The Three Wheels of Dharma: The case of 'Jig-rten mgon-po and the Single Intentionists as a contribution to Tibetan Buddhist Hermeneutics


Katrin Querl

It is generally accepted among Buddhists that the Buddha conferred a great variety of teachings according to the needs and capacities of individual trainees. He is thus famously compared to a skilled physician who provides effective remedies for the various ailments of patients.

Over the centuries, traditional Buddhist scholars have devised systems to classify the Buddha's context-bound statements in order to reconcile differences and articulate rules for interpretation, an endeavor which western academics have recently referred to as “Buddhist hermeneutics”. One of these traditional hermeneutical tools is to sort the sūtras, believed to be the words of the Buddha, into three sets of teachings: the so-called three wheels of Dharma (dharmacakra, chos 'khor). This dissertation aims to give an account of the development of the hermeneutical scheme of the three wheels from the period of Indian Buddhism to that of Tibetan Buddhism with special focus on the works associated with the bKa'-brgyud-pa scholar 'Jig-rten mgon-po (1143-1217) and his followers.