Dharmacakra

Dharmachakra

Dharmacakra

I’ve stumbled across another moment that grabbed my complete attention. When the world leaves you little hints, you need to pay attention.  I feel like I’ve seen these wheels, detailed and clear as day, a million times, especially in the last few days, as if the thin veil has been lifted slightly for whatever temporary period, allowing me to remember things from a different life.

Finally, while searching for royalty-free photos of sunrises, I stumbled upon this photo (see right), labeled as a sundial in a Wikipedia article on Chronemics, which is the use of time in nonverbal communication. Although it’s almost a stretch from a sunrise to a sundial, it presented itself plain as day.  I’m sorry, Wikipedia, but this is not a sundial. At all. I clicked the photo on the page, which brought me to the media’s page, where it was more properly labeled as the “Dharmacakra (Buddhist Wheel), Sun temple, Orissa.”

So then I looked up the full article on Dharmacakra. I remember studying this wheel in detail in my memory, its spokes, and the circles in the middle of each spoke.  So, let’s learn a little about this wheel.  First, the word.  Breaking it apart, we have “dharma” and “cakra.”

Dharma

Well, most of us know what dharma is (I think).  There is no single word translation for dharma in western languages. At its root, it’s a Classical Sanskrit noun. But the definition depends on what religious group you ask. It means something slightly different to Hindus, Busshists, Janists, and Sikhs, but at its core, I think, is a common concept.

“In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and right way of living. In Buddhism dharma means cosmic law and order, but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for phenomena. In Jainism dharma refers to the teachings of the Jinas and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness.”1

Cakra

Better known as “chakras,” these are the energy points or knots in all living beings. When I first tried to break apart the word “Dharmachakra” in my head, I couldn’t figure out the immediate relationship between chakras and dharma. But my wife suggested that I think of chakras as, basically, points. Dharmachakra, then, sounded to me like a map, or representation of the points of significance in a living thing’s life. Most of us who are familiar with yoga likely are familiar with chakras.  The word chakra “derives from the Sanskrit word for wheel or turning, but in the yogic context a better translation of the word is vortex or whirlpool.2

Dharmachakra

Now, let’s piece the two words together.  Although quite a few religions and cultures use each of the root words and have their own version of it, the Buddhists seem to use the concept, Dharmacakra, more prominently. Like the Sudarshana Chakra and other chakras, it’s simply a wheel. “The wheel itself depicts the idea about the cycle of rebirth of a human.”3  It’s also, interestingly, referred to as the Wheel of Law.

I’d love to get in to the details of the intricacies of the wheel, but I’ll have to save that adventure for another day.

Is there a Hebrew connection?

Thinking of my memory of this wheel I can, even now, picture people in my head who I know are Jewish.  What’s the connection? My wife said that ancient Hebrews were very mystical, and that they had similar wheels.  I quickly discovered that Hebrews loved to use circles/wheels for calendars, and as the Buddhist Wheel represents one’s dharma, that too is a type of calendar.  My wife also mentioned that a student of one of her teachers saw a symbolic wheel in her head that their teacher immediately identified as a Hebrew or Jewish symbol.  But what was this symbol?  Is there a similar concept in Hebrew tradition with similar iconography?

 


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma 

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra 

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmacakra#Buddhist_usage 

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