Dharmachakra

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The dharmacakra, often written dharmachakra in English (Sanskrit; Pali dhammachakka; Burmese: ဓမ္မစကြာ ([dəməseʔ tɕà]); Chinese: 法輪; pinyin: fălún; Tibetan: ཆོས་ཀྱི་འཁོར་ལོ, THL: chö kyi khor lo; lit. "Wheel of the Dharma" or "Wheel of Law"), is one of the Ashtamangala[1] that has represented the dharma, the Buddha's teaching of the path to Nirvana, since the time of early Buddhism.[2][note 1]

Etymology[edit]

The Sanskrit noun dharma is a derivation from the root dhṛ, which has a meaning of "to hold, maintain, keep",[note 2] and takes a meaning of "what is established or firm", and hence "law". It is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman- with the literal meaning "bearer, supporter", in the historical Vedic religion conceived of as an aspect of Ṛta.[4]

The word cakra "wheel" derives from Proto-Indo-European *kʷekʷlos, and its cognates include Greek kyklos, Lithuanian kaklas, Tocharian B kokale, Slavic koleso and English "wheel," as well as "circle" and "cycle."[5][6] *kʷekʷlos is derived from the root *kʷel-, a verb that meant "to turn.".[6] Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, first Vice President of India has stated that the Ashoka Chakra of India represents the Dharmachakra.[7]

History[edit]

Old style Dharma Wheel. Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India

According to Beer, the wheel is an early Indian solar symbol of sovereignty, protection and creation. As a solar symbol it first appears on clay seals from c. 2500 BCE from the Indus Valley Civilization. The wheel is also the main attribute of Vishnu, the Vedic god of preservation.[8]

Usage[edit]

Buddhist usage[edit]

The Dharmachakra is one of the ashtamangala of Buddhism.[9][note 3] It is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols found in Indian art, appearing with the first surviving post-Indus Valley Civilization Indian iconography in the time of the Buddhist king Ashoka.[2][2][note 1]

The Buddha is said to have set the dhammacakka in motion when he delivered his first sermon,[10] which is described in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. The wheel itself depicts ideas about the cycle of saṃsāra.[citation needed]

Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the cakravartin "wheel-turner", the ideal king[10] or "universal monarch",[8][10] symbolising the ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions.[8]

According to Harrison, the symbolism of "the wheel of the law" and the order of Nature is also visible in the Tibetan prayer wheels.The moving wheels symbolizes the movement of cosmic order (ṛta).[11]

Beyond Buddhism[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Grünwedel e.a.:"The wheel (dharmachakra) as already mentioned, was adopted by Buddha's disciples as the symbol of his doctrine, and combined with other symbols—a trident placed above it, etc.—stands for him on the sculptures of the Asoka period."[2]
  2. ^ Monier Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary (1899): "to hold , bear (also bring forth) , carry , maintain , preserve, keep , possess , have , use , employ , practise , undergo"[3]
  3. ^ Goetz: "dharmachakra, symbol of the Buddhist faith".[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ancient-symbols.com, Buddhist symbols
  2. ^ a b c d Grünwedel 1901, p. 67.
  3. ^ Monier Willams
  4. ^ Day 1982, p. 42-45.
  5. ^ Mallory 1997, p. 640.
  6. ^ a b Anthony 2007, p. 34.
  7. ^ See the national flag code at http://www.mahapolice.gov.in/mahapolice/jsp/temp/html/flag_code_of_india.pdf and also the national symbols page of the National Portal of India at http://india.gov.in/india-glance/national-symbols
  8. ^ a b c Beer 2003, p. 14.
  9. ^ a b Goetz 1964, p. 52.
  10. ^ a b c Pal 1986, p. 42.
  11. ^ Harrison 2010 (1912), p. 526.
  12. ^ Kurt Titze, Klaus Bruhn, Jainism: A Pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-violence
  13. ^ "Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History", p. 314, by John Cort, publisher = Oxford University
  14. ^ See the national flag code at http://www.mahapolice.gov.in/mahapolice/jsp/temp/html/flag_code_of_india.pdf and also the national symbols page of the National Portal of India at http://india.gov.in/india-glance/national-symbols

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dorothy C. Donath (1971). Buddhism for the West: Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna; a comprehensive review of Buddhist history, philosophy, and teachings from the time of the Buddha to the present day. Julian Press. ISBN 0-07-017533-0. 

External links[edit]