It is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. It is commonly seen on T-shirts, Indian flag, and tattoos. It is used to symbolize Buddhism just like how a Star of David symbolizes Judaism. So what does Dharmachakra mean? And what is its significance in Hinduism and Buddhism?
Did You Know?
Buddhist flag in Thailand features a yellow flag with a red Dharmachakra.
Known as Dharmachakra in Sanskrit, it is one of the oldest and important symbols in Buddhism. Dharmachakra represents teachings of the Buddha. It depicts Dharma which according to Buddhism is the pathway to reach Nirvana (peaceful state of mind).
It signifies teachings from not just Buddhism, but also Hinduism and Jainism. Dharma Wheel (Dharmachakra) means Wheel of law. Dharmachakra has varying number of spokes, most commonly eight. Dharma wheel can be seen in any color, but it is mostly in gold. Center of the wheel has three shapes swirling together, usually they look like a Yin-Yang symbol, but it can be a wheel or another circle.
Dharma Wheel: Meaning
► There isn’t a single meaning associated with Dharmachakra, it can be interpreted in many ways. The Dharma wheel is made up of three different parts namely: The Hub, The Spokes, and The Rim.
►Buddha’s teachings are known as Dharma. The circle shape of the wheel symbolizes flawlessness of the Dharma, which is Buddha’s teaching.
► The rim of the wheel stands for the ability to meditate and concentrate, which further helps to hold all the teachings together.
► The smaller circle, which is the Hub symbolizes discipline. The three colorful swirls on the Hub stands for Buddha (yellow), Dharma (blue), and, Sangha (red) which are also called The Three Treasures.
► Last but not the least, the spokes represent different things based on their numbers.
► If a wheel has four spokes it stands for The Four Noble Truths which are The truth of suffering (Dukkha), The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya), The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha), and, The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)
► When the wheel is said to have eight spokes it signifies the Eightfold Path. This wheel commonly represents Buddhism. Eightfold Path includes Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
► Ten spokes wheel represents ten directions, while twelve wheel spokes signifies Twelve Links Of Dependent Origination. If the wheel possess twenty-four spokes they signify not only the Twelve Links Of Dependent Origination but also the reverse of these links and freedom from Samsara. Twenty-four spoked Dharma wheel is also known as Ashoka Chakra.
► Dharmachakra basically implies the teachings of Buddha. It simply explains the process of birth and rebirth. For all the problems an individual has to go through, Buddha provides a solution through meditation to end all the suffering.
Dharma Wheel: Significance in Buddhism
► Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath, which is a deer park in Uttar Pradesh, India. His first sermon was delivered after his enlightenment. The park where he gave his first sermon was a humble abode of many deer, and they gathered around Buddha to hear his teachings. That is the reason you will find deer sitting on either side of the Dharmachakra. Buddha taught us that we need to protect and save not just humans but also animals.
► Buddha taught The Four Noble Truths and each truth encompasses three characteristics which is known as ‘Turnings of the Wheel.’
► The Wheel represents the process of rebirth of a human being. In Mahayana Buddhism, it is noted that Buddha turned the Dharma wheel thrice.
► His first sermon was the first turning the wheel where he talked about The Four Noble Truths. Second turning was when he introduced the ideology of emptiness and compassion. The third turn was on the unveiling of the philosophy of Buddha-nature.
Dharma Wheel: Significance in Hinduism
► Dharma in Hinduism depicts order, it refers to the religious routine followed by a devotee. In sacred texts, it means the law which is followed by all the individuals.
► The word Dharma is derived from the sanskrit root “dhr” which means what is established or firm, inshort it stands for law.
► The wheel in Dharmachakra also symbolizes protection, creation, and, sovereignty.
► The Chakra or wheel is strongly associated to Lord Vishnu who is known to be the Vedic god of preservation.
Dharma Wheel: Significance in Jainism
► Buddhism and Jainism originated in the same surroundings, therefore they have many mutual symbols. Jainism strongly follows the principle of non-violence which ultimately leads towards the end goal which is death of this birth.
► In this culture, Dharma constitutes the wisdom of the “Jinas” and the wheel implies constant motion.
► Ashoka the emperor who ruled India and other regions was an ardent follower of Buddhism. He encouraged Buddha’s teachings among his people.
► During his rule, he encouraged many stone pillars, many of it are still standing. The pillars bear certain decrees that inspired people to follow Buddhism and the act of nonviolence.
► At the top of each pillar there is at least one lion depicting Ashoka’s rule. Pillars are also adorned with 24 spokes Dharmachakra.
► In the year 1947, Government of India adopted the chakra in the national flag. The chakra has 24 spokes and is navy blue in color on a white background.
Although the Dharma Chakra is thousand years old, it still retains its powers leading us to the path of enlightenment. It guides us to lead a simple form of life inspired by Buddha’s teachings.