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The Gankyil (Standard Tibetan: དགའ་འཁྱིལ་) is a symbol and ritual tool in Tibetan Buddhism, Bön, Himalayan Shamanism and Japanese Buddhism Korean Buddhism.

In Bön and Nyingma Dzogchen lineages, the Gankyil is the principal symbol and teaching tool:

it is symbolic of primordial energy and represents the central unity and indivisibility of all the teaching, philosophical and doctrinal triune of Dzogchen (and quadrune of the greater Buddhadharma such as the Four Noble Truths and the 'Four Joys' of the Bonpo). It is an attribute of the Snow Lion.

According to Norbu & Shane:

The Gankyil, or ‘Wheel of Joy’, can clearly be seen to reflect the inseparability and interdependence of all the groups of three in the Dzogchen teaching, but perhaps most particularly it shows the inseparability of the Base, the Path, and the Fruit. And since Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, is essentially the self-perfected indivisibility of the primordial state, it naturally requires a non-dual symbol to represent it.
Norbu & Shane, The Crystal and the Way of Light

According to Déchen & Ngak’chang:

The structure of Dzogchen teachings is always in groups of three – such as base, path and fruit – but although they are divided in this way their indivisibility is emphasised by symbols such as the melong (me long) and of the ga’kyil (dGa’ dKyil).
—Déchen & Ngak’chang, Dzogchen transmission of the non-dual state

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

Gankyil དགའ་འཁྱིལ (Wylie: dga'_'khyil), (equivalent Sanskrit: ananda-chakra), pronounced "ganshey" or "ganshee", is formed from the words dga' ("joy, elation, rapture, bliss, ecstasy, beauty, total happiness" i.e. the opposite of dukkha) and 'khyil ("swirling; circle, ring, bracelet, coil,mandala, a place where water flows"). Thus, it may be rendered into English as "bliss-whirling" or "wheel of joy".


Sam-Taegeuk (三太極) (삼태극)(Samtaegeuk) (통일 한국의) (서울)


A thrikheb (throne cover) from 19th century Bhutan. Throne covers were placed atop the temple cushions used by high lamas. The central circular swirling quadrune is the Gankyil in its mode as the "Four Joys".
Flag of Sikkim

In addition to linking the gankyil with the "wish-fulfilling jewel" (Skt. cintamani), Robert Beer makes the following connections:

The gakyil or 'wheel of joy' is depicted in a similar form to the ancient Chinese yin-yang symbol, but its swirling central hub is usually composed of either three or four sections. The Tibetan term dga' is used to describe all forms of joy, delight, and pleasure, and the term 'khyil means to circle or spin. The wheel of joy is commonly depicted at the central hub of the dharmachakra, where its three or four swirls may represent the Three Jewels and victory over the three poisons, or the Four Noble Truths and the four directions. As a symbol of the Three Jewels it may also appear as the 'triple-eyed' or wish-granting gem of the chakravartin. In the Dzogchen tradition the three swirls of the gakyil primarily symbolize the trinity of the base, path, and fruit.
—Robert Beer, The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols

The Gankyil as the inner wheel of the Dharmachakra is depicted on the Flag of Sikkim.

The 'victory' referred to above is symbolised by the 'Victory Banner' (Sanskrit: Dhvaja), one of the Himalayan Ashtamangala.

Wallace (2001: p. 77) identifies the ananda-cakra with the heart of the 'cosmic body' of which Mt Meru is the epicentre:

In the center of the summit of Mt Meru, there is the inner lotus (garbha-padma) of the Bhagavan Kalacakra, which has sixteen petals and constitutes the bliss-cakra (ananda-cakra) of the cosmic body.

Associated triunes

Ground, path and fruit

Mula kleśa of the Twelve Nidānas

Three humours of traditional Tibetan medicine

Attributes connected with the three humors (Sanskrit: tridoshas, Tibetan: Nyipa gsum):

Three Treasures of Everlasting Bon

For the Bonpo, the Gankyil denotes the three principal 'terma' (Tibetan:གཏེར་མ།) or "treasure" cycles of Everlasting Bon, the 'Northern Treasure'Tibetan: བྱང་གཏེར་(Wylie: byang gter), the 'Central Treasure' Tibetan: དབུས་གཏེར་(Wylie: dbus gter), and the 'Southern Treasure'Tibetan: ལྷོ་གཏེར་ (Wylie: lho gter).

The Northern Treasure is compiled from texts revealed in Zhangzhung and northern Tibet, the Southern Treasure from texts revealed in Bhutan and the southern area of Tibet, and the Central Treasure from texts revealed in central Tibet close to Samye Monastery.

Learning, Reflection and Meditation

These three aspects are the mula prajñā of the sadhana of Prajñā-Pāramitā, the "paramita of wisdom".

Hence, these three are related to, but distinct from, the Prajñāpāramitā that denotes a particular cycle of discourse in the Buddhist literature that relates to the doctrinal "field" (Sanskrit: kṣetra) of the second turning of the Dharmachakra.

