from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wheel of Dharma ( Guimet Museum , Paris)
Buddha in teaching gesture ( dharmachakramudra ), Museum of Sarnath ; below the throne seat, his students worship the 'wheel of teaching'.

Dharma ( Sanskrit धर्म dharma ; Pali धम्म dhamma ; Thai ธรรม , RTGS Tham ; Chinese   , Pinyin ) is a central term in many Asian religions (including Hinduism , Buddhism , Jainism and Sikhism ), which has different meanings depending on the religion. Dharma can include law, right and custom as well as ethical and religious obligations and values, but it can also refer to religion , ethics or morals in general or specific religious rituals, methods and actions.

Dharma in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Dharma is one of the central terms and is derived from the root dhṛ ('hold'). Dharma, the Hindu ethic, determines the life of a Hindu in many ways. Personal habits, social and family ties, fasts and festivals, religious rituals , justice and morals , often even the rules of personal hygiene and food preparation, are determined by the Dharma. Hindus see observance of the Dharma not only as a prerequisite for social well-being, but also for good personal development. For them, karma depends on the fulfillment of the Dharma , which includes the results (cause and effect) that have arisen from the actions of the individual . However, Hindus do not have a specific, generally applicable code , no specific set of laws that are equally binding on everyone, such as the Ten Commandments of Jews and Christians. According to the Dharma, every being in the universe can be recognized by the duties that it must fulfill. Elephants have different duties than horses, trees have different functions than grasses, and humans have different duties than flowers, bees or bears.

Types of Dharma

Basically the concept of dharma contains several different aspects. Two definitions distinguish on the one hand the cosmic and on the other hand the human order. Both go into each other:

Sanatana Dharma

The eternal, unchangeable Dharma, Sanatana-Dharma (Sanskrit सनातन धर्म sanātana dharma ) denotes the cosmic order that sustains the entire universe . This includes both the laws of nature and the wisdom of the Vedas , the most important "holy scriptures" of the Hindus. Not only humans are subject to the Sanatana Dharma , also animals and even plants as well as the entire universe. Believers believe that Dharma arises from Brahman , the Absolute.

Sanatana-Dharma , "eternal order", is also the Hindus' own name for their religion .

Dharma as the order of society

On a human level, Dharma is the order of society , which in turn contains different aspects. In principle, the Hindu tradition has three obligations :

  • towards gods, from whom people get everything - is fulfilled z. B. through prayer and worship
  • towards the rishis (the wise) and the gurus (the teachers) - is fulfilled e.g. B. by studying the scriptures
  • towards the ancestors from whom people got their bodies - is fulfilled e.g. B. by raising offspring

The social duties and responsibilities of the Varnashrama Dharma depend on age, stage of life, gender, caste and social status. There are different orders and laws for people in a certain stage of life ( Ashrama ), as well as different regulations for the individual members of the four classes of society, the Varnas .

The ideal of the four stages of life (ashrama) described in the scriptures is associated with certain social duties. It divides the life of every person into four phases:

  • Brahmacarin (student)
  • Grihastha (steward)
  • Vanaprastha (in the forest solitude)
  • Samnyasin (giving up the world)

The student's duty is to study and provide social services. As a “housekeeper” one should marry, have children, look after the family, give to those in need, serve the social and political needs of the community. One should only go into the "forest solitude" when the family duties have been fulfilled. Then you can detach yourself from material things and find your own philosophy . The very last phase of life is the time to give up the world and find your goal in redemption .

The first two levels, Brahmacarin and Grihastha, are integrated into everyday Hindu life. Seldom does anyone really go into the "forest solitude" or withdraw from the world as a hermit . Instead, the modern world has a custom for the elders to give up all chores and retreat within the home to engage in religious activities.

The box endharma contains different laws for each group of society: Here the Hindu tradition as well as the old legislators assign a certain task and specific moral requirements to each within the society. In the past, for example, everyone had to take on the job and duties of their families and caste. This tradition is still alive, but no longer irrevocable. If the prerequisites are met, anyone can take up any profession today.

