Dharmachakra

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The dharmachakra (IAST: dharmacakra; Pali dhammacakka; "Wheel of the Dharma"), is one of the Ashtamangala[1] of Indian religions such as Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. It has represented the Buddhist dharma, Gautama Buddha's teaching of the path to Nirvana, since the time of early Buddhism.[2][note 1] It is also connected to the Noble Eightfold Path.

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 meaning "bearer, supporter" in the historical Vedic religion conceived of as an aspect of Ṛta.[4]

History[edit]

Ten Indus glyphs from the northern gate of Dholavira.

The wheel is also the main attribute of Vishnu, the Vedic god of preservation.[5] Madhavan and Parpola note Chakra sign appears frequently in Indus Valley civilization inscriptions, on several seals.[6] Notably, a sequence of four signs on the Dholavira signboard, four are the chakra. [7]

Symbol[edit]

Common Dharmachakra symbols consist of either 8 or 24 spokes.

Unicode Symbol: ☸ (U+2638: Wheel Of Dharma)

Usage[edit]

Hindu usage[edit]

Vishnu holding Sudarshan Chakra

According to the Puranas of Hinduism, only 24 Rishis or Sages managed the whole power of the Gayatri Mantra. The 24 letters of the Gayatri Mantra depict those 24 Rishis. Those Rishis represent all the Rishis of the Himalayas, of which the first was Maharshi Vishvamitra and the last was Rishi Yajnavalkya, the author of Yājñavalkya Smṛti which is a Hindu text of the Dharmaśāstra tradition.

The Buddha described the 24 qualities of ideal Buddhist followers, represented by the 24 spokes of the Ashoka Chakra which represent 24 qualities of a Santani:-

  1. Anurāga(Love)
  2. Parākrama(Courage)
  3. Dhairya(Patience)
  4. Śānti(Peace)
  5. Mahānubhāvatva(Magnanimity)
  6. Praśastatva(Goodness)
  7. Śraddāna(Faith)
  8. Apīḍana(Gentleness)
  9. Niḥsaṃga(Selflessness)
  10. Ātmniyantranā(Self-Control)
  11. Ātmāhavana(Self Sacrifice)
  12. Satyavāditā(Truthfulness)
  13. Dhārmikatva(Righteousness)
  14. Nyāyā(Justice)
  15. Ānṛśaṃsya(Mercy)
  16. Chāya(Gracefulness)
  17. Amānitā(Humility)
  18. Prabhubhakti(Loyalty)
  19. Karuṇāveditā(Sympathy)
  20. Ādhyātmikajñāna(Spiritual Knowledge)
  21. Mahopekṣā(Forgiveness)
  22. Akalkatā(Honesty)
  23. Anāditva(Eternity)
  24. Apekṣā(Hope)

Also an integral part of the emblem is the motto inscribed below the abacus in Devanagari script: Satyameva Jayate (English: Truth Alone Triumphs).[8] This is a quote from the Mundaka Upanishad,[9] the concluding part of the sacred Hindu Vedas. In the Bhagavad Gita too, verses 14, 15 and 16, of Chapter 3 speak about the revolving wheel thus: "From food, the beings are born; from rain, food is produced; rain proceeds from sacrifice (yagnya); yagnya arises out of action; know that from Brahma, action proceeds; Brahma is born of Brahman, the eternal Paramatman. The one who does not follow the wheel thus revolving, leads a sinful, vain life, rejoicing in the senses." [10]

Buddhist usage[edit]

Dharmachakra, the Buddhist eight-fold path illustrated in a wheel.

The Dharmachakra is one of the ashtamangala of Buddhism.[11][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,[12] which is described in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. The wheel itself depicts ideas about the cycle of saṃsāra[citation needed] and furthermore the Noble Eightfold Path.

Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the chakravartin "wheel-turner", the ideal king[12] or "universal monarch",[5][12] symbolising the ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions.[5]

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).[13]

The image, having been found in antiquity is referred to as Rimbo (Treasure Ring) is an accepted symbol used in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, along with the Swastika.

Worshipers under 24 spokes of the Buddhist Ashoka Chakra.

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".[11]

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. ^ a b c Beer 2003, p. 14.
  6. ^ The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives By Jane McIntosh. Page :377
  7. ^ The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives By Jane McIntosh. Page :377
  8. ^ Kamal Dey v. Union of India and State of West Bengal (Calcutta High Court 2011-07-14). Text
  9. ^ "Rajya Sabha Parliamentary Standing Committee On Home Affairs: 116th Report on The State Emblem Of India (Prohibition Of Improper Use) Bill, 2004" (PDF).  Archived 8 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ http://www.vivekananda.net/PDFBooks/bhagavadgitawith00londiala.pdf
  11. ^ a b Goetz 1964, p. 52.
  12. ^ a b c Pal 1986, p. 42.
  13. ^ Harrison 2010 (1912), p. 526.
  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
  15. ^ Kurt Titze, Klaus Bruhn, Jainism: A Pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-violence
  16. ^ "Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History", p. 314, by John Cort, publisher = Oxford University
  17. ^ 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]