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Tattoo designs - W >> Wheel of Life

Wheel of Life Tattoos - The Wheel of Life is a Tibetan mandala, a visual map of a human being's journey through life's stages from the cradle to the grave. The Wheel is comprised of intricate images, arranged so as to demonstrate the teachings of the Buddha.

Some people confuse Buddhism's Dharma Wheel with the Wheel of Life, and for good reason - the literature itself isn't consistent. Anyone looking for a Wheel of Life tattoo should be aware of the difference and potential confusion. Who knows, you might want one of each. The Dharma Wheel is about Buddha's teachings, while the Wheel of Life is a meditation on the universe and its karmic laws.

As a symbol of Buddhism, The Wheel is a graphic depiction of the different realms of human desire into which we are born. It includes illustrations of the causes of evil and suffering, but it also shows the way out of these seemingly endless cycles of misery. Wheels and circles, as designs they have long served humankind as symbols of the cyclical nature of existence. Scriptures mention Buddha using such images to illustrate his teachings.

Some of the images in the Wheel of Life are gruesome, yet their purpose is not to terrify us, but to point the way to a life where, through the teachings of the Buddha, we may be freed from the endless misery and suffering of life on earth.

Some say that the Wheel originated from Buddha himself, while others claim it was the invention of a disciple with the ability to see into the human soul. Whatever its origins, this most sacred of Buddhist mandalas appears inside every Tibetan monastery as a tool for comprehending the complexities of human nature, and as a means of introspection.

The mandala is made up of four concentric circles (or realms), each one divided into sections with images conveying a litany of human weakness and the consequences of giving in to them. The entire Wheel itself is held in the teeth and claws of Yama, Lord of Death, implying that in any of the realms of delusion, death can occur at any time.

mandala images

At the Wheel's centre we find a circle containing a pig, rooster, and rat, representing Greed, Delusion, and Hatred. Known as the Three Poisons, this trio is believed to be the cause of all of human grief and suffering, since they corrupt us from within. Not that these animals are evil in themselves, but that a human's lower nature is no more enlightened than that of an animal.

Wheel of life

The next circle is a band divided into Black and White, indicating the forces of good and evil, light and darkness. The next concentric circle is divided into the six Realms of Desire. Here we encounter the kinds of lives we live as a result of choices we make, ranging from Heaven to Hell. One of those realms - the Titan, for example - is that of warfare and hatred and all the consequences of such behavior. The outermost circle instructs us in cause and effect, an endlessly repeating motif suggestive of what occurs when we're trapped in any of the six realms of desire. Spiritual desire is no less a trap.

Wheel of Life Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!These six realms reflect myriad circumstances such as socio-economics, personality type, as well as our karma, which amounts to the consequences of our previous actions going back through all of an individual's lifetimes. In each realm we find an image of Buddha pointing the way to the Right Path. Concentrating on the Wheel is meant to help us see how life will continue fruitlessly in those realms if we ignore the ways and practices that lead to moksha (freedom and liberation).

Get inspired by some great images and photos in our Wheel of Life Inspiration Gallery

See also: Religious Tattoo Index, Japanese Tattoo Index, Bodhi Tree, Parasol, Buddhist Tattoos, Buddha's Footprint, Conch Shell Tattoos, Begging Bowl, The Empty Throne, Three Jewels, Buddhist Victory Banner, Buddhist Treasure Vase, Buddhist Tattoo Index

Tattoo designs - W >> Wheel of Life

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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