“The mind is its own place and in itself can make heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven” - John Milton
The wheel of Samsara or wheel of life is a Buddhist metaphor for the way humans create suffering. Its three parts are the bird, the snake, and the pig, often depicted in a circle where they bite each other in the butt. The bird stands for attachment, passion, and greed, as in: “This is good – I want it, I need it, I must have more of it.” To the extent that we fall prey to insatiable desire, where nothing is ever enough, we suffer. The snake stands for fear, expressed as resistance, aversion, anger, and aggression, as in: “This is bad – I don’t want it, I fight it, I destroy it.” To the extent that we give in to fear, we resist life, and so we miss out on creating good things for ourselves and suffer. The pig stands for ignorance, delusion, and lack of wisdom. If we lack insight and good judgment, while continually acting out on impulse (based on desire and aversion) we cause fear and sadness for ourselves and others, thereby causing suffering.
When we experience life as difficult it is suggested to look for attitudes within and adjust them through spiritual practice where we attend to the moment. We are taught that it is not reality, but our perception of it that creates our suffering (!). Whether we suffer from anxiety, depression, addictions, impulse control or other disorders or difficulties (in other words, all of us), we are advised to raise our consciousness to a plane above the physical in order to find some serenity. As long as we cater to fear, we waste precious lifetime based on skewed perceptions. It is exhausting, too. We may seek distraction and oblivion without reflection and deliberation, but in the end it turns out that nothing good comes from acting out. It is a set-up for remorse, regret, and self-loathing later on when guilt and shame set in. This can trigger the need for denial, where we cast blame and resent others, without owning up to our part. Without sufficient examination of the truth and estranged from ourselves, we feel empty and lost. This is what happens when life energy is wasted on resistance instead of evolution. We let ourselves down, while also disappointing and discouraging our people in the process, as well. It’s disheartening.
Excessive desire is not really desire, but a demand placed on the forces that be. It cannot be fulfilled as such. The need for love and happiness is not satisfied by insisting that things ought to be a certain way, when they are not. Demanding different life circumstances, while exploiting resources and people does not attract the desired outcome. The attempt to coerce people and enforce a lucky fate is not a recipe for happiness.
The truth is that all of life belongs together and all living beings are part of an integrated and interdependent whole. We are meant to play our part. The antidote to fear is faith in a conscious creative energy and a meaningful universe. The solution is acceptance. Healing becomes possible on the path of understanding, compassion, and loving kindness.
The way out of suffering can be found by showing up for life on a daily basis. We are meant to contribute our gifts with an attitude of gratitude and humility. It helps to keep an open mind without contempt for our flaws. We must be willing to walk through our fears. As we seek the truth, the forces of delusion, attachment, and aversion lose their power over us. When our perception changes we can move from struggling against life to befriending reality. It’s easier that way…
When we see that excessive desire, resistance, and resentment don’t work for us, we can eventually learn to let go. It does require daily repetition so that we don’t slide back into fear-based thinking. The practice of mindfulness in meditation and prayer is the way to get to know ourselves and eventually make peace with the pain and uncertainty of life. Enlightened beings dedicate energy to the eradication of suffering in others and in the process… they find liberation from their own suffering.
“I welcome everything. I resist nothing” - Buddhist saying
P.S. In Tibetan Medicine the three parts of the wheel of Samsara (desire, aversion, ignorance) are understood as three poisons, which cause toxic energy within and may eventually manifest in emotional, mental, and physical illness.