~ July 26, 2017 ~

Chökhor Düchen – The Great Festival of the First Turning of the Dharma Wheel

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History of Chökhor Düchen

Traditional texts explain that  after the Buddha realized awakening beneath the Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, he spent seven weeks at that spot in a series of contemplations.  First, he was reluctant to teach, fearing that people would not understand his message.  But, he was convinced by the gods Indra and Brahmā to share his discovery of truth.  Then, the texts tell us that  the Buddha  journeyed to the Deer Park at Isipatana, now known as Sarnath.  And there he turned the wheel of the Dharma for the group of 5 companions with whom he had previously practiced austerities.

2010 Nepal & India 808Chökhor Düchen Celebrates the Buddha’s First Discourse

Now, we preserve this first teaching as:

Pāli Language:   Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Sanskrit Language: Dharmachakrapravartana Sūtra

Tibetan Language: chos kyi ‘khor lo rab tu bskor ba’i mdo

English Language: Setting in Motion the Dharma Wheel Sūtra

The symbol of the wheel derives from ancient India.  There, the wheel symbolized the  wheel of the universal emperor who established righteous dominion.  Later the wheel became one of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism. Some texts say that the gods offered the Buddha the wheel after he manifested enlightenment.  Additionally, the eight spokes of the Dharma wheel represent the eight-fold path.

The Buddha declared the path to be The Middle Way because it was free from the two extremes of austerities and of over-indulgence.  Additionally, this path results in seeing four truths about how things truly are:

The Four Truths

  1. The Truth of Unease or Suffering
  2. The Truth of the Origins of Suffering
  3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
  4. The Truth of the Path (that brings about cessation)

DharmachakraThe Dharmachakra and the Eightfold Path.

Furthermore, this teaching includes an important instruction on the path. We call this the Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones.

This eightfold path can be summarized  as the practice of

“Correct” or “Right”:

  • View or Understanding
  • Thought
  • Speech
  • Action
  • Livelihood
  • Effort or Application
  • Mindfulness
  • Concentration or Meditation


On this momentous occasion, the earth quaked and a miraculous illuminating light filled all the realms. Then, the gods of all the various realms proclaimed praises. Finally, they announced the “setting in motion the Dharma wheel that cannot be stopped by anyone”.

Practicing on Chökhor Düchen: Reflecting and rejoicing

On the auspicious day of Chökhor Düchen,  we remember the first turning of the Dharma Wheel.  As followers of the Buddha, we joyfully recall this major event.  Also, we take time to reflect upon these teachings and rejoice in the merit of enlightened activity.

Thus, Buddhist followers celebrate this day with practice and reflection.  Many pilgrims visit the Isipatana site in India to reflect on this occasion.  But, even if we are far away, we can also celebrate by gathering together to practice the dharma, make offerings and contemplate the teachings of the Buddha.  And we can joyfully recite and remember teachings on the four noble truths and the eightfold path. Reading Dharma passages is a wonderful way to celebrate this important day!

Now in 2017, we celebrate the festival  on July 27th.   This auspicious day is a 1oo-million merit multiplying opportunity.   So, please take the time to practice well!  You can join together with your sangha family, support the sangha and its activities through generosity, and  show compassion to all sentient beings without exception. We can all join in making offerings and also in making pure aspirations for the Dharma to continue to flourish!

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