broken on the Wheel (don't lose the keys to your karma)

Lord Yama, the god of death, holding the Wheel of Life (bhavachakra). Sorry but I do not have and could not find any source information for this image. Apologies to the creator. If there aren’t enough bodies for the souls of the dead, the problem is ghosts.

If there aren’t enough souls for the bodies of the living, the problem is zombies.

If there are more dead ancestors than living descendants, the problem is grave.

But there are solutions to these problems, at least in theory.

It’s not true that every body implies at least two others. Sex isn’t the only way to reproduce, though it’s more fun than gene-splicing. Progenitors can and do produce multiple offspring, and are frequently alive during the lifespan of their offspring, though mostly wish they weren’t. And what about weird stuff like in vitro fertilisation, cloning, parthenogenesis, toner-less photocopying, and virgin birth?

There must be a mathematical function or algorithm linking descendants and ancestors. It’s got to involve sex though, unless you’re a whiptail lizard, a species without males. Actually an actuary might be able to help if ze were getting enough, which seems unlikely.

The earliest known Wheel of Life (bhavachakra) depiction is painted on a wall in the Ajanta Cave complex in India. Holding the wheel is Yama, God of Death. The fact that this image is painted on the wall of a cave does not disqualify it, in my opinion, from being described as a thangka. Wikipedia: a thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. For the algorithm to work you’d need to make assumptions about how many souls can inhabit a single body, how many bodies can host a single soul, and whether souls can inhabit the bodies of non-human organisms including but not limited to animals, gods and devils. Not to mention the bodies of extra-terrestrial species and extra-dimensional species.

Could you, for instance, spread or smear a single soul across a collective of host bodies? Bees, ants and termites do it, kinda’. And humans can be pretty eusocial too. Maybe we can all share a soul or at least an over-self like the Borg do in Star Trek. On the third rock around Sol all souls are tributaries of the over-soul named Gaia, including but not limited to the souls of humans and other living creatures.

Could you pack more souls into a single body — everybody’s, if you had enough? Think multiple personality disorder, an older name for dissociative identity disorder. Call them identities, personalities, persons or even souls, it doesn’t change the basic issue: the more of them, the more chaotic it gets. A house of many tenants is a disorderly house. And some landlords rely on professionals to keep their houses in order. Bouncers are psychologists and psychologists are bouncers. They deal with people entering dark places.

Depiction of the Wheel of Existence, showing the six realms of existence, with the god of death Lord Yama in attendance. Wikipedia: a thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.

As far as leaving dark places is concerned, being thrown out of a pub after a long hard night is a bit like being born: you come to your senses on a hard, cold, unfriendly place (the pavement), squinting your blind eyes into the harsh light (the early morning sun), squealing in pain (bad hangover), covered in body fluids (blood and vomit), owning nothing (empty wallet).

Slowly, you learn to walk, talk and drink again. And then you die and are reborn... into another life of pain, misery and suffering... another pavement... another empty wallet...
over and over again. Reincarnation.

So who in their right mind would look forward to their next Groundhog Day revolving around the Wheel of Cyclic Existence?

You don't have to be Buddhist to conclude that life is full of pain and misery. But note that some incarnations are less painful, miserable and insufferable than others, depending on which one of six realms you get to be reborn into.

The six realms are each purpose-built for the following lifeforms respectively:

  • gods
  • anti-gods
  • humans
  • animals
  • hungry ghosts (aka anguished spirits)
  • hell-beings (mainly wrathful).
This woodcut (creator unknown) shows the 1589 execution of Peter Stumpp accused of lycanthropy. In the top left a wolf attacks a child. Below that a man with a sword fights a wolf. In the centre Stumpp's flesh is torn with red hot pincers while he is bound to a wheel. In the middle, the blunt side of an axe is used to break Stumpp’s bones. On the right, Stumpp is beheaded. Above that, Stumpp’s body is dragged away to be burnt. In the fire is Stumpp’s daughter and mistress, each tied to a stake, being burnt alive with Stumpp’s headless body between them.BROKEN ON THE WHEEL
Mouseover image for extended caption.
I don't know about you but I would definitely prefer to be reborn as a god than as an anguished spirit, hungry ghost, or hell-being.

And if you don't fancy any of those, there's an escape clause, a get-out-of-jail-free card, a spanner you can throw into the Wheel of Cyclic Existence. Of course it all depends on your enlightenment-status. Don't lose the keys to your karma.

If you really and truly want to die fully and finally you've got to drag your weary soul to either one of two special worlds in which reincarnation is not only prohibited but is an offence punishable by Life -- a death sentence that spitefully involves a non-parole period being broken on the Wheel.

Those special worlds are Arupyadhatu (the formless world) and Rupadhatu (the non-formless world), and they comprise two thirds of Ultimate Reality. The remainder is reserved for the world of desire, Kamadhatu, which is where the six above-mentioned realms are found.

And by the way, Reality hosts a grand total of 31 realms, which if you think about it will make you as mad as a hatter before you can say "heterotic string theory" or "quintic Calabi–Yau manifold"! Plus or minus 1.

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Antares said...

You never fail to amuse and amaze, masterymistery!

masterymistery said...

Thanks Antares, for inspiration I drink at the Magick River!

mgeorge said...


Unfortunately, even the gods are dominated by their egos. The stated purpose of reeducation under Communism was to make people less egoistic, but we know how that turned out.

As you seem to have implied, the traditional philosophies only offer escapism.

masterymistery said...

Hi mgeorge,

I had a brief love affair with Buddhism until I came to realize it is fundamentally, inherently "anti-life", per this older post:
http://cosmic-rapture.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/enlightenment-works-best-in-dark.html

Thanks for your comment. Great to hear from you.