers, requests for help, and auspicious symbols. They may contain excerpts from the Buddha's sermons, or sutras. By hanging flags in high places, the wind flatters them to spread the blessings of prayer everywhere to all beings. Prayer flags should be treated with respect, it should not be placed on the ground.
The five colors usually correspond to natural elements: white air / clouds, blue sky / space, red fire, green water and yellow earth. Often flags have a picture of Medicine Buddha and colors can also depict prayers for healing and health. Seeing flags serve as practical reminders to dharma practitioners.
Prayer flags have been used in Tibet since the time of the Bon religion. Bon priests used brightly colored cloth flags in their healing ceremonies. The colors corresponded to the main elements and helped people and nature (for example the spirits of nature were calmed). As Buddhism increased in Tibet, mantras and Buddhist patterns also began to appear. Traditionally prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, power, and wisdom.