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  • Writer's pictureMicha Strauss

What it's like to be a prayer wheel maker

Updated: Apr 7

Many years ago, back in November of 2008 H.E. Garchen Rinpoche came to Israel for the first time to give teachings. He said he wanted to make as many Karmic connections with as many beings before he dies.

I was studying Buddhism since 2001 and have been to many retreats and seminars given by Tibetan masters who came to Israel over the years, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Phakchok Rinpoche to name a few.

I would always attend the whole seminar or retreat, most lasted about 6 days of teachings.

When I met Ayelet on April of 2007 she immediately found much interest in Buddhism as I did and went with me on these retreats and seminars when they occurred.

So when H.E. Garchen Rinpoche came, we wanted to go of course, but work would no allow us to take 6 days off… we were bummed out but told ourselves that we have seen many teachers, been to many retreats… nothing will happen if we miss one…

Little did we know how wrong we were…

My older brother, Lior who opened the door for me to Buddhism did have the fortune to go to the seminar and one day in he called me up and said: "listen, you MUST come! Even if only for one hour! Just to be in the presence of this master! It is of extreme importance!"

So, on the last day of the seminar which was a Saturday (day off work) we could go. We took a car and drove up north to attend the closing ceremony of the retreat…

We walked into a very crowded room full of people, must have been over 200 of them. Rinpoche was sitting silently on his thrown spinning his prayer wheel and moving his loving gaze over the room… we found a spot at the end of the room, backs up against the wall in the corner… we sat down. Rinpoche's gaze found us with a smile… his prayer wheel looked like it is spinning on its own… I was mesmerized! After a few minutes passed I turned to Ayelet and out of nowhere told her: "I have to make a prayer wheel like that" she looked at me and said: "I want to do all the artwork on it"

Mind you, I have never ever worked with wood before, I have no prior "artistic" nature and the only time I have ever operated a lathe was in high school when I was a boy and it was a metal lathe (I was a trouble maker in my youth and all who were like me were sent to a technical school so we do not bother the children who did want to study…)

I have no idea why that thought crossed my mind… make prayer wheels… but something in that prayer wheel, that wooden dark hardwood prayer wheel caught my mind. Stuck there like a splinter… I had to make one!

Karma being Karma as it is, the book by Lorne Ladner Wheel of Great Compassion found its way to my hands. I read it all with so much amazement! later, I started to reach out to other prayer wheel makers so I can take in as much as I can from them about crafting prayer wheels out of wood. some answered, some did not... the one I owe it all is a brother named Jim McCann. he was there for me to answer any questions I had, and let me tell you, I had a lot!!! it took me some 4 months of study and talking to different masters to get approval to become a prayer wheel maker and many emails with brother Jim. And because Karma is as it is, a friend from a near by Kibbutz asked me prior to Rinpoche's seminar to help him with a prayer wheel he had, a metal prayer wheel that he wanted me to put a bearing on it to make it spin better. This friend contacted Jim McCann in California to have him roll up some microfilm to replace the paper mantras in his metal prayer wheel, and because Jim was late to deliver the microfilm, he sent 2 rolls as an apology of his lateness… now, why would my friend need 2 rolls? He has only one prayer wheel…

That is how a microfilm roll of mantras found its way to my desk at my office at the time. Just sitting there for months… and then Rinpoche came. And everything clicked together!

One night, on a night guard duty shift I sneaked in to the factory where I worked and took a piece of oak wood I found, the microfilm I had, 2 bearings and crafted our very first prayer wheel prototype!

When Ayelet woke up in the morning as I finished the night guard shift, I showed here the prayer wheel I have made!

She was over the moon! We both were! All we wanted from that point on was to craft prayer wheels!

So, we came up with this motto: "to craft as many prayer wheels as we can for as long as we can!"

But how to become prayer wheel makers? We had no idea…

our very first prayer wheel
our very first prayer wheel prototype!

