Tuesday, April 6

♥ The Wheel of Life : The Wheel of the Dhamma

Here is the eight-spoked Wheel of the Dhamma, the alternative to and escape from the terrible twelve-spoked Wheel of the World. The eight spokes symbolize the Eightfold Noble Path.
  • Right View
  • Right Thought
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration 

♥ The Wheel of Life : The Buddha

Here we see the Buddha pointing to the Wheel of Dhamma, the one way to escape the terrible turning of the wheel of samsara. He stands at the head of a path leading out from the human realm, to symbolize that that realm is the most favourable for liberation.

The Buddha represents an individual, a human being, who escaped from the wheel by his own efforts. The word "Buddha" literally means "Awake." Awakened, he was free of delusion (ignorance), free of delusion, he was not bound by craving and clinging and the circle of the dependent origination was broken.

♥ The Wheel of Life : The 12 Dependent Origination (Part 2)


The natural result of sense contact is feeling. This is the automatic response to each object which arises. Feeling is of three kinds; pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. It is the immediate judging quality which sorts all experience into categories in relation to the perceived interests of an ego. Put simply, each object which arises is either wanted, unwanted or indifferent.

Feeling is a very primitive level of mind. It is easy to see how this response is a necessary function for beings to survive in the world. All our more complex emotions are constructed on the foundation of these three fundamental feelings.

Feelings can vary in intensity from very subtle to overwhelming. The image here is of a man with an arrow in his eye, aptly illustrating how feeling enters through the door of the senses and can pierce us to the quick.


Craving is here represented by a man enjoying the sensual pleasure of tea. Craving arises because of feeling. We may crave many things, but in the final analysis, all our craving is for pleasant feeling, or to escape unpleasant feeling. All the manifold objects we crave are but means to these ends.

There are three classes of craving. Craving for sense pleasure, craving for being and craving for non-being. That is, the desire for pleasant experience, the will to live and the death-wish.

This is a crucial link in the cycle. The process from sense-base to contact to feeling is entirely resultant, that is to say, automatic. But the movement from feeling to craving, though habitual, is not absolutely fixed. Here is the point of practise where mindfulness and discipline can break the wheel of becoming.

The Buddha singled out craving as the key cause of all suffering. This is the Second Noble Truth, the truth of the cause of suffering. The whole of the dependent origination may be read as a detailed exposition of the First and Second Noble Truths.


The image is of a monkey grasping fruit. This is a return of the symbolism to the monkey in stage three, but here his restlessness roaming has fixed for the moment on a particularly desirable object.

Clinging is an intensification of craving. It is the more or less obsessive quality of the mind which fixates on its object. There are said to be four kinds of clinging; sensual clinging, clinging to a an ego position, clinging to superstition (rites and rituals) and clinging to views (dogmatism.)

Clinging is the stage where we create a self-position. We identify ourselves as the possessor of the desired object. The intensification of the object creates a subject as its mirror-image.


When we cling to anything, we identify with it. We make ourselves afresh in its image; in a sense we become that object, at least momentarily. This is the process of becoming, fueled by craving and clinging by which we come into existence moment after moment.

The image here is of a pregnant woman. There could be no apter symbol of the process of becoming than this; from an act of sensual desire the process of growth inevitably unfolds.

Existence is not a state, it is a process. This coming-into-being we experience all the time, as we constantly reform ourselves in line with our desires and our actions. This is the fruition of the process we started when we made sense contact and it arose feelings which we craved and then clung to.

This stage represents the passive aspect of karma, the resultant. Here is the culmination of the active aspect of the second stage (karmic formations).


This stage represents birth, and the natural progress of the imagery is obvious. Beings come into existence in one realm or another according to their past karma. When we consider the dependent origination to this point we can see how this karma unfolds through several stages and how desire drives the engine of becoming.

Birth can be into any of the realms of existence, depending on the karma of the being. Meritorious deeds of generosity, renunciation and wisdom lead to birth in the higher realms of humans and gods. Evil deeds of hatred, cruelty, greed and lust lead to birth in the lower realms of animals, ghost and demons.

Only the supramundane paths and fruits (nibbana) lead out of the realms of birth and death altogether.


The inevitable result of being born is dying. "Impermanent are all conditioned things." The plans, desires and ambitions of life always end here. But death is not the final end, things are not that easy. If one has not eradicated defilement, then one is still subject to renewed becoming and birth. The wheel continues to turn, death is a loss and a turning, but not a final conclusion.

The dependent origination is here represented as a wheel, to show that it is without beginning or end. Ignorance may be taken as a starting point only in that it is so fundamental as a root of defilement; this makes it a convenient starting point for an exposition of the teaching. But in reality, ignorance itself is like all worldly phenomena, it arises from prior causes and not otherwise.

In the case of human life, the trauma of death followed by birth causes us to forget what we have learnt in our previous lifetimes. Only a residue remains; we come into the world ignorant and mostly beings remain so, weighted down by dullness or confused by strange teachings and theories. 

Everything that Happens (Dependent Origination)    HIS HOLINESS THE 14th DALAI LAMA: In Praise of Dependent Origination

♥ The Wheel of Life : The 12 Dependent Origination (Part 1)

Here is a detailed explanation on the 12 stages of the causes of existence :


The image is the figure of a blind man, groping along in the darkness. This is symbolic of our situation in the world, stumbling blindly from birth to death, ignorant of our true situation.

