Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby Su DongPo » Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:09 am

Someone put this question to me recently, suggesting that it may in fact be. I had thought it was steady/constant -- like the laws of physics.

Implied questions:

Can the Dharma be used up? How?

Can it be replenished? How so?

If it is impermanent, does its increase or decrease occur in such minute increments as to be of little practical concern in this short lifespan of mine?
User avatar
Su DongPo
 
Posts: 183
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:20 pm
Location: Central Taiwan

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby ground » Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:23 am

Dharma means teaching.
Dharma means truth (or reality).
Dharma means phenomenon.


To summarize:
The truth teaches itself through phenomena.
Or
Phenomena are the truth, i.e. the Dharma. There is nothing that is not a phenomenon. Phenomena are all there is.

However phenomena are not permanent. But they are not impermanent either. Why? Because there is actually nothing that changes (itself) into something else.


Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby catmoon » Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:45 pm

I work on the assumption that the Dharma itself is unchanging, but our understanding of it is subject to decay and in need of periodic refreshment.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
User avatar
catmoon
Former staff member
 
Posts: 2916
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: British Columbia

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby muni » Tue Feb 22, 2011 1:25 pm

Fabricated Dharmas are conditioned and perish, Dharmata is changeless.
muni
 
Posts: 2735
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby meindzai » Tue Feb 22, 2011 2:10 pm

The Dharma (capital D) meaning teachings, are impermanent, and they will go away sooner or later. They are on their way out.

dharmas (lowercase d) meaning phenomena are impermanent/inconstant in the sense that they constantly arise and pass at such blinding speeds that we don't even notice.

If you're thinking of "The Dharma" in terms of "Universal Law" (like the laws of physics) or and asking if it will always be that way, I don't think it's a proper question. An example would be asking whether at some point there will be no "law of kamma" and that at some point our actions wouldn't have results.

-M
"The Dharma is huge." - Rael
meindzai
 
Posts: 105
Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:05 am

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby dakini_boi » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:05 pm

Is dharma impermanent? Well, it depends on what exactly you mean by "dharma". . .

In one sense, yes, dharma is impermanent - Wisdom is unchanging, but dharma represents skillful means - how wisdom is communicated effectively to sentient beings, as well as the methods sentient beings can use to realize wisdom. And that changes based on time, place, individual mind habits. . . basically, it depends on the karma of the sentient beings to be taught. The way I see it, dharma doesn't have to be buddhist. . . all religions have their dharma, but that depends on the extent to which their teachings help to liberate sentient beings. Even within Buddhism, if an unskillful teacher gives you a teaching which is not right for you - for example, teaching a higher yana to someone who is not ready - it is arguable whether this constitutes transmission of dharma. Even ordinary advice, which may appear worldly, if it has the effect of quelling a person's grasping, aversion, or ignorance, can be considered dharma. Many aspects of dharma, such as renunciation, bodhicitta, etc., have different nuances of meaning according to different vehicles. So while truth, or the true nature of phenomena, is unchanging, dharma does depend on conditions because it represents the methods needed to subdue ignorance.

On the other hand, as long as samsara exists and buddhas appear, there will be dharma in one form or another - so you could say the appearance of dharma in the world is unchanging, because the compassion of buddhas is always present. Think of Chenrezig with his 1000 (infinite) arms, reaching out, offering exactly the correct skillful means to all beings, which are infinite.
dakini_boi
 
Posts: 678
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:02 am

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby kirtu » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:13 pm

Su DongPo wrote:Someone put this question to me recently, suggesting that it may in fact be. I had thought it was steady/constant -- like the laws of physics.

Implied questions:

Can the Dharma be used up? How?

Can it be replenished? How so?

If it is impermanent, does its increase or decrease occur in such minute increments as to be of little practical concern in this short lifespan of mine?


The Dharma teaching is impermanent and will decline and be lost. Then another Buddha will come and reestablish it. This has happened several times in this world system already (4 or 7 times according to the Southern or Northern school traditions) and will happen 1000 or 1001 times altogether in this eon - called the Fortunate Eon because the Dharma is reestablished so much.

But the Dharma does not increase or decrease in the sense of having a physical quantity or even intensity.

In fact ultimately the Buddha Dharma is ultimately not the actual Dharma - it is just expedient means getting us closer to the ultimate Dharma which is full enlightenment itself. That is so profound that at first Shakyamuni Buddha wondered how he was going to be able to teach it to other beings.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4106
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby KeithBC » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:38 pm

The methods for putting an end to suffering will never change. They, like suffering itself, are part of the way the universe works. However, the currently-extant lineages that preserve those teachings will die out as the accuracy of the transmission drops with time. We see this all the time on forums like this where people promote their own opinions as being Buddhist. Each occurrence is a dilution of the lineage. Eventually, all lineages will die out.

