Applications and Meanings of the Term Dhamma

1 January 2520

Applications and Meanings of the Term Dhamma

1. Literal Meaning by Term Analysis

  1. Attano sabhāvaṁ dhārentīti vā
  2. Paccayehi dhārayantīti vā
  3. Attano phalaṁ dhārentīti vā
  4. Attano paripūraṇaṁ apāyesu apatamānaṁ dhārentīti vā
  5. Salakkhaṇe dhārentīti vā
  6. Cittena avadhārayantīti vā

Yathāyogaṁ “Dhammāti vuccanti.

(They are called “Dhamma” since, in accordance with their applications,

  1. they uphold (or maintain) their own nature;
  2. they are upheld (or supported) by conditions;
  3. they uphold their own result;
  4. they uphold one who fulfils them, not letting him fall into woeful states;
  5. they maintain their own characteristics; or
  6. they are held in (caught, occupied, settled in or determined) by the mind.)

(PsA. 20)

Resolution of the term:


 dhar + ramma = Dhamma

dhar = to uphold; maintain.

2. Applications and Meanings of the Term

I. Nature as the truth; cosmic law; nature and the law of nature as it is, uncreated, not invented or decreed, to be discovered; the law and all that are subject to the Law:

  1. (Pakati; vikāra) = the Law; natural law; law of nature; norm; nature; mutative nature; alterative character.
  2. (Sacca) = the Truth; Ultimate Reality
  3. (Lokuttaradhamma) = the Supramundane; Nirvāṇa
  4. (Kāraṇa; paccaya; hetu) = condition; cause; causal antecedent; reason.
  5. (Ñeyya; sabhāva) = thing; state; phenomenon; quality.

II. Subjective Dhamma; all in I., as counterpart of Mano, to be perceived, mentalized or conceptualized by the mind:

  1. (Nissattatā; dhammārammaṇa) = cognizable object; mindobject; mental datum.
  2. (Nissattatā; suññatā) = mind-objects; mental factors; mental data; ideals

III. The moral part or ethical aspect of natural law, as recommended for, or believed, often traditionally or conventionally, to contribute to, a good life or a good social order; the moral law and all that are subject to the moral law; any traditional, customary or conventional practice:

  1. (Guṇa; puñña) = righteousness; virtue; morality; good conduct; moral quality
  2. a. (overlapped by Nos. 3, 4) (Ñāya; magga; paṭipadā) = right practice; the Path
    b. (Ācāra) = practice; tradition; custom; principle; rule; duty
  3. (Yuttakāraṇa; bhūtavatthu) = justice; impartiality; fairness.

IV. The Truth or natural Law as discovered, interpreted and preached by the Buddha; the Teaching (in contrast to the Vinaya), as one of the Three Gems of the Buddhists; that which is taught or to be studied:

  1. (Desanā; pariyatti) = the (Buddha’s) Doctrine; the Teaching; the Dhamma
  2. (Desanā; diṭṭhi) = a doctrine; teaching; religion; theory.

V. (in judicial usage) A matter of disciplinary or legal significance in which judgment is needed to secure justice or righteousness; the procedure toward, or an offense and punishment based on, such judgement:

  1. (Āpatti; vinicchaya) = an offense; legal action.

Some specific meanings in specific contexts are also suggested by the Commentators, such as concentration (samādhi) and wisdom (paññā).

It should be noted that the above applications and meanings often overlap.

3. Illustrative Quotations from the Pali Canon


1. the Law; natural law; norm; nature; mutative nature:

“Atha kho sāriputtassa paribbājakassa imaṁ dhammapariyāyaṁ sutvā virajaṁ vītamalaṁ dhammacakkhuṁ udapādi: Yaṅkiñci samudayadhammaṁ, sabbantaṁ nirodhadhammanti.

(Now when the Wanderer Sārīputta heard this statement of the Dhamma, the spotless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma arose in him: Whatsoever is of a nature to arise is all of a nature to cease.)

(Vin.4/66/74 = I.40)

“Jātidhammānaṁ Bhikkhave sattānaṁ evaṁ icchā uppajjatīti.

(Monks, in beings liable to birth, a wish like this arises.)

