8: The Insight Chart


Dependent Origination chart in Buddhism
Dependent Origination as Insight Chart

This Insight Chart is adapted from ‘Dependent Origination’ or ‘Wheel of Life’ chart ?

On the day Buddha attained Nirvana, during his meditation, he saw the true nature of all things and why people are unhappy. He understood the dependent origination. One thing leads to other and it forms a cycle which is difficult to break without proper understanding. Buddha understood why some people are happy and some are unhappy and are suffering. What he found out after years of effort, he made it available to everyone to benefit. He found the nature of all things, the dependent origination and the path to Nirvana. Now it is on each of us to put in effort and be free from suffering.

The Dependant Origination:

1.  Ignorance – It is the root cause of suffering

2.  Volitional Activities – With Ignorance arises Volitional Activities

3.  Relinking Consciousness – With Volitional Activities arises Relinking Consciousness

4.  Name and Form – With Relinking Consciousness arises Name and Form duality

5.  Six Senses – Name and Form is accompanied by the Six Senses of Sight, Hearing, Taste, Touch, Smell and  the Mind emulates all other five senses.

6.  Contact – With Six Senses arises contact with their respective Sense objects that of Sight Object, Sound, Taste object, touch object, smell object and mental objects

7.  Sensation – With contact arises sensation

8.  Craving – With sensation arises carving

9.  Attachment – With carving arises attachment

  1. Kamma – Bhava – With attachment arises Kamma – Bhava, our reactions
  2. Birth – With Kamma – Bhava (our reactions) arises birth or becoming
  3. Old Age and Death – With birth arises Old Age and Death and all other related sufferings

There are two charts here. One is the original and lively pictorial chart in chapter on Dependent Origination, and the other, Insight Chart in this chapter, is the same chart mapped on the palm for better memorization and practice in daily life. Readers here have a choice to prefer the first chart or the second chart or both for different place and time. For being constantly aware of the dependent origination, we have had it adapted to be plotted on our Right Palm where we do not have to make any changes.

This chart shows how some people make their life miserable with their wrong thoughts, speech and action and how some people enjoy good life after freeing themselves of the root causes of suffering (Ignorance, greed and anger). It also shows the cause and effect relationship that makes our future good or bad and also how we can break the chain of cause and effect to become free of suffering and attain Nirvana.

Starting from the center of the palm,

1.  The three root causes of suffering ignorance, greed and anger depicted by the edges of inner triangle of the palm.

2.  Beings sliding down into life of suffering (marked by the dark arrow pointing down adjacent to line of greed in the picture) and Beings climbing up (Marked by a white arrow adjacent to edge of ignorance).

3.  The Six worlds (marked on the mounts of the palm) of that of Human, Titans or asuras, Gods, Animals, Hungry Ghosts and Hell beings.

4.  The Four fingers with their three phalanges each shows the twelve links of cause and effect relationships.

5.  The thumb which has control of all activities of the palm represents the Mara – The God of Death who does not the let the activities stop.

6.  The term Dependent Origination is also used for the 12 links forming a cycle of life & death or of each karma and its result. Each link is a cause for next link. We can stop the wheel/break the cycle by breaking any one of the 12 links. Thus the simplest way to attain Nirvana is breaking the cycle of karma. And breaking the cycle is breaking just one link. It is very easy, but to do that we need a lot of discipline and also right understanding. That brings us back to following the 8 fold path. This book will guide you through the process of freeing you from the cycle of karma. Of the 12 links we can observe 4 links being broken with each of the link being broken as we progress. Refer fig. 1 & 3. First fig shows the eight fold path on the palm, with action, speech, thought, awareness and concentration marked from top to bottom. Compare this with the 12 links in fig. 3. As soon as you start observing your actions and speech you start to break the cycle at the kamma-bhava (actions) link on index finger. When you observe your thoughts you break the cycle at craving link on middle finger as craving is followed by a flood of thoughts. With awareness you break the contact link on tip of ring finger as you are aware when there is any sense contact. You will observe how finer control is gained as you progress. With meditation you get still finer control of your karma on the little finger as your Volitional Activities are under control. Finally when you move towards your right hand and with insight you completely eradicate ignorance and you become finally free from the cycle of karma/wheel of life and move towards achieving Nirvana.

