For practicing Buddhists, references to "dharma" (dhamma in Pali) particularly as "the Dharma", generally means the teachings of the Buddha, commonly known throughout the East as Buddha-Dharma. It includes especially the discourses on the fundamental principles (such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path), as opposed to the parables and to the poems.
The status of Dharma is regarded variably by different Buddhist traditions. Some 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), somewhat like the pagan Greek and Christian logos: this is known as Dharmakaya (Sanskrit). Others, who regard the Buddha as simply an enlightened human being, see the Dharma as the essence of the "84,000 different aspects of the teaching" (Tibetan: chos-sgo brgyad-khri bzhi strong) that the Buddha gave to various types of people, based upon their individual propensities and capabilities.
Dharma refers not only to the sayings of the Buddha, but also to the later traditions of interpretation and addition that the various schools of Buddhism have developed to help 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" (Tib. Cho).
The Dharma is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism in which practitioners of Buddhism seek refuge, or that upon which one relies for his or her lasting happiness. The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, meaning the mind's perfection of enlightenment, the Dharma, meaning the teachings and the methods of the Buddha, and the Sangha, meaning the monastic community who provide guidance and support to followers of the Buddha.
Other uses include dharma, normally spelled with a small "d" (to differentiate), which refers to a phenomenon or constituent factor of human experience. This was gradually expanded into a classification of constituents of the entire material and mental world. Rejecting the substantial existence of permanent entities which are qualified by possibly changing qualities, Buddhist Abhidharma philosophers enumerated lists of dharmas which varied by school. They came to propound that these "constituent factors" are the only type of entity that truly exists (and only some thinkers gave dharmas this kind of existence). This notion is of particular importance for the analysis of human experience: Rather than assuming that mental states inhere in a cognizing subject, or a soul-substance, Buddhist philosophers largely propose that mental states alone exist as "momentary elements of consciousness" and that a subjective perceiver is assumed.
One of the central tenets of Buddhism, is the denial of a separate permanent "I", and is outlined in the three marks of existence.
- Dukkha – Suffering or unsatisfactoriness (Pali: Dukkha)
- Anitya – Change/Impermanence (Pali: Anicca)
- Anatman – Not-Self (Pali: Anatta)
At the heart of Buddhism is the understanding of all phenomena as dependently originated. Later, Buddhist philosophers like Nāgārjuna would question whether the dharmas (momentary elements of consciousness) truly have a separate existence of their own.
According to S. N. Goenka, the original meaning of dhamma is "dharayati iti dharmaH", or "one that contains, supports or upholds" and dharma in the Buddhist scriptures has a variety of meanings, including "phenomenon" and "nature" or "characteristic". Dharma also means "mental contents," and is paired with citta, which means heart-mind. The pairing is paralleled with the combining of shareera (body) and vedana (feelings or sensations which arise within the body but are experienced through the mind) in major sutras such as the Mahasatipatthana sutra.
East Asian Buddhism
In Jainism dharma refers to the teachings of the Jinas In Jainism, dharma is natural. Acharya Samantabhadra writes, Vatthu sahavo dhammo: "the dharma is the nature of an object". It is the nature of the soul to be free, thus for the soul, the dharma is paralaukika, beyond worldly. However the nature of the body is to seek self-preservation and be engaged in pleasures. Thus there are two dharmas.
Acharya Haribhadra (c. 6th–7th centuries) discusses dharma in Dharma-Bindu. He writes (Translation by Y. Malaiya): soayam-anuṣṭhātṛ-bhedāt dvi-vidho
gṛhastha-dharmo yati-dharmaś ca |
Because of the difference in practice, dharma is of two kinds, for the householders and for the monks.
tatra gṛhastha-dharmo api dvi-vidhaḥ
sāmanyato viśeṣataś ca |
Of the householder's dharma, there are two kinds, "ordinary" and "special"
tatra sāmanayato gṛhastha-dharmaḥ kula-krama-agatam-anindyaṃ
vibhavady-apekshayā nyāto anuṣṭhānaṃ |
The ordinary dharma of the householder should be carried out according to tradition, such that it is not objectionable, according to ones abilities such as wealth, in accordance with nyaya (everyone treated fairly and according to laws).
