The Wheel of Dharma


The Wheel of Dharma The Wheel of Dharma, or the “Wheel of Law”, is the Buddhist spiritual symbol for teachings of the path of Nirvana. Each spoke represents a step in Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Interestingly, it’s older than Buddhism itself, dating back to 2500 B.C. The "dharmachakra" (which is also known as the wheel of dharma) is one of the Ashtamangala of Indian religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. It has represented the Buddhist dharma, Gautama Buddha's teaching and walking of the path to Nirvana, since the time of early Buddhism. It is also connected to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths In short form, the four truths are "dukkha"(craving), "samudaya" (arising)), "nirodha" (cessation), and "marga" (the path leading to cessation). As the "Four Noble Truths" (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni; Pali: cattāri ariyasaccāni), they are "the truths of the Noble Ones," the truths or realities which are understood by the "worthy ones" who have attained nirvana. The Four Noble Truths expresses the basic orientation of Buddhism, in a short expression: we crave and cling to impermanent states and things, which are "dukkha" (incapable of satisfying and painful). This craving keeps us caught in "samsara" (the endless cycle of repeated rebirth and dying again) and the "dukkha" that comes with it. In the "sutras" (Buddhist religious texts), the four truths have both a symbolic and a propositional function. They represent the awakening and liberation of the Buddha, but also the possibility of liberation for all sentient beings, describing how release from craving is to be reached. In the Pali canon scriptures, the four truths appear in a "network of teachings," as part of "the entired hamma matrix," which have to be taken together. They provide a conceptual framework for introducing and explaining Buddhist thought, which has to be personally understood or "experienced" The function of the four truths, and their importance, developed over time, when "prajna" (liberating insight) came to be regarded as liberating in itself, instead of or in addition to the practice of "dhyana" (meditation). This "liberating insight" gained a prominent place in the "sutras", and the four truths came to represent this liberating insight, as part of the enlightenment story of the Buddha. There is, however, a way to end this karmic cycle of "dukkha", namely by attaining "nirvana" (cessation of craving), where after rebirth and associated "dukkha" will no longer arise again. This can be accomplished by following the eightfold path, restraining oneself, cultivating discipline, and practicing mindfulness and meditation. The Noble Eightfold Path The Noble Eightfold Path (In Pali: ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo; In Sanskrit: āryāṣṭāṅgamārga) is an early summary of the path of Buddhist practises leading to liberation from samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth. The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (meditative absorption or union).

In Buddhist symbolism, the Noble Eightfold Path is often represented by means of the dharma wheel (dharmachakra), in which its eight spokes represent the eight elements of the path. In early Buddhism, these practices started with insight (right view), culminating in "dhyana" or "samadhi" as the core soteriological practise. In later Buddhism, "prajñā" (insight) became the central soteriological instrument, leading to a different concept and structure of the path. The Eightfold Path teaches that by restraining oneself, cultivating discipline, and practising mindfulness and meditation, one can attain nirvana and stop cravings, clinging and karmic accumulations, thereby ending the karmic cycle of rebirth and suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the principal teachings of Theravada Buddhism, taught to lead to Arhatship. In the Theravada tradition, this path is also summarized as sila (morality), samadhi (meditation) and prajna (insight). In Mahayana Buddhism, this path is contrasted with the Bodhisattva path, which is believed to go beyond Arahatship to full Buddhahood. Even though this is one of the oldest philosophy over 5,000 years old or possibly more, it is interesting to note the depth and understanding of the karmic cycle and how to overcome it and attain ascension. This once again is clear evidence of high conscious civilisation from previous epochs and / or from higher conscious beings as quoted in the Vedics and many other ancient scripts.

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Michael J Robey

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