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From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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The Dharmacakra (or Dharmachakra; Sanskrit: धर्मचक्र; Pāli: Dhammacakka; Burmese: ဓမ္မစကြာ ([dəməseʔ tɕà]); Chinese: 法輪; pinyin: fălún; Standard Tibetan: འཁོར་ལོ། (chos kyi 'khor lo); 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. A similar symbol is also in use in Jainism. It is one of the Ashtamangala symbols.

 Buddha’s teachings, which are known as Dharma, are likened to a wheel that moves from country to country in accordance with changing conditions and people’s karmic inclinations.

The external forms of presenting Buddhism may change as it meets with different cultures and societies, but its essential authenticity is ensured through the continuation of an unbroken lineage of realized practitioners.

Buddha’s teachings are said to be like a precious wheel because, wherever they spread, the people in that area have the opportunity to control their minds by putting them into practice.
Turning the Dharma Wheel

After Buddha attained enlightenment, as a result of requests he rose from meditation and taught the first Wheel of Dharma. These teachings, which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism.

Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention, respectively. These teachings are the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism.

In the Hinayana teachings, Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone. In the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in countries throughout the world.

Each year Buddha turning the Wheel of Dharma is celebrated in Kadampa centers around the world on a special day called Turning the Wheel of Dharma Day

Dharma Wheel; A collection of Buddha’s teachings. Sometimes `Dharma Wheel’ is used to refer to the heart channel wheel because this is the place where we visualize the Dharmakaya, which is the source of the Dharma Wheel).


The Dharmachakra 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. It has been used by Buddhist nations as a symbol ever since. In its simplest form, the Dharmachakra is recognized globally as a symbol for Buddhism.


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

    Eight spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya magga).
    12 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppāda) or the twelve permutations of the four noble truths.
    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 four 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
    Each spoke represents the Noble Eightfold Path including
        Right beliefs
        Right aspirations
        Right speech
        Right conduct
        Right livelihood
        Right effort
        Right mindfulness
        Right meditational attainment

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

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

Dharmachakra 287.jpg

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 Ananda Marga, Shrii Shrii Anandamurtiji, the Spiritual Master of the modern Tantra Yoga emphasizes the practice of Dharmacakra on his teachings representing a collective Kiirtan and Meditation by the Sadhakas (Spiritual Aspirants) To create and vibrate a very positive energy that enhances the Physical Sphere, Mental Sphere and Spiritual Sphere of a the Sadhakas (Spiritual Aspirants). Shrii Shrii Anandamurtiji offers the path of Sadhana to Sadhakas. He describes sadhana as "the transformation of fearful love into fearless love". This meditation (sadhana) for complete merger, for unification, starts with fearful love. He recommends to his disciples the practice of collective meditation at least once a week. These meetings called Dharma Chakras are preceded by the singing of few Prabhat Samgiita (or "Songs of the New Dawn", composed by Shrii Shrii Anandamurtiji himself) followed by Baba Nam Kevalam kiirtan, then the mantra called About this sound Samgacchadvam (help·info). At the end of the collective meditation the mantra About this sound Nityam Shuddham (help·info), then the spiritual gathering will end with the About this sound Guru Puja (help·info) mantra.


    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.
    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 rotating Law Wheel has the same nature as the universe and as 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. 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."