General dharmas

Many rules are tailored to a specific group of people, but the following Sadharana Dharmas are general rules of conduct for everyone. They appear regularly in the various scriptures in many places as particularly important virtues . The following appear particularly frequently:

Truthfulness ( satyam ), abstention from violence ( ahimsa ), angerlessness ( akrodha ), generosity ( danam ), abstention from theft ( asteyam ), ritual, mental and physical purity ( saucam ), restraint of the senses ( indriya-nigraha ), indulgence and Forgiveness ( ksama ), self-control ( dama ), judgment ( dhi ), charity ( dana ), compassion ( daya ), hospitality ( atithi ). The selection does not contain any ranking. Similar rules are formulated in yoga in the Yamas and Niyamas .

The Bhagavadgita addresses important virtues in several places:

Non-violence ( Ahimsa ), truthfulness, angerlessness, renunciation, peace, non-slander, compassion for living beings, dispassion, mildness, modesty, luminous strength, forgiveness, constancy, purity, lack of hostility, non-arrogance - these are the gifts of People of a divine nature . (Chapter 16.2–3).

Care for others is also a particularly important criterion of the Hindu Dharma: The Mahabharata , for example, postulates : Compassion and kindness is the highest Dharma of the good (Chapters 13.5-23).

Every Hindu can list the "six enemies": kama (worldly desires), krodha (anger), lobha (greed, avarice), moha (delusion, spiritual darkness), mada (pride) and matsarya (jealousy and envy). These evils are clearly reminiscent of the “seven deadly sins ” of the Catholics and of the “ three poisons ” of the Buddhists.

Four legitimate goals

Dharma is one of the 'four legitimate goals' in human life ( purusharthas ), the latter two being the highest:

  • Artha : prosperity and success
  • Kama : worldly enjoyment, lust, sexuality
  • Dharma: cosmic and social law, virtue, morality
  • Moksha : redemption

Hindus do not reject worldly pursuit, lust and the pursuit of prosperity as immoral, but the latter two goals have a higher priority. The fulfillment of the Dharma is the most important guiding goal for daily life.

Sources of Hindu Dharma

Important sources for learning the Dharma are one's own tradition, ancestors and the instructions of a guru , but always in accordance with the Vedas . Indispensable instructions can also be found in the Puranas , the old books about the gods, in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata , which are very important in Hindu countries. They give everyone in society guidelines - but without prescribing binding laws for everyone. This free choice can also resolve the contradiction between the demands of traditional tradition and the requirements of modern life.

Ancient law books are the Dharmashastras of various 'legislators', of which Manu (between 200 BC and 200 AD) is the best known. There are precise rules for all phases of life, all castes as well as for men and women. Although Manu is still widely worshiped today, Hindus do not claim to have his ancient laws fulfilled. Many Hindus are still looking for guidelines in it and citing it, but no one today would understand these scriptures as generally applicable instructions. Women's rights activists and caste opponents are often a thorn in the side of his regulations.

Dharmashastras , the epics, Puranas and law books belong to the Smritis and are therefore not of irrefutable authority. Hindus expressly assume that the Dharma is eternal, but its content is changeable and not the same at all times. For example, if polygamy was still common among the heroes of the Mahabharata, it would violate the social mores of the Hindus today; If thieves' hands were chopped off in the past, such a radical punitive measure is unthinkable today.

Personification of the Dharma

Dharma as righteousness also appears in the Mahabharata in the form of a god who is closely connected to the god of the dead Yama , who appears as the mythical father of Yudhishthira , the eldest of the five Pandava brothers. In the later course of the story he appears as a crane and as a forest spirit ( yaksha ) and asks ethical and moral questions, which Yudhishthira - in contrast to his brothers, who therefore have to die - also answers, so that at the end of the episode he himself as embodiment which is called righteousness.

Dharma in Buddhism

The term Dharma ( Sanskrit ) or Dhamma ( Pali ) have various context-dependent meanings in Buddhism . In one of the possible readings it describes the teaching of the Buddha . The Dharma as the law of existence recognized and proclaimed by the Buddha contains the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths and forms in the refuge formula “I take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha ” one of the ' Three Jewels ', which is also referred to as the 'Three Objects of Refuge' become. Against this background, the Dharma is considered an object of meditation of the ten contemplations ( anussati ). In Mahayana and Vajrayana , the term refers not only to the teachings of the Buddha but also to the teachings of the great Bodhisattvas and all masters who have attained enlightenment in the succession of the Buddha . In addition, the word is used as a collective term for the totality of all phenomena .

