center depicts the three root delusions (sometimes termed cardinal faults or
mental poisons) that set and keep the Wheel in motion. They are responsible for
all suffering and include: (1) greed or attachment (represented by the pig), (2)
hatred (represented by the snake), and (3) ignorance or delusion (represented by
the rooster). Buddha said, "Consumed by craving, enraged by hatred, blinded by
delusion, overwhelmed and despairing, man contemplates his own downfall, that of
others, and both together."
Lord of Death, Yama, turns the Wheel of Life, holding it firmly in the clutches
of his teeth and claws. This symbolizes the inevitability of death and the
impermanence of all existence.
of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Arising from grasping is
existence or becoming. Here a man and women are shown making love; they are
controlled by sensory pleasures which have arisen from grasping. At this time,
consciousness (with all of its imprints) unites with the sperm and egg of the
parents and a new human life arises.
of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From desire arises grasping
or clinging to the object of desire. This is depicted on the wheel by a man (or
monkey) picking fruit (object of desire) from a tree.
This sector represents actions or karma. Here people are moving
upward toward the realms of gods, demi-gods and humans as a result of virtuous
This sector represents actions or karma. Here people are moving
downward toward the realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings as a result
of non-virtuous actions.
One of the three Higher Realms: This sector represents the realm
of gods. Here happiness replaces suffering, but this is a temporary existence.
Once their karma is exhausted, gods will leave this realm and return to the
cycle of birth, suffering, old age, and death.
One of the three Higher Realms: This is the realm of humans
characterized by birth, sickness, old age and death. This state of suffering is
caused by human faults (hatred, attachment and delusion) controlling behavior.
The human realm is the most important since it is the only one where behavior
can be controlled and therefore the path to Enlightnment actualized.
The moon represents liberation. Notice Buddha is pointing toward
the moon, suggesting following the Path which he revealed is the source of
Buddha is pointing toward the moon (symbol of liberation)
suggesting that following the Path he revealed is the means to transcend the
Ocean of Samsara (the cycle of rebirth, sickness, old age and death) and reach
the state of Enlightenment.
One of the three Lower Realms: This is the realm of hungry
ghosts, beings with bloated bellies and long skinny necks who are obsessed with
their own needs. Humans dictated by greed are relegated to this realm. Here
beings are constantly thirsty and hungry. However, their hunger and thirst can
never be extinguished because they perceive food and water as pus and blood and
are therefore in a constant state of denial and dissatisfaction.
One of the three Lower Realms: This is the realm of hell beings.
A world characterized by extremes of heat and cold. This represents the
conditions of anger (heat) and cold-hearted hatred (freezing). Beings here are
in a state of constant emotional turmoil and are thus tormented as they are
tossed back and forth between the extreme states of temperature.
One of the three Lower realms: This is the animal realm. It is
characterized by a degree of ignornace and behavior dictated by basal instincts
(food, sex, etc.). Beings here are easily exploited and are often used by humans
as food, clothing or instruments of work or entertainment. When humans are not
present, animals usually live in extreme conditions of either hot (desert) or
cold (tundra or ice caps).
One of the three Higher Realms: This is the realm of the
demigods. Although the environment is rather tranquil, jealousy is a source of
torment. Demigods are in competition with each other, comparing their situation
with those around them, usually feeling cheated and deserving of
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: A blind man
with a cane represents our ignorance of the true nature of all phenomena,
impelling us to reinforce and preserve a false notion of self.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: The potter
molding pots represents the fact that we shape our own destiny by our actions
(karma). Each pot represents a karmic imprint on our consciousness
created through our actions, speech or thoughts.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: The monkey
aimlessly climbing a tree represents the mind (or consciousness) of the
ignorant which, similar to the monkey, wanders randomly and out of control.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Consciousness
(the preceding link) gives rise to name and form, inseparable spiritual
and physical energies which accompany us from one life to the next. They are
represented by people in a boat drifting on the stream of life.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From name and
form arises the six senses (or sense spheres), as recognized by the
Buddha: sight (eye), smell (nose), taste (tongue), hearing (ear) touch (body),
and thought (mind). On the Wheel, the senses are represented by a large, empty
house. The empty house with its doors and windows represents our developing
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From the six
senses arises contact with the world (symbolized on the wheel by lovers
embracing). Objects are discriminated as either pleasurable, neutral, or
unpleasurable due to the interaction of the object, with the senses and
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination:
Feelings arise from contact. An arrow piercing the eye is used to
represent the strength of feelings, often blinding an individual. Feelings are
interpreted as either pleasurable, neutral, or unpleasurable. We avoid the
unpleasant and seek the pleasant.
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: From feelings
arises desire or attachment. This is represented by a couple falling in
love (or a man drinking alcohol).
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: A natural,
inevitable consequence of any life is aging and death. An old man
burdened by a great weight is the graphic representation of this stage. Once
death is realized, the beginingless and endless cycle of suffering know as
samsara starts yet again. Of course, this would be a pessimistic view if it were
not for the fact that the Buddha stands serenely and majestically outside of the
Wheel demonstrating that the remedy is in the Path that he set
One of the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination: Arising from
sensual contact is birth -- a new life entering the human realm. On the
Wheel this is represented by a women giving birth.