We did read though in Lorne's book that spinning a prayer wheel removes obstacles! So, we decided to spin this one prayer wheel we made till all obstacles are removed and we can become prayer wheel makers! And so, we did 😊

Not long after that, we started to get requests from friends and family who saw our prayer wheel and we made a few. Contacted Jim McCann and he would roll up microfilm for us and send it and once it got here, we would craft a prayer wheel around it.

One day we were approached on Facebook by a very kind French man who somehow saw our post on his son's profile and sent us a request, to craft a prayer wheel for Sogyal Rinpoche…. We were floored…

This kind man told us that he works at Lerab Ling where Rinpoche is living in France and he would like to have us craft a prayer wheel for Rinpoche and to have Rinpoche do the artwork on it since he is a calligrapher… we told him that this would be hard to do but we have a better offer, if Rinpoche agrees, to send over the calligraphy and have Ayelet copy it until it is perfect and then send it to Rinpoche for approval. If he approves, Ayelet can do the artwork "like" it was made by Rinpoche. He agreed!

Sogyal Rinpoche sent us the Vajra Guru mantra he hand wrote in Tibetan script and Ayelet did it over and over again till she could copy it perfectly and we sent it to France for Rinpoche's approval. He approved! We then crafted a prayer wheel for him with the mantra on the drum. We shipped it to France and Rinpoche loved it! He put the prayer wheel on the shrine and said that any master coming to Lerab Ling to give teachings must spin this prayer wheel!

No long after that H.E. Garchen Rinpoche visited Lerab Ling and gave Sogyal Rinpoche his own prayer wheel! The one we saw him spinning in Israel when we met him for the first time! Karma is so amazing sometimes…

Sogyal Rinpoche's prayer wheel
Sogyal Rinpoche's prayer wheel with Ayelet's copy of Rinpoche's mantra calligraphy

In 2012 we had too many orders coming in and we needed a place to work from so we asked our community for a studio to work in. they found an old warehouse that used to be a chicken coop back in the early 60's and it was perfect! We spruced it up and it became our prayer wheel making studio!

We have now been here for 12 years and made over 2800+ prayer wheels!

We would never have dreamed of this when we first saw H.E. Garchen Rinpoche sitting silently on his thrown back in 2008…

Karma works in mysterious ways 😊 


Being a prayer wheel maker is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was many things in my life, had many titles but non more important than a prayer wheel maker.

For the first 10 years I worked at jobs and being payer wheel maker was my second job when I had free time or over the weekends… for the first 3 1/2 years we worked every weekend to craft prayer wheels. We could not find anything more important to do with our time here on earth… and we were young and strong! So working 7 days for 3 and a half years was not so hard for us.

Over the years it became harder and harder to do a "regular" job and craft prayer wheels so on November of 2018 I quit my job as the farm manager and handed the keys of my truck in and went full time in the studio.

Ayelet told me for many years that if we put all our time into making prayer wheels, we can make a living from it.

So, I decided to put my faith in her, in Buddha, in Karma and went full time prayer wheel maker.

This worked out perfectly for 5 and a half years! We only crafted prayer wheels for a living! We did not make much money but it was enough for our little lives. Mind you that Israel is the one of the most expansive countries to live in, so what we made was little but it was enough.

Now things have changed… not sure why, maybe our prayer wheel making Karma has reached its end, maybe this horrific war that started on October 7th changed it, maybe people are no longer into prayer wheels made in Israel, I don’t know… all I know is that we have gotten less and less prayer wheel orders and now can not afford to do this for a living… the studio costs has risen by 3 fold and just to keep it now costs us a chunk of money… so, Ayelet went to work in the local grocery store, I found work but did not start yet, I still hope we can go back to being prayer wheel makers for a living… I feel that anything else we sell our time for is of no value, not like prayer wheel making!

That has real value to the world, to all beings, to us…

Maybe something will turn, maybe Karma will ripen again… only this morning I received the package from the USA containing the nano film!

I want to craft new prayer wheels with this nano film!!! New tech prayer wheels! What a blessing this would be!

Think of it, a hand-held prayer wheel with 1 billion Mani mantras! Holy moly!


But maybe it is all ending… who knows?

Only the future.


Till next time 😊 

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