Dharmacakra

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The dharmacakra, usually written dharmachakra in English (Sanskrit: धर्मचक्र; Pāli: धम्मचक्क dhammachakka; Burmese: ဓမ္မစကြာ ([dəməseʔ tɕà]); Chinese: 法輪; pinyin: fălún; Standard Tibetan: འཁོར་ལོ། (chos kyi 'khor lo); lit. "Wheel of Dharma" or "Wheel of Law"), is one of the Ashtamangala symbols[1] that has represented dharma, the Buddha's teaching of the path to Nirvana, since the early period of Indian Buddhism.[2][note 1]

Etymology[edit]

The Classical 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 an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta.[4]

The word chakra derives from Proto-Indo-European *kʷekʷlos, and its cognates include Greek kiklos, Lithuanian kaklas, Tocharian B kokale and English "wheel," as well as "circle."[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, H.P., India. 2004

According to Buddha, the wheel is an early Indian solar symbol of sovereignty, protection and creation.[8] As a solar symbol it first appears on clay seals from c.2500 BCE from the Indus Valley Civilization.[8] According to Beer, 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 symbols[9] of Buddhism.[10][note 3] It is one of the oldest known Buddhist symbols found in Indian art, appearing with the first surviving post-Harappan Indian iconography in the time of the Buddhist king Aśoka.[2][2][note 1]

The Buddha is said to have set the "wheel of dhamma" (dhammachakra) in motion when he delivered his first sermon,[11] which is described in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. The wheel itself depicts the idea about the cycle of rebirth of a human.[citation needed]

Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the "wheel-turning" chakravartin, the ideal king[11] or "universal monarch",[8] who turns the wheel (of a chariot) when he conquers the world,[11] 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 praying wheels.The moving wheel symbolizes the movement of Rta, the cosmic order.[12]

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".[10]

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 d e Beer 2003, p. 14.
  9. ^ ancient-symbols.com, Buddhist symbols
  10. ^ a b Goetz 1964, p. 52.
  11. ^ a b c Pal 1986, p. 42.
  12. ^ Harrison 2010 (1912), p. 526.
  13. ^ Kurt Titze, Klaus Bruhn, Jainism: A Pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-violence
  14. ^ "Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History", p. 314, by John Cort, publisher = Oxford University
  15. ^ 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]