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Wheel of Life Mandala

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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What follows is an explanation of the Wheel of Life Mandala created by Losang Samten, August, 2006 in Tahoe City, California and in March, 2008 in Philadelphia, PA.

The Wheel of Life is 2,500 years old and was a gift from Buddha.When Losang Samten brought this gift to the United States he wasthe first to create this mandala in sand. No two mandalas look the same, yet each is exactly the same in concept.

The same symbols,characters and designs are used, yet not in a rigid duplication.The mandala reflects back to us much information about the nature of the human mind, which has a strong tendency toward the illusion of permanence. The medium of sand, however, reminds the viewer ofthe ultimate impermanence of this existence as well as of all things.

Tibetan Buddhism views life as a cycle of birth, death and rebirth called samsara. Our samsara is our daily creation formed by the choices we make. The Wheel of Life is a visual aid helping us to understand this cyclical existence,while offering clear teachings as to why certain choices will simply continue to perpetuate suffering.

Sand painting is not a flippant art and there are many unseen challenges overlooked even by those watching the process. Years of training to create the symbols and images are subsequently followed by training to create them upside down.

The size, layout and construction, working from the inside out, necessitate this ability. This fragile, multi-dimensional,impermanent painting in sand is layered with outer, inner and secret teachings cultivated to benefit all sentient beings.

This mandala is called The Wheel of Life or The Wheel of Deluded Existence. We are constantly evolving. We have been on Earth before and will return again; not as punishment but as a way to learn howto improve ourselves as well as to help other people improve thequality of their lives.

The central teaching of this Wheel is that our suffering is due to the effects of the three poisonsanger, greed and ignorance to which we are so dearly attached.

Explanation of the Mandala

The center of the Wheel of Life holds the three poisons — the snake representing anger, the rooster, greed and the boar, ignorance - on a background of blue, which symbolizes the nature of the human mind. From this stems the yin and yang, dark and light areas surrounding the center. On the light side are representations of those seeking to lessen the effects of the poisons and on the dark side are those figures suffering due to the presence and intensity of the three.

The next circle encases this. This circle is comprised of six realms sections that illustrate life situations and their main conditions which result from the effects of these three poisons in our life. In the realm of human existence we are subject to attachment during the birth, growth, death cycle. Within the animal kingdom, due to their predatory nature, we see the predominance of fear.

If not hunting or being hunted they are subject to serving humankind.In the realm of karmic hell one faces the consequences of the presence of the three poisons in their life. In the area of the hungry ghosts the prevailing attitude is greed and stinginess. Never satisfied, they are constantly in pursuit of more. Jealousy permeates the realm of the demi-gods.

They are always coveting what their neighbor has and are even willing to go to war to get it. Deluded pride abounds in the heavenly realm. There is a fixation on external beauty and an absence of appreciation for the inner beauty.

Each of these sections also has the image of a radiant Buddha offering hope to every person on the journey. No matter how difficult the circumstances of one's life are at any given moment, the possibility of true liberation is always present. Contemplation and reflection on these images as well as ideas can help people in their personal growth because they are a powerful mirror of the human condition.

The Outer Ring of the mandala has 12 illustrations representing the 12 phases of human consciousness: Beginning at the top we find a spiritually blind man. In his state of ignorance he easily loses his way. Moving clockwise, there is a potter whose daily creations represent our deeds, our actions in life, and the beliefs that we follow.

Responsibility for the pots that we throw in life is ours. The monkey in a tree represents the "monkey mind", the constant chatter or the continuously shifting focus of the untrained mind. A boat rocking in the waves symbolizes physical, intellectual, or spiritual instability in our lives.

An empty house with six shuttered openings depicts the six senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing, and the conceptual mind. The amorous couple symbolizes desire and the object of desire. Making contact. Embracing the perceived object of desire.

The man with an arrow in his eye represents "feeling." He has been wounded by emotion and is experiencing the subsequent suffering. Next is the image of a person drinking wine and dreaming of an object not yet attained.

His unrealized desires are stimulated by his perceptions and emotions. In the next frame comes the acquisition of the desired object, while dreams of the next acquisition perpetuate further dissatisfaction. Craving does not cease.

Continuing clockwise around the circle is the image of a pregnant woman symbolizing the new life we create by our desires and cravings becoming substantive in time.The subsequent birth depicts the becoming of this new life.

This new life is subject to change as is all life. Old age and death are inevitable. Death does not end our suffering. Our friends we leave behind will suffer from our death, and we will begin a new cycle in the Wheel of Life.

The cure for all this suffering is to train the mind to notice and eliminate greed, anger and ignorance, which are the driving forces of this wheel.