Dharmacakra, Dharma-cakra: 15 definitions

Introduction

Dharmacakra means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

Alternative spellings of this word include Dharmachakra.

Images (photo gallery)

In Hinduism

Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Purana glossary
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र).—Also Sunābha, was set in motion and the place where its spokes were thrown out was spotted as the sacred place fit for seers; it fell in the Naimiṣa region.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa I. 2. 8; Vāyu-purāṇa 1. 183; 2. 8.
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Dhanurveda (science of warfare)

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Dhanurveda glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Dhanurveda

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र) refers to a weapon (a mythical weapon). It is a Sanskrit word defined in the Dhanurveda-saṃhitā, which contains a list of no less than 117 weapons. The Dhanurveda-saṃhitā is said to have been composed by the sage Vasiṣṭha, who in turn transmitted it trough a tradition of sages, which can eventually be traced to Śiva and Brahmā.

Dhanurveda book cover
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Dhanurveda (धनुर्वेद) refers to the “knowledge of warfare” and, as an upaveda, is associated with the Ṛgveda. It contains instructions on warfare, archery and ancient Indian martial arts, dating back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BCE.

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Shilpashastra (iconography)

Source: Shodhganga: The significance of the mūla-beras (śilpa)

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र) or Dharmacakrahasta refers to “Buddha” and represents one of the four gestures with both hands, as defined according to texts dealing with śilpa (arts and crafs), known as śilpaśāstras.—Accordingly, pratimā-lakṣaṇa (body postures of the icons) is comprised of hand gestures (hasta, mudrā or kai-amaiti), stances/poses (āsanas) and inflexions of the body (bhaṅgas). There are thirty-two types of hands [viz., dharmacakra-hasta] classified into two major groups known as tolirkai (functional and expressive gestures) and elirkai (graceful posture of the hand).

Shilpashastra book cover
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Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

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In Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: archive.org: The Indian Buddhist Iconography

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र) or Dharmacakralokeśvara refers to number 81 of the 108 forms of Avalokiteśvara found in the Machhandar Vahal (Kathmanu, Nepal). [Machhandar or Machandar is another name for for Matsyendra.].

Accordingly,—

“Dharmacakra again is similar to [Piṇḍapātra Lokeśvara], except that here he carries the Vajra in his right hand and the axe in his left.—Piṇḍapātra Lokeśvara is one-faced and two-armed and stands on a lotus. He holds the Piṇḍapātra (the bowl) in his two hands near the navel”.

The names of the 108 deities [viz., Dharmacakra] possbily originate from a Tantra included in the Kagyur which is named “the 108 names of Avalokiteshvara”, however it is not yet certain that this is the source for the Nepali descriptions.

Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Mahayana glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र) refers to the “Wheel of Dharma”, according to an appendix at the 2nd century Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter 51.—The Wheel of the Dharma (dharmacakra) is of three turnings and twelve aspects.

The first turning (parivarta) of the noble Truths is the Path of seeing (darśanamārga) and consists of four aspects (ākāra):

  1. This is suffering (idaṃ duḥkham);
  2. This is its origin (ayaṃ samudayaḥ);
  3. This is its cessation (ayaṃ nirodhaḥ);
  4. This is the path of the cessation of suffering (iyaṃ nirodhagāminī pratipat).

The second turning is the path of meditation (bhāvanāmārga) and consists of four aspects:

  1. The noble truth of suffering should be known (duḥkhaṃ āryasatyaṃ parijñeyam);
  2. Its origin should be eliminated (duḥkhasamudayaḥ prahātavyaḥ);
  3. Its destruction should be realized (duḥkhanirodhaḥ sākṣātkartavyaḥ);
  4. The path of cessation of suffering should be practiced (duḥkhanirodhagāminī pratipad bhāvayitavyā).

The third turning is the path of the Arhat (aśaikṣamārga) and consists of four aspects:

  1. Suffering is known (duḥkhaṃ parijñātam);
  2. Its origin has been destroyed (samudayaḥ prahīṇaḥ);
  3. Its destruction has been realized (nirodhaḥ sākṣātkṛtaḥ);
  4. The path of the cessation of suffering has been practiced (duḥkhanirodhagāminī pratipad bhāvitā).
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Buddhism glossary
Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

One of the Eight Auspicious Symbols

The Dharmacakra is a symbol that has represented dharma, the Buddhas teaching of the path to enlightenment, since the early period of Indian Buddhism. It is also sometimes translated as wheel of doctrine or wheel of law. A similar symbol is also in use in Jainism. It is one of the Ashtamangala Symbols.

