The picture here is of a Tibetan thangka called the Wheel of Life also known as the Wheel of Deluded Existence. Not only is it a beautiful piece of art, like all thangkas, it is a teaching drawn with rich symbolism to awaken the spiritual seeker. The way our minds work, is that we are captivated and learn best through story telling. So though this may seem like a beautiful piece of artwork, and it is indeed that, it is also one of the most powerful visual stories on how to move out of suffering and become liberated on this planet. Today I’d like to go into the center of this glorious painting and dive a little deeper with you to unlock some of its magic. I first learned these teachings years ago with a spiritual master by the name of Derek O’Neill and it still is a source of great wisdom as it unfolds more and more each year for me. The complete thangka shows us where our challenges start, in the center of the wheel and moves outward showing us very clearly how to free ourselves from this deluded existence. This wheel of life is like a ride of multi spinning wheels, which sounds like fun until you are on it, and then it feels like a fast moving, super spinney, carnival ride. Now multiply that feeling by the amount of years you’ve been doing this and I think it’s safe to say that most of us have moved beyond feeling like this is super fun, to dear God I’m going to throw up. As we usher in 2016, I felt it imperative to really go over the core of this teaching, literally to the center of the thangka, the beginning, and break it down in a way that is powerful, useful, and enlightening for us all. When we choose to correct a problem, it is important to fully understanding how it was created in the first place, otherwise we often miss healing pieces through lack of wisdom and confusion and then we are never fully free of them. The first major step in correcting any problem is to admit it’s there. So let’s take a deep breath and look at the three forms in the center of this thangka, understanding that they represent the foundation of our negative mental states, vices, and actions. Here is a quick breakdown of each:
Here is a quick breakdown of each:
The Pig - Represents Delusion/Ignorance
The Rooster - Represents Desire/Greed/Ego/Grasping/Control/Manipulation
The Snake - Represents Aggression/Anger/Hatred/Aversion
Take a few minutes to contemplate these. How do these emotions and states show up in your life? Be real with yourself. Now let’s see how it all works…
The heart of the whole problem starts with the pig, though I think if the wheel were created in Africa it would have been an Ostrich with its head deeply implanted in the ground. However, an animal that rolls around in its own shit all day, thinking that it’s bliss, also covers it extremely well. Bottom line, we don’t see things the way they truly are, we are deluded. On top of that, we will lie to ourselves to justify our delusion and surround ourselves with people that will back us up in it so that we don’t have to get uncomfortable and take responsibility for our lives and our light. Because of that delusion we will grasp after all kinds of things in trying to make ourselves happy, spinning around on the hamster wheel of life, never finding a state of true happiness. From that state of greed, from that state of lack, we are always looking for something to complete us, just like the Rooster does. Because of this we are constantly being distracted from the real task that would give us true satisfaction, our spiritual awakening. So everything up to this point is a grasping for the outer world, which as we know cannot truly satisfy us. So just like that Rooster, first thing in the morning we are calling out to awaken with the light because we know that’s what we really want, yet we spend our entire day trying to control every single thing around us. If you’ve ever seen a Rooster around his Hens you know exactly what I mean, and if you’ve never seen them at feeding time, well they will push everyone else aside to make sure they get theirs first, never trusting that they can have everything they need. The ironic part is, it’s not like they’ve ever experienced starving. On most farms with open yards they are fed the same amount, at the same time, every day. It’s the limited belief that says “that is all there is” that creates this suffering of lack. We’ve been playing the game believing our only resources are in a little yard, when in fact our resource is the Universe and beyond. And it doesn’t end there; from that limited lack consciousness we buy into the energy of anger, hatred, and aggression, like the Snake with its venomous energy of aversion. In simple terms aversion is our fear, anxiety, irritation, resentment, ill will, blaming, and judgement. We spend our time mentally running the gambit, postulating and worrying that we won’t get what we want, or even worse, that we will get what we don’t want. This causes us to separate ourselves from others, attacking to survive, trusting no one, and yet the Divine still pours down its light and warmth to nurture us, because in this state we have gone cold-blooded refusing to let the warmth of our own light spark us from within.
Can you see how this all plays out in your life, and how one energy spirals, merges, and overlaps into the next? Look back at the thangka and see how these three forms are all grasping and intertwined with each other, holding on for their very existence; how interesting the way they interact and support each other in this grand illusion. What if they stopped? The ultimate truth is that when one stops, when one begins to fall away, all the others automatically begin to fall too.
