Wheel of Life Explained, No Frames Version

(This is a text-based no-frames version of the Wheel of Life. If your browser supports Frames you might prefer the frames-based version of the Wheel which features a clickable image.)

Overview of the Wheel

This is an original rendition of a traditional Buddhist theme. Yama, as the Lord of Death, is holding up a mirror in the form of a disk. In this mirror we see, not our personal features, but an image of the world as a whole.

The various rings of the wheel are as follows, reading from the centre outwards;

  • The Hub - The three defilements that make the world go round.
  • Rising and Falling - Beings passing from one world and arising in another.
  • The Six Realms - The various worlds of Buddhist Cosmology.
  • The Dependent Origination - A detailed explanation in twelve stages of the causes of existence.

See a full scale version of the wheel image.

Question: Are the various realms real?

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painting of the wheel of life Original Painting by Chris Choiniere

The Wheel Images Explained

* The concentric rings read from the centre outward
* Images read around each ring clockwise from top
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  1. The Hub
  2. Rising and Falling
  3. The Six Realms
    1. Deva Realm (Heaven)
    2. Human Realm (you are here)
    3. Animal Realm
    4. Hell Realm (Niraya)
    5. Ghost Realm (Petas)
    6. Asuras (Jealous Gods)
  4. Dependent Origination
    1. Ignorance (Blind Man)
    2. Volitional Formations (Potter)
    3. Consciousness (Monkey)
    4. Name & Form (Men in Boat)
    5. Sixfold Sense Base (House)
    6. Contact (Couple in Bed)
    7. Feeling (Arrow in Eye)
    8. Craving (Drinking Tea)
    9. Clinging (Monkey Eating)
    10. Becoming (Pregnant Woman)
    11. Birth
    12. Old Age & Death
  5. Other Symbols
    1. The Dhamma Wheel (top left)
    2. The Buddha (top right)
    3. Yama (Lord of Death, holding the mirror)

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