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輪回 / 輪廻 is a universal word in Japanese and Chinese that expresses the Buddhist idea of "reincarnation," "transmigration of souls" or "the eternal cycle of birth and death."
In some context, this can also mean "karma," and others will say it represents "samsara."
The first character means wheel, ring, turn, circle, loop or rotate.
The second character can be thought of as a suffix meaning "-times." This second character can also refer to something that revolves, returns, goes back, or a counter for the number of occurrences of some event.
Together the sum supersedes the parts and it means reincarnation. But knowing the seeing the essence of each character may help you understand some of the meaning behind the word.
Shown to the right is the more common way to write the second character in Japanese. It's an alternate form of this character in Chinese (so neither way is technically wrong in either language). If you select a Japanese calligrapher, expect that is will look like the Kanji to the right.
Below are some entries from our dictionary that may match your wheel of karma search...
If shown, 2nd row is Simp. Chinese
|Simple Dictionary Definition|
| yè lún / ye4 lun2
The wheel of karma which turns men into the six paths of transmigration.
| lún / lun2
rin / りん
wheel; disk; ring; steamship; to take turns; to rotate; by turn; classifier for big round objects: disk, or recurring events: round, turn
(counter) counter for wheels and flowers; (female given name) Run; (female given name) Rin; (female given name) Meguri
cakra; wheel, disc, rotation, to revolve; v. 研. The three wheels are 惑業苦illusion, karma, suffering, in constant revolution. The five are earth, water, fire, wind, and space; the earth rests on revolving spheres of water, fire, wind, and space. The nine are seen on the tops of pagodas, cf. 九輪.; The two wheels of a cart compared by the Tiantai school to 定 (or to its Tiantai form 止觀) and 慧 meditation and wisdom; see 止觀 5. Also 食 food and 法 the doctrine, i. e. food physical and spiritual.
| sān lún / san1 lun2
sanrin / さんりん
three wheels; (p,s,f) Miwa; (place-name, surname) Minowa; (surname) Mitsuwa; (surname) Mitsurin; (surname) Sanwa; (surname) Sanrin
The three wheels: (1) The Buddha's (a) 身 body or deeds; (b) 口 mouth, or discourse; (c) 意 mind or ideas. (2) (a) 神通 (or 變) His supernatural powers, or powers of (bodily) self-transformation, associated with 身 body; (b) 記心輪 his discriminating understanding of others, associated with 意 mind; (c) 敎誡輪 or 正敎輪 his (oral) powers of teaching, associated with 口. (3) Similarly (a) 神足輪 ; (b) 說法輪 ; (c) 憶念輪 . (4) 惑, 業, and 苦. The wheel of illusion produces karma, that of karma sets rolling that of suffering, which in turn sets rolling the wheel of illusion. (5) (a) Impermanence; (b) uncleanness; (c) suffering. Cf. 三道.
| shí èr yīn yuán / shi2 er4 yin1 yuan2
shih erh yin yüan
Dvādaśaṅga pratītyasamutpāda; the twelve nidānas; v. 尼 and 因; also 十二緣起; 因緣有支; 因緣率連; 因緣棘園; 因緣輪; 因緣重城; 因緣觀; 支佛觀. They are the twelve links in the chain of existence: (1) 無明avidyā, ignorance, or unenlightenment; (2) 行 saṃskāra, action, activity, conception, "dispositions," Keith; (3) 識 vijñāna, consciousness; (4) 名色 nāmarūpa, name and form; (5) 六入 ṣaḍāyatana, the six sense organs, i.e. eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind; (6) 觸 sparśa, contact, touch; (7) 受 vedanā, sensation, feeling; (8) 愛 tṛṣṇā, thirst, desire, craving; (9) 取 upādāna, laying hold of, grasping; (10) 有 bhava, being, existing; (11) 生 jāti, birth; (12) 老死 jarāmaraṇa, old age, death. The "classical formula" reads "By reason of ignorance dispositions; by reason of dispositions consciousness", etc. A further application of the twelve nidānas is made in regard to their causaton of rebirth: (1) ignorance, as inherited passion from the beginningless past ; (2) karma, good and evil, of past lives; (3) conception as a form of perception; (4) nāmarūpa, or body and mind evolving (in the womb); (5) the six organs on the verge of birth; (6) childhood whose intelligence is limited to sparśa, contact or touch; (7) receptivity or budding intelligence and discrimination from 6 or 7 years; (8) thirst, desire, or love, age of puberty; (9) the urge of sensuous existence; (10) forming the substance, bhava, of future karma; (11) the completed karma ready for rebirth; (12) old age and death. The two first are associated with the previous life, the other ten with the present. The theory is equally applicable to all realms of reincarnation. The twelve links are also represented in a chart, at the centre of which are the serpent (anger), boar (ignorance, or stupidity), and dove (lust) representing the fundamental sins. Each catches the other by the tail, typifying the train of sins producing the wheel of life. In another circle the twelve links are represented as follows: (1) ignorance, a blind woman; (2) action, a potter at work, or man gathering fruit; (3) consciousness, a restless monkey; (4) name and form, a boat; (5) sense organs, a house; (6) contact, a man and woman sitting together; (7) sensation, a man pierced by an arrow; (8) desire, a man drinking wine; (9) craving, a couple in union; (10) existence through childbirth; (11) birth, a man carrying a corpse; (12) disease, old age, death, an old woman leaning on a stick. v. 十二因緣論 Pratītya-samutpāda śāstra.
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The following table may be helpful for those studying Chinese or Japanese...
|Title||Characters||Romaji(Romanized Japanese)||Various forms of Romanized Chinese|
|Wheel of Karma||業輪|
|gōrin||yè lún / ye4 lun2 / ye lun / yelun||yeh lun / yehlun|
Transmigration of Souls
|輪回 / 輪廻|
|rin ne / rinne||lún huí / lun2 hui2 / lun hui / lunhui|
|In some entries above you will see that characters have different versions above and below a line.|
In these cases, the characters above the line are Traditional Chinese, while the ones below are Simplified Chinese.
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The same calligrapher who gave me those lessons also attracted a crowd of thousands and a TV crew as he created characters over 6-feet high. He happens to be ranked as one of the top 100 calligraphers in all of China. He is also one of very few that would actually attempt such a feat.
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