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Table of Contents
Dharma is an old religion and philosophy with its foundation on the teachings of Buddha. In 563 - 483 BCE, Gautama Buddha noticed the abundant suffering of this world and therefore started looking for long-lasting happiness. At the age of 29, he left the palace with all its luxuries and went into the forest to meditate. In Bodh Gaya’s Bodhi tree in India, he got enlightened, and during his life he taught others of his experience. Buddhism principles such as dharma, ahimsa, nirvana, and rebirth are of Hindu origin. There exist four truths that are noble. The first is Dukha-Satya ‑ The Truth of Suffering, which denotes that life is suffering. Second, the Truth of Path Marga-Satya, which is the eight fold path. Third, Nirodha-Satya, which states that, once the causes, ignorance, and desire of suffering have been identified, it can be stopped. Fourth, Samudaya-Satya, which states that the causes of suffering are desire (Tanha) and ignorance (Avijja). There are eight paths, right knowledge, speech, right resolve effort, livelihood, meditation, mindfulness, and conduct (Berkwitz, 2012).
According to the traditions of Indians, following the death of the Buddha, councils were held, in which senior monks had the duty of reciting anything they had been taught by the Buddha. After being orally standardized, these Buddha’s Words would then be dictated to and written by scribes. There are several Buddhist Mainstream sects who acknowledge varied councils, thus making them have different canonical conceptions. For instance, Mahayana Buddhism mainly have texts that are written contrary to Dharmaguptaka, Theravada, and Sarv¯astiv¯ada, which initially depended on the transmission of Buddhism scripture orally. The community of Mahayana started forming together with written texts that were specific ‑ praj˜n¯aparamit¯ a ‑ showing interest in emptiness and bodhisattvas. A variety of texts with either transmission or production in the region of Gandh¯aran were transported via the Silk Route into the western part of China and resulted into the influx of different Buddhist texts spurring massive translations into Chinese versions of Mahayana and Mainstream Buddhist texts.
Probably the initial urge to disseminate Dharma to new lands and people fuelled that transition from oral to written sources in Buddhism. Monks walked across Asia showing people new religious practices and ideas through the sacred material, relics, and texts. This necessitated the production of additional texts via glossaries, compendiums, and translations. Therefore, the old texts of Buddhism had a minimum of two separate entities, functioning both as veneration objects and religious knowledge sources (Berkwitz, 2012).
Buddha realised emptiness (sunyata) two thousand five hundred years ago. This freed him from not being able to get satisfied (dukka). Viewing it from the point of knowledge, every worldly existence (dharma) draws its reality from sunyata. This forms Bodhi ‑ Prajna’s realisation. From liberation standpoint, sunyata forms the tactful way to enable one disentangle from dissatisfaction and defilement. Realising sunyata directs to enlightenment without any clinging or attachment (Berkwitz, 2012).
Dharma means practicing (paripatti) that which is true. Taking refuge in Dharma is also taking refuge in Buddha. Intentional action, be it mental, physical or verbal, comprises of Karma. Good and bad Karma bring happiness and suffering respectively. Karma is caused by Tanha and Avijja. People are given birth to in six existence realms depending on someone’s initial Karma (cycle of birth). Surpassing the cycle to achieve admirable enlightened state comprises Nirvana. Tripitaka, the scriptures of Buddhism, include Suttapitaka (the sermons of Buddha), Vinayapitaka (rules of Monasty), and Abhidhammapitaka (the initial treaties of philosophies). Buddhism has got three main schools: Theravada (Hinayana) in Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia; Mahayana in Japan, Vietnam, China, and Korea; and Vajrayana in Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia (Berkwitz, 2012).