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Bhavacakra (Skt., the ‘wheel of existence’). Buddhist, and especially Tibetan, painting which portrays the relentless process of recurrent birth, death, and rebirth, saṃsāra, as a wheel. Pictures on the wheel convey the conditions of saṃsāra together with the moral and mental factors which cause the individual to remain within saṃsāra. The wheel is shown clasped by the hands and feet and being devoured by a demon monster, Māra, symbolizing the all-pervasive nature of death and impermanence.

According to the Divyāvadāna, the Buddha himself instituted the drawing of the bhavacakra as a pedagogic device for the instruction of the non-literate in Buddhist truths. The earliest known example of the bhavacakra is a fresco (c.6th cent. CE) of Ajaṇṭā.

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