The Kalacakra ("Wheel of Existence")

Click on pictures or text links below for more detailed information about each part.

 

The Kalacakra is a well-known Buddhist image that illustrates important Buddhist teachings.  The circle represents the cycle of birth and rebirth, and the images inside illustrate the forces that keep beings trapped in this cycle. 

The circle is held by Kala (which in Sanskrit means both "time" and "death"), who personifies the forces of death and destruction. 

Outside the circle are two beings who are outside this cycle--on the right, Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha (who discovered the cause of rebirth and the path to liberation), and on the left a celestial Bodhisattva

The concentric circles convey different teachings

1.  The two inner circles portray the emotional forces that bind human beings, and the course of negative and positive karmic consequences. 

2.  The six sections in the larger middle circle portray the six realms of existence (clockwise from top--gods, asuras, animals, hells, ghosts, and human beings).  Of these, the human realm is considered the best, but each realm has a Buddha to bring teaching to its inhabitants. 

3.  The outermost ring illustrates the 12 stages in the Buddhist causal chain leading to rebirth ("Dependant Origination/pratityasamutpada).

 


  Click here for a larger image.


Note: This image was first block printed on rice paper (in black), and then hand painted. 

 It was given to me in the mid-1990s by Dr. Allen Hauk, who taught at Carthage for many years.  I am currently inquiring when and where he obtained them.
 
 

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Last modified 11 September 2005