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Wheel of Life


90 x 70 см.

canvas, mineral colors, gold, brocade, silk

Ordered by A. Markov
(Moscow, Russia)

Wheel of life
(tib. srid pa'i 'khor lo gshin rje chos kyi rgyal pos 'dzin pa ii)

Held in the tight grasp of Samsara personified (cyclic existence) seen as a fierce wrathful figure, red in colour, with one face and two hands, the circular disc is pressed up against the mouth ready to be swallowed at any moment - the immediacy of impermanence. This wrathful figure is sometimes referred to as Yama, the Lord of Death, and at other times as the red female daemon of death, possibly Yami, the sister of Yama.

First: The inner most of the 4 concentric circles shows a black pig (ignorance), green snake (anger) and a rooster (desire) circling on a dark background. They are often shown biting on each others tail.

Second: The next circle, made up of a white half and a black half, shows those individuals having performed meritorious actions (good karma) moving upwards in the circle of existence and those having performed bad actions moving downward, naked, led by red and green attendants of the Lord of Death.

Third: The widest of the circles is that of the six realms of existence; god, asura (semi-gods), human, animal, ghost (preta) and hell. Each segregated by a red dividing line. At the top is the Realm of the Gods highlighted by a heavenly being in a palace playing a stringed instrument. To the right is the Asura Realm, a lower form of god always engaged in conflict. To the left is the Human Realm and below that is the Realm of Pretas. To the lower right is Animal Realm. At the bottom is the Hell Realm with a central dark red figure, wrathful, holding a stick in the right hand and a mirror in the left. This is Yama Dharmaraja, the Lord of the Dead, King of Judgement (the Law of Karma). He holds a mirror to reflect those actions (and consequences) performed by each individual that comes before him. In each realm the various beings are portrayed engaged in their respective activities along with the occasional buddha or bodhisattva.

Fourth: The outer circle is composed of 12 scenes which represent the Twelve links of Dependant Arising starting at the top right with three blind figures (#1 ignorance) and then moving clockwise around the Wheel of Existence to a figure carry bundled corps to the funeral pyre (#12 old age and death).

Yama the Lord of Death, although portrayed in the Hell Realms, actually resides in the Realm of Ghosts and is the King of the Pretas. He lives in the city of Pretas, Kapila, 500 miles below the classical North Indian city of Rajgir and is accompanied by 36 attendants. His association with the Hell Realms is in the capacity of a judge of karma.
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Copyright © 2012, N. Dudka
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