Dharma—the Ethics of the True Self
An excerpt from The Enlightenment Process, by Judith Blackstone.
Our true essential nature is innately ethical. As we realize that our own essential being is also the essential being of all other life, we feel an underlying kinship with everyone we meet. When we know our self as the pervasive ground of life, we have learned the basic language of all beings, including animals and plants. We do not need to adopt a static attitude of goodwill that obscures the richness of our feelings and the directness of our contact with ourselves and others.
To actually experience the heart of a bird, or the aliveness of a tree, or the complex emotions in another person, evokes a spontaneous response of empathy and compassion.
We also discover a more subtle aspect of ethics when we uncover our true self. This is expressed in the Sanskrit word dharma.
In the Buddhist tradition, this word has several meanings. It refers to the Buddhist metaphysical understanding of the universe and enlightenment, the teaching of this understanding, and the living of this understanding. The direct translation of “dharma” is “justice.”
To live dharmically is to practice the justice of enlightenment. But this practice is not a preconceived set of behaviors. It is the alignment of oneself with the metaphysical functioning of the universe. It suggests that we are unified with the wisdom and love of the whole, and with the spontaneous unwinding towards enlightenment of all human beings. To the extent that we can act without artifice, without manipulation of ourselves and others, our actions are the actions of cosmic consciousness, the perfect tao. This means that our own truth benefits the truth of the life around us.
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Editor’s Note: Regarding the photo at the top of this article, the Wheel of Dharma is a Buddhist symbol representing a Buddha’s teaching to the path of enlightenment. This Dharma Wheel is located on the roof of the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet.