As has been mentioned elsewhere on this Dharmalog, the term Dharma is Sanskrit for ‘that which supports’ and generally refers to all mental and physical phenomena.
However, when capitalized, this term has special reference to the complete range of process and content involved in the theory and practice of the human development project ostensibly initiated (nearly 2500 years ago) by Siddhārtha Gautama Śākyamuni, the sole purpose of which was to bring all life into harmony with the Dharma (Truth / Law / Reality).
The Dharma, then, clearly predates the Buddha’s historical teaching about it. Ultimately, Dharma means REALITY, or the Universal Truth or Law in, by and through which reality operates. Conformity with the Dharma, when this arises within a sentient being, carries with it a transformative immediacy such that we have no need to wait until death or a future existence to know that we are welcomed, accepted, embraced and transformed by it.
In fact, the ESD sees conformity with the Dharma as paramount. When the transhistorical Dharma and historical Buddhism do not agree, hold fast to the Dharma.