Let’s now take a look at the next ring. This spins clockwise and represents the law of karma. This particular part of the wheel is based off of our actions. Notice this ring is divided vertically in half. On the left side, at the bottom, is where the energy starts and you will see this whole section is being supported and backed by the light, whereas on the right side the background is dark. The left side represents us stepping into our highest light and taking joyous responsibility, whereas the right side represents the crap we refuse to let go of that drags us down. We are either moving upwards or we are falling downwards. Notice how, as the energy of light moves upwards, we appear to be getting more beautiful, healthy, and whole, whereas on the opposite side we are not doing well, and by the time that we’ve hit the bottom, we’ve completely given up and enslaved ourselves into the delusion of suffering where our own internal demons are running the show. When we enter into a state of suffering, it’s from clinging to seeing things our way, through our perspectives and beliefs, and wanting things our own way. The truth is we have a choice; we either choose to become more expansive and aware through full connection with our Soul and others, or we choose to get more disconnected and encaged within ourselves, bringing us right back into the center of feeding our relationships with our inner Pig, Rooster and Snake.
As you can now see, this wheel is in constant motion and we don’t stay in one place on it. We are in a constant state of flux. We move in waves. Our challenge in the second ring is to keep the waves more on the left than on the right. We do this through choice. Remember, the nature of our actions is what determines where we are on this wheel, and it represents a moment-by-moment state as well as long-term accomplishments or digressions. Our main task is to notice when we have touched a point of suffering, and choose to bring ourselves back to the light through surrendering to our souls. There are many different things that can help us do this. One of them is through mantra, vibrating the sacred sound that corrects each negative state, and brings us into conscious alignment with our Soul. Here are the sacred sounds that corrects each of these states:
Here are the sacred sounds that correct each of these:
The Pig - Sacred Sound OM
The Rooster - Sacred Sound is AH
The Snake - Sacred Sound is HUM/HUNG
So, if you love mantra as much as I do, you may choose one that includes the remedy to the negative mental aspects you are healing. For myself I find the Vajra Guru Mantra to be priceless. There are 11 recitations of the same sacred sounds and each level represents different stages. As the great master Pema Jungne stated, “The Vajra Guru Mantra is not just my single essence mantra, it is the very essence or life force of all the deities of the four classes of tantra, of all the nine yanas, and all of the 84,000 collections of dharma teachings. The essence of all of the Buddhas of the three times, all of the gurus, yidams, dakas, and dakinis, dharma protectors, etc., the essence of all of these is contained and is complete within this mantra”.
Here is the breakdown of the 4th recitation of the mantra. For the full teaching and all the recitations of the Vajra Guru Mantra, we have posted a blog on our website today for those of you who would like to delve deeper into this practice.
VAJRA GURU MANTRA
OM AH HUNG VAJRA GURU PEMA SIDDHI HUNG
OM AH HUNG purify obscurations arising from the three mental poisons: desire/attachment, aversion, and ignorance
VAJRA purifies obscurations which stem from anger
GURU purifies obscurations which stem from pride
PEMA purifies obscurations which stem from desire/attachment
SIDDHI purifies obscurations which stem from envy/jealousy
HUNG in a general way purifies obscurations which stem from all emotional afflictions
If mantra isn’t your thing, no worries, you can take action and choose to become more aware of when you are stepping into those negative mental states and shift them by choosing to think differently. A powerful way to start reprograming your thoughts is by challenging yourself to respond from a state of empowered awareness. My favorite question to help shift ME out of a negative habit is to ask “What would someone who truly loves themselves choose to do or think right now?” It is a powerful way of changing the old pain filled way of living into a life full of joy and purpose.
Here’s the thing, nothing new ever happens and we keep playing the same old stories over and over again, taking everything personally and very seriously, until we choose to do something about it. So let’s choose to do something about it! Using the law of Karma, let’s keep our circles positive, speak from a state of love, think brilliant thoughts, and take positive conscious action. Since what goes around comes around, let’s make what comes around amazing. May this year empower you to choose, brilliantly and lovingly, for the benefit of yourself and all other sentient Beings. Here is to the enlightenment of our entire planet. Joyous blessings to you all!