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Dhamma means something in Buddhism , Pali. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source : Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

  1. Event; a phenomenon in and of itself;
  2. mental quality;
  3. doctrine, teaching;
  4. nibbana.

Also, principles of behavior that human beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the right natural order of things; qualities of mind they should develop so as to realize the inherent quality of the mind in and of itself. By extension, "Dhamma" (usu. capitalized) is used also to denote any doctrine that teaches such things. Thus the Dhamma of the Buddha denotes both his teachings and the direct experience of nibbana, the quality at which those teachings are aimed.

Source : Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names 1. Dhamma - The Bodhisatta, born as a devaputta in the Kamavacara world.

See the Dhamma Jataka. In the Milindapanha (p.212) he is called a yakkha.

2. Dhamma - The palace built by Vissakamma for Mahasudassana, by order of Sakka. D.ii.180ff.

3. Dhamma - The lake in front of the palace mentioned above. D.ii.184.

-- or --

1. Dhamma Theri - She belonged to a respectable family in Savatthi and was given in marriage to a suitable husband. Having heard the Doctrine, she wished to join the Order, but her husband refused his permission. After his death she became a nun, and one day, while returning from her alms round, she slipped and fell. Meditating on this, she became an arahant. Thig.vs.17; ThigA.23f.

2. Dhamma - The chief woman disciple of Atthadassi Buddha. Bu.xv.20; J.i.39.

3. Dhamma - The fifth of the seven daughters of Kiki, king of Benares. For twenty thousand years she lived the life of celibacy. She is identified with Kisagotami. J.vi.431; Ap.ii.565.

4. Dhamma - Wife of Bindusara and mother of Asoka. She had two sons, Asoka and Tissa. MT.189, 193; the Kambodian Mahavamsa (vs.1129) calls her Siridhamma.

5. Dhamma - An eminent Theri of Anuradhapura, an expert teacher of the Vinaya. Dpv.xviii.14.

6. Dhamma - A very poor woman of Siva village. Once she gave a garment to the monks of Giritimbilatissapabbata Vihara, and they agreed among themselves that none but an arahant should wear it. One of them became an arahant that very day and wore it; he then passed it on to another, and before the end of the rains they all thus became arahants. On the day of the pavarana, King Lanjitissa ordered the monastery to be decorated. The monks setup Dhammas garment as a banner at the entrance. The king, having discovered the reason, gave Dhamma the village of Siva, which then came to be called Dhammasiva. Ras.ii.42.

Source : Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary M (Reality, thing). Nature of all things. That which Buddha has taught (apart from the vinaya). Study of reality. Consciousness. Every moment of consciousness which does appear in the mind is a dhamma. Detachment and deliverance from the world.

The term dhamma can also sometimes refer to nibbana. Practice, training.

See also: dhamma

Source : Buddhist Information: A Survey of Paramattha Dhammas Dhamma has several meanings, it does not only mean doctrine. In this context Dhamma means everything which is real, reality.

Source : Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines lit. the 'bearer', constitution (or nature of a thing), norm, law (jus), doctrine; justice, righteousness; quality; thing, object of mind (s. āyatana) 'phenomenon'. In all these meanings the word 'dhamma' is to be met with in the texts.

The Com. to D. instances 4 applications of this term

  • guna (quality, virtue),
  • desanā (instruction),
  • pariyatti (text),
  • nijjīvatā (soullessness, e.g. "all dhammā, phenomena, are impersonal," etc.).

The Com. to Dhs. has hetu (condition) instead of desanā.

Thus, the analytical knowledge of the law (s. patisambhidā) is explained in Vis.M. XIV. and in Vibh. as hetumhi-ñāna, knowledge of the conditions.

The Dhamma, as the liberating law discovered and proclaimed by the Buddha, is summed up in the 4 Noble Truths (s. sacca). It forms one of the 3 Gems (ti-ratana) and one of the 10 recollections (anussati).

Dhamma, as object of mind (dhammāyatana, s. āyatana) may be anything past, present or future, corporeal or mental, conditioned or not (cf. sankhāra, 4), real or imaginary.

context information Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon ( tipitaka ) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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General definition (in Buddhism)

Source : Buddhist Door: Glossary Dharma in Sanskrit, Dhamma in Pali. The universal norms or laws that govern human existence and is usually regarded as law, truth, anything Buddhist. It is used in the sense of all things, visible or invisible. In Buddhist tradition, it is generally referred to as the teaching of the Buddha. Source : Amaravati: Glossary his word is used in several ways. It can refer to the Buddhas Teachings as contained in the scriptures; to the Ultimate Truth, to which the Teachings point; and to a discrete moment of life, seen as it really is.

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[ «previous (D) next» ] — Dhamma in Pali glossary

Source : BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary dhamma : (m.) doctrine; nature; truth; the Norm; morality; good conduct.

