When we encounter difficulty, we often ask: “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” We look at all of life from our own personal viewpoint, seeing ourselves as fixed features in a world fraught with all kinds of bodily harm and unexpected danger. Even as we grow older, we worry about the inevitable changes our body encounters and the fact that life is not endless. From a Buddhist perspective, human beings cause their own suffering when they consider their egos to be fixed and permanent and therefore at conflict with a world of change. Instead, people should awaken to Dharma, the truth of impermanence. The change that occurs when we awaken to the true nature of our lives. The term Dharma has come to refer to a number of concepts, including truth, virtue, teachings, phenomena.

The Buddha awakened to the Dharma of impermanence while meditating under the Bodhi tree. He realized that all living things – humans, animals and plant life – would someday pass away from the world. Sensing that we a” face the same fate, he felt great compassion for all living things and felt deeply that we are all interdependent. He understood that the root of suffering was a lack of acceptance of this fact of impermanence and he decided to devote his life to teaching all people this truth and ending suffering. Change occurs when we are “filled with” Dharma and can then lead by example. Most importantly, we become aware that all of life is woven together in an interconnected tapestry. Then we feel true compassion for all that is alive.

This ultimate state is reached when we have rooted out the causes of our self-centered dissatisfaction. We can achieve this by having a healthy mentality, which is another meaning for the term Dharma. In order to acquire this virtuous mentality, we have to be willing to learn. Dharma is also used to refer to teachings that help you reach a state of compassion.

The word Dharma can be a helpful guide on a quest for enlightenment. By opening our minds to the teachings around us, we begin to embody a new, healthy mentality. Our teachers may come in the form of a family member, advisor or piece of writing, but we may also find a guide within ourselves, while meditating under a tree like the Buddha. By awakening to the truth of our interdependence, we become far more than individuals struggling. We embody truth.