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  • Writer's pictureR.N. Jackson

What you reap... you sow. The Tibetan Wheel of Life.

On the cover of my forthcoming fantasy novel: 'The Daughter's of Mara: THIRST', Esta and Simon are standing in front of a classic example of the Tibetan Wheel of Life.

In the book, the characters refer to it as: 'The Wheel' and it plays a crucial role in the entire Tulku Saga.

Want to find out more about this fascinating idea, how it fits in with the story I've written and how it can help transform one's understanding of one's place in the universe? Read on for The Wheel of Life part 1: an overview.

The Wheel of Life is a visual presentation of the idea that all beings are reborn into one of six realms according to their actions in the present life. Each realm is defined by a dominant emotion: Pride, Jealousy, Greed, Hatred, Ignorance, Passion and has its own type of suffering.

In Tibet, this painting is at the doorway of every monastery or temple. It's a sort of teaching aid for everyone who enters. Apparently designed by the Buddha himself.

The image describes how people become trapped in an endless cycle of cause and effect that inevitably leads to suffering.

How each of us - not God - are the authors of our own destiny.

And lest you think that this leads to a fairly depressing world view, just think about the previous line. We are the authors of our future experience. The wheel of life is an instruction. It's not just a description of our current situation, but of how we can reverse the process that leads to suffering.

The idea is that by vividly illustrating the causes behind our situation, the wheel of life reveals how, through practicing antidotes to these causes, we can overcome the painful and limiting situations that are their effects.

It shows why an attitude of selfless compassion should be the guide for all our actions. Not just because we have been instructed - commanded - to be 'good', but because such an attitude is a reflection of the true nature of reality itself.

The Wheel of Life shows how selfishness IS the bars on the cage and that Selflessness is the key to unlock them.

So this week, let's have a look at the Wheel, and - a little like Lama la does with Esta and Simon when they first arrive at Rigpa Gompa - let me give you a bird's eye view... just remember to breathe!

The very centre of the wheel:

  1. The images in the hub of the wheel represent the three poisons of ignorance (the pig), attachment (The bird), and aversion (The snake). These guys - otherwise known as the three poisons - are like the engine room of the wheel. They are the source of all our unskilful ways of navigating life.

Now let's fly a little higher:

  1. The second layer represents karma: The law of cause and effect, that drives us to happier or miserable states.

  2. The third and largest layer represents the six realms of cyclic existence.

  3. The fourth layer represents the twelve links of dependent origination.

Then lets go higher still. You sure you're OK?

If we take a step back...

  1. The fierce figure holding the wheel represents impermanence.

  2. The moon above the wheel represents liberation from cyclic existence.

  3. The Buddha pointing to the moon indicates that liberation from it is possible.

OK. That's enough for now. You have the big picture now. Next week, I'll take you through each layer again... but this time a little slower.

Until next time, stay safe and watch out for snakes...

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