top of page

What IS True Dharma?

Am Koe Beighley Su, Sunim

May 11, 2022

There is often a misunderstanding about the nature of True Dharma among individuals from other faith traditions than Buddhism. Even among Buddhists there is often confusion about the Dharma. Is it a "holy

scripture"? Is it simply a collection of stories or life lessons by one of the world's great teachers? In this blog post I would like to examine the nature of what many of my Buddhist colleagues refer to as True Dharma.

There are literally millions of pages written about the Dharma. In simple terms, the Dharma is a collection of the Buddha's Teachings as recalled by his followers. Two of the compilations of Dharma are shared in the books, "The Dhammapada", translated by Eknath Easwaran, a book we often use in our Preceptorship Class for those choosing to formally enter the Buddhist Path, and "What The Buddha Taught", translated by Walpola Rahula. These two texts do a wonderful job of distilling the True Dharma into language that is most easily understood by the general public. Of course, then there is the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, The Short, Middle-length, and Full Discourses of the Buddha, the Flower Ornament Sutra, a "brief" read of 1,643 pages, and the list goes on and on.

For purposes of this blog, I am only going to refer to three sources: The Dhammapada, the H'sin H'sin Ming, and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (The Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra).

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha is quoted as having said, "One who sees the Dharma sees me. One who sees me sees the Dharma. O monks and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence to me. My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience. My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold on to or worship. My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river. Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation. If you were to follow the Dharma purely out of love for me or because you respect me, I would not accept you as a disciple. But...if you follow the Dharma because you have yourself experienced its truth, because you understand and act accordingly-only under these conditions have you the right to call yourself a disciple of the Exalted One."

This is further explained by the Buddhist Scholar, Ajanh Cha as he asks the question, "What is Dharma?", then goes on to answer his question: "NOTHING ISN'T! It is a teaching but not in words. So still the mind, the heart, and learn to watch. You'll find the whole Dharma revealing itself here and now. At what other time and place are you going to look? But this is like some sort of sweet fruit: even though the fruit is sweet we must rely on contact and experience of that fruit before we know what the taste is like. Now, that fruit, even though no one tastes it, is sweet all the same. But no one knows of it. Even though it's the truth, it isn't true for those who really don't know it. No matter how excellent or fine it may be, it is worthless to them. Outwardly, scriptural study is not important. Of course, the Dharma books are correct, but they are not right. They cannot give you right understanding. To see the word "anger" in print is not the same as experiencing anger. Only experiencing for yourself can give you the true faith."

One of the earliest teachings we receive as Buddhist practitioners is that each one of us has innate Buddha-nature. It already exists within us. It has always existed within us throughout beginning-less and endless space and time. It is not until we "wake up" as did the Buddha during his period of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, until we rid ourselves of the "Three Poisons"; Ignorance, Greed and Anger, that we can experience our true Buddha Nature, and touch the Dharma. Experience is the key word. Anyone can know the Dharma. Anyone can "do" the Dharma. It is not until, through our direct experience of the Teachings that we BE the Dharma. It is truly up to each one of us; no one is coming to save us!

In the H'sin H'sin Ming, written by the Third Zen Patriarch, I have chosen several passages to help clarify these issues:

"The Great Way (the Middle Way) is not difficult

for those who hold no preferences. Let go of longing and aversion, and it reveals itself.

Make the smallest distinction, however,

and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth. If you want to realize the truth,

then hold no opinions for or against anything.

Like and dislike

is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning (of the Way) is not understood the intrinsic peace of mind is


As vast as infinite space,

It is perfect and lacks nothing.

Indeed, it is due to your grasping and repelling that you do not see things as they are.

Do not get entangled in things; do not get lost in emptiness. Be still in the oneness of

things and dualism vanishes by itself.

Those who do not understand the Way

will assert or deny the reality of things.

Deny the reality of things, you miss the deeper reality;

Assert the reality of things, you will miss the emptiness of all things.

The more you think about it,

the further you are from the truth.

Cease all thinking,

and there is nothing that will not be revealed to you.

The Great Way is all-embracing,

not easy, not difficult.

Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute; the faster they hurry,

the slower they go.

Be in harmony with the Way

and you will be free of disturbances. Tied by your thoughts, you lose the truth, become

heavy, dull and unwell.

There is but one Dharma, not many.

Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant. Using mind to stir up the mind

is the original mistake.

To live in this Realization

Is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection.

To put your trust in the Way is to live without separation, and in this nonduality you are

one with the way.

Words! Words!

The Way is beyond language.

Words never could, can not now, and never will describe the way.

Here, again, the emphasis is not on knowing about or doing the always comes down to our direct experience of the Dharma...BEING Dharma.

From the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra:

"The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion (Avalokitesharva), from the deep practice of prajnaparamita (Great Wisdom), pereived the emptiness of all five skandhas and delivered all

beings from their suffering.

O, Shariputra, form is not other than emptiness, emptiness no other that form, for is emptiness, emptiness form. The same is true of feeling, thought, impulse, and consciousness.

O, Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty. They are not born nor annihilated, they are not defiled nor immaculate, they do not increase nor decrease.

So, in emptiness, no form, no feeling, no thought, no impulse, no consciousness.

No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.

No form, sound, smell, taste, touch, objects of mind.

No real of sight, no realm of consciousness.

No ignorance or extinction of ignorance.

No old age and death nor extinction of them.

No suffering, no cause of suffering, no cease from suffering, no path to lead out

of suffering.

No knowledge, no attainment, no realization, FOR THERE IS NOTHING TO ATTAIN.

The Boddhisattva holds on to nothing but Prajnaparamita, therefore the mind is clear of any delusive hindrance. Without hindrance there is no fear. Away from all perverted views one enters final nirvana.

All Buddhas of past, present, and future, through faith in Prajnaparamita, attain to

the highest perfect enlightenment.

Know then, the Prajnaparamita is the great dharani, the radiant peerless

mantrum, the utmost supreme mantrum, which is capable of allaying all pain.

This is true beyond all doubt.

Proclaim now the highest wisdom, the Prajnaparamita.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasumgate, Bodhi Svaha.

(This last line translates loosely to "Gone, Gone, Way Gone, Really Way Gone


So, then...What IS True Dharma. Everything we come to realize through our direct experience when we still the mind, eliminate the notions of this and that, right and wrong, good and bad, and embrace ALL things just as they are in this very moment! Nothing more and nothing less!

Sit with this. Meditate on this. You already have everything you need within you. Be still and know.

21 views0 comments
bottom of page