On the other hand, the fundamental principles remain the same, and once they are rediscovered by the next Buddha, a new lineage will be started.

So, is the Dharma the fundamental principle (permanent) or the lineage (impermanent)? Your choice.

Om mani padme hum
Keith
User avatar
KeithBC
 
Posts: 379
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:22 pm
Location: East Coast of Canada

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby Su DongPo » Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:57 pm

Thanks for all of your comments. I still don't know what to think though.

This is what was being referred to in my earlier conversation: "The Dharma Ending Age" --

For example (although this article takes a critical stance, the idea is summarized in the opening section):

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 98,0,0,1,0

Are We In The Dharma-Ending Age?
by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 20, 2006
A Call for Oiling & Turning the Wheel of the Dharma

The wheel of Dharma turns according to your diligence. - stonepeace

Singapore -- According to the sutras, the Buddha predicted his teachings (the Dharma) to undergo three major phases. The first 500 years following his Parinirvana is the True Dharma Age, when the Dharma is practised very seriously and accurately, when Enlightenment is often attained. The next 1,000 years is the Dharma Semblance Age, when forms and rituals representing the Dharma are embraced more than learning and realising its essence, leading to less attaining Enlightenment.

The next 10,000 years is the Dharma-Ending (Degenerate) Age, when the Dharma becomes increasingly diluted and corrupted with non-Dharma elements, leading to rare attaining of Enlightenment, while moral chaos proliferate. In a natural cyclic manner, the True Dharma Age returns, with the "arrival" of the next Buddha.

This year, 2006, marks the 2550th anniversary of the Buddha's Parinirvana. This means we are about 1,050 years into the Dharma-Ending Age. Looking at the rapid growth of Buddhism in the West and its general decline in India, perhaps the prediction might be a phenomenon more regional than international?

In reality, the timeless Dharma (or the path to Enlightenment) cannot "end"; what might happen is that less and less realise the essence of the Dharma in time. When is the real Dharma-Ending Age? It begins the very moment you lose interest in learning, practising, realising, sharing and/or defending the Dharma. Dharma propagation's mission is the attempt to infinitely delay the Dharma-Ending Age in our world, to revive and infinitely prolong the True Dharma Age. It need not be the Dharma-Ending Age for you if you are still enthusiastic about the Dharma. Yes, the Dharma-Ending Age can be both individualistic and collective.

If even Buddhists do not stand up to uphold the integrity of the Dharma, this is truly the Dharma-Ending age; because if Buddhists do not stand up for Buddhism, who will? Non-Buddhists? And if we consider ourselves as Buddhists, while neither proactively standing up for it, nor supporting others who do so, we need to reassess our identity as Buddhists, and whether we have sufficient understanding and confidence in Buddhism.

Everything that the Buddha taught was out of perfect Compassion and Wisdom. The Buddha did not teach about the Dharma-Ending age as a depressing prophecy for us to self-fulfil, but as a reminder to be diligent. We cannot deny it when symptoms of the distortion of the Dharma by practitioners (monastic or lay) are seen - in terms of corrupted morality and Dharma understanding. But once again, this only means we need to be even more vigilant, not to give up setting things right.

The teaching of the Dharma-Ending Age should only serve to motivate; not to discourage us. If we see amber light at the junction to the other shore of liberation, we should pull up our socks and strive forward, instead of resigning to the upcoming red light. Even a red light should not stop us. Chronologically, we are not even in the thick of the Dharma-Ending Age! The fact that you are reading this and are concerned, there is hope! Interestingly, as the Dharma-Ending Age progresses, the sutras will disappear - not necessarily into thin air, but by "fading away" with neglect and lack of understanding... rendering them as good as physically gone.

Can the Dharma-Ending Age be reversed? It would be fatalistic not to try. To be realistic, we should do our best before hoping for the best - the results will only thereafter be left to karma. As good Buddhists, we need to bear personal responsibility for the state of the Dharma, and not push the responsibility of safeguarding the Dharma to other Buddhists, accusing them of not doing a good job upholding it. If everyone does that, the Dharma would indeed be ending. To clarify ethical and doctrinal misrepresentations of Buddhism, we first need to learn and practise Buddhism properly.

