Dharmadhātu (Sanskrit Mahayana tradition)

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Dharmadhātu (P. dhammadhātu; T. chos kyi dbyings ཆོས་ཀྱི་དབྱིངས་; C. fajie 法界), in the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition, is used primarily in the sense of "sphere of dharma," meaning the vast expanse in which the activity of all dharmas takes place.[1]

It is also one of several terms used to indicate ultitmate reality, such as the tathatā.[1]


Tibetan Buddhism

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche writes:

The word for space is དབྱིངས་, ying in Tibetan, dhātu in Sanskrit. […] The word space is used because the dharmadhatu is like the body or realm of empty space where different things, like clouds, birds, and airplanes can fly around without obstruction. This is because the nature of space is empty and nonexistent. Due to this quality of openness, things can occur. Likewise, dharmadhatu is the essence of things—empty and inconcrete—where all phenomena such as trees, houses, mountains, oneself, other beings, emotions, wisdom, and all experiences can occur openly.[2]

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche says:

The main image of dharmadhatu is that of space—the ‘space of all things’ within which all phenomena manifest, abide and dissolve back into. […] Dharmadhatu is the basic environment of all phenomena, whether they belong to samsara or nirvana. It encompasses whatever appears and exists, including the worlds and all beings.[…] The relationship between dharmadhatu, dharmakaya and the wisdom of dharmadhatu is like the relationship between a place, a person and the person’s mind. If there is no place, there is no environment for the person to exist in; and there is no person unless that person also has a mind dwelling in the body. In the same way, the main field or realm called dharmadhatu has the nature of dharmakaya. Dharmakaya has the quality of [the wisdom of dharmadhatu], which is like the mind aspect. […] "Dharmadhatu is adorned with dharmakaya, which is endowed with [the wisdom of dharmadhatu]." This is a brief but very profound statement, because ‘dharmadhatu’ also refers to sugatagarbha or buddha nature.[3]


In the text Praise of the Dharmadhatu, by Nāgārjuna, the author describes dharmadhātu as the ground which makes liberation possible:

The dharmadhatu is the ground

For buddhahood, nirvana, purity, and permanence.[4]

According to Nāgārjuna, the dharmadhatu is seen when the afflictions are purified:

As butter, though inherent in the milk,

Is mixed with it and hence does not appear,
Just so the dharmadhatu is not seen
As long as it is mixed together with afflictions.

And just as the inherent butter essence
When the milk is purified is no more disguised,
When afflictions have been completely purified,
The dharmadhatu will be without any stain at all.[4]

Alternative Translations

  • absolute space
  • basic space of phenomena
  • domain of truth
  • realm of phenomena
  • sphere of reality

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. dharmadhātu.
  2. Thrangu Rinpoche, Buddha Nature (Bookpeople, 1996), page reference needed.
  3. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, As It Is, Vol. I (Boudhanath, Hong Kong & Esby: Rangjung Yeshe, 1999), pages 31-32.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Nagarjuna 1998.