The Dharma and Closeness

Understanding the dharma is absolutely critical to being fully enlightened, in Buddhist understanding and philosophy.  All allowances of blessing and peace depend first upon this concept.  It is taught that being physically close to the Buddha, while being spiritually far from him and the dharma itself, counts for nothing, and in fact hides the Buddha from one’s view.According to tradition, the dharma is not only a Buddhist concept.  As far back as the writing of the epic Bhagavad Gita, the term existed (Coogan 191).  At that time, it possessed a very personal meaning – one that has come to be realized in the Buddhist faith of the present day.  The older understanding is best understood as an individual’s duty that he must fulfill daily according to his place in the social structure (known as his caste) and his life situation.  Acting according to this principle should bring peace, and reduce the stress of uncertain living.  The Buddhists extended this to being known as eternal truths, in other words near-laws that are a priori to life itself.The Buddhist belief system holds that the eternal truths pertain to all aspects of one’s life.  Necessarily, this is not only duty to family, but also to self, to local town, to people, to nation.  It also applies to treatment of time, space and animals.  Simply put, it is an extensive, nearly exhaustive system.  That is, perhaps, why we see this rendered as ‘laws’ to us Westerners; we are people that see this sort of obligation to be more than personal choice, and something quite legalistic in nature.The Westerner, then, or anyone not familiar with the Buddhist ways, have a difficult time with viewing passive flaws as preventing perfection from finding our lives.  Can covetousness really keep us from spiritual truths?  Is it so problematic that we can’t even see the object of our faith when possessed by feelings such as these?  The Buddha would say yes.  When the dharma is corrupted in our life, we are corrupted from pureness.  When we are corrupted from pureness, we are corrupted and removed from the vision of pureness.  Without this vision, we cannot see the Buddha himself, the enlightened one.  Seeing it in this manner makes it an obvious, nearly mathematical equation.  I do not know that a Buddhist would exactly describe it this way, but the formulaic method appeals to the Western mind, which is always aware of logarithms and statistics.The Western mind, possessed in these failings, cannot fully comprehend the differences implied by the Buddha when he says, “Even if one should seize the hem of my robe and walk step by step behind me, if he is covetous in his desires, fierce in his longings, malevolent of heart, with corrupt mind, careless and unrestrained, noisy and distracted and with sense uncontrolled, he is far from me” (Coogan 191).  To us, religious and truth pursuits do not have as much to do with our inner nature.  The Western world understands inner depravity, and seeks only to cleanse this depravity by the rightness of actions, e.g. attending church.  The Buddhist, according to the above, could attend church and yet never see, nor perceive, or acquire the truth.  The believer who is not prepared in his heart to abandon the inner failings and to seek the truth apart from who he is, will fail even while he touches the object of his faithful adoration.  This is hard for us to comprehend.This describes well the conundrum that the non Buddhist finds himself in.  As difficult a concept as the dharma may be, adherents to the belief, to the dharma itself, find confidence.  They are aware that they are ready to see the Buddha, to begin the steps to personal enlightenment.  This confidence supplied by proper following of the eternal truths must be comforting.  How fearful a life would it be when one sees the Buddha physically and yet feels the spiritual chasm that looms!Works CitedCoogan, Michael D.  “Buddhist Traditions.”  Eastern Religions: Origins, Beliefs, Practices,Holy Texts, Sacred Places. Ed. Michael D. Coogan, Malcolm D. Eckel, and VasudhaNarayanan. New York: Oxford UP, 2005 191.