[INDOLOGY] Dharma in Buddhism

Charles DiSimone disimone at alumni.stanford.edu
Fri May 6 10:55:59 UTC 2016

Dear Alakendu Das,

I'm sure someone else can give a more thorough explanation but I will quote
below a passage from Rupert Gethin's *The Buddhist Path to Awakening *(p.
148) that succinctly paraphrases Conze on this issue:

The scholarly literature on the notion of *dhamma*/*dharma* in Buddhist
thought is, not surprisingly, fairly extensive. Perhaps one of the best
succinct yet still sufficiently comprehensive accounts is found in Edward
Conze's *Buddhist Thought in India*. The Buddhist usage of the word
'dharma', Conze notes, is 'ambiguous and multivalent'. He goes on to
distinguish seven 'philosophically important' meanings which may be
summarized as: (i) (a) transcendent reality (*nirvāṇa*), (b) 'order of law
of the universe', (c) a truly real event ('things as seen when Dharma is
taken as norm'), (d) mental percepts (*dharmāyatana*), (e) characteristic
or property (e.g. *vaya-dharma*); (ii) moral law, right behaviour; (iii)
the texts of the Buddhist tradition (i.e. the preceding as interpreted in
the Buddha's teaching). In conclusion Conze comments:

Frequently it is not at all easy to determine which one of these various
meanings is intended in a given case ... This applies to such terms as
'Dharma-body', 'Dharma-eye', the 'analytical knowledge of Dharma', the
'investigation (*pravicaya) *into dharma(s)' *... *And once the Mahāyāna
had identified the casually interrelated dharmas with the one and only
Dharma, the very distinction between 'dharma' and 'dharmas' had to be

Conze, then, identifies various nuances of the word dharma and also
suggests that the different nuances are by no means mutually exclusive.
Conze finally points out that any difference in interpretation between the
schools is 'more one of emphasis than of opinion'. Indeed, it seems to me
that the identification of 'causally interrelated dharmas with the one and
only Dharma' must be considered virtually complete already in the Nikāyas.

Best wishes,


On Fri, May 6, 2016 at 10:46 AM, alakendu das <
mailmealakendudas at rediffmail.com> wrote:

> To All,
> While going through an English transalation of Asanga's
> MahyanaSutralankara , I cane across a situation where Liberation or
> Enlightment takes place when Alaya -Vigyan blends with Dharma-Dhatau ( I.e
> a state where the distinction between Object and subject ceases).I have, in
> a number of places come across the term Dharma' whcih has variously been
> defined as Phenomena, state of things etc. Can anybody elaborate on the
> exact implication of Dharma in Buddhism.
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Charles DiSimone
Promotionsprogramm Buddhismus-Studien
Institut für Indologie und Tibetologie
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

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