(D.10/297/343 = II.307)

“Mamañhi Ānanda kalyāṇamittaṁ āgamma jātidhammā sattā jātiyā parimuccanti, jarādhammā sattā jarāya parimuccanti …

(Indeed, Ānanda, depending on me as a good friend, beings who are of the nature to be reborn are liberated from rebirth, beings who are of the nature to decay are liberated from decay …)

(S.19/7/3 = V.3)

2. The truth

“Atha kho seṭṭhī gahapati diṭṭhadhammo pattadhammo viditadhammo …pe… vesārajjappatto aparappaccayo satthu sāsane.”

(Then the rich merchant saw and reached and found the Dhamma … he gained perfect confidence and became independent of others in the Teacher’s Dispensation.)

(Vin.4/27/32 = I.16)

3. The supramundane; Nirvāṇa

“Paṭisallānaṁ jhānamariñcamāno,
dhammesu1 niccaṁ anudhammacārī,
Ādīnavaṁ sammasitā bhavesu
eko care khaggavisāṇakappo.”

(Abandoning neither seclusion nor meditation, practicing constantly in conformity to the Dhamma, seeing the danger of existences, let one walk alone like a rhinoceros.)

(Sn.25/296/338 = 69)

“Passa dhammaṁ2 durājānaṁ Sampamūḷhettha aviddasū”

(See here the Dhamma, hard to understand, at which the fools become bewildered.)

(Sn.25/406/482 = 762)

4. condition; cause; causal antecedent; reason

“Hetumhi ñāṇaṁ dhammapaṭisambhidā …pe… yehi dhammehi te dhammā jātā bhūtā sañjātā nibbattā abhinibbattā pātubhūtā, tesu dhammesu ñāṇaṁ dhammapaṭisambhidā.”

(Knowledge of cause is analytic insight of the Dhamma…. states from which these states are born, become, begotten, existent, fully existent, apparent; knowledge of those states is analytic insight of the Dhamma.)

(Vbh.35/779–780/399 = 293)

“Luddho atthaṁ na jānāti, Luddho dhammaṁ na jānāti.”

(The lustful knows not profit, the lustful sees not reason.)

(It.25/268/295 = 84)

5. thing; state; phenomenon; quality

“Kusalā dhammā, akusalā dhammā, abyākatā dhammāti.”

(Wholesome states, unwholesome states, and indeterminate states)

(Dhs.34/1/1 = 1)

“Uppādā vā bhikkhave Tathāgatānaṁ, anuppādā vā Tathāgatānaṁ, ṭhitā va sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatā: Sabbe saṅkhārā aniccāti … Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhāti … Sabbe dhammā annattāti.”

(Whether Perfect Ones appear or not, there remains this element, this structure of things, this orderliness of things: All formations are impermanent; … All formations are suffering; … All things are not-self.)

(A.20/576/368 = I.286)

“Katame dhammā saṅkhatā? Yeva te dhammā sappaccayā, teva te dhammā saṅkhatā. Katame dhammā asaṅkhatā? Yo eva so dhammo apaccayo, so eva so dhammo asaṅkhato.”

(Which are the states that are conditioned? It is those states which have a cause that are conditioned. Which are the states that are unconditioned? It is the state which is without a cause that is unconditioned.)


“Sabbe dhammā nālaṁ abhinivesāyāti.”

(All phenomena are not fitting for clinging to.)

(M.12/434/464 = I.251)

“Sabbe dhammā sabbākārena Buddhassa Bhagavato ñāṇamukhe āpāthaṁ āgacchanti.”

(All dhammas come into the range of vision in all their aspects in the face of the insight of the Blessed Buddha.)

(Nd1.29/320/217 = 178)


6. mind-object

“Ye te cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā …pe… ye te manoviññeyyā dhammā aviññātā aviññātapubbā, na ca vijānāsi, na ca te hoti vijāneyyanti; atthi te tattha chando vā rāgo vā pemaṁ vāti.

No hetaṁ bhante.”

(Those forms cognizable by the eye … those mind-objects cognizable by the mind, states not cognized, never before cognized, which you cognize not now nor wish to do so, have you desire, lust and fondness for them? Surely not, lord.)

