I frequently hear the use of the term ‘dharmic’. At least I talk a lot about certain things, events, occasions or possibilities as being ‘dharmic’. These may be poems, lines in poems, novels, bits of philosophy, films, or something from within the very fabric of life experience itself. Strictly speaking, dharmic should only be applied to what the Buddha said and taught and if it isn’t what the Buddha said and taught then it can’t be called Dharmic or emanating from the Dharma. Of course this canon might well extend to the great teachers including our own Sangharakshita. In that respect Dharmic becomes the adjective of Dharma. But I mainly use it – even when speaking – in the lower case. ‘dharmic’ in this sense relates to opportunities to perceive the Dharma in some way through a kind of portal which non-canonical non-Buddhist texts may point to or lead us towards.
Schopenhauer’s notion of causality, was succinctly expressed by A C Grayling on In Our Time, Radio 4 October 09, as ‘everything that is has to have been produced by a set of antecedent conditions’. This chimes in with pratitya samutpada or conditioned co-production.
So many of Wordsworth’s lines - especially some of those written above Tintern Abbey - talks about ‘the spirit that rolls through all things’ as in:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
In this expression of something transcendental, he could be taking about Going For Refuge on a cosmic scale!
Predating the Buddha, Dharma for Hindus was synonymous with the eternal law of the cosmos, thus in Sanskrit that is one of its meanings. It connotes habit, law, social and moral duty and behaviour consistent with this ‘eternal’ law. For Buddhists, it becomes the truth of non-dualistic reality.
Art, culture, the arts, the whole aesthetic will can lead us toward the Dharma and articulate it for us. Of the Four Visions (old age, sickness, death and the monk on the road with a serene expression) maybe all four are present and well expressed for dharma wayfarers (dharmacharis and dharmacharinis) but the absence of the 4th sight means that such insights can only remain dharmic as opposed to Dharmic. In La Robe et L’Échelle, Cabrel sings of ‘ces portes qui donnent vers le ciel’ – opportunities for us to pass trough certain thresholds to another space and order of being.
Maybe there are Dharmic possibilities in every moment but it is only by cultivating awareness, compassion and wisdom and practising ethics and, yes, making the most of dharmic opportunities that we go towards that ideal and line up our practice with our ideals.©www.roypeters.co.uk