Dharmachakra

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The dharmachakra (IAST: dharmacakra; Pali dhammachakka; 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 chakra "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]

Hindu usage[edit]

According to the Puranas of the Hinduism, only "24 Rishis or Sages", managed the whole power of the Gayatri Mantra 24 letters of the Gayatri Mantra depicts these 24 Rishis. These Rishis, represents all the Rishis of the Himalayas, of which Maharshi Vishvamitra is the first and Rishi Yajnavalkya is the last, who wrote Yājñavalkya Smṛti which is a Hindu text of the Dharmaśāstra tradition."Ashoka Chakra" which is the symbol of "Dharmachakra", is also known as "Samay Chakra" or the "Wheel of Time". Since, its 24 spokes represents the 24 hours of the day. The 24 spokes of the Ashoka Chakra represent:[citation needed]

  1. Love
  2. Courage
  3. Patience
  4. Peacefulness
  5. Magnanimity
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness
  8. Gentleness
  9. Selflessness
  10. Self-Control
  11. Self Sacrifice
  12. Truthfulness
  13. Righteousness
  14. Justice
  15. Mercy
  16. Gracefulness
  17. Humility
  18. Empathy
  19. Sympathy
  20. Spiritual Knowledge
  21. Moral Values
  22. Spiritual Wisdom
  23. The Fear of God
  24. Faith or Belief or Hope

Also an integral part of the emblem is the motto inscribed below the abacus in Devanagari script: Satyameva jayate (English: Truth Alone Triumphs).[9] This is a quote from Mundaka Upanishad,[10] the concluding part of the sacred Hindu Vedas.

Buddhist usage[edit]

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]

Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the cakravartin "wheel-turner", the ideal king[12] or "universal monarch",[8][12] 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).[13]

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. ^ 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. ^ Kamal Dey v. Union of India and State of West Bengal (Calcutta High Court 2011-07-14). Text
  10. ^ "Rajya Sabha Parliamentary Standing Committee On Home Affairs: 116th Report on The State Emblem Of India (Prohibition Of Improper Use) Bill, 2004" (PDF). [dead link]
  11. ^ a b Goetz 1964, p. 52.
  12. ^ a b c Pal 1986, p. 42.
  13. ^ Harrison 2010 (1912), p. 526.
  14. ^ Kurt Titze, Klaus Bruhn, Jainism: A Pictorial Guide to the Religion of Non-violence
  15. ^ "Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History", p. 314, by John Cort, publisher = Oxford University
  16. ^ 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]