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Updated: February 2009.

Wheel Of Life - the Game

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, monks and nuns, welcome to the latest game show Wheel Of Life. He's arrogant, he's pompous, he believes that everything he says is right, he drives you crazy. Please welcome your host Simon Cowell.

Simon: Well Ryan, I think you just booked your plane ticket home. The Wheel of Life is said to have been designed by the Buddha himself. In Tibet this painting is at the doorway of practically every temple. The wheel has 21 parts and describes how we become trapped in our suffering and how this process can be reversed. For more information, pick up the Dalai Lama's book The Meaning of Life at Amazon. A Wheel Of Life thangka is available in stores and through Ebay.

Simon: If you reach 3,000 karma points in the game you can either enter Nirvana or you may choose to become a Bodhisattva. For 2,000 karma points, you will come back as a god, for 1,000 a demigod, for 0 a human, for negative 1,000 karma points an animal, for negative 2,000 a hungry ghost, and for negative 3,000 a hell being.

Wheel Of Life - The Judges

Simon: Let's meet our judges for today. He just flew in from Buffalo. He's the head of the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala in India and a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara. Please welcome the 14th Dalai Lama.

Dalai Lama: Hello Simon. You can call me Dalai.

Simon: Well, hello Dalai. Say, I hear you meditate for over four hours every morning.

Dalai: Yes, I love meditating - it sure beats sitting around doing nothing.

Simon: Our second judge is the co-founder of the Tibet House, creator of The Gere Foundation, and an officer and a gentleman. Please welcome Richard Gere. Ladies, ladies, ladies ... ladies, please sit down and control your desires.

Richard Gere: Hi Simon, is it ok if I tell a joke?

Simon: Laughter is good. Go ahead.

Richard Gere: There was an American, a Japanese, a Tibetan and a Chinese in an airplane. The American took a handful of dollar bills and threw them out the window. "We have lots of money in the States". The Japanese took some cameras and threw them out the window. "We have lots of cameras in Japan". The Tibetan took the Chinese and threw him out the window. "We have lots of Chinese in Tibet".

Simon: Very funny, but aren't you worried how the Chinese will react?

Richard Gere: Oooh, the Chinese are mad at me... I'm so scared! The Chinese are coming after me. Oh, don't let the Chinese come after me. They're so big and strong. Protect me from the Chinese.

Simon: Great acting Richard, but a little over the top if you ask me.

Wheel Of Life - The Contestants

Simon: Our first contestant is a former U.S. President, who, since leaving office, has focused on public speaking and humanitarian work like the treatment and prevention of AIDS and addressing global warming. Please welcome Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton: Hi Simon. You can just call me Bill.

Simon: Well thank you Bill. How is you sax playing coming along?

Bill: Why just fine Simon. Hillary doesn't really like my sax playing, so I have to play when she isn't home.

Simon: All righty then.

Simon: Our second contestant has a big mouth and is controversial. He is mainly known for his TV show, but recently made his first movie. Please welcome Homer Simpson. (applause) Tell us about your movie and its links to Buddhism.

Homer: Well, my character caused a lot of grief for everybody in Springfield. But, while I was on location in Alaska, I met an Inuit who gave me some, eh, awakening medicine that allowed me to see the interconnectedness of everything. Because other people are just as important as me. Without them, I'm nothing.

Simon: Thank you Homer. That reminds me of the joke of a Zen monk who approached a hot dog vendor and said, “Please, make me one with everything.” When the monk asked for his change, the vendor jokes that all change must come from within.

Simon: Our third contestant just may be the smartest person alive today. Please welcome physicist Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking: Simon, call me Stephen. I just want to say that my goal in life is the complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all. Thanks to Homer, I have to say that my latest theory is that the universe is donut-shaped.

Homer: Hmmm. Universe donuts ... with sprinkles of stars and planets. Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do? I don't trust you scientists with all your meaningless facts. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!

Stephen: You know Homer, 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Simon: Stephen, I hear you have a new book out - it's about time.