(S.18/132/90 = IV.73)

“Idhāvuso bhikkhu cakkhunā rūpaṁ disvā … manasā dhammaṁ viññāya, piyarūpe dhamme adhimuccati, appiyarūpe dhamme byāpajjati, anupaṭṭhitakāyasati ca viharati parittacetaso, tañca cetovimuttiṁ paññāvimuttiṁ yathābhūtaṁ nappajānāti.”

(Herein, friends, a bhikkhu, seeing a form with the eye …. cognizing a mind-object with the mind, feels attachment for the object that charms, feels aversion from the object that displeases, abides with mindfulness on the body unestablished, and his thoughts are mean. He realizes not that deliverance of mind, that deliverance of wisdom, in its true nature.)

(S.18/389/229 = IV.185)

7. mental objects; mental factors; mental activities; mental data; ideas

“Tasmiṁ kho pana samaye dhammā honti, khandhā honti, …”

(Now, at that time, there are states, there are the aggregates, …)

(Dhs.34/99/33 = 121)

“Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati pañcasu nīvaraṇesu.”

(Here a Bhikkhu abides contemplating mental objects as mental objects in terms of the five hindrances.)

(D.10/290/335 = II.300)


8. righteousness; virtue; morality; good conduct; moral quality; the law.

Dhammo have rakkhati dhammacāriṁ,
Dhammo suciṇṇo sukhamāvahāti”

(Truly righteousness protects the practicer of righteousness; righteousness when well-practiced brings happiness.)

“Na hi dhammo adhammo ca, ubho samavipākino;
Adhammo nirayaṁ neti, dhammo pāpeti sugatiṁ.”

(For righteousness and unrighteousness do not both have equal results; unrighteousness leads to hell; righteousness brings one to a good bourn.)

“Tasmā hi dhammesu kareyya chandaṁ,
Iti modamāno sugatena tādinā;
Dhamme ṭhitā sugatavarassa sāvakā,
Niyyanti dhīrā saraṇavaraggagāmino.”

(Therefore, one should show zeal for virtuous acts, thus rejoicing because of the venerable Well-farer. Standing in righteousness, the disciples of the supreme Well-farer, taking the best and excellent refuge, being wise, became delivered from suffering.)

(Th.26/332/314 = I.303-305)

“Tena hi tvaṁ tāta dhammaṁ yeva nissāya dhammaṁ sakkaronto dhammaṁ garukaronto …. dhammaddhajo dhammaketu dhammādhipateyyo dhammikaṁ rakkhāvaraṇaguttiṁ saṁvidahassu.”

(Therefore, my son, relying just on the Dhamma, you should honor the Dhamma, …; with the Dhamma as banner, with the Dhamma as standard, with the supremacy of the Dhamma, you should provide the right watch, ward and protection for folk within your realm.)

(D.11/35/65 = III.61)

“Bhāgī vā Bhagavā dasannaṁ tathāgatabalānaṁ… channaṁ Buddhadhammānanti Bhagavā.”

(Or, as the Blessed One is sharer of the ten powers of the Tathagata … of the six qualities of the Buddha, he is, therefore, Bhagavā.)

(Nd1.29/231/174 = 143)

9. a) right practice; the Path

Dhammenāhaṁ bhikkhave tevijjaṁ Brāhmaṇaṁ paññāpemi, nāññaṁ lapitamattena.”

(Monks, I declare a Brahmin to be the possessor of the threefold lore by right practice, not some other so called because of his mere mutterings.)

(It.25/279/305 = 98)

b) practice; tradition; custom; principle; rule; duty; way of conduct.

“Yāvakīvañca Ānanda Vajjī apaññattaṁ na paññapessanti, paññattaṁ na samucchindissanti, yathāpaññatte porāṇe vajjidhamme samādāya vattissanti, vuḍḍhiyeva Ānanda Vajjīnaṁ pāṭikaṅkhā, no parihāni.”

(Ānanda, as long as the Vajjians avoid enacting the unenacted or abolishing existing enactments and proceed in accordance with the ancient Vajjian traditions as instituted, they may be expected to prosper and not decline.)

(D.10/68/87 = II.74)

“Ahampajja imañca rattiṁ imañca divasaṁ abrahmacariyaṁ pahāya brahmacārī ārācārī virato methunā dhammā.”

