Sacred Tools for Modern Times #6— Living is conservation and balance with natural law.
This is part of a series of stories exploring all aspects of the spiritual life. A journey that transcends rites, rituals, ceremonies, trinkets for sale, and all of the other elements of formal religious dogma.
What is Dharma?
Dharma is the principle of cosmic order and natural law that is brought to life experience as the regulatory order of the universe. In Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) only the belief in certain teachings such as the Talmud, that Jesus died on the cross to save mankind, or the Holy Koran is sufficient to allow a follower to be enlisted as a member of that religion.
Whereas in Dharmic religions and non-religious spiritual practices such as Taoism, Zen, or the Wisdom Path, certain obligations must be fulfilled to be considered part of the path or to even be able to say that one is “spiritual.” In the Wisdom Path, that thing is Love and selfless sacrifice.
Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in many Eastern religions, and there is no single word translation for dharma in western languages.
As a general definition that can be accepted in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with natural law, the order that makes life and the universe possible. To live in the Dharma includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, and “right way of living”. Dharma can be applied to mental constructs or what is cognized by the mind. To live in the Dharma is to create a world view pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of oneself.
The meaning of the word dharma depends on the context, and its meaning has evolved as ideas of what defines a spiritually centered life have developed through history. In the earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, dharma meant cosmic law, the rules that created the universe from chaos, as well as rituals; in later works of Eastern wisdom the meaning became refined, richer, and more complex, and the word was applied to diverse contexts. In certain contexts, dharma designates human behaviors considered necessary for order of things in the universe, principles that prevent chaos, behaviors, and action necessary to all life in nature, society, family as well as at the individual level.
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 as opposed to just 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, while others, who regard the Buddha as simply an enlightened human being, see the Dharma as the essence of the many different aspects of the teachings 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 wisdom schools 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”.
The Dharma is one of the essential elements to the spiritual life, in which practitioners seek refuge or that upon which one relies for their lasting happiness.
The person who immerses themselves in the Dharma is likely to have a life of meaningfulness, contentment, love, joy, and happiness.
Author: My name is Lewis Harrison. I am a practical philosopher and independent scholar in the area of Essential Taoism, practical philosophy, Eastern thought, personal improvement, and problem-solving
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