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Wheel of life

(World of an Object)

A Buddhist icon (thangka) is presented on exhibition “Wheel of life”. It is made in Tibet and illustrates Buddhists’ beliefs about life and death.

An idea of reincarnation – rebirth of a person after death (as human or animal, titan, hungry ghost) – is one of main postulates of Buddhist philosophy. After each life there is death, then new birth, new life and new death. This chain of endless rebirths is taken by Buddhists as series of endless sufferings connected to inevitability of changes, aging and death. Liberating from chain of rebirths, achieving nirvana is the ultimate aim of Buddhist.

Exposed painting demonstrates possible worlds of rebirths. In the centre of painting there are snake, cock and pig – personifications of anger, lust and ignorance. According to Buddhist beliefs, these are particular passions that turn the wheel of endless suffering and rebirths. Snake, cock and pig are surrounded by circle divided into 2 parts: black and white, symbolizing good and bad forms of rebirths. Figures of people on the black side are directed down towards bad rebirths.

Next circle, the biggest one, illustrates rebirths in detail. Good rebirths are placed in the upper part of circle. These are:
Birth in the world of devas (deities). World of deities is shown as palace, surrounded by musicians.
Birth in the world of asuras (titans). Titans fight a war with deities, that’s why the world of titans is shown as fighting warriors.
Birth as a human is also a good rebirth. Moreover, Buddhists believe that it is human who has most chances to reach liberation from rebirth, because deities and titans enjoy their lives too much and animal-born suffer too much or just can’t reach liberation.

Bad rebirths. Under the world of humans the world of hungry ghosts – pretas, who live underground, is shown. Pretas are doomed to eternal suffering of hunger, as they can never satiate themselves. Rebirth as a preta is a punishment for greed.

Under the world of titans the world of animals is shown. Buddhists disapprove killing animals as they believe that in the past they could have been your parents or brothers, or can become them in following lives.

In the bottom Hells are shown. in Buddhism there are many hells that are located underground. Hells are divided into hot, cold and additional, for example, desert covered with smouldering coals. Sooner or later sinners will expiate their sins by suffering and will get the right for other rebirths.

The last, external circle is divided into 12 sectors. These sectors represent human attractions which chain him to this world.

  1. Blind man - ignorance
  2. Builder - activity
Results of previous rebirths

  1. Monkey climbing on a tree – forming of consciousness
  2. Man sailing on a boat – forming of an idea of name and form
  3. House with six shut windows – six potential senses
Embrionyc state of human

  1. Man embracing woman – contact with sensual world
  2. Man with an arrow in his eye – sensual perception
  3. Man with a cup of wine – forming of passionate wish under influence of sensual perception
  4. Man picking fruits from a tree – attachment to life appearing from passionate wishes
  5. Man and woman – inevitability of future rebirths, appearing because of attachment to life
  6. Parturient woman – inevitability of next rebirth
  7. Man on deathbed – suffering of old age and death
Human life since birth

One of servants of death god Yama holds “Wheel of life” in his hands. In top right corner is a wheel with eight spokes – symbol of Buddhist teaching which allows escaping from whirl of rebirths. In top left corner there is Buddha pointing at the Moon. Full Moon symbolizes nirvana – escaping from rotation of life and death. On the right from “Wheel of life” is a Buddhist monk.  Images of “Wheel of Life, Buddha and monk symbolize an alternative to endless chain of rebirths. This alternative concludes in accepting of Buddhism’s basics what has to be supported by teaching monk, and, finally, reaching the state of Buddha.

Exhibition is open from December 2001 to March 2002.