The Wheel of Sharp Weapons is one of my most favorite mind training texts ever.
The first time I heard about this text, was when Venerable Thubten Chodron recounted the first time she read The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. It was in the 1970’s and she was in Nepal attending a buddhist course at Kopan Monastery. At the time she wasn’t a nun yet, and had contracted some sort of disease that drove up a burning fever with horrendous intestinal problems. She was bedridden, with nothing else to do but read.
What she read was the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, and it had a profound effect on turning her mind towards the dharma.
Two Ways to View Symbolism of the Wheel of Sharp Weapons
One way to is view it from the perspective of karma, and how selfish motivations lead to the ripening of unhappiness in the future. In the west, there is a common phrase where people say “you reap what you sow.” In the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, there are similar examples. One is of a blacksmith that makes weapons, and is later killed by an enemy wielding his own sword. Or a fletcher, killed by his own arrow.
The other way to view the symbolism of the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, is to view it as a device that is meant to strike the vital points of the enemy. In this case, the enemy is the inner enemy made up of two parts: the self cherishing thought and the grasping at an inherently existence self.
Reading a text like the Wheel of Sharp Weapons gives someone the sense that all the problems created in this life is the result of overly cherishing one self over others and grasping at the self. It’s these two things that creates karma to one day be reborn, only to get sick, age, and die and have a mind that is constantly going up and down.
The Wheel of Sharp Weapons then is really two things. Conventional bodhichitta, or the uncontrived, altruistic intention to attain enlightenment in order to benefit others, and ultimate bodhichita, or the wisdom that realizes the true nature of self and phenomena.
Also, The Wheel of Sharp Weapons mentions one of my most favorite stories, that of the peacock in the poison grove. The peacock is a bird with brilliant and beautiful feathers, and it lives in a grove made up of poisonous plants. By learning to eat the poisonous plants, the peacock flourishes. Whereas the other birds, like the crows, when they eat the plants from the poisonous grove, they become ill and eventually die.
This is an anology to a bodhisattva, who like the peacock, takes adverse circumstances of cyclic existence and transforms it into the path to enlightenment. Everyone else who is not conscious of their actions and states of mind, they’re like the crows, slowly killing themselves.
Most people, if they were to get a million dollars, they would have more problems. The tax men would be after them, relatives and friends would ask for money, they would have a million things to spend their money on and the paranoia and fearing of losing the money would ensue. Many people who win the lottery, end up losing it all and end up going into more debt than before they won the lottery.
When his Holiness the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize and the million dollars that come along with it, he just gave it all away to charities. People offer him millions of dollars year after year, and he just laughs and gives it away to people who need it. His Holiness I think is an example of a peacock, he live arounds the trappings of wealth, political power and fame, but doesn’t go into self destruct mode.
It took me a couple years to actually read this text, the imprints to read it kind of sat in my head for a while, but I thought about it a lot and had this image of a wheel with all sorts of weapons on it. Eventually when the time was right I read it. Its more of a poem, but its not about pretty things and love. Its about our habits and how we continually destroy our chances for happiness.
Here is a commentary done by the current Ganden Tripa about the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, His Holiness Rizong Rinpoche. Its a series of audio recordings.
Another, longer commentary on the Wheel of Sharp Weapons by Geshe Ngawang Drakpa of Tse Chen Ling, San Francisco. A series of audio recordings over the course of several months, and a very in depth commentary.