A blind person with a stick blundering forward, unable to find the
Symbol: Lack of insight into reality manifested in actions
of body, speech, mind.
Meaning: This symbolizes the innate ignorance of confusion
which imputes a solid reality upon appearances. This is the basis
for the mistaken belief in a true self and other.
Image: A potter shaping clay objects.
Symbol: Deliberate activities akin to those that
shape life and daily existence. Also called Volitional Actions or
Meaning: Based on the belief in a true ‘I’
there follows mental inclinations, leading to actions that produce
either pleasant, painful, or neutral experiences.
A monkey in a tree restlessly scampering about picking fruit at random.
Symbol: Uncontrolled sense-consciousness jumping
from one object to the next.
Meaning: Consciousness as a continuity of actions
has two aspects, the moment of causal action and the moment of resulting
Two people in a boat, a third steering.
Symbol: Human psychological and physical elements are dependent
and inseparable. Together they float on the stream of existence.
Meaning: Name refers to the four aggregates that
constitute a sense of individual identity – feeling, perception,
conditioning factors, and consciousness, while form refers to the
A house with five windows and one door.
Symbol: The windows represent the five senses and the door
the mind. These are the organs by which the outer world is perceived.
Meaning: These are the five faculties of sight, hearing,
smell, taste and touch, as well as the mental faculty.
Image: A man and woman
Symbol: The senses are making contact with the
wworld. The mind and body interact in sensual perception.
Meaning: The meeting of the senses and their objects, producing
the experience of phenomena.
Image: A man with an arrow
in his eye.
Symbol: The swiftness and accuracy of the arrow
symbolizes the power of outer reality making powerful contact with
Meaning: The feelings of pleasure, displeasure,
or neutrality arising when objects are encountered.
Image: A man eating and drinking.
Symbol: Illustrates desire stimulated by perception and
emotions that lead more attachment to the world of appearances.
Meaning: Subsequent to feeling there is the desire
to experience pleasure and avoid displeasure.
Image: A person plucking
fruit from a tree.
Symbol: Desire for the fruit leads the person to
climbing the tree and grasping for the fruit. The fruit represents
Meaning: The impulse to seize the desired object
once craving arises.
Image: A woman moving
towards her lover, sometimes a pregnant woman.
Symbol: The action symbolizes bringing into existence,
continuation and sensation.
Meaning: A new existence arises as a result of
craving and grasping.
Image: A woman about to
or giving birth.
Symbol: Birth arises from becoming. It is the beginning of the suffering.
Birth is a metaphor for all new arisings, mental or physical.
Meaning: Due to the above causes and conditions,
consciousness takes birth in one of the six realms.
Old Age and Death (jara-marana)
Image: A man carrying
a wrapped up corpse.
Symbol: Old age and death are the inevitable consequences
of being born.
Meaning: When the causes and conditions that sustain
the physical form are exhausted, death occurs. Yet, as long as there
is still ignorance, these links continue to inter-dependently perpetuate
samsara and its sufferings.