Digest of terms

dharma

often translated as duty, it is the Sanskrit term for cosmic and social order and their related moral prescriptions. It is pivotal in Hindu ethics - indeed Hinduism thinks of itself as sanatana dharma, eternal law. It combines a metaphysic of cosmic order, and prescriptions for both religious (pollution) and ethical obligations. There is a related body of literature, the dharma-shastras, most prominently among them the Law of Manu, often regarded as a supreme authority, which identify and expound these prescriptions, and specify punishments for their infraction.

The cognate Pali term, dhamma, is used in Buddhism, where it may also refer specifically to morality (Buddhist ethics), but as the second of the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, it refers more broadly to the full sweep of Buddhist teachings.

Whether in Sanskrit or in Pali it is an untranslatable term with a an unusually wide range of connotations, and writers on Hinduism and Buddhism often prefer to leave it untranslated while doing their best to specify its meanings relative to particular contexts.

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