On the surface “dharma” seems to have two different means in Hinduism vs. Buddhism. In Hinduism dharma is moral duty, one’s place and role in the order of things and ethical conduct. Is this accurate? In Buddhism dharma means teachings, the understandings and methods needed in order to obtain enlightenment. Yet, it seems to me that in both religions that dharma takes on a much deeper meaning behind it than just the dictionary definition and this meaning is beyond translation.
In Buddhism the dharma is revered as one of the three jewels of Buddha, dharma, Sangha (Buddhist community) that one takes refuge into to be and remain a Buddhist. There are some, and I would agree with them, that would say that the Dharma is most important and the other two exist really only to be messengers of that dharma. But the dharma is more than just a collection of teachings, it is a path towards liberation from suffering and towards enlightenment. I experience the dharma when I am able to see how meditative practice and insights from the texts offer me hope and way out of my suffering and increase my compassion. Perhaps I might say that the dharma is the truth of how things are and the methods by which to penetrate delusion. I often feel like it is a ray of light in the darkness and is a rope thrown down to me in the depths of the cave. But I cannot succinctly define dharma. It is something I study, but also practice, but also have faith in, but also follow.
From the small bit I’ve read so far it seems it is same with Hinduism that dharma means so much more than just moral duty. The forum is named for the dharma and it holds an equal reverence in how it is discussed. Perhaps someone could help expound on the fuller meaning of dharma in Hinduism, since I know I am only getting a bit of the picture.
I also wonder how different the two dharmas really are. In Buddhism the teachings naturally lead to an ethical life aware of karma and need for compassion/ahimsa. The fourth noble truth is that the way to remove suffering is to remove attachments through the eightfold path which is itself a set of ethical guidelines. The five moral precepts are key parts of the dharma and living an ethical life. The dharma causes one, if they receive it, to “turn about” in their ways towards living a life free from delusion and without harming others. I’ve found in my own practice that compassion and refraining from hurting others is a vital part of my meditative practice and a wondrous way to free myself of my own suffering.
I don’t want to speak for Hinduism since I’m not Hindu, but it would seem that likewise living out one’s duty requires one to understand and accept the teachings of karma, ahimsa, and so on. Following and sharing the teachings of one’s tradition and guru seem to be part of their moral obligation. Is this accurate?
I mention this because I have found a deep love for the dharma as I have encountered it. It is like that feeling on the first day or two of feeling better after you’ve been sick for a long time. It is beyond words.