Yama holding the Bhavacakra or Wheel of life. Gouache.

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The Bhavacakra or wheel of life symbolises the recurring cycle of lives from ignorance to death and from death to ignorance. In the centre are the Three Poisons: a cock symbolising greed; a snake symbolising hatred; and a pig symbolising delusion. These three emotional defilements bind people to the Wheel

Going outwards, there are six sections between the spokes of the Wheel: these represent the Six Realms in which beings can be born: ; 1. top centre, realm of gods; 2 . top right, realm of anti-gods or titans; 3. bottom right, realm of hungry ghosts; 4. bottom centre, realm of hell creatures; 5. bottom left, realm of animals. 6. top left, realm of human beings. The Buddha appears in all the realms

Around the edge of the Wheel, starting at the top left and proceeding clockwise, are the Twelve Causal Links: 1. a blind man symbolising ignorance, the lack of awareness of the nature of reality; 2. a potter symbolising the shaping of physical and mental materials; 3. a jumping monkey, symbolising the rise of conscious experience, with thoughts darting to and fro; 4. two men in a boat, symbolising the distinction emerging between self and non-self; 5. a house with six windows, symbolising the five senses and the mind; 6 a pair of lovers symbolising sense perception of the outside world, using the senses which have emerged; 7. an arrow piercing a man's eye, symbolising the impinging of emotional and physical feelings; 8. a drink served by a woman, symbolising craving as a result of feeling; 9. a woman gathering fruit and flowers, symbolising the clinging to what one is craving for; 10. a pregnant woman, symbolising life reproducing itself; 11. sexual intercourse, symbolising the beginning of a new life; 12. a man carrying a corpse on his back, symbolising sickness, old age, decay and death. Out of death ignorance arises again

Physical description

1 painting : gouache ; sight 94 x 70 cm


Wellcome Collection 45157i


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