If He had known the Dharma before He was Enlightened,why did he leave his palace to seek the Truth in that particular lifetime? Even if I were to know the Truth, why would I go seeking for the Truth?
He practiced the path in previous lives as told in the Jataka tales. No doubt about that but He never uttered a word about that as a prince as He was not Enlightened yet.
That is my interpretation. We ordinary beings do not remember past lives and teachings, but upon enlightenment and the gaining of omniscience the Buddha would clearly remember if he had encountered the Dharma.
The definition of Dharma is indeed important. Looking back at my past post, where I sugegsted that the Buddha did not 'produce' the Dharma, but revealed it, perhaps this was a little simplistic.
Buddha revealed the 4 NT and 8FP as the means by which one may become enlightened. Is that path then the Dharma? Or is the Dharma the ultimate truth only to be known upon enlightenment, in which case the path is not Dharma of itself?
The OP uses 'Dharma' with a capital 'D' and may have meant specifically to refer to Buddhadharma. Here again is a difficulty. If the Buddha's Dharma is ultimate truth, can there be other dharmas, or are these just labels attached to paths leading nowhere?
If, as some believe, each person is already enlightened and that state has only to be revealed, then is each person's Dharma exactly the same as that of Shakyamuni?
And who is qualified to state that this or that person is enlightened, or even if he or she is a Buddha, especially if no two are able to exist at the same time?
I believe that the Dharma is the ultimate Truth, and that Buddha revealed a method through which we may eventually see that Truth clearly and without taints. I do not regard Buddha's path as the only method of enlightenment, as I have little idea about the others so would waste my time by speculating, and I would be foolish to deny the possibility.
There appear to be different Buddhas and Bodhisattvas within the Mahayana, and whilst all may share a common nature, there would be no purpose in the differentiation if all shared exactly the same qualities. I therefore conclude that the Dharma they share has many faceted qualities and is not revealed identically to
each being nor revealed identically by
I am also clear that nobody else can become enlightened on my behalf, so I should choose a path which has some history of success, and judge for myself whether I am making progress. And it is there that the third aspect of the Refuge comes into play - Sangha to teach, support and help me to measure that progress.
Finally, and with tongue in cheek, maybe we should also ask the unthinkable - Did Sangha 'produce' both Buddha and the idea of a Buddhadharma ?