Vintage Wheel of Life Thangka Bhavachakra Tibetan Thangka Painting
Frame it and enlighten yourself and your guest by displaying this powerful illustration; The Wheel of Life, on the wall of your living room, entryway, or kitchen & dining.
The Wheel of Life, also known as the Wheel of Time is a symbolic representation of Life, Earth, and Samsara (cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) of human beings. It portrays the essence of Buddhist teachings:
• The existence of suffering
• Origin and cause of suffering
• Prevention from misery
• Liberation from suffering
The Wheel is held by Yama, the Lord of Death reminding us about impermanence where all conditioned existence that come into being are in a continuous change and subjected to pass away. Held within the clutches of Yama, are beings inside the wheel, trapped in eternal suffering due to their ignorance.
Despite his appearance, Yama is not evil, but a wrathful protector of Buddhism. The third eye of Yama symbolizes his ability to see the future of humans.
The wheel is divided into six sections called the Realms and a center section known as The Three Poisons of Samsara. The six Realms are associated with the mantra of OM MA NI PAD ME HUM and are separated into two halves.
The upper half represents heaven with good karma that includes:
• The Realms of Gods (OM)
The Gods or Devas live in a state of bliss. Those born in this realm live a life of wealth, power and happiness and they don't recognize suffering. They do not have the motivation to seek liberation from the Wheel and eventually face rebirth when their happy life ends.
• The Realms of Humans (MA)
This realm is considered to be the most fortunate realm because it provides the beings with endless opportunities to liberation and escape Samsara (cycle of birth, death, and rebirth).
• The Realms of Jealous Gods (NI)
Following the Realms of Gods are the Jealous Gods whose highest priority is to get to the top where the Devas live. They are driven by extreme competitiveness and is depicted here engaged in conflicts and arguments with one another.
The lower half represents hell with bad karma that includes:
• The Realms of Animals (PAD)
The animal realm is characterized by a lack of intelligence, struggle, ignorance. The beings in this realm live a sheltered life of uncertainty, and are focused on survival for themselves and their offspring.
• The Realms of Hungry Ghosts (ME)
This portion depicts the hungry ghost or pretas with unfulfilled desires due to their over attachment with the world. Their big bellies in association with greed symbolizes an appetite that can never be satisfied.
• The Realms of Hell (HUM)
At the bottom of the wheel of life is the realm of Hell where people are depicted to be tortured in many ways until their bad karma is finished.
The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination around the rim in ↻ clockwise direction:
1. Ignorance of the Four Noble Truth (Suffering, Cause of Suffering, End of Suffering, Path to End Suffering) characterized by a blind person with a stick.
2. Will full Actions that sow the seeds of Karma depicted by a pottery maker. Just like Karma, the final quality and shape of the pottery (good or bad) depends on how the pottery making is executed.
3. Conditioned Consciousness symbolized by a restless monkey being aware of the external phenomena by using one of the six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind).
4. Form and Existence depicted by two people on a boat, traveling through the waters of Samsara (cycle of birth, death, and rebirth).
5. Senses symbolized by a house.
6. Contact of the Six Senses symbolized by a couple embracing and kissing.
7. Feelings of Pleasant, Unpleasantness or Neutral characterized by a person not being pierced by an arrow. The feelings are the events that makes us hold on to the pleasant ones or to avoid the unpleasant ones.
8. Craving depicted by a person holding a drink. It represents the thirst for pleasurable experiences while avoiding the unpleasant ones, which in turn causes suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction.
9. Attachment depicted by a person grasping the fruits. It represents one's attachment to pleasures, external appearance, materials, self ego influenced by one's craving and avoidance.
10. New Becoming symbolized by a pregnant woman. It is the force influenced by the previous link (Attachment), and it can keeps us in Samsara (cycle of birth, death, and rebirth).
11. Giving Birth. Influenced by New Becoming, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth would continue unless the links of dependent origination is broken.
12. Old Age and Death depicted by animals feeding on a corpse.
Furthermore, The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination around the rim also represents the Tibetan calendar starting with:
• Monkey (January)
• Two People on a Boat (February)
• House (March)
• Embracing Couple (April)
• Not Pierced by an Arrow (May)
• Holding a Drink (June)
• Grasping the Fruits (July)
• Pregnant Woman (August)
• Giving Birth (September)
• Wrapped Corpse (October)
• A Blind Person (November)
• Pottery Maker (December)
The Three Fires (Poisons) of Samsara:
At the center of the wheel are the three fires (poisons); greed, ignorance, and hatred, symbolized by a rooster, a pig, and a snake. These three forces are seen biting each other’s tail, thus reinforcing each other and keeping the Wheel of Life turning.
The final part of the painting illustrates that one can attain Nirvana by making it through the Wheel of Life as portrayed on the top by Buddha's presence outside the Wheel.
Offering you, here is a Wheel of Life Thangka handcrafted under the mentorship of Master Thangka Artist, Lalman Lama. This Wheel of Life illustration was painted on a handcrafted cotton canvas with crushed Himalayan minerals, and 24K gold.