I’m going to be using this terminology throughout my upcoming posts, so thought best to define what these two, perhaps obscure terms actually mean.
The dharma is the teachings of a ancient religious tradition. In Buddhism, the dharma is referred to as the “Buddha-dharma”, literally, the teachings of the Buddha. In yoga, yogic dharma. The dharma is meant to capture the teachings (signposts) that point towards truth. So technically speaking, if you are on the pathway to discovering your truth and/or inner unification, you’re a dharma seeker, and if you have a practice that grounds that, you’re a dharma practitioner.
However, many would add that seeking dharma is a little bit of a paradox, because the teachings are already within, just like the true nature of Buddhahood, is within (cliché, but true). So the seeking is really just the practice of going inwards in such a way that you “wake up” to, your own inherent Buddha nature (inner enlightened being). The reason we ground this in a daily “practice” - whether it be meditation, yoga, or otherwise - is to aid that journey inwards and calmly process the realizations that come from that journey.
Dao is the Chinese term for road or path. Metaphysically, it refers to the spiritual pathway that we in one form or another are all travelling along, which is really just “life”. But there’s a belief in Daoist philosophy that this pathway that we all travel along harmonizes with a greater cosmological collective energy (Dao). And by listening closely, we can synchronize our individual pathway (microcosm) with the greater collective pathway (macrocosm). In this sense, we tune into Dao, and what results is a lifestyle of effortless effort – wu-wei – or as would be referred to in modern psychology: ‘flow’. When tuned into Dao, one feels held and guided by a universal force greater than their individual self, and with practice can eventually make moves that rationally would inconceivable. The great Daoist sages like Lao Tzu and Chuang Tze tell many tales of this in ancient Chinese history.
There you have it. Dao and Dharma 101 complete.