Dharmacakra


Dharmacakra
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The Dharmachakra (Sanskrit: धर्मचक्र; Pāli: Dhammacakka; Tibetan: འཀོར་ལོ། (chos kyi 'khor lo), Burmese: ဓမ္မစကြာ (IPA: [dəməseʔ tɕà]); Chinese: 法輪; pinyin: fălún), lit. "Wheel of Dharma" or "Wheel of Life" is a symbol that has represented dharma, the Buddha's teaching of the path to enlightenment, since the early period of Indian Buddhism.[1] A similar symbol is also in use in Jainism. It is one of the Ashtamangala symbols.

Contents

History

The Dharmachakra symbol is represented as a chariot wheel (Sanskrit cakram) with eight or more spokes. 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] The Dharmacakra has been used by all Buddhist nations as a symbol ever since. In its simplest form, the Dharmachakra is recognized globally as a symbol for Buddhism.[3]

Symbolism

A simplified version of the Dharmacakra

In Buddhism—according to the Pali Canon, Vinayapitaka, Khandhaka, Mahavagga, Dhammacakkappavattanasutta—number of spokes of the Dharmacakra represent various meanings:

  • 8 spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya magga).
  • 12 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppāda).
  • 24 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination and the Twelve Laws of Dependent Termination (Paticcasamuppāda).
  • 31 spokes representing 31 realms of existence (11 realms of desire, 16 realms of form and 4 realms of formlessness).

In Buddhism, Parts of the Dharmacakra also representing:

  • Its overall shape is that of a circle (cakra), representing the perfection of the dharma teaching
  • The hub stands for discipline, which is the essential core of meditation practice
  • The rim, which holds the spokes, refers to mindfulness or samādhi which holds everything together

The corresponding mudrā, or symbolic hand gesture, is known as the Dharmacakra Mudrā.

The Dharmacakra is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Tibetan Buddhism.

The dharma wheel can refer to the dissemination of the dharma teaching from country to country. In this sense the dharma wheel began rolling in India, carried on to Central Asia, and then arrived in South East Asia and East Asia.

Multiple turnings of the Wheel

Mahayana schools classify Buddhist teachings in turns of a sequential scheme of development. These phases are called "turnings" of the Dharmacakra (Sanskrit: dharmacakra-pravartana).

All Buddhists agree that the original turning of the wheel occurred when the Buddha taught the five ascetics who became his first disciples at the Deer Park in Sarnath. In memory of this, the Dharmacakra is sometimes represented with a deer on each side.

In Theravāda Buddhism, this was the only "turning of the wheel", and later developments of the Buddhist doctrine which do not appear in the Pali Canon or the Agamas are not accepted as teachings of the historical Buddha.

Other schools of Buddhism, such as the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna distinguish later "turnings". Specific accounts of them vary. In one, the first turning of the Dharmacakra is Gautama Buddha's original teaching, in particular the Four Noble Truths which describes the mechanics of attachment, desire, suffering, and liberation via the Eightfold Path; the second turning is the teaching of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra, a foundational text of Mahayana Buddhism; and the third is the teaching of the Mahavairocana Sutra, a foundational text of Tantric Buddhism.

In another scheme, the second turning of the Dharmacakra is the Abhidharma, the third is the Mahāyāna Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, and the fourth includes both the Yogacara sutras and Tathāgatagarbha sutras.

Other uses

  • In the Unicode computer standard, the Dharmacakra is called the "Wheel of Dharma" and found in the eight-spoked form. It is represented as U+2638 ().
  • The coat of arms of Mongolia includes a dharmacakra together with some other Buddhist attributes such as the lotus, cintamani, blue khata and Soyombo.
  • Following the suggestion of Bhimrao Ambedkar, the Buddhist dharmachakra was used on the new Flag of India.[4]
  • The national flag of the former Kingdom of Sikkim in the Himalayas featured a version of the Dharmacakra.
  • Thai people also use a yellow flag with a red Dharmacakra as their buddhist flag.
  • The Dharmacakra is also the U.S. Armed Forces military chaplain insignia for Buddhist chaplains.
  • In Jainism, the Dharmacakra is worshipped as a symbol of the dharma.
  • Other "cakras" appear in other Indian traditions, e.g. Vishnu's Sudarśanacakra, which is, however, a wheel-shaped weapon and not a representation of a teaching.

Dharmacakra in Falun Gong

Dharmacakra is translated as Falun in chinese, and is therefore the most important thing in Falun Gong practice. In "The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa", Li Hongzhi explains,"The Law Wheel (fa-lun) is central to cultivation in Falun Buddha Law. The Law Wheel is an intelligent, rotating entity composed of high-energy matter. The Law Wheel that I plant in a cultivator’s lower abdomen rotates constantly, twenty-four hours a day. (True cultivators can acquire a Law Wheel by reading my books, watching my talks on video, listening to my talks on audiocassette, or studying with Dafa students.) The Law Wheel helps cultivators cultivate automatically. That is, the Law Wheel cultivates cultivators at all times even though they don’t perform the exercises at every moment. Of all the cultivation ways introduced to the world today, this is the only one that has achieved “the Law refines the person.”

The rotating Law Wheel has the same nature as the universe and is its miniature. The Buddhist Law Wheel, the Daoist yin-yang, and everything in the Ten-Directional World are reflected in the Law Wheel. The Law Wheel provides salvation to the cultivator when it rotates inward (clockwise), since it absorbs a great amount of energy from the universe and transforms it into gong. The Law Wheel provides salvation to others when rotating outward (counter-clockwise), for it releases energy that can save any being and rectify any abnormal condition; people near the cultivator benefit."[5]

Notes

  1. ^ Albert Grünwedel, Agnes C. Gibson, James Burgess,Buddhist art in India. Published by Bernard Quaritch, 1901, page 67: "The wheel (dharmachakra), as already mentioned, was adopted by Buddha's disciples as the symbol of his doctrine ..."
  2. ^ Albert Grünwedel, Agnes C. Gibson, James Burgess,Buddhist art in India. Published by Bernard Quaritch, 1901, page 67: "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."
  3. ^ Hermann Goetz, The art of India: five thousand years of Indian art. Published by Crown, 1964, page 52: "dharmachakra, symbol of the Buddhist faith"
  4. ^ Christopher S. Queen, Sallie B. King, Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist liberation movements in Asia. SUNY Press, 1996, page 27, [1]: "Ambedkar, as a member of Nehru's first cabinet, proposed the use of the Buddhist dharmachakra or "wheel of the law" on the new flag of India and the Ashokan lion-capital on the national currency."
  5. ^ [2]

See also

Further reading

  • 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. 

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