(So also do I abide this night and day, by abandoning unchastity, dwell observing chastity, keeping remote, abstaining from sexual intercourse.)

(A.20/510/270 = I.212)

“So ñātidhammo ca ayaṁ nidassito,
Petāna pūjā ca katā uḷārā.”

(The Dhamma toward relatives has thus been shown; and high honor to departed ones has been done.)

(Kh.25/8/11 = 6)

“Sace kho tvaṁ devate rukkhadhamme tiṭṭheyyāsi, siyā te bhavanaṁ yathā pureti … Idha Brāhmaṇa Dhammika samaṇo akkosantaṁ na paccakkosati … evaṁ kho Brāhmaṇa Dhammika samaṇo samaṇadhamme ṭhito hoti.”

(Yet, deva, shouldst thou keep the Dhamma of the tree, thy home would be as of yore … Thuswise, Brahman Dhammika: A recluse returns not the insult of the insulter … thus keeps a recluse the Dhamma of the recluse.)

(A.22/325/415 = III. 371)

10. justice; impartiality; fairness.

“Yo ca atthaṁ anatthañca,ubho niccheyya paṇḍito;
Asāhasena dhammena samena nayatī pare,
Dhammassa gutto medhāvī dhammaṭṭhoti pavuccati.”

(The wise man should investigate both right and wrong. The wise man who leads others unarbitrarily, but with justice and impartiality, who is a guardian of righteousness is called one who abides by righteousness.)

(Dh.25/29/49 = 256)

Dhammena te kāpurisa,mukhañca kuṇalīkataṁ
Akkhīni ca paggharanti,yaṁ tvaṁ parassa dānassa,
Akāsi kuṇaliṁ mukhanti.”

(The wretched man! It is by fairness that your mouth has been made contorted and your eyes protruding, as you contorted your mouth at the gift of others.)

(Pv.26/106/192 = II.931)


11. the (Buddha’s) Doctrine; the Teaching; the Dhamma.

“Yo vo Ānanda mayā dhammo ca vinayo ca desito paññatto, so vo mamaccayena satthā.”

(The Doctrine and Discipline, Ananda, which I have taught and enjoined upon you are your teacher when I am gone.)

(D.10/141/178 = II.154)

“Idha bhikkhave ekacco puggalo ārāmaṁ gantā hoti abhikkhaṇaṁ bhikkhūnaṁ santike dhammassavanāya; tassa bhikkhū dhammaṁ desenti ādikalyāṇaṁ majjhekalyāṇaṁ pariyosānakalyāṇaṁ sātthaṁ sabyañjanaṁ.”

(Herein a certain person frequents the monastery to hear the Dhamma in the presence of the monks. The monks teach him the Dhamma that is lovely in the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely in the ending, both in spirit and in letter.)

(A.20/96/164 = I.130)

“Idha bhikkhu dhammaṁ pariyāpuṇāti: suttaṁ, geyyaṁ, veyyākaraṇaṁ, gāthaṁ, udānaṁ, itivuttakaṁ, jātakaṁ, abbhutadhammaṁ, vedallaṁ.”

(Herein, monk, a monk learns the Dhamma, to wit, the discourses, songs, prose-expositions, verses, psalms, thus-said discourses, birth-stories, marvelous ideas and catechisms.)

(A.22/73/98 = III.86)

12. a doctrine; teaching; religion; theory

“Kaṁsi tvaṁ āvuso uddissa pabbajito; ko vā te satthā; kassa vā tvaṁ dhammaṁ rocesīti.”

(To follow whom, friend, have you gone forth? Or who is your teacher? Or whose doctrine do you approve?)

(Vin.4/64/73 = I.40)

“Pakappitā saṅkhatā yassa dhammā,
Purakkhatā santi avīvadātā;
Yadattani passati ānisaṁsaṁ,
Taṁ nissito kuppapaṭiccasantiṁ.”

(For him whose theories are matters of preoccupation, are created and are held as his mandate though unpurified, he still lives relying on that insecure peace, because he cares for the profits for himself out of those theories.)

(Sn.25/410/487 = 784)

Dhammā vuccanti dvāsaṭṭhi diṭṭhigatānīti.”

