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The bhavacakra is popularly referred to as the wheel of life or the wheel of suffering and is placed on the outer walls of Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries as a symbolic representation of saṃsāra (cyclic existence). The drawing was designed by the Buddha himself to help ordinary people understand his teachings. Saṃsāra means "continuous movement," the continuous, repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. It arises out of avidya (ignorance) and is characterized by dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction). As Patrul Rinpoche explained, it means "going round and round from one place to another in a circle, like a potter's wheel, or the wheel of a water mill. When a fly is trapped in a closed jar, no matter where it flies, it can not get out. Likewise, whether we are born in the higher or lower realms, we are never outside samsara." Existence is divided into three higher reals (gods, demi-gods, humans) and three lower ones (animals, hungry ghosts, hell beings). The gods lead long, enjoyable lives, but they pursue meaningless distractions and never think to practice the dharma (“protection”), the moral law that governs individual conduct and includes duties, rights, conduct, and virtues, so when death comes they are completely unprepared and are reborn in the lower realms. The demi-gods have almost as much pleasure and abundance as the gods, but they spend their time fighting among themselves or against the gods. Humans suffer from being physical and emotional phenomena, but their realm is the most suitable for practicing the dharma because humans are not completely distracted by pleasure or by pain and suffering. Wild animals generally lead lives of constant fear, while domestic animals suffer from human exploitation. Hungry ghosts have huge bellies and long thin necks and constantly, and fruitlessly, search for sustenance; if they see a distant stream, the water dries up but by the time they get there, and the stream has dried up, but if they do manage to find something to drink, it burns their neck on its way to their belly, causing intense agony. There are actually eighteen different types of hells, each inflicting a different kind of torment on the beings for long eons of time.At first glance, this poem may seem a pessimistic association for one's first-born, but actually, without false sentiment, it embraces the universal human condition and promises parental support and sympathy.
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