Stephen: Very funny, Simon.

Wheel Of Life - The First Round

Simon: Let's play the first round. There will be 6 questions, each worth between 250 and 1,000 karma points. Homer, spin the wheel. (spin)

Question 1

The wheel landed on the 12th link of dependant origination, with adults carrying heavy burdens. For 500 karma points, explain this link in one sentence.

Homer: Hmmmmm, karma points. Sorry Simon. I just want those karma points so bad. I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.

Simon: That was terrible, I mean just awful. Bill?

Bill: Life is a sexually transmitted disease with 100% fatality rate.

Stephen: Life's a bitch and then you die.

Simon: Judges. (judges confer)

Richard Gere: Homer did not answer. But both Bill and Stephen's answers are ok. We would also have accepted life is the the time between deaths.

Simon: Thank you judges. Bill and Stephen each have 500 karma points, Homer has 0 karma points. Stephen, please spin the wheel.

Stephen: I will use my new mechanical arm to spin the wheel. (spin)

Question 2

Simon: The wheel is pointing to the second inner circle. For 1000 karma points, what is the meaning of these two half circles? Homer.

Homer: You know my daughter Lisa is a Buddhist. Before I came on this show, she showed me a pamphlet about Buddhism that explains that good actions lead to happiness, while evil actions bring on unhappiness.

Bill: I have traveled widely throughout the world and seen other people's suffering. The goal of my foundation is to try to get every single human out of their hell condition and more into a living like a god. We cannot build our own future without helping others to build theirs.

Stephen: I think it relates to, what I call, the butterfly effect. A butterfly flapping its wings outside this studio can cause rain in Central Park, New York. The universe bends in such a unique way, that everything we're doing now, is sending out reaction waves. I think it is called karma in Buddhist language.

Simon: Judges.

Richard Gere: In the dark half-circle people are engaged in counterproductive actions and face downward to indicate that negative actions lead to lower states. In the light half-circle, people are engaged in positive actions and face upward to indicate that virtuous actions lead to higher, or more favourable, states.

Richard Gere: Bill, your answer was pretty good, so you will get 500 karma points. Homer, for reading the pamphlet we will award you 250 karma points. Stephen, you are correct and get the full 1000 karma points.

Simon: Hey Richard, you've really done something nice with your hair. Stephen, please spin again.

Question 3

Simon: The wheel is pointing to Yama. For 500 karma points, How is the wheel like alcoholics anonymous? Yes, Bill.

Bill: I'd just like to make it clear that I've never broken the drug laws of my country, and that is the absolute truth. I did not inhale.

Simon: There you go again Willie, always with the smooth talk. Remember if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. Homer?

Homer: Alcohol is the cause of, and the answer to all of life's problems. So, when I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading. I hope I didn’t brain my damage.

Simon: In my opinion, Homer, that was your funniest performance so far. Stephen, you buzzed.

Stephen: Simon, I envy people like Homer who drink. At least they have something to blame everything on. For me, I think that water is the only drink for a wise man. The 12 steps in AA are the principles and practices that will lead an alcoholic to sobriety. Just like that, the 12 steps in the wheel will lead a person from samsara to nirvana. You could call it the 12 steps to samsara anonymous?

Simon: Correct. Ok Stephen, you now have 2,000 karma points. For many people, fame, power and money are also drugs. Well, contestants, that's the end of round one.

Wheel Of Life - Round Two

Simon: Welcome back everybody. Stephen, please spin the wheel. (spin)

Question 4

The wheel landed on the fourth link of dependant origination, people in a boat symbolizing name and form. For 250 karma points, True or False: Western psychology helps somebody who feels they're nobody become somebody, and Buddhist psychology helps somebody who feels they are somebody become nobody.

Homer: What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind!

Simon: Is this a joke, are you for real? Bill, you buzzed.

Bill: Well Simon, that is a difficult one. Can I have a lifeline?

Simon: That is a different show. Answer the question.

Bill: I'm sorry Simon. Well, then, I'd have to say it is true.