In the Surangama Sutra, the Buddha instructed Bodhisattvas and Arhats to skilfully manifest in as many ways as possible to inspire us to realise the Dharma in the Dharma-Ending Age. We too can manifest our Compassion and Wisdom, by doing what we can to inspire others! It is said that in the final stretches of the Dharma-Ending age, beings would be so severely deluded that they will disregard the Dharma - to the extent of slandering it. Out of great Compassion, to not give conditions for creating negative karma, the enlightened will choose not to manifest! It's not too late to heed the call of the Dharma now!
User avatar
Su DongPo
 
Posts: 183
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:20 pm
Location: Central Taiwan

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:04 pm

As others have pointed out, "Dharma" has different meanings. When the term is used to refer to the body of teachings Buddha Shakyamuni and his lineage propagated in this world, the Buddha himself said that yes, it is impermanent. When it has died out, that is when the sutras say the next of the 1,000 buddhas that will appear in this world system, Maitreya, will be born and once again turn the wheel of the Dharma.

When "Dharma" is used to refer to the nature of reality that all buddhas and bodhisattvas are trying to help us all realize, that is not impermanent. In fact, since it is beyond existing, not existing, both or neither, such conceptual elaborations as "permanence" and "impermanence" and so on lose all meaning.

Since the nature of self and other is primordially emptiness and all beings primordially have the potential for unobstructed enlightened wisdom, and since our deluded experience is always a fabrication based on the deluded imputation of self and other onto the aggregates, the path and the fruition are essentially always available. What's impermanent is the presentation of that fact along with an exposition of the methods through which we can realize that for ourselves.
Pema Rigdzin
 
Posts: 1030
Joined: Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:19 am
Location: Southern Oregon

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby Blue Garuda » Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:27 pm

Pema Rigdzin wrote:As others have pointed out, "Dharma" has different meanings. When the term is used to refer to the body of teachings Buddha Shakyamuni and his lineage propagated in this world, the Buddha himself said that yes, it is impermanent. When it has died out, that is when the sutras say the next of the 1,000 buddhas that will appear in this world system, Maitreya, will be born and once again turn the wheel of the Dharma.

When "Dharma" is used to refer to the nature of reality that all buddhas and bodhisattvas are trying to help us all realize, that is not impermanent. In fact, since it is beyond existing, not existing, both or neither, such conceptual elaborations as "permanence" and "impermanence" and so on lose all meaning.

Since the nature of self and other is primordially emptiness and all beings primordially have the potential for unobstructed enlightened wisdom, and since our deluded experience is always a fabrication based on the deluded imputation of self and other onto the aggregates, the path and the fruition are essentially always available. What's impermanent is the presentation of that fact along with an exposition of the methods through which we can realize that for ourselves.

:good:
Left
Blue Garuda
 
Posts: 2000
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 5:23 pm

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby mudra » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:37 am

To add another version of what has been said:

There are two broad categories of Buddha dharma: that which is passed down as the doctrine/teaching, and those which are realizations arisen in the minds of Aryas: true paths, true cessations.

When one uses the term "permanent" in Buddhism it refers to something not changing for the duration of it's existence, it doesn't refer to 'eternal'. (Examples of 'permanent phenomena' are the lack of any furniture in an empty room, or more relevant to Buddhists, the lack of a self production/inherent existence to any phenomena i.e. 'emptiness'). But once the basis of that permanent phenomena is no longer there (someone puts furniture in the room, a phenomena ceases to exist) then the permanent phenomena is gone too. In short all non-composite phenomena are permanent but not eternal.

But it is important to realize that things like true cessations and true paths are definitive. In other words, they don't fall back to samsaric states etc - the basis for it is gone. The samsaric state is an impermanent phenomena with no beginning but an end, and when it ends it is due to true paths and true cessations.

Now the question arises: is a Buddha's mind impermanent? As the definition of impermanence "always changing from moment to moment during it's existence" and this specifically refers to any composite phenomena, one needs to reflect: if mind is a composite phenomena (it can be aware of different things etc), then it must be impermanent. The fact that a Buddha's mind is impermanent doesn't mean that it ceases to be enlightened, it is an impermanent phenomena that has a beginning but no end (like death). It doesn't slip back into being unenlightened (see above paragraph).

But dharma as a doctrine is an impermanent phenomena which has a beginning and an end. Why? Because it is something which is necessarily a conceptual elaboration in order to be understood by those who are not beyond conceptual elaboration, it is not a definitive state. It's "just" a tool.

Oops - Bit of a long rave!
User avatar
mudra
 
Posts: 453
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:55 am

Re: Is the Dharma Itself Impermanent?

Postby Su DongPo » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:03 pm

Mudra -- Not too long, and not a rant or a rave. That was helpful.

Pema Rigdzin -- That was concise and helped put all the pieces together for me (for now; until I get them scrambled again :smile: ).

Thanks again for all the responses.

Su Dongpo
User avatar
Su DongPo
 
Posts: 183
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 12:20 pm
Location: Central Taiwan


Return to Exploring Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests

>