Wheel of Life

The Sacred Wheel of life explains the whole cyclic existence we experience in samara (this 3 dimensional physical world) with all causes and effects.

1/ The center most wheel is a circle, which contains a Pig a rooster and a snake.

This signifies the core motivation of all human actions can be broken down to 3 root causes: Ignorance, Anger, Desires.

2/ The second circle is the Karma wheel

The root causes will give rise to an action, this action can be good which will create good karma or can be bad and create bad Karma

3/ The 3rd Wheel shows the 6 Realms of existence

God realm
The gods lead long and enjoyable lives full of pleasure and abundance, but they spend their lives pursuing meaningless distractions and never think to practice the dharma. When death comes to them, they are completely unprepared; without realizing it, they have completely exhausted their good karma (which was the cause for being reborn in the god realm) and they suffer through being reborn in the lower realms.

Demi-god realm

The demi-gods have pleasure and abundance almost as much as the gods, but they spend their time fighting among themselves or making war on the gods. When they make war on the gods, they always lose, since the gods are much more powerful. The demi-gods suffer from constant fighting and jealousy, and from being killed and wounded in their wars with each other and with the gods.

Human realm

Humans suffer from hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and separation from friends, being attacked by enemies, not getting what they want, and getting what they don’t want. They also suffer from the general sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. Yet the human realm is considered to be the most suitable realm for practicing the dharma, because humans are not completely distracted by pleasure (like the gods or demi-gods) or by pain and suffering (like the beings in the lower realms).

Animal realm

Wild animals suffer from being attacked and eaten by other animals; they generally lead lives of constant fear. Domestic animals suffer from being exploited by humans; for example, they are slaughtered for food, overworked, and so on.

Hungry ghost realm

Hungry ghosts suffer from extreme hunger and thirst. They wander constantly in search of food and drink, only to be miserably frustrated any time they come close to actually getting what they want. For example, they see a stream of pure, clear water in the distance, but by the time they get there the stream has dried up. Hungry ghosts have huge bellies and long, thin necks. On the rare occasions that they do manage to find something to eat or drink, the food or water burns their neck as it goes down to their belly, causing them intense agony.

Hell realm

Hell Beings endure unimaginable suffering. There are actually eighteen different types of hells, each inflicting a different kind of torment. In the hot hells, beings suffer from unbearable heat and continual torments of various kinds. In the cold hells, beings suffer from unbearable cold and other torments

4/The outer most wheel is large wheel spread into 12 parts called the 12 links dependent co arising With our thoughts we make the world

1st link:         Ignorance
Represented by an image of a blind woman who blunders forward, unable to see where she is going. So ignorance is blindness, not seeing. It is a lack of insight into the reality of things.

2nd link:       Volitional Formations

Represented by a potter. Just as a potter forms clay into something new, an action begins a sequence that leads to new consequences. Once put into motion, the potter’s wheel continues to spin without much effort. Likewise, an action creates a predisposition in the mind.

3rd link:        Consciousness

The rebirth consciousness is represented by a monkey going from window to window. This represents a single consciousness  perceiving through the various sense organs. The monkey represents the very primitive spark of sense-consciousness which is the first moment in the mental life of the new being.

4th link:        Mind – Body

Name and form (constituent elements of mental and physical existence) Depicted by people sitting in a boat with one of them steering. The boat symbolizes form, and its occupants, the mental aggregates.

Body and Mind are broad definitions. Body is 1 entity while mind is a compound of feeling, perception, volition and consciousness. This mind and body is two interactive continuities in which there is nothing stable.

5th link:        Six Sense Spheres

Six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) – a dwelling with six windows

mind functions as a faculty of foundation organ of thought ideas concepts

Depicted by a house with six windows and a door. The senses are the ‘portals’ whereby we gain our impression of the world. Each of the senses is the manifestation of our desire to experience things in a particular way.

6th link:        Contact

Contact – lovers consorting, kissing, or entwined

The sense faculties serve as means for gathering information about the world so we can survive and function and fulfill our function

  1. Eye form
  2. Ear sound
  3. Tongue taste
  4. Nose smell
  5. Body tangible
  6. Mind can deal with objects that other senses, ideas concepts etc…

Conditioned by these faculty contact arises

Contact is the coming together of the particular type of consciousness with the appropriate sense object through the sense faculty therefore considered as a union of consciousness object and organ.

7th link:        Feeling

Pain – an arrow to the eye (tone by which the mind experiences the object contact)

Feeling conditioned by contact


6 kinds of contact -feelings depending on which sense brought the feeling in (feeling born of touch contact , eyes, nose, body…,.)

3 types of feeling positive negative neutral

When our minds are blinded by ignorance and we have feelings we become attached to these feelings

Symbolised by an eye pierced by an arrow. The arrow represents sense data impinging on the sense organs, in this case the eye. In a very vivid way, the image suggests the strong feelings which sensory experience evokes – although only painful feeling is here implied, both painful and pleasant are intended. Even a very small condition causes a great deal of feeling in the eye. Likewise, no matter what kind of feeling we experience, painful or pleasurable, we are driven by it and conditioned by it.

8th link:        Craving

Represented by a person drinking beer. Even though it harms you, no matter how much you drink, you just keep on drinking. Also known as attachment, it is a mental factor that increases desire without any satisfaction.

9th link:        Grasping

Represented by a monkey reaching for a fruit. Also known as clinging, it means mentally grabbing at an object one desires.

This is the mental state that clings to or grasps the object. Because of this clinging which is described as craving in a high degree, man becomes a slave to passion.

10th link:      Becoming

Represented by a woman in late pregnancy. Just as she is about to bring forth a fully developed child, the karma that will produce the next lifetime is fully potentialized though not yet manifest.

11th link:      Birth

This link is represented by the very explicit image of a woman giving birth to a child.

Birth means the appearance of the five aggregates (material form, feeling, perception, formation and consciousness)in the mother’s womb.

Birth, as one might expect, is shown as a mother in the process of childbirth, a painful business

12th link:      Ageing & Death

The final link is represented by a dying person. Ageing is both progressive, occurring every moment of our lifetime, and degenerative which leads to death. Liberation from the physical body which will trigger the rebirth.