Himalayan Art Resources

Wheel of Life: Six Buddhas

Wheel of Life: Components

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Six Buddhas (Guhyagarbha)
- Six Sections

Some Wheel of Life paintings have a buddha figure depicted in each of the six sections. This generally only applies to the six section compositions. The five and four section examples do not add the set of six buddha figures. The six are also known as the Six Sages (Muni) of the Six Realms. It is most likely that the six buddhas are borrowed from the Guhyagarbha Tantra where six buddha figures are included in the greater mandala and represent the training of all beings in the six realms of existence. These six also called the Six Sages (muni) of the Six Realms are included in the depictions of the peaceful Bardo deities.

In the Nyingma Tradition the Guhyagarbha Tantra (8th to 10th century) is considered the most important of all Tantras. In the Tibetan tradition there appears to be three different versions of the tantra identified as a twenty-two chapter, forty-six chapter and eighty-two chapter versions. It is said that the twenty-two chapter version is the most popular and the most commented on.

Six Sages (muni) of the Six Realms:
- God Realm, Indrashakra (white)
- Asuras, Vemachitra (blue)
- Human, Shakyamuni (gold)
- Animals, Sthirasimha (blue)
- Ghost, Jvalamukha (red)
- Hell, Yama Dharmaraja (blue)

Not all six section examples have the six buddhas included and there are a few examples of the Wheel of Life that have only two or three buddhas from the set of six. The colours of the six different sages are not always consistent between 'Revealed Treasure' traditions.

Jeff Watt 6-2022

(The images below are Wheel of Life paintings that include the Six Buddhas).

Guhyagarbha Tantra:

'Cha is the enlightened mind of wisdom compassion.
E is however many gods exist, like particles of sand.
Ee is however many demi-gods exist like particles.
Oo is however many humans exist like particles.
Oo is however many animals exist like particles.
Eh is however many deprived spirits exist like particles.
Eh is however many hell beings exist like particles.'

'Through this great gathering wheel of syllables, all garlands of enlightened body, speech and mind are subsumed. Thus, this is expressed. Ah ho!'

The Guhyagarbha Tantra, Secret Essence Definitive Nature Just As It Is. Translated by Lama Chonam and Sangye Khandro of the Light of Berotsana Translation Group under the Guidance of Khen Rinpoche Namdrol. Snow Lion Publications, 2011. [Page 51].