Somadeva suri (10th century) terms the "ordinary" and "special" dharmas laukika ("worldly") and pralaukika ("extra-worldly") respectively:
dvau hi dharmau gṛhasthāṇam, laukikaḥ, pāralaukikaḥ |
lokāśrayo bhavedādyah, parah syād-āgama-āśrayaḥ ||
A householder follows both laukika and the paralaukika dharmas at the same time.
For Sikhs, the word Dharm means the "path of righteousness" and proper religious practice. Sikh Dharma is a distinct religion revealed through the teachings of ten Gurus who are accepted by the followers as if they were spiritually the same. In Sikhism, God is described as both Nirgun (transcendent) and Sargun (immanent). Guru Granth Sahib in hymn 1353 connotes dharma as duty. The 3HO movement in Western culture, affiliated to Sikhism, defines Sikh Dharma broadly as all that that constitutes religion, moral duty and way of life.
Scriptures and dharma
The Guru Granth Sahib lays down the foundation of this "righteous path" and various salient points are found:
- Sikh is bound by Dharma: The followers of this faith are bound by Dharma as advocated in their holy scriptures. The committed Sikh is encouraged to follow this path at all times. The first recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib called the Japji Sahib says the following: "The path of the faithful shall never be blocked. The faithful shall depart with honor and fame. The faithful do not follow empty religious rituals. The faithful people are fully bound to do whatever the Dharma wants them to do. Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord. Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind." (14) (Guru Granth Sahib Japji page 3.)
- Deeds are recorded: The persons thoughts and deeds are said to be recorded and the faithful is warned that these will be read out in the presence of the "Lord of Dharma". Two scribes called Chitr and Gupt, the angels of the conscious and the subconscious mind are busy writing ones thought and deeds. On death, the soul of the person he brought before "Lord of Dharma" are these account are read out as recorded in this quote:
|“||Day and night are the two distracting but fascinating nurses, in whose lap all the world forgetting reality is at play. Good deeds and bad deeds – the record is read out in the Presence of the Lord of Dharma. According to their own actions, some are drawn closer, and some are driven farther away. Those who have pondered on the Name have earned Merit through hard endeavor. Nanak, their faces radiant with Divine Light, many shall be emancipated in company with them.||”|
- Dharma administered by God: The scriptures further outline how the "Judge of Dharma" administers justice depending on the way that one has conducted life on Earth. The soul is either "cleared" or "subject to God's command" depending on the review of the person history. The holy text says: "The Righteous Judge of Dharma, by the Hukam of God's Command, sits and administers True Justice". and those followers who "chant the name of the Lord" are cleared as outlined thus: "Her account is cleared by the Righteous Judge of Dharma, when she chants the Name of the Lord, Har, Har."
Dharma in symbols
The importance of Dharma to Indian sentiments is illustrated by India’s decision in 1947 to include the symbol of wheel of dharma, the dharma-cakra, as the central motif on its flag.
- The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions: "In Hinduism, dharma is a fundamental concept, referring to the order and custom which make life and a universe possible, and thus to the behaviours appropriate to the maintenance of that order."
- David Kalupahana: "The old Indian term dharma was retained by the Buddha to refer to phenomena or things. However, he was always careful to define this dharma as "dependently arisen phenomena" (paticca-samuppanna-dhamma) ... In order to distinguish this notion of dhamma from the Indian conception where the term dharma meant reality (atman), in an ontological sense, the Buddha utilized the conception of result or consequence or fruit (attha, Sk. artha) to bring out the pragmatic meaning of dhamma."
- Monier Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary (1899): "to hold , bear (also bring forth) , carry , maintain , preserve, keep , possess , have , use , employ , practise , undergo"
- Gavin Flood (1994), Hinduism, in Jean Holm, John Bowker (Editors) - Rites of Passage, ISBN 1-85567-102-6, Chapter 3; Quote - "Rites of passage are dharma in action."; "Rites of passage, a category of rituals,..."
