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Tibetan Wheel of Life

Tibetan Wheel of Life (Srid.paʾi.ʾkhor.lo). Pictorial representation of the cycle of saṃsāra and the single most common example of Tibetan art, valued for its clear embodiment of much Buddhist teaching. The wheel itself is held by Shinje (Skt., Yāma), Lord of Death, to whom all life is subject, and is made to turn by the three poisons at the centre—ignorance, desire, and hatred in the form of a pig, cockerel, and snake, usually shown chasing each other's tails. Clockwise on the outer rim are symbolized the twelve causes of existence of the patīcca-samuppāda, and between the centre and the outer rim is the main body of the picture—the six realms of existence depicting all possibilities of birth: gods (lha), semi-gods (lha.ma.yin), animals (byal.sang), hell (dmyal.ba), hungry ghosts (yi.dvags), and humans (mi). These are to be understood as psychological as much as physical states. For the additional representations in Buddhism, see BHAVACAKRA.

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