Tibetan Prayer Math

Ok, so Tibetan Buddhism. I’ve got a bunch of math questions. You always hear stuff like “praying in an auspicious time is worth ten times as much as praying in an inauspicious time” or “putting up these prayer flags will make prayer happen continually” or you see the prayer wheels, where one spin sends one prayer up to heaven/the world/etc.

My recent favorite is this prayer water wheel:

Spinning the wheel sends prayers to heaven… so why not make the stream do the work for us? (a smaller analog is this solar-powered desk accessory prayer wheel that just always spins.)

If Tibetan Buddhism were a game, I’d say it had balance issues. Why spend any time doing anything that’s like one prayer’s worth, if you could instead be building a mega-fast spinning prayer wheel? Or mass producing prayer flags? You get some crazy things where one drop of water from this river is worth 100,000 prayers or something - dang, just gulp that water and spend the rest of your time goofing off!

Not that Tibetan Buddhism is alone here. Confession in the Catholic church likewise seemed weird - it wipes away all your mortal sins, and if you die without mortal sins, you’re (eventually) going to heaven. At least they closed the confess-then-suicide loophole by making suicide a mortal sin too. You just gotta accidentally die soon after a confession.
(This sacred waterfall we just hiked to had a similar sin-washing-away effect.)

And the weird thing is, people insist that it’s not just a metaphor. I mean, I can’t speak for Tibetan Buddhists, but the Catholics at least say, yep, that’s definitely correct, if you get hit by a truck right after confession, straight to heaven. And the Buddhists have lots of very specific terms - the definition of a “Kalpa” comes to mind, but you’ll find a lot of magic numbers. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalpa_(aeon)

So… all the talk about this prayer being worth 100x that prayer, that’s all metaphorical, right? Like, it’s a way to say “praying here is good” or “put up some prayer flags because it makes us feel good” or “go to confession”, not actually about mathematical equalities, right? Or are most Buddhists and Catholics really irrational actors?

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