Karmic Sharpeners

If you’re like me, you’ve probably looked at a mechanical pencil sharpener and thought, “How can I use this to improve the spritual wellbeing of the universe?”

Tibetan Buddhists believe that the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum when written out and spun around in a traditional prayer wheel (mani) invokes the powerful benevolent attention of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion, and generally makes the world a nicer place. Tibetan prayer wheels can be huge affairs, containing thousands or millions of copies of the prayer. They can also be small and hand-operated, and there are even free-standing electric models. Here’s how to turn a pencil sharpener into one.


You’ll need: a flathead screwdriver, a little tape, and the appropriate mantra. Print this web page and cut out the mantra (it’s six syllables in traditional Tibetan script, read left to right). I like to keep a spare copy in my wallet, just in case. Now find a pencil sharpener.

  1. Disassemble the pencil sharpener; even a handy Swiss Army knife will do.
  2. Tape the prayer to the outer surface of the spindle (clear of the rotating blades please!). Make sure when the spindle rotates that the prayer reads left-to-right.
  3. Reassemble, sharpen a pencil, and purify some negative karma.

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