(The sixty-two theories (or views) are called ‘Dhamma.’)

(Nd1.29/91/85 = 72)

13. an offense; legal action; lawsuit; case; disciplinary rule.

“Uddiṭṭhā kho āyasmanto cattāro pārājikā dhammā.”

(Venerable sirs, the four rules of defeat have been recited.)

(Vin.1/300/220 = III. 109)

“Tamenaṁ saddheyyavacasā upāsikā disvā tiṇṇaṁ dhammānaṁ aññatarena vadeyya: pārājikena vā saṅghādisesena vā pācittiyena vā … tena so bhikkhu kāretabbo. Ayaṁ dhammo aniyato.

(A woman lay-follower whose word can be trusted having seen would say that it constituted one of three offenses, namely, one of Defeat or entailing Initial and Subsequent meeting of the Sangha or Expiation….. he should be dealt with under whichever one that woman should say. This case is indefinite.)

(Vin.1/632/433 = III.188)

Dhammaṁ caranto sāmikaṁ parājeti, āpatti pārājikassa; dhammaṁ caranto parajati, āpatti thullaccayassa.”

(If he takes the case to court and the owner loses, he commits the offense of Defeat; if he takes the case to court and he himself loses, he commits the offense of Serious Transgression.)

(Vin.1/99/91 = III.50)

14. Some specific meanings peculiar to some particular contexts:

a) (samādhi) = concentration

“Yatra hi nāma Tathāgato atīte Buddhe . jānissati: …. evaṁsīlā te Bhagavanto ahesuṁ itipi, evaṁdhammā … Evaṁpaññā te Bhagavanto ahesuṁ itipi.”

(… inasmuch as he should know of former Awakened Ones … that … these Lords were of such moral habits … such mental attainments … such intuitive wisdom.)

b) (paññā) = wisdom

“Yassete caturo dhammā, saddhassa gharamesino;
Saccaṁ dhammo dhiti cāgo, sa ve pecca na socati.”

(Whosoever as a faithful layman has these four virtues: truthfulness, self-training, steadfastness and generosity, will not grieve hereafter.)

(Sn.25/311/361 = 188)

4. References in the Commentaries and Later Works

“Dhammasaddo tāva” Sabhāva-paññā-puñña-paññatti-āpattipariyatti-nissattatā-vikāra-guṇa-paccaya-paccayuppannādīsu dissati.
1. Ayaṁ hi “Kusalā dhammā, akusalā dhammā, abyākatā dhammāti ādīsu sabhāve dissati.
2. Yassete caturo dhammā … saccaṁ dhammo dhiti cāgo … na socatīti ādīsu paññāya.
3. Na hi dhammo adhammo ca … dhammo pāpeti sugatinti ādīsu puññe.
4. Paññattidhammā niruttidhammā adhivacanadhammāti ādīsu paññattiyaṁ.
5. Pārājikā dhammā saṅghādisesā dhammāti ādīsu āpattiyaṁ.
6. Idha bhikkhu dhammaṁ jānāti-suttaṁ geyyaṁ veyyākaraṇanti ādīsu pariyattiyaṁ.
7. Tasmiṁ kho pana samaye dhammā honti; dhammesu dhammānupassī viharatīti ādīsu nissattatāyaṁ.
8. Jātidhammā jarādhammā maraṇadhammāti ādīsu vikāre.
9. Channaṁ Buddhadhammānanti ādīsu guṇe.
10. Hetumhi ñāṇaṁ dhammapaṭisambhidāti ādīsu paccaye.
11. Ṭhitāva sā dhātu dhammaṭṭhitatā dhammaniyāmatāti ādīsu
paccayuppanne daṭṭhabbo”.


