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The Dharmacakra refers to an eight-spoked wheel that is a universal symbol of Buddhism. Also called the Wheel of Dharma, it represents the Dharma or law taught by the Buddha as the path to the achievement of nirvana or enlightenment. The Buddha is believed to have turned the Wheel of Dharma and set it in motion with his first sermon, after attaining enlightenment, delivered at the Deer Park in Sarnath.

The Dharmacakra is also representative of the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth. It is one of the auspicious Ashtamangala symbols of Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetans refer to it as ‘chos kyi’khor lo’, meaning the ‘wheel of transformation’. The motion of the wheel signifies spiritual change as the teachings of the Buddha cut through all illusions and obstacles impeding learning and understanding.

The eight spokes of the Dharmacakra symbolize the noble eightfold path that leads one to enlightenment. These are right faith, right thought, right speech, right action, right endeavor, right livelihood, right concentration and right mindfulness. Besides the 8-spoked Dharmacakra, variations exist in form of wheels with 4, 6, 10, 12, 24 or 31 spokes, each carrying specific meanings.


The overall shape of the Dharmacakra also has profound significance. Collectively, the three components (rim, spokes and hub) represent the 3 aspects of Buddhist teachings that relate to concentration, wisdom and ethics. Individually, the hub stands for discipline and mental stability that is critical for meditating; the spokes symbolize awareness and wisdom that removes ignorance; and the rim that holds the spokes is representative of the state of consciousness, meditation or ‘samadhi’ that is required to hold everything together.


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