Tibetan Wheel of Life

The Tibetan Wheel of Life symbolizes the Buddhist perspective on life and contains within it numerous symbols of Buddhist themes and teachings.

The creature who turns the wheel of life and holds it in his clutches is Yama, a wrathful deity and the Lord of Death. Yama symbolizes the inevitability of death, samsara and the impermanence of all things. This does not lead to hopelessness, though, because outside of the wheel stands the Buddha, who points the way to liberation (symbolized by the moon).

The inner circle of the wheel contains symbols of the three root delusions: hatred (snake), ignorance (rooster), and greed (pig).

The ring around the center represents karma, with the figures on the left ascending to higher realms of existence because of virtuous actions, and the figures on the right descending to lower realms of existence because of evil or ignorant actions.

The middle ring of the wheel (the areas between the spokes) symbolizes the six realms of existence. The top half, from left to right, portrays the three higher realms of existence: humans, gods, and demi-gods. The lower half shows the three lower realms of existence: animals, hell-beings, and hungry ghosts.

The next and final outer part of the circle represents the twelve stages of life, these are that of:

1. A Blind Man: This represents ignorance and a lack of knowledge of the world at the beginning of life.

2. A Potter: Showing the way that through our actions in the world (even those that are unripened from lives before) shape our existence in this life.

3.A Monkey Climbing a Tree: This shows our conscious minds ability to aimlessly wonder of on purposeless endeavors.

4. People Traveling Across a River in a Boat: Shows the mind developing to Name and Form and the ability to apply basic direction and purpose to our endeavors.

5.An Empty House: The doors and windows of the house symbolize the developing sense organs and the six senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch and thoughts ability to begin passing into the mind (which at this stage has experienced none).

6.Lovers Embracing: Shows our senses giving us the ability to feel and experience the world.

7.An Arrow Hitting an Eye: Shows our ability to categorize feelings as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

8. A Man Drinking Alcohol: Shows how our feelings cause desire to arise.

9.A Monkey Picking Fruit: Shows our reaching out for our objects of desire.

10. A Man and Woman Making Love: Shows existence in Samsara through always reaching forward for our desires.

11.A Woman Having a Child: Existence in Samsara leading to a new birth.

12.An Old Man Carrying Heavy Burdens/Possessions: Shows the futility of rebirth and desire.


bowl singing said...

I thought this was Dharma wheel before. Thank you for your blog. I will not make the same mistake anymore.

Anonymous said...

To the author, you may want to look what the roster and pig are symbolizing. They may be reversed.