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Tibetan Wheel of Moe

A less moe, but more traditional depiction of the Tibetan Wheel of Life

Amaenaide yo!!, also know as Ah, My Buddha, is a realitively run of the mill ecchi harem show. Across the two seasons the protagonist, monk-in-training Ikkou, is overcome time and again by his raging hormones in the presence of the women around him. What makes it stand apart from others in its genre is that the main female characters in addition to being novice Buddhist nuns are respresentatives of the six realms of Samsara as depicted on the Tibetan Wheel of Life (the Bhavacakra). These six realms can be understood as conditions under which one might live the whole of a life, or can be considered as states in which we find ourselves within a single lifetime. Let’s take a look at the six realms individually and then draw some conclusions with the help of Psychiatrist and Buddhist thinker Mark Epstein.

  • God Realm: This comfortable realm is the domain of the powerful Devas. They are powerful nearly god-like being who find themselves very close to Nirvana, and are thus not vulnerable to much of the suffering of this world. The experience can be so heady, so distracting that people might not do the work that is necessary for them to preform to come closer to enlightenment. In Amaenaide yo!! this realm is embodied by Amanogawa Haruka. She demonstrates the power associated with this realm proving time and again that her exorcising abilities exceed those of all her peers. However she also seems to lack motivation perhaps due to the strict training that she had endured earlier in her life.
  • Demi-God Realm: So close and yet so far, the Asura are able to perceive the difference between their existence and that of the Deva and it makes them jealous. This realm is marked by the fierce emotions of its inhabitants as they fight for position. Within the limitations of a harem anime, cup size can be an item of deep jealousy; This is especially the case for Atouda Yuuko. Her violent anger is inflamed both by her perceived shortcomings and by her suspicion that others judge her harshly for the same.
  • Human Realm: Often considered the ideal realm for a rebirth, this realm is free enough from suffering that real progress can be made towards enlightenment, but not so removed from suffering as to take away the desire to reach enlightenment. The protagonist of Amaenaide yo!! is closest to this realm’s avatar, Nanbu Chitose, a novice newly arrived from a distant small town. Chitose, more than the other characters, sees Ikkou as more than friend. Despite this affection, she (in true trundere fashion) is often the first to lash out at him.
  • Animal Realm: Beings driven by their instincts live in this realm. Animals either fear for their safety and must struggle constantly to survive or surrendering to domestication run the risk of abuse and exploitation. In Amaenaide yo!! this realm is represented by Ikuina Sumi, a novice with prodigious eyebrows and an affinity with animals. A follower rather than a leader, Sumi accepts the randy Ikkou rather than asserting her own needs or desires.
  • Hungry Ghost Realm: Hungry Ghosts really deserve an article all on their own, but I’ll summerize here. This realm is marked by raging need that is never met; for those in this condition what is consumed doesn’t satisfy and so there is a restlessness as they search for something that will fill the hole. The elder Sugai sister is this realm’s representative in Amaenaide yo!!. Her voracious hunger is the most obvious characteristic, but she also displays traits that let you know that she hungers for more than just food.
  • Hell Realm: Those who work their way to the Hell realm should expect active torment. Some have described as many as 18 different kinds of hells. Though it is Sugai Hinata who represents the Hell realm, often the torment is meeted out to Ikkou as she directs her companion demon to burn him when he misbehaves.

If we take these realms not a places for seperate lifetimes, but as a pretty real description of the way in which a single life might go through different kinds of phases that generate various suffering or benefits. In this view we can see Ikkou as a sort of everyman who bumbles along trying to make the best of the hand that is dealt to him. Setting aside for now the shows other major premise (that one is most powerful when in the throes of sexual titilation), this anime can be seen as a story of a human being who is working to accept each of these realms by neither denying their reality nor demanding that they change to suit his purposes (though Ikkou, like all of us expresses a desire to suffer a little less). And it is that desire to suffer less that powers the continual movement of Samsara, but the fact of suffering can at times be the very thing needed to open the way to deeper understanding. Mark Epstein in Thoughts without a Thinker talks about this seeming paradox in this way, "the sufferer’s perspective determines whether a given realm is a vehicle for awakening or for bondage." As Ikkou deepens his relationship with each girl, overcoming issues stemming perhaps from her past or that have arisen in the present, he too gains a deeper understanding of himself and becomes (in theory at least) more mature.

That maturity stems from the ability to see through the misconceptions about ourselves and others that are invited by the experiences of these realms, but it is seldom comfortable to come to grips with either the roots of our suffering and wilderness moments or with the realization that our peak experiences can be all too ephemeral and just as full of misconceptions as our times of suffering. But this depiction of life gives the tools to engage in a calm awareness of the self that can be very life giving.

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