Source: SOAS Research Online: The Buddhist boundary markers of northeast Thailand and central Laos

The dharmacakra or Wheel of the Law has been an integral part of Buddhist iconography from its earliest representations in India until the present day. It symbolises the moment Sakyamuni put into motion the teachings of Buddhism at the deer park in Sarnath. It was this event that in effect started the entire Buddhist religious and monastic movement.

The dharmacakra is made up of two to three distinct parts. Firstly there is the cakra (wheel) itself which is shown with spokes radiating out from the centre to the rim. The spokes can vary in number from anywhere between four and twenty. The cakra is at times mounted on a stambha (pillar).

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Jainism glossary
Source: archive.org: The Jaina Iconography

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र) (“wheel of law”) seems to have been borrowed from Buddhism to indicate the preaching of the Dharma in connection with the Tīrthaṅkaras.

Source: CrossAsia-eJournals: The Āyāgapaṭas of Mathura

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र) or “wheel of law” of was an important object of worship worshipped by Jains. According to the Jain mythology, the first dharmacakra was installed by Bāhubalī, the son of Ṛṣabhanātha (first Tīrthaṅkara). See Jain and Fischer (1978: 7) and Shah (1987: 20).

General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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India history and geogprahy

Source: SOAS Research Online: The Buddhist boundary markers of northeast Thailand and central Laos (history)

The earliest evidence for the dharmacakra motif comes from the Maurya Period (circa 313-185 BCE). Most examples occur in stone reliefs such as at the sites of Bharhut, Sanci and Amaravati, and in certain instances most likely symbolise aniconic representations of the Buddha. In these early examples the cakra is usually mounted on a stambha. From the 3rd century CE onwards the motif becomes restricted to the bases of Buddha images and signifies the first sermon scene (Brown 1996, 160).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Indian Epigraphical Glossary

Dharma-cakra.—(CII 3; LL), Buddhist; the wheel of Dharma which was the symbol representing the Buddha on early Buddhist sculptures, on stone inscriptions and on seals attached to copperplate grants. (HA) Jain; the wheel of law supposed to move in the sky in front of a Jina when he goes on his wanderings from place to place; one of the members of the parikara of a Jina image. Note: dharma-cakra is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as it can be found on ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Dravidian languages.

India history book cover
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

dhammacakka : (nt.) the wheel of Norm.

Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

[«previous (D) next»] — Dharmacakra in Sanskrit glossary
Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र).—

1) The wheel or range of the law; Bhddh. Jain.

2) a Buddha. °मृत् (mṛt) m. a Buddha or Jaina.

Derivable forms: dharmacakraḥ (धर्मचक्रः).

Dharmacakra is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms dharma and cakra (चक्र).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Edgerton Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र).—nt. (Sanskrit id., but in [Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit] as in Pali dhammacakka used in a specialized sense, hardly exactly paralleled in Sanskrit), the wheel of the law, which was ‘set in motion’ (pra-vartayati; pravartana, n.) by the Buddha when he first preached his doctrine: passim; triparivarta- (see parivarta)-dvādaśākāra-dharmacakra-pravartanam Mahāvyutpatti 1309; °kra-pravartana- Lalitavistara 36.3; °kraṃ pravartitaṃ Saddharmapuṇḍarīka 69.13; Divyāvadāna 393.23; °kraṃ pravartesi Saddharmapuṇḍarīka 69.15 (verse), etc.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र).—n. the law, Mbh 2, 456.

Dharmacakra is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms dharma and cakra (चक्र).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Dharmacakra (धर्मचक्र):—[=dharma-cakra] [from dharma > dhara] n. the wheel or range of the law, [Mahābhārata; Buddhist literature; Jaina literature]

2) [v.s. ...] a [particular] mythical weapon, [Harivaṃśa; Rāmāyaṇa]

3) [v.s. ...] m. ‘having or turning the wh° of the l°’, a Buddha, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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