Buddha’s teachings, which are known as Dharma, are likened to a wheel that moves from country to country in accordance with changing conditions and people’s karmic inclinations.
The external forms of presenting Buddhism may change as it meets with different cultures and societies, but its essential authenticity is ensured through the continuation of an unbroken lineage of realized practitioners.
Buddha’s teachings are said to be like a precious wheel because, wherever they spread, the people in that area have the opportunity to control their minds by putting them into practice.
Turning the Dharma Wheel
After Buddha attained enlightenment, as a result of requests he rose from meditation and taught the first Wheel of Dharma. These teachings, which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism.
Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention, respectively. These teachings are the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism.
In the Hinayana teachings, Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone. In the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in countries throughout the world.
Representations of the Dharma Wheel
The Dharma Wheel appears above the door of traditional Kadampa Temples between a male and female deer. These symbolize the stages of the path of Highest Yoga Tantra.
The eight auspicious signs symbolize in general how to progress along the Buddhist path. The Dharma Wheel, deer, and top vajra teach you the stages of the path of Highest Yoga Tantra. The male deer symbolizes the realization of great bliss. The female deer symbolizes the realization of emptiness. The Wheel of Dharma symbolizes the union of these two.
Through progressing in this union of great bliss and emptiness, finally you will attain the five omniscient wisdoms of a Buddha, which are symbolized by the top five-pronged vajra.
There is also a large Dharma Wheel in the lantern tower of the Temples containing precious scriptures, symbolizing the Holy Dharma spreading throughout all worlds.
In the center of the Dharma Wheel is the logo of International Kadampa Buddhism – a radiant sun rising behind a snow-clad mountain.
This symbolizes the sun of Kadampa Buddhism, which came from behind the Eastern Snow Mountains, now radiating to many countries throughout the world through the power of Geshe Kelsang’s deeds.