4. Such is the Way of Dharma

In his book, “Transformation of Myth through Time,” Dr. Joseph Campbell, author, professor, mythologist, and story-teller-extraordinaire, wrote the following about humanity’s first encounter with the idea of a godhead: “according to philosopher Giambattista Vico (1688-1744), the first notion of the godhead arose out of experiencing the voice of the thunder. The voice in the thunder is the first suggestion of a power greater than that of the human system.

If “the voice of the thunder” was the first time humanity wondered about “a power greater than that of the human system,” then it should also be the first time humankind wondered if the world was bifurcated. 

Indeed, humanity wondering if the world was bifurcated has a long history. From Plato’s Theory of Form in ancient Greece to Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) Noumenon existing as the “thing-in-itself,” philosophers have wondered the same. However, without being verifiable, these philosophical thoughts are just personal opinions, valuable though they may be. 

In contemporary society, believers in thousands of religions worldwide are of the opinion the world is bifurcated with their deities superior to humanity inhabiting higher realms. While they believe their deities can be verified, they can only be verified indirectly through revelations or the world the deities created.  

While science does not teach the bifurcation of the universe, scientists have a problem with something they call Dark Energy. Dark Energy is “dark” not because of its color but because it is “dark” to scientific investigations. Scientists can neither find Dark Energy nor know much about it. However, if a second realm does exist, it could help scientists understand where our universe originated.

However, Buddhism is about the reality of the cosmos. We start discussing Buddha’s teaching on reality with his doctrine, “Such is the Way of Dharma (Chinese=法爾如是.)” It is uniquely Buddhist because no other disciplines teach it. It is also an immensely important doctrine on reality because it covers not only realities of cosmology, such as the Cosmological Constant but also realities in the quantum realm, such as what quantum scientists call the quantum field, albeit by another name. Everything that will be discussed in this blog can be found in the “Such is the Way of Dharma” doctrine.  

In this doctrine, Buddha teaches that two realms of reality have existed since time immemorial. However, they are so inconceivable that they are ineffable. So, “Such is the way of Dharma” can be considered as Buddha’s saying, “Everything in “Such is the Way of Dharma” is what I realized, but it is so inconceivable that it is difficult to describe. So, the best way I can describe it is Suchness: it is just what it is.” 

However, Buddha neglected to say all his teachings in “Such is the Way of Dharma” can be verified and will be verified. Indeed, faith in Buddha does not need to be blind. 

This phrase “Such Is The Way of Dharma” is from Śūraṅgama Sūtra“a Mahayana Buddhist sutra that has been especially influential on Korean Buddhism (where it remains a major subject of study in Sŏn monasteries) and Chinese Buddhism (where it was a regular part of daily liturgy during the Song). It was particularly important for Zen/Chan Buddhism. The doctrinal outlook of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is that of Buddha-nature, Yogacara thought, and esoteric Buddhism.” 

Let’s begin by first defining the two Buddhist terms in “Such is the Way of Dharma.” 

Suchness (Romanized Sanskrit=tathata), according to the Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, is “a term for ultimate reality, especially in Mahayana schools. Along with terms such as “Dharmata, Dharmadhatu, and Bhutakoti …..referring to the eternal nature of reality that is “ever thus,” or “just so” and free of all conceptual elaborations.” In Yogacara/Vijnanavada, the term refers to the ultimate wisdom that is free from the subject-object distinction (grahyagrahakavikalpa)” “In the Madhyamaka school, any attempt to substantiate the nature of reality is rejected, and tathata is instead identified with emptiness and the cessation of all dichotomizing tendencies of thought.”

Dharma (Chinese=法), according to The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, is “in Sanskrit, “factor,” or “element:” a polysemous term of wide import in Buddhism and therefore notoriously difficult to translate, a problem acknowledged in traditional sources; as many as ten meanings of the term are found in the literature.” However, “one of its most significant and common usages is to refer to “teachings” or “doctrines,” whether they be Buddhist or non-Buddhist.” “A second (and very different) principal denotation of dharma is a physical or mental “factor” or “fundamental” “constituent element,” or simply phenomenon.” 

In the discussion on Such is the Way of Dharma,” dharma takes on the second meaning, as “simply phenomenon.”

In the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, Buddha defines “Such is the Way of Dharma” as “Not causal, not natural. Such is the way of dharma.” 

The “not causal” of “Such is the Way of Dharma” means the existence of these two realms is not conditional. Nothing caused them to exist. Rather, their existence is entirely natural.

In the words of Dharma Master Jing Kong, “Such is the Way Dharma” doctrine teaches that it is how it originally was from the beginning and is not contrived.”

While the two realms have naturally existed eternally, “not natural” refers to the fact that the nature of “Such is the Way of Dhrma,” is not the same nature humans are familiar with. Indeed, “eternal,” “free from all conceptualization,” “free from the subject-object distinction (grahyagrahakavikalpa),” and “the cessation of all dichotomizing tendencies of thought” are concepts in no way familiar to humanity.

According to this article, there are at least seven scientific theories proposing how the universe came into being. However, they all suffer from one fatal flaw. While scientists can offer various beautiful theories on how the universe originated, they have no idea what existed before their theories began. For example, while the Big Bang is a popular theory on the origin of the universe, debates about What existed before the Big Bang rage on. 

It is the same situation in quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics teaches that fluctuating quantum energy fields are the building blocks of our universe. However, the quantum energy field was already fluctuating when scientists discovered it. They would love to know if a domain without fluctuations exists. 

Indeed, Such is the Way of Dharma doctrine would make scientists, especially quantum scientists, happy. Not only does Buddha teach that the realm with fluctuations originated the universe, but the other domain does not fluctuate.