|Buddhism quickly spread across the ancient world|
King Ashoka sent teachers to Africa, Europe, and
across Asia. Here, a greco-roman portrayal of
the Buddha's "Turning the Wheel" shows the way
Buddhism was culturally "translated" in the West.
After his enlightenment, Gotama was not even sure if anyone would understand his new system of logic. For a while, he recovered his strength and regained his health from the struggle against Mara (instinct), as he was underweight by extended fasting. He tried explaining what he had understood to those helping him, but without success. When he could, he continued his wandering, and came upon an old friend on the road - he, too, did not understand.
When he eventually came upon his former students, they almost did not talk to him: they had abandoned him, as his theory of logic (before it had been proven) seemed insane. At last, he persuaded them to at least listen to his proof.
Truth was difficult to discern, but, the old system of proving truth was flawed - not because truth did not exist (for it did), but because it was impossible to prove what could not be directly perceived. It was necessary to remove falsehood from truth: carefully, he explained a system by which assumptions could be tested, and untruth proven. Then he explained the implications of this, profoundly, were that beliefs could be let go of; the gods neither deserved nor required our worship.
The reason truth could not be directly observed was because of limitations of perception: all that was perceived was merely thought, the conscious and unconscious interpretation of senses. As there was continuity between what was observed and the observer, cause and effect were continuous, and interdependent. Gotama then explained an application for this: the ending of distress.
He described his triumph over Mara: he no longer needed to act upon beliefs and instincts. He then instructed in a new theory of morality, a new theory of duty and nature, a new Dharma. In a world of continuous interdependency, there is no discernable beginning to distress, yet this did not mean distress could not be ended. By changing our nature, our instinctual and unconscious responses, by waking to pure consciousness, we may escape the consequence of distress which so naturally follows our present dharma.
His student Kondanna was the first to understand, and stood up in excitement: "whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation!" Gotama stood with him, and smiled. "So you really know, Kondanna? You really know!" And that is how Kondanna became known as Anna-Kondanna (Kondanna-Who-Knows).
The devas who were nearby saw and grew excited, for the Wheel of Dharma had been turned. Soon all the devas who were in this world (due to their exile from the Deva Loka) began to cry out, proclaiming in every world "At Veranasi, in the Wildlife Refuge of Isipatana, He has set in motion the Wheel of Dharma which cannot be stopped - by anyone in the cosmos!" All the devas celebrated so greatly that every world shivered and quaked, and the joy of the devas was palpable everywhere. They would soon return home.
The Wheel of Dharma is the most common nomenclature for the Dharma Chakra. Vishnu's principle tool and weapon is the Chakra. The Chakra can take many forms, according to the need and form of Vishnu: it is commonly a discus (an ancient weapon), but Krishna wielded a chariot wheel against Bhisma, and has sometimes even been a living being (as with the Sudarshana Chakra). It is a representation of time, for it is circular; the discus can be understood to be very large or small. In this sense, Vishnu (as the Buddha) is taking up his Chakra again, this time in the form of Dharma itself. Because Vishnu is Dharma, the implication is that He Himself is the weapon which will liberate the Devas: for they no longer required the worship stolen from them.