The Wheel of Life is a mandala or circle in the grips of the claws and mouth of the Lord of Death. This creature turns the wheel symbolizing the endless cycle of birth, life, and death.
In the center of the wheel, a pig (greed), snake (hatred and envy), and rooster (ignorance and delusion) bite the tail of the subsequent animal. The rim around this center circle is split into 2 sections: 1) the path of bliss directing the course to nirvana (enlightenment), 2) the dark path leading the way down to hell.
These evils keep souls from transcending the six realms of existence. The six worlds are divided into sections by six spokes. Each section contains a world of:
1. Devas or gods: Heaven or having attained spiritual enlightenment.
2. Asuras, demigods, titans, and fighting demons: Selfishness or jealousy creating a yearning for possession.
3. Humans: The balance of pleasure and pain or everyday experience.
4. Animals: Refusal to see beyond basic bodily needs.
5. Hungry ghosts: Unending cravings which are never satisfied.
6. Hell: Divided into unbearably hot and icy cold regions serving as an external depiction of hatred.
The outer rim of the wheel is divided into twelve sections known as “Interdependent Causes and Effects” representing afflictions, actions, and sufferings.
1. Ignorance or spiritual blindness: The lack of insight into the reality of things.
2. Karma or fate: The acts or thoughts that shape the future.
3. Uncontrolled consciousness: Restlessly jumping from new diversion to a newer diversion.
4. Name and form: Spiritual and physical energy.
5. The five senses and the mind: The doorways for perceiving the world.
6. Contact: Sensual perceptions.
7. Emotions: The experiences of pleasure and pain.
8. Desire: The thirst to possess.
9. Clinging: The attachment and grasping of earthly desires.
10. Procreation: The act of becoming or initiating a new life.
11. Birth: The condition of dependence.
12. Old age and death: Attacks of illness followed by renewal.
In our life, we cycle through all of these states of existence creating these attitudes by climbing up the righteous path to reach new levels of consciousness or being pulled down by base behaviors and emotions.
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