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Dharma Wheels

By Devik Balami at
dharma wheels

The Dharma wheel is one of the sacred as well as the oldest Buddhist symbols of the Buddhist history. It is commonly known as the symbol of the Buddhism. In Buddhist tradition, Dharma wheel is also known as the Dharma Chakra and signifies the teachings of Buddha since Lord Buddha had turned the wheel of the Dharma. Dharma Chakra can be found in other religious traditions too such Jainism and Hindu tradition.

In traditional Buddhism, Dharma chakra is seen as the chariot wheel with spokes mostly decorated in golden color. Even now, Dharma wheel can be seen with various Buddha statues, images, and various sculptures. The statues of Buddha and Dharma chakra can be seen together since Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma and started teaching people the knowledge of Buddhism.

dharma wheels

Dharma Wheel in Buddhist Art

Dharma Wheel was one of the commonly used symbols in Buddhist arts before Buddha statues and Buddha images came into practice. It is said that Dharma Chakra used to represent not only the teachings of Buddha but Buddha himself.

Dharma wheel is also used in the modern tradition of Buddhism in many countries. Dharma wheel can be seen In various mandalas, Buddha universe, etc. Even Dharmachakra mudra in various Buddha Statues shows that Lord Buddha making the chakra with his hands.

In Tibetan Buddhism, there are various depictions of Dharma Chakra as a means of weapons to defeat evil and ignorance. The Ashoka pillars built by Ashoka also have four carved lions and four wheels in four directions to depict the proclamation of Buddhist Dharma in ancient India.

Meaning of Dharma Wheels

Since Dharma wheels is one of the sacred and oldest Buddhist symbols, there are many meanings behind the hub, rim and spokes of Dharma Wheel.

Basically saying, Dharma wheel has three basic parts i.e. the hub, the rim and the spokes. Even though there are various meanings behind these three basic parts and one single article can't contain the scope of the meaning of the Chakra.

  • Inside the chakra, the round shape i.e. circle actually represents the attainment of true Dharma or basically attaining the true teachings of Buddhism.
  • The rim is the representation of meditation. Mindfulness and concentration are balanced by the Rim of the chakra.
  • The three swirls in the hub represent the Three Jewels i.e. Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

The spokes in Dharma Chakra may signify different things depending upon its numbers.

  1. One of the rarest, four spoke Dharma wheel. When the wheel has four spokes, then it signifies Four Noble Truths.
  2. Eight Spoke Dharma Wheel – This is the common Dharma wheel which has 8 spokes which represents Noble Eightfold Paths or Middle Way.
  3. Ten Spoke Dharma Wheel – Or Simply saying, represents ten directions i.e. everywhere.
  4. When a wheel has 12 spokes, then the Dharma Chakra signifies 12 links of Dependent Origination.
  5. Popularly known as Ashoka Chakra or 24 Spoke Dharma wheel represent 12 links of dependent Origination as well as reverse of 12 links of Dependent Origination.
  6. 31 Spoke Dharma wheel represents of the Thirty One Realms of Existence that can be only found in ancient Buddhist cosmology.