The Pali Text Society Dictionary’s entry: “In Buddhism, dhamma, the Pali version of the Sk. dharma is given as in dhāreti: to hold, support: that which forms a foundation and upholds. It alo means constitution. When used as in dhammatā (f.) [Sk. dharmitā] it stands for conformity to the dhammaniyāma (dhamma + niyāma), fitness, propriety; a general rule, higher law, cosmic law, general practice, regular phenomenon, usual habit. In popular parlance it is given as “cosmic law and order.”
Especially in online references to the word “dharma” (Skr.) or “Dhamma” (Pāli) a number of editors see “dharma” and “religion” as interchangeable. This incorrect representation of “dharma” has in the 19th-20th century been introduced by western scholars-translators who were raised in the Christian or at least theïstic vocabulary. They were of good faith, but made a mistake as far as translation of the words dharma or dhamma go.
Somewhere in 2017 a commentator correctly stated that the Sanskrit dictionaries have no word for “religion”. In addition to that he surmised that the Western-Christian “religion” and the Arab “mazhab” were interchangeable.
This is incorrect. If we must compare at all, “dharma” and “mazhab” have more in common than “dharma” and “religion”. Mazhab, it is said, denotes a jurisprudence based on the Koran or the Hadith.
The ancient vedic word Dharma denotes a number of things, from “the natural order” over “as it should be” to, in Hinduïsm, “the established Law”.
Buddhism leaves this interpretation of dharma (or dhamma) as “the established Law” out of the list and rather replaces it with “the teachings of (the historical) Buddha.”
Some translate dharma and adharma as “valid resp. invalid ethical conduct”. In all cases the word dharma or dhamma is an untranslatable just als “allelujah” is an untranslatable.
There can be reverence (Skr. bhakti) in Buddhist practice, but there can be no “religion” in the sense of adherence to a revealed moral-philosophical system. Buddhism has no revelation. It rather leans on established knowledge or perception: things are the way we see them; things are not the way an unknown entity wills us to see them. The first is a manifestation of dharma; the latter a manifestation of religion.