“Dhamma” is one of those Buddhist words which tends to get a bit goopy with use. Mostly this comes from a lack of good knowledge about Buddhism, and about the use of worlds.
Dhamma, the Pāḷi near-equivalent of the Sanskrit “Dharma,” is most commonly found in use among the Theravāda schools of Buddhism, and those more or less similar derivatives, such as Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, and the Vipassana and Mindfulness movements.
In those worldviews lumped together as “Hinduism,” Dhamma, literally ‘decree or custom,’ most often means something like the organizing principle of the cosmic order, or the principle or law that orders the universe. It also denotes individual conduct in conformity with this principle. Additionally, dharma points to the essential function or nature of a thing. Kinda’ goopy.
In the above mentioned Buddhist traditions, Dhamma is the word encompassing the body of teachings expounded by the Buddha. Use of Dhamma includes referencing the knowledge of, or duty to undertake conduct set forth by the Buddha as a way to enlightenment. And, falling back on Buddhism’s common heritage with Hinduism, Dhamma is used to indicate one of the basic, minute elements from which all things are made. Still goopy. And it gets goopier when one learns that in some Buddhist traditions, “Dhamma” refers not only to the teachings of the Buddha, but also the teachings of many, many other practitioners as well.
In Jainism, dharma signifies moral virtue as well as the eternal life force. Very straightforward, but not very Buddhist.
According to the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, In Buddhism, dharma is the universal truth common to all individuals at all times, and it is regarded as one of the primary sources of Buddhist doctrine and practice.
We like this one. Simple and direct. And we assert that the “universal truth” to which the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia is referring is the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths and the accompanying practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.
While seemingly quite simple, the Dhamma is actually quite rich, encompassing every aspect of life. The central concept in the Dhamma is “dukkhā,” a Pāḷi word for a concept that encompasses a very broad range of experiences. All of the experiences subsumed by ‘dukkhā’ stem from a couple of aspects of our human character: our lack of wisdom coupled with our desire for self-gratification.
The central practice is the Noble Eightfold Path. This “middle” path is a road up and out of the quagmire of ignorance, delusion and craving leading to a state of being characterized by compassion, beneficence, altruism, and blissful equanimity. With practice we develop a fund of knowledge that is factually correct, and an objective, unbiased (“unattached”) understanding of reality. Acquiring correct knowledge dispels delusions. Right understanding engenders wisdom. Following the Noble Path also shapes our character through the practicing of right intentions, and morally, socially, economically, politically and ecologically “right” actions.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
From time to time we expound a bit on the Dhamma. If you’d like to read these expositions, please visit the Ariya Magga Buddhist Missionary Society blog at http://ambms.blogspot.com.