The special name given in the books to a
World ruler. The world itself means "Turner of the Wheel," the Wheel (Cakka)
being the well known Indian symbol of empire. There are certain stock epithets
used to describe a Cakka-vatti:
dhammiko, dhammarājā, cāturanto (ruler
of the four quarters),
janapadatthavāriyappatto (guardian of
the people's good), and
sattaratanasamannāgato (possessor of
the Seven Treasures).
More than one thousand sons are his; his
dominions extend throughout the earth to its ocean bounds (sāgarapariyantam);
and is established not by the scourge, nor by the sword, but by righteousness (adandena
asatthena dhammen'eva abhivijiva). Particulars are found chiefly in the
Mahāsudassana, Mahāpadāna, Cakkavattisīhanāda, Bālapandita and Ambattha Suttas.
See also S. v.98.
From the Mahāpadāna Sutta it would
appear that the birth of a Cakka-vatti is attended by the same miracles as that
of the birth of a Buddha. A Cakka-vatti's youth is the same as that of Buddha;
he, too, possesses on his body the Mahāpurisalakkhanāni, and sooth-sayers
are able to predict at the child's birth only that one of two destinies await
Of the Seven Treasures of a Cakka-vatti,
the Cakkaratana is the chief. When he has traversed the Four Continents:
accompanied by the Cakkaratana, received
the allegiance of all the inhabitants and admonished them to lead the righteous
life, he returns to his own native city.
After the Wheel, other Treasures make
first the Elephant, Hatthiratana; it
is either the youngest of the Chaddanta-kula or the oldest of the Uposatha-kula.
Next the Horse, Assaratana, named
Valāhaka, all white with crow black head, and dark mane, able to fly through
Then the Veluriya-gem from Vepullapabbata, with eight facets, the finest of its species, shedding light
for a league around.
This is followed by the Woman,
belonging either to the royal family of Madda or of Uttarakuru, desirable in
every way, both because of her physical beauty and her virtuous character.
Then the Treasurer (Gahapati)
possessed of marvellous vision, enabling him to discover treasures,
and then the Adviser (Parināyaka), who
is generally the Cakka-vatti's eldest son.
(For descriptions of these see D.ii.174f;
DA.ii.624f; MA.ii.941f ).
Judging from the story of Mahāsudassana, who is the typical Cakka-vatti, the World emperor has also four other
a marvellous figure,
a life longer than that of other men,
and popularity with all classes of his
The perfume of sandalwood issues from
his mouth, while his body is like a lily.
When the Cakka-vatti is about to die the
Wheel slips down from its place and sinks down slightly. When the king sees this
he leaves the household life, and retires into homelessness, to taste the joys
of contemplation, having handed over the kingdom to his eldest son. At the
king's death, the Elephant, the Horse and the Gem return to where they came
from, the Woman loses her beauty, the Treasurer his divine vision, and the
Adviser his efficiency (DA.ii.635).
Cakka-vattis are rare in the world, and
are born in kappas in which Buddhas do not arise (SA.iii.131).
The Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta, however, gives the names of seven who
succeeded one another. In the case of each of them the Wheel disappeared, but,
when his successor practised the Ariyan duty of a Cakka-vatti, honouring the
Dhamma and following it to perfection, the Wheel re-appeared. In the case of the
seventh his virtues gradually disappeared through forgetfulness; crime spread,
among his subjects, and the Wheel vanished for ever.
In the earlier literature the term
Cakka-vatti seems to have been reserved for a World ruler; but later three sorts
of Cakka-vattis are mentioned:
cakkavāla- or cāturanta-cakkavatti
(ruling over the four continents),
dīpa-cakkavatti (ruling over one), and
padesacakkavatti (over part of one).
No woman can become a Cakka-vatti (the
reasons for this are given at AA.i.254).
A Cakka-vatti is, as worthy of a thūpa as
a Buddha. D.ii.143.