Philosophical meaning

In its philosophical meaning, which was worked out in the course of the Abhidharma scholasticism, the term dharma - here written in lower case and mostly used in the plural - refers to the fundamental, irreducible elements that make up the human world of experience with its mental and material-physical conditions. This, building blocks of reality ', for which in Buddhist terminology in German-speaking countries of Helmuth von Glasenapp proposed technical term, factors of being' has largely prevailed, but not because of their direct involvement in the Buddhist doctrine of salvation with atoms in the sense of Democritus comparable because they basically have no substance . Your presentation is less intended to provide an ontological explanation of the world than to enlighten the practitioner against the background of the Anatta doctrine of how the assumption of a constant bearer of experience - a self - comes about and to provide him with a practically comprehensible guide to this assumption as one to see through an attachment-based interpretation of the conditioned interplay of the factors of existence, and finally to be able to give it up more easily through meditative analysis.

Conditional / unconditional factors of existence

In this classification, a fundamental distinction is made between 'conditioned' and 'unconditional' factors of existence. The 'conditioned' factors of existence carry the three characteristics of existence - they come together in constantly changing combinations and are understood as fluctuating potentialities, as punctual concentrations of force or energy, which act on each other in the context of the conditions of origin ( pratityasamutpada ) and the law of karma thereby giving people the impression of a constant person ( pudgal ) facing the world, but are just as changeable as the complex spectrum of observable phenomena, conditions and events that their interplay produces in mutual dependence. On the other hand , the aspects of “suffering” ( dukkha ) and “transience” anicca do not apply to the “unconditional” dharmas, to which nirvana and / or sunyata are counted depending on the interpretation of the individual school . They take on a special role here insofar as they are not subject to the dynamic process of arising and disappearing. The Buddha-nature is considered to be imperishable or eternal. The Buddha nature is referred to in some Buddhist systems of teaching as the nature of the mind or as the clear light of primal awareness. In the Nirvana Sutra, Buddha-nature ( Buddha-dhatu ) is explained by the Buddha himself as “the true self” of the Buddha and described as “constant, firm and eternal” ( nitya, dhruva, sasvata ). It is also equated with the Dharmakaya .

Development of Dharma teaching

The Dharma doctrine in its form as a complex structured system took concrete form for the first time in the basket of treatises of the Pali Canon , which is linked to the discourses handed down by Buddha Shakyamuni and explains them in more detail by means of a summary arranged according to certain subject areas. This detailed classification of the dharmas made by Buddha's disciples was intended to create an analytical basis for meditation practice and was thus intended as a didactic aid. In this way, Dharma teaching is still taught and practiced in Theravada today. It is therefore a consistent continuation of the categories of 'consciousness and mental factors' ( nama ) and 'physicality' ( rupa ), which have already been addressed in the numerous discourses of the Buddha, which are subdivided into five appropriation groups ( skandhas ) and finally fanned out into many other categories. This includes:

  • the 'six elements' ( dhatus ) - earth, fire, water, air, space and consciousness
  • the 'twelve sensory fields' ( ayatanas ) - the six sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, and the six sense objects: visual object, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought, as well
  • the 'eighteen elements' ( dhatus) , which comprise the twelve sensory fields plus their corresponding types of consciousness

There is no uniform total number of all dharmas in Buddhism; it varies from school to school and ranges from 75 (in Sarvastivada) to 82 (Theravada) and 84 (Sautrantika), up to 100 (in Yogacara). The individual factors were additionally provided with the corresponding labels 'healing', 'unwholesome' and 'neutral'.

