Highway Dharma Letters / Autobahn Dharma Briefe / Cartas de Dharma da Estrada / Cartas del Dharma de la Carretera

Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in the Indian religions -Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.

In Hinduism, Dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘right way of living’.

In Buddhism Dharma means ‘cosmic law and order’. In Buddhist philosophy, Dharma is also the term for ‘phenomena’.

Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of Human beings.

For Sikhs, the word Dharma means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.

The meaning of word Dharma depends on the context, and its meaning evolved as ideas of Hinduism developed over its long history.

In earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, Dharma meant cosmic law, the rules that created the universe from chaos, as well as rituals.

In later Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and the Epics, the meaning became refined, richer, complex and the word Dharma was applied to diverse contexts.

In certain contexts, Dharma designates Human behaviours considered necessary for order of things in the universe, principles that prevent chaos, behaviours and action necessary to all life in nature, Society, family as well as at the individual level.

Dharma encompasses ideas such as duty, rights, character, vocation, religion, customs and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright.

Highway Dharma Letters was written by two American Buddhist monks, Heng Sure and Heng Chau, during their two-and-a-half year pilgrimage for World peace along the California coast from 1977 to 1979.

Bowing to the ground after every three steps, in the manner of early Buddhist pilgrims in China, they slowly made their way north, up the coast, from East Los Angeles, following Pacific Coast Highway through Santa Barbara and Big Sur to San Francisco, across the Golden Gate.

Then 100 miles further north on the Redwood Highway to Mendocino County and the newly established City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

Going at a pace of a mile a day, they bowed, studied, and wrote letters chronicling their experiences to their teacher, Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua.

Rev. Heng Sure is currently director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and teaches on the staff at the Institute for World Religions. He received a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union. He is a professor at Dharma Realm Buddhist University.

Heng Chau, known as Martin Verhoeven, graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a professor at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and Dharma Realm Buddhist University.

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