Bhavacakra: The Wheel of Life

Buddhism is one of the most popular religions. It has a wide range of traditions, spiritual practices, and beliefs which are solely based on the original teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist do not consider Buddha as their god. Instead, they believe that he is the only human being who can see the way the world works.

In Buddhism, the “wheel of life” is a symbol of a Buddhist perspective on life. This Buddhism symbol is composed of different Buddhist themes and teachings. Yama is the Lord of death who holds and turns the wheel of life. Yama symbolizes the uncertainty of death and that nothing in this world is permanent.

The Wheel.

  • Outside the wheel, you will find the Buddha who is pointing to the moon which signifies the way to liberation.
  • Inside the circle of the wheel is the snake which is a symbol of hatred, the rooster for ignorance and the pig for greed. These three are considered as the root of delusions.
  • The ring in the center is karma. The ascending figures on its left are because of our righteous acts while the descending figures on the left are because of negative and ignorant actions.
  • The middle ring between the spokes are symbols of the six areas of existence. The first half on the top shows the three higher realms of existence which are humans, gods, and demigods. While the lower half signifies the lower realms which has the animals, hell-beings and the hungry goats.
  • On the outer ring, moving clockwise, you will find the twelve dependent origination which are:

  1. Ignorance of the world’s true nature (the blind man on the top right)
  2. We make our own destiny through our actions (a potter molding a pot)
  3. How our mind works and may sometimes go out of control (Monkey climbing a tree)
  4. Consciousness (people traveling by boat on the river of life)
  5. Our developing sense organs (an empty house with doors and windows)
  6. Our contact with the world using our six senses (Lovers embracing)
  7. Through the contact, we will have feelings. (arrow piercing the eye)

Our attachment to pleasant feelings (a couple falling in love)

The attachment which leads to aiming for the object of desire (monkey picking fruit)

Existence (man and woman making love)

Birth (woman in childbirth)

Aging and death (old man carrying a burden)