- David Frawley (2009), Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization, ISBN 978-0-9149-5581-8; Quote: "Yoga is a dharmic approach to the spiritual life...";
- Mark Harvey (1986), The Secular as Sacred?, Modern Asian Studies, 20(2), pp 321-331
- J. A. B. van Buitenen (1957), Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, 7(1/2), pp 33-40;
- James Fitzgerald (2004), Dharma and its Translation in the Mahābhārata, Journal of Indian philosophy, 32(5), pp 671-685; Quote - "virtues enter the general topic of dharma as 'common, or general, dharma,'..."
- Bernard S. Jackson (1975), From dharma to law, The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Summer, 1975), pp. 490-512
- Harold Coward (2004), Hindu bioethics for the twenty-first century, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 291(22), pp 2759-2760; Quote - "Hindu stages of life approach (ashrama dharma)..."
- Austin Creel (1975), The Reexamination of Dharma in Hindu Ethics, Philosophy East and West, 25(2), pp 161-173; Quote - "Dharma pointed to duty, and specified duties..";
- Gisela Trommsdorff (2012), Development of “agentic” regulation in cultural context: the role of self and world views, Child Development Perspectives, 6(1), pp 19-26.; Quote - "Neglect of one's duties (dharma — sacred duties toward oneself, the family, the community, and humanity) is seen as an indicator of immaturity."
- Dharma, The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. (2013), Columbia University Press, Gale, ISBN 978-0787650155;
- Steven Rosen (2006), Essential Hinduism, Praeger, ISBN 0-275-99006-0, Chapter 3
- DharmaEncyclopedia Britannica,
- Ludo Rocher (2003), The Dharmasastra, Chapter 4, in Gavin Flood (Editor), The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism, ISBN 978-0631215356
- Alban G. Widgery, The Principles of Hindu Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Jan., 1930), pp. 232-245
- DharmaThe Oxford Dictionary of World Religions,
- David Kalupahana. The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY Press, 1986, pages 15–16
- English translated version by Jarrod Whitaker (2004): Paul Horsch - From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma, Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp 423-448; Original peer reviewed publication in German: Paul Horsch, ‘Vom Schoepfungsmythos zum Weltgesetz’, in Asiatische Studien: Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft fur Asiankunde, Volume 21 (Francke: 1967), pp 31–61;
- English translated version by Donald R. Davis (2006): Paul Hacker - Dharma in Hinduism, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 479–496; Original peer reviewed publication in German: Paul Hacker, “Dharma im Hinduismus” in Zeitschrift fur Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft 49 (1965): pp 93–106
- Monier Willams
- Day 1982, p. 42-45.
- Brereton, Joel P. (2004). "Dhárman in the Ṛgveda". Journal of Indian Philosophy 32: 449–89.
- Karl Brugmann, Elements of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic languages, Volume III, B. Westermann & Co., New York, 1892, p. 100
- Dhand, Arti (Fall 2002). "The Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma : Quizzing the Ideals of Hinduism". Journal Of Religious Ethics 30 (3): 351.
- J. A. B. Van Buitenen, Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Volume 7, Number 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), page 36
- Paul Horsch - From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma, Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp 423-448
- Hermann Grassmann, Worterbuch zum Rig-veda (German Edition), Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120816367
- Steven Rosen (2006), Essential Hinduism, Praeger, ISBN 0-275-99006-0, page 34-45
- Dharma Monier Monier-Williams, Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (2008 revision), pp 543-544;
- Carl Cappeller (1999), Monier-Williams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Etymological and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Asian Educational Services, ISBN 978-8120603691, pp 510-512
- "...the order and custom which make life and a universe possible, and thus to the behaviours appropriate to the maintenance of that order." citation in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions
- Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2007
- Albrecht Wezler, Dharma in the Veda and the Dharmaśāstras, Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp 629-654
- Johannes Heesterman (1978). ‘Veda and Dharma’, in W.D.O’ Flaherty (Ed.), The Concept of Duty in South Asia, New Delhi: Vikas, ISBN 978-0728600324, pp 80-95
- K.L. Seshagiri Rao (1997), Practitioners of Hindu Law: Ancient and Modern, Fordham Law Review, Volume 66, pp 1185-1199
- अधर्मा adharma, Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Germany (2011)
- adharma Monier Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, University of Koeln, Germany (2009)
- Gavin Flood (1998), Making moral decisions, in Paul Bowen (Editor), Themes and issues in Hinduism, ISBN 978-0304338511, Chapter 2, pp 30-54 and pp 151-152;
- Coward, H. (2004), Hindu bioethics for the twenty-first century, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 291(22), pp 2759-2760;
- J. A. B. Van Buitenen, Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Volume 7, Number 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), page 37
- RgVeda 6.70.1, 8.41.10, 10.44.8, for secondary source see Karl Friedrich Geldner, Der Rigveda in Auswahl (2 vols.), Stuttgart; and Harvard Oriental Series, 33-36, Bd.1-3: 1951
- Paul Horsch - From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma, Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp 430-431
- P. Thieme, Gedichte aus dem Rig-Veda, Reclam Universal-Bibliothek Nr. 8930, pp. 52
- Paul Horsch - From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma, Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp 430-432
- Joel Brereton (2004), Dharman in the RgVeda, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 32, pp 449-489
- Paul Hacker (1965), Dharma in Hinduism, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 479–496 (English translated version by Donald R. Davis (2006))
- Etienne Lamotte, Bibliotheque du Museon 43, Louvain, 1958, pp. 249
- Barbara Holdrege (2004), "Dharma" in: Mittal & Thursby (Editors) The Hindu World, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-21527-7, pp. 213–248
- Koller, J. M. (1972), Dharma: an expression of universal order. Philosophy East and West, 22(2), pp 136-142
- Māyā Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary, ISBN 978-8120603691
- Northrop, F. S. C. (1949), Naturalistic and cultural foundations for a more effective international law, Yale Law Journal, 59, pp 1430-1441
- Day 1982, p. 42-44.
- Dharma, The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. (2013), Columbia University Press, Gale, ISBN 978-0787650155
- J. A. B. Van Buitenen, Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), pp 33-40
- Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), pp. 43
- Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), pp. 41-48
- The Mahābhārata: Book 11: The Book of the Women Book 12: The Book of Peace, Part 1 By Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen, James L. Fitzgerald pg.124
There is considerable amount of literature on dharma-related discussion in Hindu Epics of Egoism versus Altruism, Individualism versus Social Virtues and Tradition; For examples, see:
- Johann Jakob Meyer (1989), Sexual life in ancient India, ISBN 8120806387, Motilal Banarsidass, pp. 92-93; Quote - “In Indian literature, especially in Mahabharata over and over again is heard the energetic cry - Each is alone. None belongs to anyone else, we are all but strangers to strangers; (...), none knows the other, the self belongs only to self. Man is born alone, alone he lives, alone he dies, alone he tastes the fruit of his deeds and his ways, it is only his work that bears him company. (...) Our body and spiritual organism is ever changing; what belongs, then, to us? (...) Thus, too, there is really no teacher or leader for anyone, each is his own Guru, and must go along the road to happiness alone. Only the self is the friend of man, only the self is the foe of man; from others nothing comes to him. Therefore what must be done is to honor, to assert one’s self...”; Quote - “(in parts of the epic), the most thoroughgoing egoism and individualism is stressed...”