“Dhammasaddo pariyatti-sacca-samādhi-paññā-pakati-puññaāpatti-suññatā-ñeyya-sabhāvādīsu dissati. Tathā hissa
1. Idha bhikkhu dhammaṁ pariyāpuṇātīti ādīsu pariyatti attho.
2. Diṭṭhadhammoti ādīsu saccāni.
3. Evaṁdhammā te Bhagavanto ahesunti ādīsu samādhi.
4. Saccaṁ dhammo dhiti cāgo, sa ve pecca na socatīti ādīsu paññā.
5. Jātidhammānaṁ bhikkhave sattānaṁ evaṁ icchā uppajjatīti ādīsu pakati.
6. Dhammo have rakkhati dhammacārinti ādīsu puññaṁ.
7. Tiṇṇaṁ dhammānaṁ aññatarena vadeyya, pārājikena vā saṅghādisesena vā pācittiyena vāti ādīsu āpatti.
8. Tasmiṁ kho pana samaye dhammā hontīti ādīsu suññatā.
9. Sabbe dhammā sabbākārena Buddhassa Bhagavato ñāṇamukhe āpāthaṁ āgacchantīti ādīsu ñeyyo.
10. Kusalā dhammā akusalā dhammāti ādīsu sabhāvo attho.”


(English translations can be found above.)

Dhammo sabhāve pariyatti-paññā-
Ñāyesu sacca-ppakatīsu puññe
Ñeyye guṇ-ācāra-samādhisūpi
Nissattatā-pattisu kāraṇādo.”


N.B. Ñeyya = Saṅkhāra vikāra lakkhaṇa nibbāna paññatti.

Dhammo tipi saṅkhepato paccayassetaṁ adhivacanaṁ. Paccayo hi yasmā taṁ taṁ dahati pavatteti vā sampāpuṇituṁ vā deti tasmā dhammoti vuccati. Pabhedato pana yokoci phalanibbattako hetu ariyamaggo bhāsitaṁ kusalaṁ akusalanti ime pañca dhammā dhammoti veditabbā.”

(‘Dhammo’ is briefly a term for a condition. For since a condition necessitates whatever it may be, makes it occur or allows it to happen, it is therefore called ‘dhamma’. But in particular the five things, namely, (i) any cause that produces fruit, (ii) the Noble Path, (iii) what is spoken. (iv) what is profitable, and (v) what is unprofitable, should be understood as Dhamma.)

(Vism.3/7 = 441; NdA.2/35)

Vayadhammāti pavattivasena parihāyanasabhāvā.”

(The term ‘Vayadhammā’ means in terms of their occurrence they have a nature to ruin.)


Jarādhammanti jarāsabhāvaṁ.”

(‘Jarādhammaṁ’ means having decay as one’s nature.)


Jarādhammoti jarāsabhāvo, aparimutto jarāya, jarā nāma mayhaṁ abbhantareyeva pavattatīti.”

(‘jarādhammo’ means having old age as my nature, not freed from old age; old age will surely come in the course of my life.)


Dhammanti khandhāyatanādibhedaṁ yathābhūtañāṇena catusaccadhammaṁ vā maggena viditvā.”

(The term ‘Dhammaṁ’ is explained as follows: having known with knowledge according to reality the ideas like the Aggregates and the sense-bases; or having known with the Path the idea of the Four Noble Truth.)


Dhammesūti vipassanūpagesu pañcakkhandhādidhammesu.”

(‘Dhammesu’ means in the ideas like the Five Aggregates that belong to Insight Meditation.)


“Diṭṭho ariyasaccadhammo etenāti diṭṭhadhammo… Tenassa saccābhisambodhiṁyeva dīpeti.”

(Since the Dhamma of the Noble Truth has been seen by him, he is called ‘diṭṭhadhamma’ … By that term the Scripture-compiler indicates the person’s realization of Truth.)


Dhammañca bhikkhusaṅghañcāti … So (dhammo) atthato ariyamaggo ceva nibbānañca.”

(In the phrase ‘the Dhamma and the Sangha of bhikkhus’ … that Dhamma by its meaning is the Noble Path and Nibbāna.)


Dhammanti pariyattidhammena saddhiṁ navavidhampi lokuttaradhammaṁ.”

(The term ‘Dhamma’ (in Dhammānussati) means the ninefold supramundane states together with the Holy Texts to be studied.)


“So (dhammo) atthato ariyamaggo ceva nibbānañca … na kevalañca ariyamaggo ceva nibbānañca, apica kho ariyaphalehi saddhiṁ pariyattidhammopi.”