Mula dharmas of the path

The Dzogchen teachings focus on three terms:

To see directly the (absolute) nature of our mind is the View; the way of stabilizing that View and making it an unbroken experience is Meditation; and integrating that View into our daily life is what is meant by Action.

Essence, Nature and Energy

An important Dzogchen doctrinal view on the Sugatagarbha qua 'Base' (gzhi) (refer: Duckworth, 2008) that foregrounds this is 'essence' (ngo bo), 'nature' (rang bzhin) and 'power' (thugs rje):

the triune of which are indivisible and iconographically represented by the Gankyil.

Where essence is openness or emptiness (ngo bo stong pa), nature is luminosity, lucidity or clarity (as in the luminous mind of the Five Pure Lights) (rang bzhin gsal ba) and power is universal compassionate energy (thugs rje kun khyab), unobstructed (ma 'gags pa)

Triratna doctrine

The Triratna, Triple Jewel or Three Gems are triunic are therefore represented by the Gankyil:

Three Roots

The Three Roots are:

Three Dharma Seals

The indivisible essence of the Three Dharma Seals is embodied and encoded within the Gankyil:

Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma

As the inner wheel of the Vajrayana Dharmachakra, the Gankyil also represents the syncretic union and embodiment of the Buddha Shakyamuni's Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma.

The pedagogic upaya doctrine and classification of the triunic 'three turnings of the Dharmacakra, was first postulated by the Indian Yogacara school.

Trikaya doctrine

The gankyil is the energetic signature of the Trikaya, realised through the transmutation of the obscurations forded by the Three poisons (refer klesha) and therefore in the Bhavachakra the Gankyil is an aniconic depiction of the snake,

boar and fowl. Gankyil is to Dharmachakra, as still eye is to cyclone, as Bindu is to Mandala.

The Gankyil is the inner wheel of the Vajrayana Dharmacakra (refer Himalayan Ashtamangala).

Tibetan Bhavacakra in Sera, Lhasa.

The Gankyil is symbolic of the Trikaya doctrine of nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya and dharmakaya and also of the Buddhist understanding of the interdependence of the Three Vajras.

Three Vajras;

body, voice and mind.

The divisions of the teaching of Dzogchen are for the purposes of explanation only; just as the Gankyil divisions are understood to dissolve in the energetic whirl of the Wheel of Joy.

Three cycles of Nyingmapa Dzogchen

The Gankyil also embodies the three cycles of Nyingmapa Dzogchen codified by Mañjushrīmītra:

Three cycles of Nyingmapa Dzogchen

This classification determined the exposition of the Dzogchen teachings in the subsequent centuries.

Three Spheres

'Three spheres' (Sanskrit: trimandala; Tibetan: 'khor gsum).

The conceptualizations pertaining to:

Sound, light and rays

The triunic continuua of the esoteric Dzogchen doctrine of 'sound, light and rays' (Wylie: sgra 'od zer gsum) is held within the energetic signature of the Gankyil.

The doctrine of 'Sound, light and rays' is intimately connected with the Dzogchen teaching of the 'three aspects of the manifestation of energy'.

Though thoroughly interpenetrating and nonlocalised, 'sound' may be understood to reside at the heart, the 'mind'-wheel; 'light' at the throat,

the 'voice'-wheel; and 'rays' at the head, the 'body'-wheel.

Some Dzogchen lineages for various purposes, locate 'rays' at the Ah-wheel (for Five Pure Lights pranayama) and 'light' at the Aum-wheel (for rainbow body), and there are other enumerations.

Three lineages of Nyingmapa Dzogchen

The Gankyil also embodies the three tantric lineages as Penor Rinpoche, a Nyingmapa, states:

According to the history of the origin of tantras there are three lineages:

who is said to have taught tantras to an assembly of completely enlightened beings emanated from the Truth Body itself.

Therefore, this level of teaching is considered as being completely beyond the reach of ordinary human beings.

From him the lineage passed to Manjushrimitra, Shrisimha and then to Guru Rinpoche, Jnanasutra, Vimalamitra and Vairochana who disseminated it in Tibet.

They were passed on to Shrisimha, who transmitted them to Guru Rinpoche, who in giving them to Vimalamitra started the lineage which has continued in Tibet until the present day.

Three aspects of energy in Dzogchen doctrine

The Gankyil also embodies the energy manifested in the three aspects that yield the energetic emergence (Tibetan: rang byung) of phenomena (Sanskrit: dharmas) and sentient beings (Tibetan: yid can):

Though not discrete correlates, dang equates to dharmakaya; rolpa to sambhogakaya; and tsal to nirmanakaya.


The gankyil is the central part of the 'shang' (Tibetan: gchang), a traditional ritual tool and instrument of the Bönpo shaman.

Historical context and cross-cultural cognates

The Gankyil has been equated or conflated with similar Triskelion symbols.

Herbert V. Günther, when writing about Buddhist triunes, states that "...the magical number Three, [is] so deeply rooted in our very being" and references this inference by citing the Russian mathematician V.V. Nalimov (1982: p. 165-168) who according to Gunther provides a concise presentation of why "all of us prefer the trinity: trilogy, triptych...".