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  • Thong Tri Temple

The Fourth Noble Truth, Part IV: The Dharma Wheel

Updated: Jan 25


| Tranquillity {Praśrabhi} |


The eight spokes of the Dharma Wheel is the symbol of the Noble Eightfold Path and represents the eight elements of the Path. Each spoke represents an area of practice.



The Dharma Wheel (in Pali: Dhammacakka) is one of the earliest Buddhist symbols represented worldwide with varying numbers of spokes. The Dharma Wheel has three main components: the hub, the rim, and the spokes, which represents the three ways of practice: Wisdom (Insight), Morality Discipline (Good Conduct), and Meditation/Concentration (Mental Development). The three central principles of a Dharma Wheel are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Dharma Wheel can be of any color, although it is usually gold.


  • The round shape of the wheel (the circle) symbolizes the perfection of the Dharma, the Buddha's Teachings.


  • The rim of the wheel represents meditation, concentration, and mindfulness that tie the practice together.


  • The hub (the center) represents Morality Discipline (Good Conduct). It can be seen as the three twirl shapes within a second wheel, or a hollow circle. The three twirl shapes on the hub are sometimes said to represent the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.



Each spoke represents an area of practice. It is impossible to know which spoke is the first; and which spoke is the last as the Dharma Wheel turns. The steps on the Path are listed in order from one to eight; however, they are not meant to be practiced and mastered one at a time, but rather, they are meant to be practiced all at once. They all build off each other and depend on each other. They arise together.


The spokes indicate different concepts, depending on their number:

A wheel that has eight (8) spokes.



These spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The eight-spoked wheel is the most common form of the Dharma wheel in Buddhism.

A wheel that has ten (10) spokes:



These spokes represent the Ten Directions, the entire universe and all physical space. The Ten Directions are the eight directions of the compass: north, south, east, west, northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest, plus up and down. Buddhist scriptures mention the existence of Buddha lands in every direction in the universe, and each direction has its own Buddha.

A wheel that has twelve (12) spokes:



These spokes represent the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination.

A wheel that has twenty-four (24) spokes:



These spokes represent the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination plus the reversal of the Twelves Links of Dependent Origination and liberation from samsara. The twenty-four (24) spokes Dharma Wheel is also known as the Ashoka Chakra.

A wheel that has thirty-one (31) spokes:



These spokes represent the thirty-one (31) Realms that exist from ancient Buddhist Cosmology.

A wheel that has four (4) spokes:



Very rarely! These spokes represent the Four Noble Truths or the Four Dhyanas (Meditation).

Wheels often have spokes that protrude beyond the wheel, which can be visualized as spikes, although they usually do not look very sharp. The spikes represent different penetrating insights. 


The Four Noble Truths are not just a summary. They are a process to eliminate any suffering. If people ask, "What did the Buddha teach?" As a Buddhist, the answer would be the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. This is a path of discovery and discipline that takes many lifetime practices, and it can be extremely difficult and frustrating. The Noble Eightfold Path is a way of life that one lives in every present moment, every thought, and every action. It is not a lesson that one can sit down to learn and to practice every morning. However, each time one falls and continues to practice over and over again, one’s discipline will become stronger and stronger. You can always go deeper into the truth, uncovering all the hidden agendas, and ulterior motives that your ego hides behind. If you are able to accept life as it happens without judgment, and respond with loving-kindness in a compassionate way, then there is no suffering. 


May you all be free from suffering and all the causes of suffering!


Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.


References:

“Chơn Lý,” Tác Giả Đức Tổ Sư Minh Đăng Quang (Language in Vietnamese)


“Phật Học Phổ Thông,” Tác Giả Hòa Thượng Thích Thiện Hoa (Language in Vietnamese)

 

“The Seeker’s Glossary of BUDDHISM,” Edited by the Van Hien-Study Group, Sutra Translation Committee of the United States & Canada

 

“A Simple Path – Basic Buddhist Teachings,” by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

 

“The Buddha and His Teachings,” by Venerable Narada Mahathera (Sri Lanka 1970), Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

 

“Buddhism,” from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism.

 

"Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth" (SN 56.11), translated from the Pali by Ñanamoli Thera. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 13 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.nymo.html .

 

"Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)" (Ud 8.3), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 3 September 2012, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.8.03.than.html

 

 

“A Verb for Nirvana by the Theravada Scholar Thanissaro Bhikkhu 2005”

 

 

 

“Bhikkhu Bodhi 2012, Sambodhi sutta, The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya, Wisdom Publications.”

 

“The Noble Eightfold path: The Way to the End of Suffering, Bhikku Bodhi, 1994, ‘The Wheel Publications, No: 308/311’, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.”

 

“Spiritual faculties, Ayya Khema, accessible at “(To Be Seen); Here and Now”; Ten Dhamma Talks” by Sister Ayya Khema, ‘Access to Insight (Legacy Edition)’, November 2013.”

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