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Length: 96 cm / Width: 68 cm / Depth: 16 cm

This superb piece on Magnolia Champaca represents the Wheel of Life.

The “bhavachakra” (from the Sanskrit “bhava” for existence and “chakra” for wheel) is a figurative representation of the samsara (endless circle of birth, death and rebirth). It is almost always present on the exterior walls of Nepalese and Tibetan monasteries to illustrate the samsara and the ultimate Buddhist objective: to free oneself from the samsara and its inevitable share of suffering and to reach nirvana. According to legend, it was Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha himself, who was at the origin of this didactic representation of Buddhist principles, which aimed to educate laymen and women entering monasteries.

Yama, the Lord of death (alias Mara, the Lord of deception and dissolution), grips between his jaws and claws the wheel of life where all beings are imprisoned within an infinite circle of birth, death, and rebirth. Yama represents impermanence, which threaten all existences and breaks them.

He wears a crown decorated with 5 five skulls (or poisons), symbolising the five aggregates constituting the ego: bodily form, sensation, perception, mental formation, and active awareness.                             

His third eye signals his intimate understanding of the impermanent character of all beings who struggle within the maelstrom of samsara. Its four limbs symbolise the suffering of birth, illness, old age and death.

At the heart of the wheel are the three poisons that fuel and keep beings trapped in this endless circle of suffering: ignorance, greed and aggression, respectively symbolised by a pig, a rooster and a snake. The snake emerges from the pig's mouth, symbolising that ignorance is the primary cause of all poisons.

The second circle illustrates the karmic effects of those poisons: as a result of their actions, beneficial or harmful, beings are being pulled towards higher or lower realms. The beings on the right are dragged in mental hells, while those on the left rise through the fruit of their virtuous actions to higher or celestial realms (a sign that poisons can be transcended into positive energy).

The third circle is a representation of six realms of existence, all interconnected. The three domains on the upper part of the third circle symbolise higher realms of existence: the realm of the celestial  gods in the center (ephemeral and characterized by spiritual complacency); the domain of the Asuras on the right (envious demigods who keep fighting against the latter), and the domain of the humans on the left. Driven by greed and jealousy, the asuras are hopelessly chopping down the wish-fulfilling tree, which is rooted in their realm but flourished, out of reach, in the celestial world of the gods.

In the lower part of the circle are the lower realms of existence symbolised by: the damned at the bottom, the wandering and hungry spirits on the left (with distorted bellies that nothing can fulfil), and the realms of the animals on the right (engrossed in survival or enduring servitude).

Among the six realms of existence, humans are the best positioned to achieve enlightenment and extricate themselves from samsara: they are neither completely distracted by pleasure (constantly sought by the gods and demigods), nor constantly bruised by suffering (continually felt by the lower realms’ beings).

In each realm of existence stands a Buddha, showing the path and guiding all beings, who are trapped and suffering in the whirlwind of samsara.

Finally, the last circle represents the twelve links of cause and effect that keep humans in samsara: initial ignorance, karmic formation, consciousness, name and form, basis of knowledge, contact, sensation, thirst, seizure, becoming, birth, old age and death.

Out of the samsara’s wheel stand two Buddhas, showing the path to enlightenment and nirvana. Buddha points  to the sun, and Lokeshwor, the Compassion Boddhisatva, to the moon - symbols of the noble eightfold path and of deliverance.