THE BUDDHIST WHEEL OF LIFE AND HOW TO BECOME FREE FROM THE ILLUSIONS OF THE EGO
By Roeland de Looff, email email@example.com
According to Tibetan Buddhism the cycle of ignorance is maintained by 12 expressions of
Ignorance can be defined as identification with the False Self: Identification with the False Self means that one assumes that one is a separate, temporary Body Mind Entity instead of being a timelessness being (Brahman).
The False Self is shown in the picture above as the Demon that holds the Wheel of
Every astrological sign has a specific way of expressing the principle of ignorance.
The most important expression of ignorance that one has to deal with can be seen in the placement of the Sun. This is called the Major Nidana. Next in importance is the placement of the ascendant. This is called the Minor Nidana.
The placement of the other planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the Nodes) in other signs give also information of the specific ways of ignorance, illusion and unconscious behaviour that takes place in ones life.
If that ignorance ends then it is possible to become free of the Wheel of Life.
The Buddhist wheel of life gives pictures of the illusions of life on earth. It gives insight in how to overcome these illusions so that moksha becomes possible.
It is portrayed on tapestries which can be found in many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. The most well known tapestry is a tapestry found in a monastery in Sikkim.
Liberation is possible by breaking away from the central processes of the major and
minor Nidana. In many cases this has to do with the release of (material) desires, ending
the identification with the ego and realising that one is an eternal being, one with
Aries: symbol a blind man. Avijja, Not Knowing. This nidana has to do with the unconscious will that goes its own way and on a new start. The blind man is ignorant. The central state is ignorance. Aries is characterised by quick actions that have consequences that are not always overseen. That is why he stumbles. Only enlightenment can give insight in the true state of the Cosmos.
Taurus: symbol: a potter. Sankara, Strength of Mind. When we come into existence the mind develops. The person engages himself with materials and with developing strength of mind. How the pot will look depends upon the potter. It is possible that one attaches him- or herself to material or thought forms. This attachment gives rise to illusions and a wrong picture of reality. The solution is to become free of attachments.
Gemini: symbol: a restless monkey. Vinnanna, consciousness. This nidana has to do with the conscious will, communication, change and restless activity. The monkey engages himself with picking fruit. However, soon another piece of fruit will pull his attention.
The central state is restlessness. Gemini is characterised by going from one project to another without finishing something. The solution is being in a state of peace of mind.
Cancer: symbol, a ship with two persons and a third who paddles and decides where the voyage is going to. Nama-Rupa, Body-mind. The two small persons in the boat symbolise consciousness (Vinnana) and the body. The mind has found a means of transport (the boat, which symbolises the body). The destination is being decided by the True Self who is symbolised by the large person. Water is a symbol of emotions. Cancer is an emotional sign.
There is a tendency to conceptualise reality, instead of seeing things as they are one only sees concepts.
The central state is resistance and surrender. By surrender to the True Self the journey will be easier.
Leo: symbol: a house with windows. Salyanta, six senses. A (not visible) person is in a house that has five floors, windows and a door. These symbolise the six senses (eyes, nose, ears, tongues, body and mind). It is through these that we see the world. However, observation through the senses is unreliable. What we observe is decided by the limitations of the senses and the mind which processes the input coming from the senses.
The central state is use of the senses which can lead to incorrect observation. The solution is to realise that our senses never can see reality as it is.
Virgo: symbol: two figures who are making love. Phassa, contact. The result of the meeting between the six senses (Salyanta) and an object is contact. The lovers embrace eachother in a sensual hug. The try to make one body out of two.
The central state is sensuality. Trying to make one body out of two will never be totally successful. At best it offers only a temporary state of oneness. The solution is to realise that realising ones true nature as an expression of Brahman is the only way that gives true oneness.
Libra: symbol: a figure with an arrow in his eye. Vedana, feeling. A man screams in an agonised way because he has an arrow in his eye. The arrow symbolises the large amount of data that are received by the senses because of contacts (Phassa).
The central state is over stimulation of the senses because of outside contacts. This causes feelings and emotions. Only by going inside is it possible to experience peacefulness.
Scorpio: symbol: a woman gives beverage to a man. Tanha, desires. The giving of beverage symbolises the giving of pleasure. The fact that beverage is given symbolises the addictive nature of pleasure. Desires will arise because of the feelings (Vedana) that are caused by contact (Phassa).
The central state is addiction to pleasure. The solution is to realise that material forms can give temporary satisfaction only.
