The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism
dharma[法] (Skt; Pali dhamma; Jpn ho )
A term fundamental to Buddhism, dharma derives from the root dhri, which means to preserve, maintain, keep, or uphold. It has a wide variety of meanings, including law, truth, doctrine, the Buddha's teaching, decree, observance, conduct, duty, virtue, morality, religion, justice, nature, quality, character, characteristic, essence, elements of existence, or phenomena.Some of the more common usages are: (1) (Often capitalized) The Law, or ultimate truth. For example, Kumarajiva translated saddharma, the Sanskrit word that literally means Correct Law, as Wonderful Law or Mystic Law, indicating the unfathomable truth or Law that governs all phenomena. (2) The teaching of the Buddha that reveals the Law. Dharma of abhidharma means the Buddha's doctrine, or the sutras. (3) (Often plural) Manifestations of the Law, i.e., phenomena, things, facts, or existences. The word phenomena in "the true aspect of all phenomena" is the translation of dharmas. (4) The elements of existence, which, according to the Hinayana schools, are the most basic constituents of the individual and his or her reality. (5) Norms of conduct leading to the accumulation of good karma.The word dharma is a component of the names of many Indian Buddhist monks, including Dharmagupta, Dharmaraksha, Dharmamitra, Dharmapala, Dharmayashas, Dharmakala, and Bodhidharma.