The dhamma/dharma

The dhamma/dharma

Dhamma/Dharma: The Teachings of the Buddha

Definition and Importance

  • Dhamma (in Pali) or Dharma (in Sanskrit) refers to the teachings of the Buddha, which followers of Buddhism strive to understand and practise.
  • Dhamma/Dharma is one of the Three Jewels (or Refuges) of Buddhism, alongside the Buddha and the Sangha (monastic community).
  • Learning, understanding, and practising the Dhamma/Dharma is essential for achieving Nirvana – the ultimate goal of Buddhism which represents liberation from suffering and the cycle of rebirth.

Main Elements of the Dhamma/Dharma

  • The Four Noble Truths: These illustrate the nature of existence – that life is filled with suffering (Dukkha), that there is a cause to suffering (Samudaya), that there is an end to suffering (Nirodha), and the path leading to the end of suffering (Magga).
  • The Eightfold Path: This provides a practical guide for moral and ethical behaviour and mental discipline. It leads to wisdom, ethical conduct and meditation which will help in achieving Enlightenment.
  • Five Moral Precepts: These are basic ethical guidelines for practising Buddhists, including abstaining from taking life, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and consumption of intoxicants.
  • The Three Marks of Existence: These are universal truths identified by the Buddha, namely Anicca (impermanence), Dukkha (suffering), and Anatta (non-self).

Variations in Interpretation

  • Theravada Buddhism tends to see the Dhamma/Dharma as the literal words of the Buddha, forming a clear and detailed path to enlightenment.
  • Mahayana Buddhism often interprets the Dhamma/Dharma more broadly, as the reality or truth understood upon reaching enlightenment. Mahayana texts also expand on the Dhamma/Dharma to include the Bodhisattva ideal and other teachings not found in Theravada texts.