Classic Hindu philosophy teaches that all beings have a permanent Self that is eternal and everlasting. However, Buddhism teaches the opposite and that in fact nothing is eternal, in particular the notion of self. On the outer ring of the Wheel of Life appears twelve different scenes depicting the causes that lead us to believing in a permanent self. These are referred to as the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination.
While there is no first step since they continuously follow each other, the first step in the chain is ignorance represented by a blind man walking with a stick. The next step is Karmic formations represented by a potter forming a pot out of clay. The next scene displays a monkey representing our consciousness that constantly grabs onto objects of thought. After the monkey appears a boat representing the development of form. Next is a house with five windows and a door representing the five senses and consciousness. After consciousness comes contact experienced by the senses. This is represented by depicting physical contact. Contact causes feeling represented by a man with an arrow in his eye. After feeling comes craving shown here as a woman offering a man a drink. Clinging comes after craving as we hold onto those things that we find pleasurable and reject those things we find painful. Clinging ensures becoming represented here by a couple making love. After becoming comes rebirth represented by a woman giving birth. After rebirth ultimately comes the suffering caused by old age and death here represented by either an old man or a corpse being carried up a hill.
Image Credit: Wheel of Existence; Tibet, early 20th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art, C2004.21.1
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About the Speaker
“Each of us has a genuine capacity for love, forgiveness, wisdom and compassion. Meditation awakens these qualities so that we can discover for ourselves the unique happiness that is our birthright.”
Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, has been a student of meditation since 1971, and guiding meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. Sharon’s latest book is Real Happiness At Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. She is weekly columnist forOn being, a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and is also the author of several other books including the New York Timesbest-seller, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program, Love Your Enemies, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, and Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness.Sharon has been a regular participant in the Rubin’s many on-stage conversations. This is her first formal meditation session at the museum. For more information, please visit SharonSalzberg.com