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A Chakravartin ( चक्रवर्तिन् cakra-vartin, a Sanskrit bahuvrīhi, literally "whose wheels are moving", in the sense of "whose chariot is rolling everywhere without obstruction". It can also be analyzed as an 'instrumental bahuvrīhi: "through whom the wheel is moving", in the meaning of "through whom the Dharmachakra (Wheel of Dharma) is turning" (most commonly used in Buddhism and Hinduism); Pali cakkavatti, also interpreted as "for whom the Wheel of Dharma is turning") is a term used in Indian religions for an ideal universal ruler, who rules ethically and benevolently over the entire world. Such a ruler's reign is called sarvabhauma.

Emperor Ashoka the Great (Buddhist Emperor Ashoka the Great is often glorified as Samrath Chakravartin Ashoka)
A Chakravatin,(possibly Ashoka the great) 1st century BCE/CE. Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati. Preserved at Musee Guimet

In Buddhism and Jainism, three types of Chakravartins are distinguished:

  • cakravala cakravartin, a ruler over all four continents postulated in ancient Indian cosmography
  • dvipa cakravartin a ruler over only one of four continents
  • pradesa cakravartin, a ruler over only part of a continent.

[1]

The first references to a cakravala cakravartin appear in monuments of the Maurya period (322–185 BCE), dedicated to Ashoka the Great. It has not been generally used for any other historic figure. The cakravartin in Buddhism came to be considered the secular counterpart of a Buddha. According to Buddha Shakyamuni in the Majjhima Nikaya a woman can never be(come) a chakravartin. [2] Bhikshuni Heng-Ching Shih states referring to women in Buddhism: "Women are said to have five obstacles, namely being incapable of becoming a Brahma King, 'Sakra', King 'Mara', Cakravartin or Buddha."[3][4]

The Maitreyi Upanishad (1.4) uses the term for kings who had renounced their royal prerogatives in favour of asceticism.

In general, the term applies to temporal as well as spiritual kingship and leadership, particularly in Buddhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, the term generally denotes a powerful ruler, whose dominion extended to the entire earth.

Contents

Mahabharata

In the Mahabharata, twelve princes beginning with Bharata are considered Chakravartins.

  • Ikshvaku, the son of Ila of the Suryavanshi lineage after whom India was named (Ilavarta and Eelam).[1] In Hindu mythology he is said to have conquered the world.
  • Bharat was the son of the Puru Dynasty. India (Bhārat, in Sanskrit:भारत) is named after him. He was able to conquer the whole subcontinent. There are some disputes over whether Bharat conquered India or certain parts of India. Some believe that he even conquered regions outside of the Subcontinent such as Afghanistan (then referred to as Gandhara) and Tibet (then referred to as Bhuta).
  • Shibi, famous in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. He sacrificed his flesh. There have been several dynasties which have claimed heritage from Emperor Shibi's line. The Cholas were one of the dynasties and they referred to him as Sembiyan.
  • Imayavaramban Neduncheralathan, a Sangam age king said in inscriptions to have conquered up to the Himalayas.[2]

Jainism

In Jainism, a chakravartin was characterized by possession of saptaratna, that is, the seven jewels, consisting of, charka, queen, chariot, jewel, wealth, horse, and elephant. Additionally, the list also included a prime minister and a son (navaratna). A chakravartin is considered an ideal human being endowed with thirty-two major signs of excellence and many minor signs of excellence.

Important quotes

Buddhist and Jain literatures describe their enlightened founders (the Buddha or Buddhas and the tīrthaṅkaras, respectively) in similar terms, the notion being that religious truth transcends local or national limitations and applies to all people everywhere. This idea is particularly evident in Buddhist oral and scriptural traditions, which frequently refer to Gautama as a cakravāla cakravartin, an illuminator of dharma (life in adherence to compassionate truth) in all regions of the world.

from External Links

What do you think, Subhuti, is the Tathagata to be seen by means of his possession of marks? -Subhuti replied: No indeed, O Lord. -The Lord said: If, Subhuti, the Tathagata could be recognized by his possession of marks, then also the universal monarch would be a Tathagata.

from Buddhist Wisdom Books, The Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra, translated and explained by Edward Conze

"What do you think Subhuti? Can someone meditate on the Tathagata by means of the thirty-two marks? Subhuti said, "Yes, World-Honored One. We should use the thirty-two marks to meditate on the Tataghata." The Buddha said, "If you say that you can use the thirty-two marks to see the Tathagata, then the Cakravartin is also a Tathagata?" Subhuti said, "World-Honored One, I understand your teaching. One should not use the thirty-two marks to meditate on the Tathagata."

from The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion [5], commentaries on the Prajñaparamita Diamond Sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh

Monks, I don't envision any other single strength so hard to overcome as this: the strength of Mara. 3 And the adopting of skillful qualities is what causes this merit to increase. 4 [6]

from Cakkavatti Sutta

Notes

  1. ^ TheFreeDictionary
  2. ^ MAJJHIMA NIKAAYA III III. 2. 5. Bahudhaatukasutta.m-(115) The Discourse on Many Elements " It is impossible that a woman should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One. It is possible that a man should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One. It is impossible that a woman should be the Universal Monarch It is possible that a man should be the Universal Monarch.It is impossible that a woman should be the King of Gods. It is possible that a man should be the King of Gods.It is impossible that a woman should be the King of Death. It is possible that a man should be the King of Death. It is impossible that a woman should be Brahmaa. It is possible that a man should be Brahmaa."
  3. ^ WOMEN IN ZEN BUDDHISM: Chinese Bhiksunis in the Ch'an Tradition by Heng-Ching Shih
  4. ^ The Committee of Western Bhikshunis, see Advisors
  5. ^ The Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra
  6. ^ Translator's note:4. This is the refrain repeated with each stage in the account of how human life will improve in the aftermath of the sword-interval. Here, "merit" seems to have the meaning it has in Iti 22: "Don't be afraid of acts of merit." This is another way of saying what is blissful, desirable, pleasing, endearing, charming — i.e., acts of merit."

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