The ignorance of beings is a thick veil that obscures clear seeing of reality. It comes in two forms; dullness and confusion. The dull mind is weighted down by the darkness of unknowing into stupidity and torpor. The confused mind wanders in false passages, it is the mind shackled and burdened with false views.

Karmic Formations 

The image here is of a potter, busy with her creations which she stores up for future use. Some of the pots are well-made and beautiful, others may be flawed and clumsy.

This is the symbol for our activity in the world, which is known as karma (Sanskrit) or kamma (Pali.) The word means "action," more specifically "effective action" or "work." This action arises from our ignorance. Because we do not understand things in their true nature, we are endlessly taking action in the world. Because of desire, which is rooted in ignorance, we seek always to modify the universe to our liking.

This modifying action inevitably creates an imbalance and the universe does not tolerate imbalance on any level. For every action, there inevitably follows an equal reaction. We reap what we sow.

All our experiences in the world are the results of karma which we have been accumulating since beginingless time. Beings can be compared to chaff on the wind, blown from birth to birth endlessly. But the wind is karma, and is of our own creation.


The image is of a monkey swinging from branch to branch. This is an excellent representation of consciousness, which jumps restlessly from object to object. The karma of our past deeds determines what object consciousness alights upon, just as the momentum of the monkey's leap determines the direction of his travel.

This process continues without pause, repeating itself moment after moment throughout each beings life. In the context of the dependent origination, it refers especially to the moment of birth, called rebirth-linking consciousness, when the past karma of the being drives it on to a fresh becoming in this or that order of beings.

The image of the monkey should not be taken too literally. There is in reality no thing which carries on from moment to moment, let alone from life to life. There is only conciousness arising again and again afresh to a kaleidescope of shifting objects. The continuity we perceive is an artifact of the inertia of karma, imposing patterns on experience.

Name and Form (or Body and Mind)

This picture is the image of three men in a boat. These represent the mental factors (the men) together with the physical factors (the boat.) This is body-and-mind or name-and-form. Buddhist psychology recognizes five aggregates, or bundles, which constitute a being; physical form, consciousness, perception, mental formations and feeling. These together constitute nama-rupa, lit. name-and-form.

The arising of consciousness to an object is always followed by the whole complex of psycho-physical factors which constitute a so-called personality. In an important sense, consiousness is the only active factor - it is that which goes towards its object.

In the arising of a new being in the womb, the rebirth-linking consiousness, conditioned by karma, in turn conditions the arising of the other mental factors together with the form of the physical base.

We separately name and describe these factors, but in reality they are inextricably mixed. Perception in particular is intimately bound up with consciousness; it is the process by which we create a universe each moment from incoming sense data.

The Six Sense Bases

The drawing of a house with six openings represents the sixfold sense base. These are the gateways through which the mind makes contact with objects. These are the senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and the mind sense. Each sense has its physical base and each its particular object.

This stage of the dependent arising represents the continued unfoldment of the body-and-mind and its outward going impulse.

It is significant that Buddhist philosophy always lists six senses; the mind-sense taking ideas as its object. This makes an interesting contemplation; to think of ideas as something we sense rather than something we do.
It should also be noted that the house is empty.


Contact is defined as the coming together of three factors; the organ of sense, the external object and consciousness. It is symbolized here by one of the most intense occurences of contact; a couple making love.

Contact is the process by which consciousess accesses the external world. Here we are peeking through the windows of the last image. Contact occurs again and again without cessation throughout a lifetime.

Remember that in Buddhist theory, there are six senses. The mind-sense is that which contacts objects of the mind (thoughts etc.) So even when there are no external sense impressions, contact is still occurring.

Tuesday, March 30

♥ The Wheel of Life : The Six Realm ( Human )

This human realm is in an important sense the most fortunate station of rebirth. It is just here that the most favourable conditions for liberation are to be found. The lower realms are overwhelmed by suffering, and in the higher realms the pleasure is so constant that there is little incentive to practice. It is right here that the right mixture of pain and pleasure can be found.

We should reflect on the rare good fortune of a human birth, especially if we have a birth in a healthy body with sufficient intelligence to hear and understand the Dhamma, and the good karma to encounter the teachings. When we consider all the other terrible possibilities on the wheel, we would be foolish to squander so rare an opportunity.

It is said that the bare minimum requirement for taking a human rebirth is to keep the five moral precepts reasonably well. This is because to break a precept is to experience the consciousness of a lower realm. To perform an act of violence is to engage in the mind of a demon and foster rebirth in hell. To consume intoxicants is to lower one's mind to an animal level and to set the conditions for rebirth at that level.

This points to another characteristic of the human state. It may be said to be the realm in the middle of all the others. This means that a human can experience moments of consciousness equivalent to those of beings in other realms. Someone enjoying a refined sensuality, such as listening to a Bach fugue, may be touching on the mind of a deva. Likewise, absorption in meditation (jhana) is the equivalent of Brahma realm consciousness.

From the Madness of Illusion to the Joy of Reality: A Journey Within the Realms of Human Consciousness