The dharma theory was later developed further by the scholastically oriented Hinayana schools and also adopted by the subsequent Mahayana currents , with widely differing views on the nature and status of the dharmas. While the schools of Sautrantika and Sarvastivada , which belong to the Hinayana , were debating whether the dharmas were effective only in the present or in all three periods of time, or whether they represented ultimate realities ( paramattha ) or mere moments ( kshanika ), in to the schools of Mahayana without exception all dharmas declared as 'empty' ( sunya ) of an intrinsic nature ( svabhava ) and in this way relativized the strict dichotomous separation between the conditioned and the unconditional. The radical expansion of emptiness ( sunyata ) to all factors of existence ( dharmasunyata ), which was already beginning to emerge in the Mahasanghika , is due to the increasing influence of the Prajnaparamita literature, the Nagarjuna , whose work forms the basis for the Mahayana school of the Middle Way ( madhyamaka ), especially with representatives of Sautrantika and Sarvastivada.

Two truths

In the course of the classification of the factors of existence after Buddha's death, the doctrine of the 'two truths', which is characteristic of Buddhism, was also developed, in which a distinction was made between the level of relative, veiled reality ( samutti sacca ) and the level of the highest reality ( paramattha sacca ) becomes. In this first formulation of the 'two truths', the factors of existence are assigned the highest reality; they are therefore also called paramattha dhammas . The everyday conception of 'I' and 'mine' as well as of concrete, substantial, independent things and people, on the other hand, are assigned to the level of 'veiled reality'. Nagarjuna took up this method, but changed the classification of the degrees of truth fundamentally , now using the Sanskrit terms samvritti satya and paramartha satya . He transferred the factors of existence previously described as the highest reality in the Abhidharmic sense - like everything that can be expressed in language - to the level of samvritti satya .

With the modification of the procedure with regard to the 'Two Truths', Nagarjuna pursued the goal of expressly pointing out that 'ultimate truth' only shows itself in 'emptiness' against the background of the discussions about the reality status of the dharmas at the time, however, cannot be described verbally, since every mode of assertion expresses a 'conditional truth' which as such has no absolute validity. The practitioner can therefore only be guided to the 'middle way' by a statement, if it meets the criterion of a skillful means (upaya), and then finally, as a result of a profound insight that has come to maturity through practice, any clinging to concepts to give up in the area of ​​mental development ( prapanca ) and experience inner peace. In the school of Yogacara , this tendency was retained, but the exclusively negative mode of expression used by Nagarjuna was deviated from in order to enable the application of the concept of emptiness, which was further developed in its interpretation by the Madhyamaka, to the analysis of consciousness treated in Yogacara by means of positive formulation.

Dharma in Jainism

Jainism is also known as Jain Dharma ('Jain doctrine'). The considerations and speculations on the right forms of thought and life of the two other great religions of India have found their way into it on various occasions; on the other hand, the teachings of Jainism have influenced the teachings of other religions. In the course of its development, however, the three 'small vows' ( anuvratas ) for lay followers have emerged as central teachings of Jainism : non-violence towards all immanent forms of existence ( ahimsa ), independence from unnecessary possessions ( aparigraha ) and truthfulness ( satya ) as well as the two Supplementary attitudes to life or commandments (observance of other people's property ( asteya ) and chastity ( brahma )) expanded five 'great vows' ( mahavratas ) for monks and nuns.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Lexicon of Religions, editor Hans Waldenfels, Verlag Herder , p. 122.
  2. Lexicon of Religions, editor Hans Waldenfels, Verlag Herder, p. 122.
  3. R. C. Zaehner: Der Hinduismus, his history and his teaching, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich, p. 10.
  4. R. C. Zaehner: Der Hinduismus, his history and his teaching, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich, p. 8.
  5. R. C. Zaehner: Der Hinduismus, his history and his teaching, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich, p. 8.
  6. Hans Waldenfels (ed.): Lexicon of Religions. Herder Verlag, p. 159.
  7. ^ Lexicon of Religions, edited by Hans Waldenfels, Verlag Herder, p. 160.
  8. Lexicon of Religions, editor Hans Waldenfels, Verlag Herder, p. 159.
  9. R. C. Zaehner: Der Hinduismus, his history and his teaching, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich, p. 9.
  10. Ram A. Mall , Jayandra Soni : Small Lexicon of Indian Philosophy. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau / New York City 2016, ISBN 978-3-49586-095-3
  11. Theodore Stcherbatsky : The Central Conception of Buddhism and the Meaning of the Word 'Dharma'. Motilal Banarsidass , Delhi 2001, ISBN 978-8-12080-512-5