Simon: There are only so many words I can draw out of my vocabulary to say how awful that was. Bill, you now have 750 karma points. Can one of the judges explain.

Dalai: Realizing your own selflessness does not mean that you become a nobody. It means that you become the type of somebody who is a viable, useful somebody, not a rigid, fixated, I'm-the-centre-of-the-universe, isolated-from-others somebody.

Simon: Phew, you are good, Dalai.

Question 5

Simon: The wheel is pointing to the upper right hand corner, with Shakyamuni Buddha pointing to the upper left corner where he is shown teaching. For 500 karma points, did the Buddha express belief in life after death?

Homer: Buddha, Buddha Buddha. If Buddha is so smart, how come he's dead? You know, I do know the first two noble truths of the Buddha. One, existence is suffering. Two, the cause of suffering is desire. In this case, my desire to get more karma points.

Richard Gere: Homer, it's a good thing Buddhism teaches freedom from desire, 'cause I've got the desire to kick your ass.

Simon: I'm not trying to be rude, but just stop it Richard. Bill, do you have an answer?

Bill: Well, I am not a Buddhist, but I've gone to Church for many years and listened to many preachers, so I think I know the answer. I think that Buddha did express belief in life after death.

Simon: You have just invented a new form of torture. Bill, you now have 250 karma points. Judges, please explain the answer.

Dalai: When I was a young student at the Potala Palace, I asked my learned teacher, "Oh master, what is death like?". He replied, "I don't know, I'm not dead yet."

Dalai: Actually the Buddha made no reply because any answer would be open to misinterpretation. He used a parable of a man shot by a poisoned arrow, who refuses to have it withdrawn until he has the answer to a number of irrelevant questions concerning the archer. Rather than waste time in futile speculation, the urgency is to withdraw the arrow and put an end to suffering, now, here on this earth.

Simon: Great answer Dalai.

Question 6

Simon: The wheel is pointing to the bottom of the six realms of rebirth, called hell. For 1,000 karma points, how many kinds of hell are there?

Bill: Well, Simon, I may have smoked marijuana but you shouldn't hold that against me because I didn't inhale. I guess I had extra-marital s*x but you couldn't hold that against me because I didn't really have 'sexual relations.' And I lied, but I didn't commit perjury. So, hopefully I'll see you in hell ... from heaven!

Simon: That was extraordinary! Unfortunately, it was extraordinary bad. Over to you Stephen.

Stephen: People might expect me to say that my disability has been a bit of a hell, but I disagree. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many.

Homer: In one of my shows, Simon, I sold my soul to the devil for a donut. The ol' devil tried to inflict the worst punishment on me he could think of. He force-fed me all the donuts in the world. Well, I fooled him, I enjoyed every one. 'More', I kept saying. That was a good one.

Simon: Look, stop right there. You know what I say? I say next up the bonus round. Contestants, please decide how much of your karma points you will wager on the bonus question. Bill and Homer you have 250 karma points, Stephen you have 2000.

Wheel Of Life - Bonus Round

Simon: Welcome back everybody. And now for the bonus round.

Bonus Question

At the centre of the wheel are animals representing the three main afflictions of Ignorance, Attachment and Anger. Which one of those three afflictions is most like the Earth? You have one minute to write your answer. Do-do-do-do-do, da-do. Okay, pens down. We'll start with you Bill.

Bill: Simon, I wager 750 karma points. When I think of the earth, I think of the majesty and the beauty of the forests, the rivers, and the mountains and valleys. I love the land, kind of like, eh, craving. So, I think the answer is craving, or attachment.

Simon: Bill, you and Buddhism go together like chocolate ice cream and an onion. You now have negative 500 karma points. What kind of hungry ghost do you want to be in the next life?

Bill: I have become quite an expert in asking for forgiveness. Simon, I was hoping I could get some kind of pardon, and come back and try again. How about it, Simon?

Simon: No no no no no no no. I don't give pardons. I only deal with the consequences of actions.