(That term ‘Dhamma’ by its meaning is the Noble Path and Nibbana … truly, not only the Dhamma and Nibbana, but also the Holy Texts for study together with the Noble Fruitions.)


Dhammoti vā kāraṇaṁ paccayoti attho.”

(Or else, ‘Dhammo’ means a cause, that is to say, a condition.)

(VismṬ. 3/219)

Atthanti luddho puggalo lokiyalokuttaraṁ atthaṁ na jānāti. Dhammanti tassa hetuṁ.”

(The term ‘Atthaṁ’ is explained thus: The covetous person does not know mundane or supramundane benefit. ‘Dhamma’ means the cause of that benefit.)


“Iti me mano ahosi iti dhammāti ettha pana manoti bhavaṅgacittaṁ. Dhammāti tebhūmikadhammārammaṇaṁ.”

(Now, in the expression ‘Such was my mind; such were my mental experiences’ the mind means the subliminal consciousness; mental experiences mean mental objects belonging to the Three Planes of Existence.)


“Munāti mano vijānātīti attho … Dhammānanti nibbānaṁ muñcitvā avasesā dhammārammaṇā.”

(Since it knows it is called ‘Mano’, that it is to say, it understands … the term ‘Dhammānaṁ’ means all the remaining mind-objects except Nirvāṇa.)


Dhammakiccanti puññakammaṁ.”

(‘Dhammakiccaṁ’ means a meritorious act.)


Dhammoti dasavidhakusalakammapathadhammo dāna-sīlabhāvanā-dhammo vā.”

(‘Dhammo’ means the virtue of the tenfold wholesome course of action or the virtues of liberality, morality and mental development.)


Dhammassāminti maggadhammassa janakattā … dhammassāmiṁ dhammissaraṁ dhammarājaṁ dhammavasavattinti attho.”

(‘Dhammassāmiṁ’ means because he gave birth to the right practice of the Path … (the Blessed One) is the master of the Dhamma, that is to say, the Lord of the Dhamma, the King of the Dhamma, or the Supreme Authority of the Dhamma.)


Dhammenāti ñāyena sammāpaṭipattisaṅkhātena hetunā kāraṇena. Yāya hi paṭipadāya tevijjo hoti, sā paṭipadā idha dhammoti veditabbā.”

(‘Dhammena’ means by right method, by a cause, by a reason known as the right practice. Truly, it is the course of practice by which a person becomes a possessor of the Threefold Knowledge that is to be known as ‘Dhamma.’)


Dhammanti pubbe vuttaṁ duvidhaṁyeva (pariyattidhammaṁ paṭivedhadhammaṁ vā).”

(‘Dhammaṁ’ means the two kinds (of the Holy Texts for Study or the States of Realization.)


Dhammāti diṭṭhiyo.”

(‘Dhammā’ means views.)


Dhammaṁ carantoti bhikkhusaṅghe vā rājakule vā vinicchayaṁ karonto.”

(‘Taking a legal action’ means seeking judgment in the community of the monks or in the royal court.)


“Sikkhāpade pana sati te saṅgho sikkhāpadaṁ dassetvā dhammena vinayena satthu sāsanena niggahessati.”

(But, when the rule has been laid down, the Sangha, having referred to the rule, will suppress them according to the law, according to the Discipline, according to the teaching of the Master.)


Dhammenāti ādīsu dhammoti bhūtaṁ vatthu. Vinayoti codanā ceva sāraṇā ca.”

(In the expressions like ‘Dhammena’ the term ‘Dhamma’ means a real account; ‘Vinaya’ means accusation and investigation.


N.B.: In rendering into English the illustrative quotations from the Pali Canon, I often drew upon the English translation published by the Pali Text Society.



AA.Commentary on Aṅguttaranikāya






ItA.Commentary on Itivuttaka




NdA.Commentary on Niddesa

PsA.Commentary on Paṭisambhidāmagga




SnA.Commentary on Suttanipāta


UdA.Commentary on Udāna



VinṬ.Subcommentary on Vinayapiṭaka


VismṬ.Subcommentary on Visuddhimagga

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  1. Dhammāti nava lokuttaradhammā. (SnA. 1/154)
  2. Dhammanti nibbānadhammaṁ. (SnA. 2/396)

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