[ed. note: this intial few paragraphs are maintained as introduction to those who may arrive to a single page rather than seeing this as part two of a series. for those following the series, these introductory paragraphs are now italicized, kindly feel free to scroll down to where you find this ends and read from the point of, “tonight, i contemplate the second of the Three, The Dharma.”]
as part of an effort to learn, i undertake a good amount of research on the nature and meaning of what it is to take refuge in the Three Jewels and to more deeply understand what they represent and how they provide that which is most helpful to the process of becoming.
at every turn, thinking i grasp the concept, i find instead more to refine it, more to deepen it, and more to add to its luster. it is an interesting and deeply delightful thing, this seemingly infinite manner of understanding that as much reflects meaning as it defines it.
simply put, the Three Jewels of Buddhism are: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. in these three things, all who are Buddhists avow commitment and take refuge (set their minds, spirits, and bodies to hold them primary in all things); to remember and mindfully contemplate the nature of them, to delve infinitely into understanding them, to take and find in them protection, learning, and guidance.
at first contact, looking only for conceptualization, i found that the three are interestingly ’simple’ things to consider:
The Buddha is the concept/construct within which all that is or would seek to become buddha is bound. It is the remembrance of the first, it is hope of becoming, it is the sense of dedication that is bound in that hope, as well as the active contemplation and mindfulness toward what such hope asks of those who take refuge by embracing it.
The Dharma is a concept/construct in which many things are contained. As a reference to the sum of known literature, scripture, and teachings, it is the manifestation of The Buddha in words. As a reference to the act of encounter, it is a term meaning to make contact with this manifestation in the world. As a reference to the state of being, it is a term that means Truth (perfected and without need of mediation, readily available to all, as this is its natural state of existence).
The Sangha is a concept/construct that is as well filled with layers that seem infinite in application. Upon the surface, it refers to those who are of that manner of seeking, feet set upon the path. But it also refers to a truth that all such ones are each and every one striving toward enlightenment. Beyond this, it refers to those in our direct, day to day contact who are as we are, seeking and working to become. In this, setting before us examples of mindfulness in striving that may serve both as inspiration to continue as well as comfort in the knowledge that in such efforts, we are as one.
in this, a sense of comfort for the ease of understanding them as being not unlike tenets found in other belief systems. the concept that there is one who exemplifies all that is best and helpful of Buddhism was not surprising to me. the concept that the compilation of teachings and literature and discussion thereof exists and is held as creed or ideals for which to strive also is not surprising. that the concept of working with and amongst others of similar beliefs exists is equally expected.
then, i turn to dissecting the words themselves and understanding their meaning as both representations of cultural concepts and to contemplate the roots from which they spring. in this, the first hint of deeper meaning.
tonight, i contemplate the second of the Three, The Dharma.
as mentioned in the preceding, The Dharma is generally defined as both the totality of all known about Buddhism as well as the existence of that knowledge within the physical world. Beyond this, it is often used as a general term of reference to the the state of encounter, e.g., ‘to find the Dharma’, ‘to experience The Dharma’, etc. and also as the reference to the manifestation of Truth within the world itself.
the first thought to arise from this is something of a curiousity, as many belief systems present this construct of a triune existence, though usually one sees it more as a representation of triune states of existence rather than manifestation of existence (e.g., life, death, rebirth… father, son, holy ghost… etc.) or of an explicit manifestation of Truth.
in this, the concept/construct of the Dharma is strangely non-conforming in that it neither posits need of conviction nor of conversion… it simply is. those who take refuge in The Dharma, so far as this one has experienced them, are uniquely at peace with the various beliefs and cultures around them in the world.
it seems to this one that something of the act of embrace of The Dharma transmutes all that would stand as insistence or constraint of the world, sending such things from the mind, spirit, and body as not only unnecessary, but as imperfect understanding of the nature and meaning of manifest Truth.
it is this sense of openness to all that seems most defining of The Dharma, and in this, small realisation that, like embrace of The Buddha, the act of encounter and refuge is somewhat of a shedding of need to more than that embrace.
in every way, all encounter with The Dharma finds that it asks nothing of the world, insomuch as it holds no judgment for rejection outside a sadness that escapes pity or that sense of superiority that is pride in the manner by which it speaks not of condemnation but of hope in a moment wherein gentle embrace may yet be discovered.
interestingly, upon embrace, there is something of an immediate sense of contact with a deep and abiding strength, a peace that is unshakable for the manner in which it envelopes and enfolds and permeates all aspects of existence as one turns to it.
somehow, the act of encounter engenders here a recognition that is so gently total as to make rejection impossible. and the act of embrace instills such deeper call to embrace all things in peace that no thought of more than continued embrace and learning may live in the soft, delicate, utterly tender sense of delight of it.
perhaps then, the nature of what is manifest Truth, called The Dharma, is not as much something to be defined as construct, but to be understood as a presence that transcends all levels of existence. in this, it seems more readily understood how the act of encounter creates profound sense and motivation to change.
this one turns quietly to contemplate the nature of The Dharma as that which is manifest Truth. in this moment, a time of mindful silence, filled with a sense of hope that might be superficial understanding enough to speak thoughts that are, if not accurate, at least demonstrated without intent of more than understanding as goal.
in this moment, mindful of the manner in which proclaimation is often as the braying of a mule, this one considers perhaps the nature of The Dharma as manifest Truth is more of deliverance and grace, things that tend and nourish gently as one learns.
this seems correct and somehow more proper a sense of manner in which to place it here, as this one is much aware of being yet a fool, a shaky, wobbling thing, whose eyes are barely open, for all they strain to widen and focus and see more clearly.
perhaps in this determination to avoid braying there is mindfulness. this one is uncertain and so, proceeds hesitantly, in many ways feeling as if reaching to find the handrail by which this one may walk more certainly or, at least, write so.
upon further contemplation, a discovery — perhaps the most revealing insight of the nature of The Dharma is presented not so much in attempting to define it, but in the act of attempting to avoid doing so… something this one seems to have clumsily managed for all this one’s attempts otherwise. a small chuckle here, but tinged with wonder.
this one concludes the attempt afloat in the realisation that, at last, some semblence of learning after spending all this time to stumble about and canter to one side or the other.
in this moment, a sense of sheepishness that, despite all the meandering and clumsiness, this one arrives in the end at what seems the most humble statement — there is no means to define that which is but to say that it is.
The Dharma is manifestation of Truth as primary in all who embrace it, and all effort to set into words the meaning of it fail by nature, as its natural state defies all but that it is.
it is. enough. 🙂