5: The Practice Chart


Noble Eight Fold Path in Buddhism mapped on hand
Noble Eight Fold Path

The aim of this chart is to be aware of our deeds/karma as it is being done. In our daily life we are not aware whether what we have done is good or bad karma. With the help of this chart we can see all the karma that we have done after it has been done, like taking intoxicant, speaking lies, etc. After practicing it for some time, we will be at least aware of our actions  as they are being done. Awareness that we should change is important before we can change ourselves.

For practicing this figure is represented on the left palm, so that we can easily make markings on it with our right hand.(Left handed people can use this figure on right hand.).For attaining Nirvana, Buddha taught the Eight Fold Path, which is as under:

  • Sila: 1) Right Speech 2) Right Action 3) Right Livelihood
  • Samadhi: 4) Right Effort 5) Right Awareness 6) Right Meditation
  • Panna: 7) Right Thought 8) Right Understanding

With the help of the figure we can follow Sila and Samadhi aspects of attaining Nirvana. While Panna is left for the Second part of this Book, which will complete all aspects of attaining Nirvana.

The representations are as follows (Kindly re-read the details of each representation in previous chapters. Also see the figure as you read the rest of this chapter) :

The five fingers represent the five precepts or panchsheel (Ch.3).

  1. The little finger (weaker finger): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from killing or harming living beings.
  2. The Ring finger (With costly ring on it): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from stealing or taking what is not given.
  3. The (notorious) Middle finger: Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from sexual misconduct.
  4. The index finger (we use to ask someone to be quiet): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from speaking lies, or speaking ill of others.
  5. The thumb (Representing drink in Thumbs Up position): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from taking any intoxicants that affects the normal functioning of our mind.

Three other precepts not represented are followed by monks (We should try these in addition to above precepts at least once in a week or fasting days.)

  1. Abstaining from listening to music and other entertainment which affects our presence of mind.
  2. Abstaining from taking high and cushioned seat which makes us lethargic.
  3. Eating once a day but not after sunset, to maintain control on our greed.

The three  phalanges of each finger represent Morality (Sila) in action, speech and thought. As karma or intentional actions (discussed in next Part of this Book) are performed in thought, speech and action, the five precepts are divided and represented into three by the phalanges. This is so that we do not neglect or give less importance to karma performed in either thought, speech or action. Also as it is very difficult to change our source of livelihood if it has already been chosen or we had no choice, it becomes important that we follow the precepts in thought, speech and action so we have control of our mind and make our livelihood better. Those who have yet to choose their livelihood should choose it wisely as it affects our whole life, our minds and our practice.

The outer part of the palm connected to the fingers is used to mark our awareness or mindfulness in daily life. The marks are made from outside to inside. The markings are done like hour mark on a clock. For each hour that we are aware we make a mark indicating we were aware at that time of the day.  Also as we cannot properly represent a 24hr clock, we represent the marks with arrows pointing outwards as day for that hour and the same arrow pointing inwards as night and the mark having arrows at both ends as being aware for that hour both during day and night.

The circle in the center of palm shown in the figure is used to mark our meditation practice. A smaller circle is drawn for small period of meditation and large circle for longer period of meditation. Here again we draw another concentric circle for meditation done more than once during a day.

The long and bold arrows shown pointing from each finger towards center where we mark meditation is used to indicate the five hindrances that affect our meditation practice. These are

  1. Sloth & Torpor (Laziness): This line is drawn from the little finger – the weaker finger, which does very little work than the other fingers.
  2. Restlessness & Worry : This line is drawn from the ring finger, the diamond/golden ring in your finger giving you the cause for worry and restlessness.
  3. Sensual pleasure: This line is drawn from the middle finger, this is again the notorious middle finger associated with sensual pleasure.
  4. Ill-will: This line is drawn from the index finger, pointing to others, thinking evil of others.
  5. Skeptical doubt: This line is drawn from the thumb. The thumb in up direction says ‘go ahead’ and the same in down direction says ‘it sucks’.