The Buddhist Wheel Symbol
All ancient religions have in the course of time developed many symbols to express variousdoctrinal concepts visually. Buddhism does not lag behind in this sphere but in fact has givenrise to many new symbols in addition to what it has derived from the common Indian heritage.To these symbols which were adopted from pre-Buddhist India, Buddhism has given newinterpretations to suit its own purpose. Of these, the
, the ever moving Wheel of Law, is the most prominent symbol of the Buddhists.The Pali commentaries of Sri Lanka refer to a number of wheels recognised by Buddhists.Buddhaghosa mentions
, the wheel of happiness,
, the wheel symbolon the soles of the Buddha’s feet,
, the chariot wheel,
, the wheel of movement or postures,
, the wheel of liberality,
, the ideal wheel of auniversal monarch,
, the wheel of law of the Buddha, and
To this list Gurulugomi
, the discus,
, the wheel of thunderbolt,
, the wheel-right’s wooden wheel, and
, the Wheel of Life.The last mentioned wheel is also known as
, the Wheel of Becoming. In ourdiscussion on the iconography of the wheel, universally accepted as the distinctive symbol of Buddhists from very early times, we are concerned mainly with the
s in their unadorned forms are identical, and arerepresented in art in the likeness of a chariot wheel (
), whereas in their elaborateor perfect forms (
assume the sameform while the
differs from the former in detail. The
,differing in form as well as in significance, is a later development (see Chapter IV).
I. The Ratana-Cakka
, the ideal wheel, is described as the divine wheel that appears to one who isdestined to be a
, a universal monarch. In this connection it must be mentionedthat the Buddha is considered the spiritual counterpart of a universal monarch. A universalmonarch is the ideal layman (
). He is the highest among those who enjoy worldlypleasures (
). On the other hand, the Buddha is the ideal recluse (
), the highest among those who have removed the covering of defilements(
). Both the Buddha and the universal monarch are possessed of the
, the auspicious marks of a Great Being. It is said that a person born withsuch marks is destined to either be a universal monarch or a Buddha, an Enlightened One,depending on the course of life each one prefers to pursue. A universal monarch is blessed withthe seven unique possessions (
), namely the ideal wheel (
), the idealelephant (
), the ideal horse (
), the ideal gem (
), the ideal wife(
), the ideal householder (
), and the ideal counsellor (
Of these, the ideal wheel is the most important, because the appearance of this is thefirst indication that the king has become a universal monarch.
Papañcasūdani, Part 2, p. 27 ff. (P.T.S.).
Sampattiyaṃ lakkhaṇañca—rathange iriyāpatheDāne ratana dhammūra—cakkādīsu ca dissati
edited by the Venerable Weliwitiye Soratha Maha Thera, p. 186.
Dīgha Nikāya, Vol. II, p. 172, (P.T.S.).