Bill: I am profoundly sorry, Simon, for all I have done wrong in words and deeds

Simon: You know there is an old saying that just like a dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker; so a man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.

Homer: I'd just like to say to Bill that your problem is you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is 'never try'. Heh-heh.

Simon: Ok Homer, you are next.

Homer: I'm thinking of the hottest place on Earth, the Sun. When I get angry, I'm like the sun, I get red hot. It's almost like I'm holding a hot coal waiting to throw it at somebody else. But, I am the one who gets burned.

Simon: Great answer Homer, very learned. But, oooh, so sorry, it is not correct. How many points did you wager?

Homer: Zero!

Simon: Really! Let me see, you still have 250 karma points.

Homer: Woo-hoo! I'm coming back as a human being! I am so smart! s-m-r-t! I mean, s-m-A-r-t.

Simon: Hey Homer, I just realized you did not answer even one question. You tricked me.

Homer: In your face , Simon. Heh-heh.

Simon: Homer, I only have one nerve left, and you are getting on it. And now for our final contestant, Stephen.

Stephen: Simon, I wager 1,000 karma points. I think that the greatest enemies of knowledge are ignorance, and even worse the illusion of knowledge. And my anser is Ignorance.

Simon: Correct. Stephen, you now have 3,000 karma points. Do you want Nirvana or come back as a Bodhisattva?

Stephen: Simon, I would like to come back and continue my work as a Bodhisattva. I hope to continue to study the universe.

Simon: Uh-huh. Dalai, please explain the answer.

Dalai: Right you are Simon. Ignorance is most like the earth. Ignorance is the ground of all afflictions. As long as ignorance persists, we cannot get rid of afflictions and get out of the samsaric state of mind. But ignorance does not have any emergent negative reaction. It is in the background. Therefore, it is something you work on slowly, step by step.

Now, attachment is like water. Our life is filled with attachment and it adapts to whatever situation we are in. It creates lots of suffering and pain. But it also is associated with love and compassion. It will not dry out quickly, but it doesn't have the immediate and fearsome destructive energy of anger.

Anger is like fire. It burns you, it burns the other person, it burns everybody around. It has the most negative effect of all. At the same time, it flares up quickly and can quickly die. Anger is the first and most important thing we need to work on. So, right at the outset, if we work with anger, we can have an immediate effect for the good.

Simon: Thank you Dalai. Well, that's the end of this week's show.

Simon: Thank you to our judges the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere. I'd like to give some parting gifts to our judges. Richard, here is the latest vacuum cleaner on the market.

Richard Gere: Sorry, Simon, I cannot accept that gift. A vacuum cleaner is a bad gift for us Buddhists because it comes with attachments.

Simon: Although a vacuum cleaner maybe a bad gift, I think I have the perfect gift for the Dalai Lama. Here it is - nothing!

Dalai: Why thank you Simon, it's what I've always wanted.

Simon: Next week our judges will be the professor of Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, and Director of Tibet House in New York City, Robert Thurman; and the reincarnation of the Buddha Amitabha, the 11th Panchen Lama, from Beijing, Gyaltsen Norbu.

Richard Gere: Simon, I protest! He is not the real Panchen Lama. He is an imposter.

Simon: Well the Chinese think he is the real deal. Be cautious, Richard. Remember when a wise man is angry, he is no longer wise.

Simon: Be sure to tune in next week for a special two-hour edition of The Wheel Of Life, a musical extravaganza featuring some of the world's best rock musicians. Guests include Bono from U2, Jack White from The White Stripes, and Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. We'll find out if Mick is still getting any satisfaction.

Simon: In closing let me say there are two paths in life, the path of wisdom and the path of ignorance. The path of wisdom is to pursue your true self. The path of ignorance is to pursue pleasure. Pleasure, being born of the senses, is temporary, and whatever is temporary falls under the sway of death. Thus the ignorant fall into my clutches. Few are wise enough to see their true self, even though it is inside them and nowhere else.

Good night, and see you soon.