Sangha. Dharma basically means cosmic law and order. It refers to the nature of existence or the manifestations of reality. Buddhist monks and practitioner believed that there is no word wider than Dharma itself. Everything inside and outside the universe, every aspect of good or bad, are included in Dharma.
“If you were to follow the Dharma purely out of love for me or because you respect me, I would not accept you as a disciple. But if you follow the Dharma because you have yourself experienced its truth because you understand and act accordingly – only under these conditions have you the right to call yourself a disciple of the Exalted One.” – Said By Lord Buddha in Old Path.
Dharma as Buddha TeachingsBuddhist monks referenced Dharma as the fundamental teachings of Buddhism and commonly called as Buddha-Dharma. According to Dharma doctrines, it includes the sutras related to Noble Eightfold Path and Noble Four Truths. Many Buddhist tradition regarded Dharma as the ultimate truth or the source of all the things that is believed to exist beyond “three realms”. It is said that Dharma is seen as “the 84,000 different aspects of Buddha teachings”. During early Buddhism, after the death of Lord Buddha, Dharma was considered as the teachings left by Lord Buddha but later after new Buddhist traditions were evolved, the addition of sutras and interpretation was also included in Dharma teachings. Lord Buddha referred the path of Dharma as the “Dhamma-Vinaya” which means “This path of Discipline”. This discipline prevents oneself from
- Sexual Activity
- Code of ethical behavior
- One’s effort in cultivation of Mindfulness and wisdom
Mahayana BuddhismIn Mahayana Buddhism, use of Dharma generally refers to the teachings of Buddha and further the realization of Nirvana. “Three Turnings of Dharma Wheel” was often used by early Mahayana Buddhist. These early Mahayana scholars refer these three turnings as the three revelations of Buddhist teachings. Mahayana Buddhist practitioner must realize that dharma is not all about reciting the sutras or Dhamma-Vinaya, but it is a state where one can realize the true meaning of Dharma.
Mahayana Buddhism referred Dharma in many sutras such as Heart Sutra as well as Lotus sutra.
“Oh, Sariputra, all dharma are emptiness”Here Lord Buddha taught Sariputra that all phenomena (all dharma) are empty self-essence (Sunyata).
In Lotus Sutra:
“Of all dharma to be without dualityHere, all dharma means all phenomena.
Just like empty space”
Theravada BuddhismDharma in Theravada Buddhism is used to indicate all aspects of existence whether it is a factor that is inside or outside the universe or it good or bad. In Theravada, Dharma has a fourfold meaning and they are:
- It takes phenomenal world as it is
- Law of nature
- Duties needed to be performed in accordance of law of nature
- Outcome of duties performed
In Theravada Buddhism, dharma is not just a specific doctrine of Buddha teachings but it is the very teachings of Lord Buddha, it is the practice related to teachings of Buddha, and attaining enlightenment having read and practiced the teachings of Buddha.
Qualities of Dharma in Buddhist teachingsDharma is believed to possess six supreme qualities as the teaching of Buddha. They are:
- Svakkhato (Self-proclaimed)
The teachings of buddhism in not based on the belief but the realization of the universal law of Nature. Dharma is taught based on the analysis of Natural phenomena such as death, birth, old age etc.
- Sanditthiko (Able to be examined)
Dharma is not based on the belief and is open to every kind of scrutiny. Anybody can test Dharma teachings by self-practicing and study.
- Akaliko (Timeless & Immediate result)
One can easily see the timeless and immediate result after learning Dharma and one should not wait for the future or next life.
- Ehipassiko (Come & See)
Every living being are welcome to see the teachings of Dharma and test it by themselves.
- Opanayiko (Leading one close to)
Dharma isn’t something that can be learned through hearing from others, but it can only be learned by practicing by yourself.
- Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi (meant to perceive directly)
No one can help other to attain Nirvana. It can be only attained by noble disciples who have developed their practice in supreme wisdom. Dharma cannot be bestowed to one by others, but one have to practice enough to learn Dharma.
"He Who Lives By DhamraIs Protected By Dharma"