Sagittarius: symbol: a woman that collects fruit in a basket. Upadana, greed. The fruit is the symbol for earthly objects of which we think they will give us satisfaction.
The central state is trying to reach external goals of which we think they will satisfy us. Sagittarius has a tendency to become attached to ideas and opinions. The solution is to become free of thought forms and if they arise not to become identified with them.
Capricorn: symbol: two people making love in a cabin. Bhava, becoming. Two people are making love which results in a pregnancy. This makes a new start possible.
The central state is the modelling of a new start. One undertakes concrete steps to realise the desires that come up under the sign of Scorpio. However, realising desires can lead to disappointments. Only in Brahman can one find true peace of mind and happiness.
Aquarius: symbol: a birth. Jati, birth. After pregnancy (Bhava) birth takes place. The steps that one has taken under Capricorn to realise desires (the desires that came up under Scorpio) will be completed and hence a new birth takes place. However, under Pisces one finds out that this new birth will also die. Only Brahman is never born and will never die.
Pisces: symbol a dead body which is carried away to the grave. Jara-marana, suffering. This nidana has to do with loss and the release of everything material. Everything on earth will eventually come to an end. Every birth (jati) will lead to suffering and dying. The only permanent factor is Brahman, which is never born and never dies.
THE BARDOS: THE ILLUSIONS OF THE EGO
In the Buddhist Wheel of Life we see six realms. These are divided into three realms of the upper world and three realms of the under world. The former represent illusions of happiness and the latter illusions of misery. However, all these realms symbolise states of the ego and illusions. Illusions keep us tied up in the Wheel of Life. This is true especially true for the happier realms like that of Jupiter. When things go the way the ego wants it to be one is less motivated to become free of the Wheel of Life.
The highest realm is that of Jupiter. This is the realm of the gods. Things go smoothly and life will generally be happy. However, even in a happy life there will be difficult moments. The money that one has gained may be lost. The beautiful partner may run away. So everything also in the realm of Jupiter has its expiry date.
Below the realm of Jupiter is the realm of the Sun and Mars. This is the realm of heroes and competition. People that have a high influence coming from this sphere like to prove themselves. They have to take care not to end up in power struggles. It is important for these people to be satisfied with what they are and show respect for their own accomplishments.
Next we reach the realm of Mercury. This is the realm of people. Persons that come out of this realm have many choices, which gives freedom. However, they can be overwhelmed by these choices. Therefore it is important that they focus their attention to something.
Next we reach the more difficult realms. The less difficult of the lower realms is the realm of Venus. This is the realm of animals and instincts. Pursuing pleasure is the central motivation in this realm. In many cases these people have rather conventional lives and attach much importance to comfort.
However, pursuing pleasure can never give true fulfilment. It leads to temporary satisfaction only.
Next we come to the realm of the Moon. This is the realm of ghosts and illusions. The creatures you see in the pictures have thin bodies and thirst and hunger that never ends. These people have a tendency not to have enough of anything. They tend to react from a feeling of lacking something. This attitude can be neutralised by contentment.
The realm of hell falls under Saturn. This realm gives the most difficult lessons of all. This Bardo may lead to depression. However, it also gives the highest motivation to step out of the Wheel of Life. So in a way this realm is the most auspicious for reaching true freedom.
If you wish to know the Bardo (state of the ego) that dominates your life you have to find out the following:
- You can look for the strongest planet or planets in the charts. One easy way to do it is to make use of Shadbala, which is a system that measures the strength of a planet. Most Vedic astrological software programs can calculate Shadbala within a few seconds.
- You can find out whether there are planets in the signs of a certain planet. For example if there are many planets in Sagittarius this is an indication that the realm of Jupiter is important.
- You can find out whether there are planets in the houses of a certain planet. For example if there are many planets in the second house this is an indication that the realm of Venus is important (the second house represents the second astrological principle which is the principle of Taurus, whose planet is Venus).
An astrological analysis using the techniques explained here gives information about what the best attitude is for you given your astrological chart. Therefore astrology helps you to personalise the general information which can be found in the Buddhist Wheel of Life.
You are free to apply for the Course Applied Vedic Astrology which gives you information how to apply the above information to your own chart. Unfortunately I do not offer long distance readings but you are welcome to apply for the course. Since the course takes place on the basis of your own chart you will learn which Nidanas and Bardos are important for you.
The above approach of the bardo's is based upon the book by Chogyam Trungpa Transcending Madness, The Experience of the Six Bardos.
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