Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Tibetan: cho
English: dharma

Dharma is a very common term within the Buddhist tradition.  We often see Dharma, capitalized, to refer to the teachings of the Buddha.  But dharma has a depth of meaning that needs to be appreciated as we learn to carry Dharma onto the path.

Dharma can refer to:
1. The teachings of the Buddha. In this sense Dharma refers to that which is authentic and true.
2. Any phenomena, or anything that is knowable. The reality of things or events.  
3. The reality of one's own life or circumstances as they manifest.

There are many more interpretations of dharma, but these three are critical to understand.  When Gampopa incites us to turn our mind towards the Dharma, he is encouraging us to look deeply into our life and connect with that which is authentic and true, which are the teachings of the Buddha.  

Gampopa next exhorts us to turn dharma into the path. When we first encounter Dharma, we can become very enthusiastic about pursuing the reality of things. We can be fascinated with philosophical arguments and use logic and reasoning to gain a fuller understanding of ourselves and the world around us.  We can really start to know that which is authentic and true, start to have some knowledge and understanding. 

But this type of practice is very academic and conceptual.  It is all up in your head. When we are too focused on the reality of things, we forget to look deeply into our own situation, our own struggles and actions.

Gampopa wants us to turn the reality of our situation, our life, into the path. However our life is unfolding, use that to embody the teachings. 

The Dharma is not something we simply read or study. It is not complex philosophy. It is the reality of our circumstances, right now. How do we use this dharma? How do we work with this life? How do we carry all of the baggage and problems that we have onto a path that is unerring and true? 

That is the challenge that we face.  That is the dharma that we earnestly seek out for the rest of our life. Carrying this dharma onto the path, the path can clarify confusion and confusion can dawn as the direct experience of the wisdom of our true nature. And that wisdom will be beyond words.

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