Nina van Gorkom writes:
To recapitulate: the first meaning is gu.na, virtue or good quality. In different commentaries this is explained as kusala kamma different from akusala kamma. Kusala kamma is denoted as dhamma and akusala kamma is denoted as adhamma. We read in the Atthasaalinii, 38:
"Na hi dhammo adhammo ca, ubho samavipaakino;
dhamma, adhamma bear no equal fruit:
adhammo niraya.m neti, dhammo paapeti suggatin"ti.
adhamma leads to hell, dhamma causes one to reach heaven.
(theragaa. 304; jaa. 1.15.386)-
The second meaning given of dhamma is pariyatti: the wording of the teachings as contained in the Tipitaka. We read in the "Dhammapada Atthakataa 1.22:
Dhamma.m vo, bhikkhave, desessaami aadikalyaa.nan"ti (ma. ni. 3.420)
aya.m desanaadhammo naama.
I shall teach you, monks, Dhamma that is beautiful in the beginning (middle
and end), this is the dhamma of teaching.
"Idha pana, bhikkhave, ekacce kulaputtaa dhamma.m pariyaapu.nanti sutta.m
geyyan"ti (ma. ni. 1.239)
Here, monks, some young men of good family learn thoroughly the dhamma: sutta,
aya.m pariyattidhammo naama.
This is the dhamma which is the wording of the teachings.
My remarks:The word of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Vinaya as taught by
him, consists of nine divisions which are: Sutta, Geyya, Veyyaakarana, Gaathaa, Udaana, Itivuttaka, Jaataka, Abbhuta and Vedalla.
See the "Expositor", Atthasaalinii, Introductory Discourse, 26. The teachings as compiled (not yet written) literature are thus enumerated in the scriptures as nine divisions, for example in the "Middle Length Sayings"
I, no. 22.
Sutta includes all Discourses, such as the "Mangala sutta" ("Good Omen Discourse", Minor Readings, V), and also the Vinaya Pitaka and the Niddesa. In this classification the Vinaya is in the section of Sutta. The "Atthasaalinaa" mentions in this section on Sutta the Sutta-Vibhanga and Parivaara, which belong to the Vinaya.
Geyya includes all suttas with verses (gaathaa), such as the Sagaathaa-vagga of the Sa.myutta Nikaaya or "Kindred Sayings".
Veyyaakarana or "Exposition" includes the Abhidhamma Pi.taka, the suttas without verses, and the words of the Buddha which are not included in the other eight divisions.
Gaathaa or "Verses", include the Dhammapada, Theragaathaa, Therígaathaa (Psalms of the Brothers and Sisters) and those parts of the Sutta-Nipaata not called Sutta and entirely in verse.
Udaana or "Verses of Uplift" include eighty two suttas connected with verses recited by the Buddha, inspired by knowledge and joy.
Itivuttaka or "As it was said" includes hundred and ten suttas beginning with "Thus it was said by the Blessed One".
Jaataka or Birth Stories include five hundred and fifty stories of the past lives of the Buddha and his disciples, beginning with the "Apannaka Jaataka".
Abbhuta, "Marvellous", includes suttas connected with wonderful and marvellous things (dhammas with extraordinary qualities, which are amazing). Vedalla includes suttas with questions and answers which have as result understanding and delight, such as the "Cullavedallasutta".
As we have seen, pariyattidhammo includes the ninefold (nine limbs or a"ngas) classification of the teachings (sutta, geyya, etc.) which is a classification according to literary styles, and not according to given texts or books (See Nyanaponika's dictionary under sasana).
In the "Baahiranidaana" (Introductory chapter of the Commentary to the Vinaya, by Buddhaghosa), it is explained that the teachings as a whole have been laid down as, "This is the Dhamma and this is the Vinaya, these are the first, intermediate and final sayings of the Buddha, these are the Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidhamma Pi.takas, these are the Nikaayas from Diigha to Khuddaka, these are the nine A'ngas commencing with Sutta and these are the eighty-four thousand Units of the Dhamma, was rehearsed together by the assembly of self-controlled monks with Mahaakassapa as their leader verily observing this distinction."
Remark: thus, whenever the Dhamma and the Vinaya are referred to, the Abhidhamma is included in "Dhamma".
The following meaning of dhamma explained in the Dhammapada-Atthakatha, is dhamma as an entity without a living soul (nissatta, nijjiva):
"Tasmi.m khopana samaye dhammaa honti, khandhaa hontii"ti (dha. sa. 121)
Then, at that time dhammas occur, aggregates occur.
aya.mnissattadhammo naama, nijjiivadhammotipi eso eva.
this is dhamma without living being (non-substantial), it is also truly dhamma without life.
Tesu imasmi.m .thaane nissattanijjiivadhammo adhippeto.
As to these, dhamma without a living soul is meant in this case.
So atthato tayo aruupino khandhaa vedanaakkhandho sa~n~naakkhandho
As to the meaning of this, there are the three mental aggregates of feeling, remembrance and formations (all cetasikas apart from feeling and remembrance).
N: Remark: the text quoted from the Dhammasangani (first Book of the Abhidhamma) states: "At the time of consciousness coming into existence, there occur dhammas." Thus, the aggregate of consciousness (vi~n`naa.nakkhandha) which is also a mental aggregate, is mentioned first, and then the other three mental aggregates denoted as dhammas are explained.
If we do not see the whole context we may not understand why three mental aggregates are mentioned separately.http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/3121http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pali/message/3140