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From The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen translated by Michael H. Kohn; © 1991 by Shambhala Publications, Inc. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc.,

Skt., lit, “carrying, holding” (Pali, dhamma; Chin., fa; Jap., or datsuma); central notion of Buddhism, used in various meanings.

1. The cosmic law, the “great norm,” underlying our world; above all, the law of karmically deter­mined rebirth.

2. The teaching of the Buddha, who recog­nized and formulated this “law”; thus the teach­ing that expresses the universal truth. The dhar­ma in this sense existed already before the birth of the historical Buddha, who is no more than a manifestation of it. It is in the dharma in this sense that a Buddhist takes refuge (trisha­rana).

3. Norms of behavior and ethical rules (shīla).

4. Manifestation of reality, of the general state of affairs; thing, phenomenon.

5. Mental content, object of thought, idea—a reflection of a thing in the human mind.

6. Term for the so-called factors of existence, which the Hīnayāna considers as building blocks of the empirical personality and its world


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