Twin Cities KTC AND Hay river KTC Buddhist Meditation Centers

A question came up during the Tuesday night book discussion about the wheel-turning ruler or Chakravartin. Following is a brief explanation of a Chakravartin (universal monarch) and why his wheel turns.


The cakravartin in Buddhism came to be considered the secular counterpart of a Buddha. In the Majjhima Nikaya, Gautama Buddha is quoted as stating that a woman can never be(come) a chakravartin. Bhikkhuni 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‘, KingMara‘, Cakravartin or Buddha.”  

{I am reminded of my good friend and Buddhist scholar, Rita Gross, who made it her life’s work to uncover how women were relegated to “second class Buddhists,” not in the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, but by the monks who codified the teachings decades after his parinirvana. Her initial book was Buddhism After Patriarchy and her final work, published posthumously, was Buddhism Beyond Gender. Rita obviously did not agree that women had to overcome five additional obstacles before becoming a Buddha.}


A universal monarch (Skt. cakravartin or cakravartirāja; Tib. འཁོར་ལོས་སྒྱུར་བའི་རྒྱལ་པོ་, khorlö gyurwé gyalpo, Wyl. ‘khor los bsgyur ba’i rgyal po) is someone who has the power to overcome, conquer and rule all inhabitants of a four-continent world system. In the Buddhist teachings this is considered an example of the most powerful rebirth possible within samsara. Rebirth as a universal monarch can occur only when the lifespan of the human beings of the four continent world system ranges from eighty thousand to a countless number of years. Universal monarchs are in possession of three sets of seven emblems:

  1. the seven precious emblems of royalty,
  2. the seven secondary possessions, and
  3. the seven types of jewel insignia.

Following is an explanation of the seven precious emblems of royalty

The seven articles of royalty correspond internally to the seven limbs of the path of awakening, which are seven qualities that all buddhas and bodhisattvas possess as factors of their attaining awakening.

The first of the seven articles of royalty is the precious jewel, which corresponds to the virtue of faith. A bodhisattva must possess abundant and excellent faith to serve as ground for the development of all good qualities. The meaning of this is that if one has faith, then all other qualities, such as meditative stability, diligence, insight into the meaning of dharma and so on, will definitely arise, and on the basis of their arising, one will be able to eradicate all that is to be transcended or abandoned.

The second branch of awakening is knowledge or insight, prajna. Of the seven articles of royalty, this knowledge corresponds to the precious wheel, which enables the chakravartin to be victorious against any kind of invasion or warfare. In the same way, it is knowledge, or prajna, that enables one to conquer the kleshas and ignorance.

The third article of royalty is the consort of the monarch (the precious queen). The consort serves to keep the monarch on track, to pacify and tame the monarch. So therefore, the consort corresponds to samadhi. Samadhi or meditative absorption, serves as the necessary ground for knowledge or prajna. If prajna is grounded in samadhi, then it will be stable, tranquil, effective, and appropriate or correct. If it is not grounded in samadhi then prajna goes off the track, becomes incorrect and runs wild, so that it actually is more of a problem than a benefit.

The fourth branch of awakening is joy, which arises from the correct presence and application of both samadhi and prajna. Joy here refers, for example, to the joy of the attainment of the first bodhisattva level, which is called the Utterly Joyful. Of the seven articles of royalty, joy corresponds to the precious minister. In most enumerations this is a minister who gives wise council to the monarch and therefore promotes joy. Sometimes it is also called the precious householder, the subject of the monarch who also brings appropriate advice.

The fifth limb of awakening is diligence and this corresponds to the precious excellent horse. Just as an excellent horse enables the monarch to travel anywhere they wish to go with great speed, in the same way the possession of diligence enables the bodhisattva to cultivate the qualities of samadhi and prajna, and, through cultivating them, to eradicate the kleshas and to increase all positive qualities.

The sixth article of royalty is the precious elephant. The significance of this elephant is that it is extremely peaceful and tame, so it represents, from among the seven limbs of awakening, the faculty of mindfulness, which is a mind kept tranquil and always consciously aware of what is going on in the mind and what one’s actions are.

The seventh and last limb of awakening is equanimity, a state of mind in which the bodhisattva is free from the afflictions of attachment to some things and aversion to other things. Through the faculty of equanimity, the bodhisattva overcomes the warfare of the kleshas. Of the seven articles of royalty, it is represented by the precious general, because the precious general overcomes all warfare and aggression.[1]

Compiled by Ellie Strand. All mistakes are mine.