Propagation of the Dharma
A storehouse is used to protect and to provide access to things of value. It does this by keeping them in a fixed location. In today’s information age, protecting information has become an industry unto itself. To help protect and provide access to data, the infrastructure we know as the Internet was developed. The Internet protects data while making it centrally accessible. In this sense, the Internet may be called a storehouse. Data is protected because it is stored at different locations and it is accessible whenever we “enter” the Internet.
The Buddha-Dharma was organized in much the same way. Access to the Dharma is available if and when we enter the Dharma. Although full access comes by gaining Enlightenment, the route to enter the Dharma Storehouse—the modem—is the Buddha and his disciples. Sharing the Dharma assured its preservation. However, it also was important to assure that the Dharma was preserved correctly. Sakyamuni Buddha utilized summertime retreatscalled Ango to gather his disciples to hear and review the Dharma. Later the Vihara, the dwelling places where wandering monks congregated, grew to become gathering points and learning centers.
However, two challenges arose in viewing the Dharma as a storehouse. The first centered on the fact that Sakyamuni Buddha died. The Dharma was shared with his disciples and thus the words of the Buddha have been preserved. However, only a Buddha is recognized as someone who has fully entered the Dharma. If the Dharma is a storehouse and the keeper of that storehouse, the Buddha, is no longer present, what happens to the Dharma?
The second challenge involves divergences in the spread of the Buddha-Dharma. Divergences are part of the reason why Buddhism split along two great traditions, what is now called Theravada, or the “Path of Elders” and Mahayana, “The Larger Vehicle.” This divergence can be described as the difference between entering the Dharma Storehouse for one’s own Enlightenment versus entering to share the Dharma Storehouse. Mahayana Buddhism chose the latter as its focus and calls the person who practices to share the Dharma Storehouse a Bodhisattva. This focus is highlighted in the Dharma story of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, whose name means “Dharma Storehouse.” Dharmakara is the Bodhisattva who became Amida Buddha.