Art ➔ Painting, The Wheel of Life
A gouache painting depicting the Buddhist Wheel of Life often found outside Tibetan Buddhist temples.
Tibetans have a traditional painting called the Wheel of Life, which depicts the samsaric cycle of existence. In the centre of this wheel are three animals: a pig, a snake, and a bird. They represent the three poisons. The pig stands for ignorance, although a pig is not necessarily more stupid than other animals. The comparison is based on the Indian concept of a pig being the most foolish of animals, since it always sleeps in the dirtiest places and eats whatever comes to its mouth. Similarly, the snake is identified with anger because it will be aroused and leap up at the slightest touch. The bird represents desire and clinging. In Western publications it is frequently referred to as a cock, but this is not exactly accurate. This particular bird does not exist in Western countries, as far as I know. It is used as a symbol because it is very attached to its partner. These three animals represent the three main mental poisons, which are the core of the Wheel of Life. Stirred by these, the whole cycle of existence evolves. Without them, there is no samsara.
Life is represented as a circle because it is a constant loop. People are constantly born and are constantly dying. There is a spiritual element to the circle, however, in the idea that the end of one existence is not necessarily the end of life altogether. Many religions and philosophies believe that through a certain life path, another life (usually a better one) awaits after humans leave this one. Thus, when humans die, they are not dead but merely reborn to begin another circle of life. In Buddhism, desire, hate and ignorance are at the center of the circle, and humans are forever trying to circumvent them. The Buddhist wheel of life also represents two ascending and descending half circles to represent that not everyone is able to overcome life's challenges. When this happens, one must begin again.
Gouache, Watercolor, Paper, Glass, Wooden Slat Backing
37"" h 24 3/4"" w
Current Location Status:
Gift Of Old Collection
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Old CollectionJames A. StraubJames A. Straub was a Collections department volunteer and Collection Committee Member at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, offering his services as an art historian. Among his many life accomplishments were his family, and serving in the United States Marine Corps, including a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam. His list of achievements include 27 years as Detective Lieutenant from the Kent County Sheriff's Department, Original Catalogue Director of the Mathias Alten Catalogue Raisonne, and providing significant contributions to the book, Mathias Alten: Journey of an American Painter.
Jim was honored to have been appointed by Gov. Milliken to the Board of Forensic Polygraph Examiners and by the GR mayor to the GR Historical Commission. Additionally, Jim served as President of the Command Officers Bargaining Unit at the Kent County Sheriff's Department and Vice President of the GR Historical Society. Along with his dedicated service to GRPM Jim was also a member of the Board of Kent County Employees Credit Union, the Kent County Pension Board, the Art Advisory Committee for Butterworth Hospital, the Acquisitions Committee at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the GVSU Gordon Gallery Advisory Committee.