The Wheel of Life makes one realise the need for freedom
We live a life that is not free of joy and suffering. That means we are still struggling to get out of the life cycle that necessarily means we are caught in a vicious circle of never-ending misery.
The Wheel of Life, in Buddhism, is a diagram that represents all the environments of Samsara and all the beings that inhabit them. It highlights the nature of Samsara and the paths that take us and keep us bound there. One who meditates on the Wheel of Life understands the need to come out of it and be liberated from the unending cycle of life and death.
According to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, in his ‘Joyful Path of Good Fortune’, one who meditates on the Wheel of Life gets the inspiration of the Buddha and the ripening of the good Karmic potentialities.
The Wheel of Life has three animals— a pig, a pigeon and a snake in the centre. In some diagrams, the pigeon is shown coming out of the mouth of the pig, and the snake coming out of the mouth of the pigeon and joining the pig at its tail.
The three animals represent the three mental shortcomings — the pig standing for ignorance, the pigeon for desirous attachments and the snake symbolises hatred. They are shown in a circle to make one understand that they are interdependent.
The innermost circle is surrounded by another circle that is half white and half black— one representing the virtuous path and the second representing the non-virtuous path that leads to the lower realms.
There are other symbolic figures representing beings going ‘up’ or ‘down’ on the basis of their ‘Karmic record’.
And, there are other “worlds” too showing various aspects of life: Ignorance shown by a blind woman, consciousness represented by a monkey scampering restlessly up and down a tree. Existence is shown by a pregnant woman about to give birth, aging and death represented by a man carrying a corpse, plus many other aspects of life.
The ‘wheel’ is firmly held in the clutches of Yama, the Lord of Death, which reminds us that life is impermanent and the only way to seek peace and permanence is to get rid of the cycle.
At one side of the wheel, one sees the Buddha standing and pointing towards a moon. The Buddha outside the wheel means he has attained liberation and the moon symbolises true cessation of the worldly cycle.
The point is that most of us need convincing reasons to see reason and be on the path of liberation. The Wheel of Life could be one such instrument to be used for self-realisation.