Skt., lit, “carrying, holding” (Pali, dhamma; Chin., fa; Jap., hō 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