Wednesday, September 28, 2016

In Buddhism, What is "the Dharma"?

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit
In Buddhism dharma means cosmic regularity and order (its lawfulness, regularity, dependability, normative or intrinsic nature).

But the word when capitalized is also applied to the Teachings of the Buddha, the Dharma or Doctrine.

In Buddhist philosophy, physics, and metaphysics, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomena" or things, both physical (form) and psychological/psychic (formless) -- particularly as they relate to the Five Aggregates of Clinging.

In East Asia, the translation for dharma is , pronounced in Mandarin, choe ཆོས་ in Tibetan, beop in Korean, in Japanese, and pháp in Vietnamese.

However, the term dharma can also be transliterated from its original form. 

The Buddha's Teachings
Dharma Wheel.svg
The Dharma-wheel
For practicing Buddhists, references to dharma (or dhamma in the exclusively Buddhist Pali language) particularly as "the Dharma," generally means the Teachings of the Buddha, commonly referred to throughout the East as the Buddha-Dharma or "the Buddha's Teachings."

It includes especially the discourses/sutras on fundamental liberation principles (such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path of practice), as opposed to the parables and the poems.
The status of the Dharma is regarded variably by different Buddhist traditions. Later Mahayana traditions and extrapolations, very much influenced by Hindu and Vedic philosophy, regard it as an ultimate truth, or as the fount of all things which lies beyond the "three realms" (Sanskrit, tridhatu) and the "wheel of becoming" (Sanskrit, bhavacakra) or "endless round of rebirth," the "Wheel of Life and Death," somewhat like the pagan Greek and Christian logos: this is known as the "Dharma-body" or in Sanskrit, the Dharmakaya.

Others, such as the Theravada school, regard the Buddha as an enlightened human being, as he declared himself. They see the Dharma as the essence of the "84,000 different aspects of the teaching" (Tibetan Vajrayana, chos-sgo brgyad-khri bzhi strong) that the Buddha gave to various types of people based on their individual propensities and capacities.
Dharma refers not only to the sayings of the Buddha, as found for example in the Dhammapada, but also to the later traditions of extrapolation, interpretation, and addition that the various later schools of Buddhism have developed to help try to explain and to expand upon the Buddha's Teachings. 

For others still, they see the Dharma as referring to the "Truth," or the ultimate reality of "the way that things really are" (Tibetan, Cho).

The Dharma is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism from which practitioners of Buddhism seek guidance, or upon which they rely for lasting happiness. Good guidance leads to right understanding, which leads to right action (karma) that bears happy results.

The Three Jewels or Gems in Buddhism are the Buddha, meaning the Teacher or mind's capacity for perfection in enlightenment, the Dharma, meaning the liberation Teachings and methods the Buddha taught, and the Sangha, or those taught to the point of rising from "ordinary, uninstructed worldings" (putujanas) to "nobles ones" (ariya puggala). Sangha also means "community of practitioners," and usually, as in the Theravada tradition, is used exclusively as a designation for the ordained monastic community, who provide guidance, teaching, support, and an example to followers of the Buddha. 

Buddhist phenomenology
What are the higher or ultimate teachings?
Other uses include dharma, normally spelled with a lowercase "d" (to differentiate it from the Dharma). In this case it refers to a phenomenon or constituent factor of human experience, such as the Five Aggregates.

This was gradually expanded into a classification of constituents of the entire material and mental world, nama and rupa ("name and form").

Rejecting the substantial existence of any permanent entities which are qualified by changing qualities, Buddhist Abhidharma ("Higher-Dharma" or Teachings in ultimate terms as distinguished from the conventional terms utilized for the sutras and the monastic disciplinary code). These monastic-scholars and experts enumerated lists of dharmas... More
  • According to the great meditation teacher S. N. Goenka (, the original meaning of the technical Buddhist term dhamma (Sanskrit, dharma) is "dharayati iti dharmah," or "one that [or that which] contains, supports, or upholds" and dharma in sacred Buddhist texts has a variety of meanings, including "phenomenon," "nature," and "characteristic."
  • Dharma also means "mental contents" and is paired with citta, which means heart-mind [technically mind-moment in the stream of consciousness]. The pairing is paralleled with the combining of shareera (body) and vedana (feelings or sensations that arise within the body but are experienced through the mind) in major sutras such as the Maha Satipatthana Sutra, "the Longer Discourse on the Setting up of Mindfulness."

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