Source : Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary 1) Dhamma, 3 (adj.) (Sk. dhanvan) having a bow: see daḷha°; also as dhammin in daḷha° S. I, 185 (see dhammin). (Page 339)

2) Dhamma, 2 (adj.) (Sk. *dhārma, cp. dhammika) only in f. —ī in combination with kathā: relating to the Dhamma, viz. conversation on questions of Ethics, speaking about the Dh. , preaching, religious discourse, sermon. Either as dhammī kathā Vin. II, 161; IV, 56 & in Instr.-Abl. dhammiyā kathāya (sandasseti samādapeti samuttejeti saṃpahaṃseti: ster. formula) S. I, 114, 155, 210, IV.122, PvA.30 etc.; or as cpd. dhammī-kathā D. II, 1; M. I, 161; Sn. 325; & dhammi-kathā S. I, 155; PvA.38. (Page 339)

3) Dhamma, 1 (m. & rarely nt.) (Ved. dharma & dharman, the latter a formation like karman (see kamma for explanation of subj. & obj. meanings); dhṛ (see dhāreti) to hold, support: that which forms a foundation and upholds= constitution. Cp. Gr. qrόnos, Lat. firmus & fretus; Lith. derme (treaty), cp. also Sk. dhariman form, constitution, perhaps=Lat. forma, E. form) constitution etc.

3.A) Definitions by Commentators: Bdhgh gives a fourfold meaning of the word dhamma (at DA.I, 99= DhA.I, 22), viz.

  1. guṇe (saddo), applied to good conduct;
  2. desanāyaṃ, to preaching & moral instruction;
  3. pariyattiyaṃ, to the 9 fold collection of the Buddh. Scriptures (see navaṅga);
  4. nissatte (-nijjīvate), to cosmic (non-animistic) law.

— No. 1 is referred to frequent in explains of the term, e.g. dhammiko ti ñāyena samena pavattatī ti DA.I, 249; dhamman ti kāraṇaṃ ñāyaṃ PvA.211; as paṭipatti-dhamma at VvA.84; No. 3 e.g. also at PvA.2.

Another and more adequate fourfold definition by Bdhgh is given in DhsA.38, viz.

  1. pariyatti, or doctrine as formulated,
  2. hetu, or condition, causal antecedent,
  3. guṇa, or moral quality or action,
  4. nissatta-nijīvatā, or “the phenomenal” as opposed to “the substantial, ” “the noumenal, ” “animistic entity.”

Here (2) is illustrated by hetumhi ñāṇa ‘dhammapaṭisambhidā: “analytic knowledge in dhamma’s means insight into condition, causal antecedent” Vibh 293, and see Niyama (dhamma°). Since, in the former fourfold definition (2) and (3) really constitute but one main implication considered under the two aspects of Doctrine as taught and Doctrine as formulated, we may interpret Dhamma by the fourfold connotation: —doctrine, right, or righteousness, condition, phenomenon.

3.B) Applications and Meaning.—

3.B.1) Psychologically; “mentality” as the constitutive element of cognition & of its substratum, the world of phenomena. It is that which is presented as “object” to the imagination & as such has an effect of its own: —a presentation (Vorstellung), or idea, idea, or purely mental phenomenon as distinguished from a psycho-physical phenomenon, or sensation (re-action of sense-organ to sensestimulus). The mind deals with ideas as the eye deals with forms: it is the abstraction formed by mano, or mind proper, from the objects of sense presented by the sense-organ when reacting to external objects. Thus cakkhu “faculty of sight” corresponds to rūpa “relation of form” & mano “faculty of thought” (citta & ceto its organ or instrument or localisation) corresponds to dhamma “mentalized” object or “idea” (Mrs. Rh. D. “mental object in general, ” also “state of mind”) —

  1. subjective: mental attitude, thought, idea, philosophy, truth, & its recognition (anubodhi) by the Buddha, i.e. the Dhamma or worldwisdom=philosophy of the Buddha as contained & expounded in the Dialogues of the 5 Nikāyas (see below C.)
  2. objective: substratum (of cognition), piece, constituent (=khandha), constitution; phenomenon, thing, “world, ” cosmic order (as the expression of cosmic sense, as under a & 2)

3.B.2) Ratio-ethically-(a) objective: “rationality, ” anything that is as it should be according to its reason & logicality (as expressed under No. 1 a), i.e. right property, sound condition, norm, propriety, constitution as conforming to No. 1 in universal application i.e. Natural or Cosmic Law.

3.C) The Dhamma, i.e. moral philosophy, wisdom, truth as propounded by Gotama Buddha in his discourses & conversations, collected by the compilers of the 5 Nikāyas (dhamma-vinayaṃ saṅgāyantehi dhammasaṅgāhakehi ekato katvā VvA.3; cp. mayaṃ dh.°ṃ ca vinayañ ca saṅgāyāma Vin. II, 285), resting on the deeper meaning of dhamma as explained under B 1 a, & being in short the “doctrinal” portions of the Buddhist Tipiṭaka in contradiction to the Vinaya, the portion expounding the rules of the Order (see piṭaka). Dhamma as doctrine is also opposed to Abhidhamma “what follows on the Dhamma.”


Pali book cover context information Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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See also (Relevant definitions)

Item last updated: 20 January, 2020