March 12, 2019


The visionary insight of Buddhism is represented pictorially by the “wheel of life”. Drawing of and paintings of the wheel of life are used mainly for didactic purposes, to convey clearly the basic tenets of the Buddhist doctrine both to the less educated believer and to the visitors of the temple. The representation of wheel of life always follows the same scheme. At the hub of the wheel of life are a Pig, a Snake and a Rooster symbolising  the ‘ three fundamental  poison ” that drive  the cycle of existence : desire , greed and delusion  and ignorance , anger  and hatred. As long as a human being is in their grip,after death he will return to the one of the six worlds of rebirth,which is represented between the spokes of the wheel.

The relationship between good and bad deeds in his previous life determines into which theses world he will be born. The section at the top represents the world of joys, where the gods dwells. They live in the illusion that their happiness will last forever. However, not even they will be spared suffering in the face of death. To the left of this is the world of fighting, in which the titans are involved, and to the right is the human world. Only from this sphere is it possible to leave the cycle. Bad rebirth makes up the lower parts of the wheel of life. On the right is the world of animals. Opposite this on the left is the realm of unfulfilled desire,represented by hungry spirits who are unable to swallow any food down their constricted throat.  Right at the bottom of is the world of hell, in which people are burned, cut into pieces and tortured in many different ways. In the rim of wheel there is twelve part allegory of the chain of condition that leads to the ever-lasting cycle of rebirth

The first one is ignorance, represented half way down on the right by an old blind man. This leads to karmic predisposition and creation, represented by a potter at work. The next is unstable consciousness, followed by six senses, including mind. This is followed by the disposition of body and form, represented by a boat, with oarsman and two people on a river, which leads to the formation of intellect and sense organs (a house with a door and windows). The embracing lover symbolises the contact between the subject and the outside world via the sense organ. This result in emotion, represented by a man with an arrow in his eye. Emotion arouses carving for the joys of life, illustrated by a couple drinking wine. This feeling of thirst is joined by greed (a monkey picking fruits).  The karmic result of this is procreation and development (lovers embracing). The ensuing birth is the beginning of new mortal existence which ultimately leads to death, represented by a man carrying a corpse on his back. A demon keeps a firm grip on the wheel of rebirth an allegory of time as all-consuming and eternal.

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