The Sanskrit word dharma (dhamma in Pali), is an ancient word that is so subtle and multi-faceted that it defies a fixed meaning. I know that sounds crazy, but with dharma, you’ve got to feel the meaning. Just like holding a jewel to the light, turn the word dharma in your mind and let the meaning be illuminated a bit at a time.
On a mundane level, dharma describes moral and ethical laws applied to society or the individual. In an esoteric sense, dharma is the binding force in space and time. Cosmic laws, both physical and metaphysical – from quantum mechanics to karma – are examples of dharma.
Because of the flexibility of the word, dharma has migrated to various belief systems. Appearing in a multitude of doctrines including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Because of this, a single concise definition of dharma is futile, and yet there is a steady, harmonious and consistent meaning behind all its forms.
The Roots of Dharma
Proto-Indo-Europeon: dher (to support or fasten)
Proto-Indo-Iranian: dhar (that which holds)
Sanskrit: dhri (manner of being)
The word dhárman, appears in the Rigveda Samhita, one of India’s oldest religious, or literary texts, dating back to the Iron Age.
Many Rivers, Lead to One Ocean
• In Hinduism, Dharma is moral law and Santana Dharma is the eternal path.
• In Buddhism, Dharma is both an esoteric term and the literal body of Siddartha Guatama’s teachings.
• In Vedic Astrology, Swadharma, denotes the unique life purpose of the individual.
• In Tibetan Buddhism, Dharma is the nature of phenomena, and Dharmata, is the nature of the reality underlying that phenomena.
• Adharma means that which is not in accord with the law; immorality, evil and wickedness. Adharma is to be out of synch with natural order.
Dharma vs. Tao
The concept of dharma has affinity with the Tao of Taoism. Tao literally means The Way. In the Theravada Canon, the title of the text attributed to the Buddha is Dhammapada or Path of Truth. Despite a subtle difference in tone, Dharma and Tao are both paths that illuminate the truth and lead to the cessation of forms and the discovery of our true nature.
More than anything, dharma is the truth. Exploring dharma is a way to release suffering, a way to find purpose, a way to spiritual awakening. Dharma is the gateway to dharmata; pure awareness and luminous clarity.
Open your heart and receive the dharma in all its forms.