- Raymond F. Piper (1954), In Support of Altruism in Hinduism, Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jul., 1954), pp. 178-183
- J Ganeri (2010), A Return to the Self: Indians and Greeks on Life as Art and Philosophical Therapy, Royal Institute of Philosophy supplement, 85(66), pp. 119-135
- Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), pp. 44-45; Quote - “(...)In the Epic, free will has the upper hand. Only when a man’s effort is frustrated or when he is overcome with grief does he become a predestinarian (believer in destiny).”; quote - “This association of success with the doctrine of free will or human effort (purusakara) was felt so clearly that among the ways of bringing about a king’s downfall is given the following simple advice: “Belittle free will to him, and emphasize destiny.” (Mahabharata 12.106.20)
- Huston Smith, The World Religions, ISBN 978-0061660184, HarperOne (2009); For summary notes: Background to Hindu Literature
- Klaus Klostermaier, A survey of Hinduism,, SUNY Press, ISBN 0-88706-807-3, Chapter 3: Hindu dharma
- Jha, Nyayasutras with Vatsyayana Bhasya, 2 vols, Oriental Books (1939)
- The yoga-system of Patanjali The ancient Hindu doctrine of concentration of mind, embracing the mnemonic rules, called Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press
- The yoga-system of Patanjali Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press, pp 178-180
- The yoga-system of Patanjali Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press, pp 180-181
- The yoga-system of Patanjali Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press, pp 181-191
- Kumarila, Tantravarttika, Anandasramasamskrtagranthavalih, Vol. 97, p.204-205; For an English Translation, see Jha (1924), Bibliotheca Indica, Vol. 161, Vol. 1
- Patrick Olivelle, Dharmasūtras: The Law Codes of Ancient India, (Oxford World Classics, 1999)
- Paul Hacker (1965), Dharma in Hinduism, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 487–489 (English translated version by Donald R. Davis (2006))
- Alf Hiltebeitel (2011), Dharma: Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative, ISBN 978-0195394238, Oxford University Press, pp 215-227
- Thapar, R. (1995), The first millennium BC in northern India, Recent perspectives of early Indian history, 80-141
- Thomas R. Trautmann (1964), On the Translation of the Term Varna, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jul., 1964), pp. 196-201
- J. A. B. Van Buitenen (1957), Dharma and Moksa, Philosophy East and West, Volume 7, Number 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1957), pp 38-39
- Koller, J. M. (1972), Dharma: an expression of universal order. Philosophy East and West, 22(2), pp 131-144
- Kane, P.V. (1962), History of Dharmasastra (Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law in India), Volume 1, pp 2-10
- Olivelle, P. (1993), The Asrama System: The history and hermeneutics of a religious institution, New York: Oxford University Press
- Alban G. Widgery, The Principles of Hindu Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Jan., 1930), pp. 232-245
- Koller, J. M. (1972), Dharma: an expression of universal order. Philosophy East and West, 22(2), pp 131-144;
- Karl H. Potter (1958), Dharma and Mokṣa from a Conversational Point of View, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 8, No. 1/2 (Apr. - Jul., 1958), pp. 49-63;
- William F. Goodwin, Ethics and Value in Indian Philosophy, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Jan., 1955), pp. 321-344
- Adam Bowles (2007), Dharma, Disorder, and the Political in Ancient India, Brill's Indological Library (Book 28), ISBN 978-9004158153, Chapter 3
- Derrett, J. D. M. (1959), Bhu-bharana, bhu-palana, bhu-bhojana: an Indian conundrum, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 22, pp 108-123
- Jan Gonda, Ancient Indian Kingship from the Religious Point of View, Numen, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (Jan., 1956), pp. 36-71
- Gächter, Othmar (1998). "Anthropos". Anthropos institute.
- Patrick Olivelle (1999), The Dharmasutras: The law codes of ancient India, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-283882-2
- Donald Davis, Jr., A Realist View of Hindu Law, Ratio Juris. Vol. 19 No. 3 September 2006, pp 287–313
- Lariviere, Richard W. (2003), The Naradasmrti, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
- nirvṇānaparīkṣā, 25:22–24
- Robin Rinehart (2014), in Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, ISBN 978-0199699308, Oxford University Press, pp. 138-139
- W. Owen Cole (2014), in Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, ISBN 978-0199699308, Oxford University Press, pp. 254
- Verne Dusenbery (2014), in Pashaura Singh and Louis E. Fenech (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, ISBN 978-0199699308, Oxford University Press, pp. 560-568
- "Sri Guru Granth Sahib". Sri Granth. Retrieved 2012-08-14.
- Guru Granth Sahib Japji page 8, Salok.
- Guru Granth Sahib page 38
- Guru Granth Sahib page 78
- Narula, S. (2006), International Journal of Constitutional Law, 4(4), pp 741-751
- Sanatana Dharma: an advanced text book of Hindu religion and Ethics. Central Hindu College, Benaras. 1904.
- Day, Terence P. (1982), The Conception of Punishment in Early Indian Literature, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press,
- Murthy, K. Krishna. "Dharma – Its Etymology." The Tibet Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Spring 1966, pp. 84–87.
- Olivelle, Patrick (2009). Dharma: Studies in Its Semantic, Cultural and Religious History. Delhi: MLBD.
- India Glossary – Dharma
- Buddhism A-Z: "D" Entries
- Rajiv Malhotra, Dharma Is Not The Same As Religion (huffingtonpost.com)