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The eight-spoked dharma wheel is a common symbol in Buddhist iconography, representing the collective teachings of Buddha, known as the dharma. It is one of the eight auspicious symbols of Tibetan Buddhism. The symbol is also known as chakra from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" (not to be confused with the Hindu use of the same word to refer to energy nodes in the body — cf. chakra). The wheel is represented in Unicode as ☸.
Symbolism of the wheel
The symbolism of the dharma wheel is often given as:
- its overall shape is that of a circle, representing the perfection of the dharma teaching
- the hub stands for discipline, which is the essential core of meditation practice
- the eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. They are said to have sharp edges to cut through ignorance.
- the rim, which holds the spokes, refers to mindfulness or samadhi which holds everything together.
Transmission to different countries
The dharma wheel can also refer to the dissemination of the dharma teaching from country to country. In this sense the dharma wheel began rolling in India, then arrived in China, and then to Korea, etc.
Progressive development of Vajrayana Buddhism
Tantric Buddhists also use the term "turning of the dharma wheel" to refer to the progressive development of Buddhism which culminates in their school. According to this image:
- The first turning of the dharma wheel refers to 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 refers to the teaching of the Perfection of Wisdom sutra, a foundational text of Mahayana Buddhism.
- The third turning refers to the teaching of the Mahavairocana Sutra , a foundational text of Tantric Buddhism.
Doctrine of Three Wheels
The Doctrine of Three Wheels is Buddha's teaching that the dharma wheel must turn three times for a student to understand the dharma: once for hearing, again for understanding, and finally for internalizing.
- Buddhist symbolism
- Kalachakra or "Wheel of Time", the Indian philosophy of history repeating itself
- Wheel of Life, the process of reincarnation
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