The Wheel of Life or Samsara

The Wheel of Life or Samsara was designed by the Buddha Shakyamuni himself as a total explanation of Buddhist teaching. It is one of the earliest historical examples of a visual aid used in teaching to explain the workings of karma.

The Wheel of Life & States of Mind

The Wheel of Life or Samsara is one of the most profound of all the Buddhist teachings for its’ encapsulates. Furthermore, the primary and advanced teachings of Buddhism regarding the subtle realities of life in its reincarnating principles and environments. It contains all the essential teachings of Buddhism. Moreover, it is a most profound instrument of teaching and depiction of the interrelated doctrines of Buddhism. Samsara is often painted at the gate of all the Buddhist Monasteries. The wheel of life is, in fact, a mirror. When we look at it or into it we are in effect looking at ourselves.

We see ourselves in the picture, our heights and depths and we also see our reactivity and potential creativity. We see all we have been, and what we now are as well as what we could become. Wheel of Life or Samsara not only represents sentient life on different levels but also perhaps represents life on the Psychological Mental. Most noteworthy, conscious and subconscious levels. In addition, for a full understanding of these ideas, we shall explore the different images in the picture.

The wheel of life has four parts:

pigeon snake pig

The First Circle:

In the center circle, you can see a pigeon which represents desire. A snake which represents hatred and a pig which represent ignorance. These are the root or the cause of suffering in Samsara. These animals are used in the picture because they best represent the animal-like tendencies in our mind. As a result of the mind, it cause us to traverse the wheel and to take rebirth again and again.

Desire can have both a negative and positive expression. Here we are concerned with its negative aspect which is rooted in Greed, Hatred and Delusion. In addition, which reinforce our most basic ideas concerning ourselves. Moreover, which heaps us bound to the cycle of birth and death. Compassion Generosity rooted in Desire, and Awareness this provides the ‘motive force’ for our eventual ‘escape’ from the cycle of becoming, for self-transcendence and final liberation.

 

white path and black path The second circle

The second circle is divided into a white path and black path. This circle represent the two ways we can act in any situation either with skillfulness or unskillfulness. The white path represents the effects of all of our willed actions (Karma) (of body, speech & mind). The root of it is compassion, generosity and awareness. Consequently, it leads us to experience happy, peaceful and joyful states of mind. Opposite of it, the black path represents the effects of all of our negative action (Karma) (of body, speech & mind). The black path lead us to experience sufferings as a natural consequence.

In conclusion, depending on our motivation towards acting with Awareness and compassion, or with a self-centred ignorance and unawareness we will experience states of mind in accordance with our actions. This is perhaps a very important point within the whole of the Buddhist teachings. Our present state of experience both subjective and objective are what we are creating all the time and are not given to us by some outside divine power and nor they fixed and rigid for all time. Our experience tends to seem fixed because our actions are often fixed and habitual.

 

 The six realmsThe third circle

The third circle has six parts which are the six realms. The upper three include the god realms, demi-god realms and the human realm. These are the superior realms. The three inferior lower realms are the animal realm, the hungry ghost realm, and the hell realm. Living beings are reborn in a particular realm as a result of their karma and live in that realm until that karma has been exhausted. Living beings take rebirth into a particular realm not as a punishment or a reward for past actions, but more, that the body and the world they come to inhabit is the best expression of their mental states.

This is quite true but there is more to the symbolism of the six segments of the third circle than just this. The six segments of the third circle also represent six states of mind which we can experience here and now, in our present human existence. Sometimes we can experience these states of mind so strongly that for the time being, we seem actually to be living in another world, in heaven or in hell, or among the hungry ghosts etc. It is possible therefore to experience them almost as states of being, rather than just as states of mind. So we can look at each of the six words in this light, as states of mind as well as states of being.

 

12 links of dependent-origination

The fourth or the last circle

The fourth or the last circle shows the 12 links of dependent-origination. The wrathful figure that holds the wheel is Yama or the lord of death and it represents impermanence of life. The Buddha taught that if we practice the Dharma we can free ourselves from this wheel of life and attain true happiness; which means to escape the cycle of Samsara.

The Twelve Links of Dependent-Origination The cycle of dependent origination is at the heart of Buddhist teaching that all things are impermanent and nothing has an inherent existence apart from other causes and conditions. The twelve link cycle is illustrated as the outer most ring on the Wheel of Life often drawn in the entrance to many monasteries

 

 

 

blind man with a walking-stick

.1. Just to the right of the top is a blind man with a walking-stick, representing ignorance of the true nature of the world.

 

Potter

2. Moving clockwise, a potter moulding a pot symbolizes that we shape our own destiny with our actions through the workings of karma.

 

 

Monkey climbing a tree

3. The monkey climbing a tree represents consciousness or the mind which wanders aimlessly and out of control.

 

 

Consiousness

4. Consciousness gives rise to name and form, which is symbolized by people travelling in a boat on the river of life.

 

 

Empty house, the doors and windows

5. The next link is an empty house, the doors and windows of which symbolize the developing sense organs. Buddha noted six senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch and thought.

 

 

Lovers embracing

6. The six senses allow us to have contact with the world, which is symbolized by lovers embracing.

 

Arrow piercing the eye

7. From contact arise feelings, which we categorize as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Feelings are represented on the wheel as an arrow piercing the eye.

 

Drinking alcohol

8. From feelings arises desire or attachment to pleasant feelings and experiences, symbolized by a couple falling in love or a man.

 

 

 Monkey picking fruit

9. Desire or attachment leads to grasping for an object of desire, symbolized by a monkey picking fruit.

 

 

 

Making love

10. From grasping arises existence represented by a man and a woman making love.

 

 

 

Child birth

11. Existence culminates in birth (entry into the human realm), which is symbolized by a woman in childbirth.

 

Old man carrying a burden

12. Birth naturally leads to aging and death which is symbolized by an old man carrying a burden. !

 

You will notice the Wheel of Life and Samsara in all the Buddhist monasteries, temples and hotels in Tibet.

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