Dependent Arising

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The Wheel of Cyclic Existence

The Buddha and the moon: liberation

The moon on one side indicates liberation. The Buddha is pointing to the moon, indicating that the liberation that causes one to cross the ocean of suffering of cyclic existence should be actualized.

Prior to his enlightenment, the Buddha was an ordinary being, just like any of us. Thus, there is no one who is enlightened from the start. Everyone is or has been in a state of cyclic existence, passing through the processes of birth, aging, sickness, and death over and over again due to our own actions, those actions largely being motivated by afflictive emotions—emotions that afflict ourselves. For instance, when we get angry and our face turns red and gnarled, even externally we afflict our own appearance.

These afflictive emotions, which are negative influences peripheral to the basic pure nature of the mind, are based on an ignorant misapprehension of the status of phenomena. Not knowing how things actually exist, we superimpose onto phenomena an over-concretized status that they actually do not have. The object doesn't have to be important in the larger scale of life, it can be very small. It can be candy, a slice of pizza, whatever. Before becoming lustful or hateful, ourselves and the object are misapprehended in such a way that a veritable mess of emotions are generated.


The fierce being holding the wheel: impermanence

The fierce being holding the wheel symbolizes impermanence; this is why the being is a wrathful monster. I once had such a painting drawn with a skeleton rather than a monster, in order more clearly to symbolize impermanence.

This signifies that the entire process of cyclic existence is caught within transience. Everything in our type of life is characterized by impermanence. Whatever is built will fall down, whatever and whoever come together will separate.