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The dharma wheel, or dharmachakra in Sanskrit, is one of the oldest symbols of Buddhism. Around the globe it is used to represent Buddhism in the same way that a cross represents Christianity or a Star of David represents Judaism. It is also one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.

Buddhism adopted the wheel as the main symbol of the cakravartin "wheel-turner", the ideal king or "universal monarch", symbolizing the ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions.

A dharma wheel has three basic parts -- the hub, the rim, and the spokes. Over the centuries various teachers and traditions have proposed diverse meanings for these parts, and explaining all of them possibly would take a book. Here are some common understandings of the wheel's symbolism:
  • The circle, the round shape of the wheel, represents the perfection of the dharma, the Buddha's teachings.
  • The rim of the wheel represents meditative concentration and mindfulness, which hold practice together.
  • The hub represents moral discipline.

The wheel often has spokes protruding beyond the wheel, which we might imagine are spikes, although usually they don't look very sharp.  The spikes represent various penetrating insights.

 

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