Dharma (धर्मः)

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Dharma (Samskrit : धर्मः) is that which upholds, nourishes or supports the stability of the society, maintains the social order and secures the general well-being and progress of man-kind. It is considered the greatest and the most valuable contribution to humanity by Bharatavarsha.[1]

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Every civilization has a characteristic way of living (जीवनशैली) on the basis of which the perspectives of life that the civilization is founded upon are formed. Underlying this way of living and the perspectives of life lie the perspectives about the world ie. vishva drshti (विश्वदृष्टिः । worldview) and tattvajnana (तत्त्वज्ञानम् - foundational philosophy) of the civilization that influence an individual’s relationships with other entities, which include all movable and immovable (चराचर) entities. Dharma served as that foundational principle for people of all traditions that arose on Bharatavarsha.

व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology

The word Dharma is derived from the root ’धृ’ which means to hold.[2] Apte Sanskrit dictionary explains the word dharma as

ध्रियति लोकान् अनेन, धरति लोकं वा । dhriyati lokān anena, dharati lokaṁ vā ।[3]

Meaning: That which supports or holds together everyone and everything.[4]

In short, Dharma is ‘that which holds’

  • this world
  • the people of the world or
  • the whole creation from the microcosm to the macrocosm

It is the eternal divine law of the Lord. The entire creation is held together and sustained by the all-powerful law of the divine. Practice of Dharma, therefore, means recognition of this law and abidance by it. And it is this law that brings well-being to man. It includes all external deeds, as well as thoughts and other mental practices which tend to elevate the character of man thereby securing preservation of beings. Therefore, it is said that people are upheld by Dharma. And that Dharma leads one to eternal happiness and immortality.[2]

Dharma is not Religion

It is paradoxical that the word 'dharma' is being translated as religion and vice-versa. The word religion may at most be translated as ’Mata’ (मतम्) or 'Sampradaya' or 'Pantha'. In view of the translation of the word religion as Dharma, many translate the word Secularism as 'Dharma Nirapekshata'. Dr. L.M. Singhvi says,

"We have been accustomed to use, though erroneously, the expression 'Dharma Nirapekshata', so far as the State and its institutions are concerned, as an equivalent of secularism in contemporary Bharata's constitutional vocabulary and political parlance. A more accurate equivalent Hindi translation of "secularism" would be "Sampradaya Nirapekshata" because "Dharma" in Bharata's tradition also stands for Law and Morality and no State can be devoid of Law and Morality."

This misinterpretation of Dharma as religion is the cause of it being seen a source of conflict and something injurious to the feeling of fraternity among the citizens. This is wholly erroneous. For, Dharma, as it will be seen further, indicates adherence to qualities of Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfullness), Asteya (not acquiring illegitimate wealth), Shaucha (cleanliness of mind and body i.e., purity of thought, word and deed) and Indriyanigraha (control of senses). If secularism is translated as meaning 'Dharma Nirapekshata', it means a state where all the above rules of dharma have no place. Certainly our Constitution is not intended to establish a State of Adharma. Also, a literal translation of 'Dharma Nirapekshata' in English is 'bereft of dharma' or a lawless State i.e., State without Morals. Further, the famous saying "यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः । yato dharmastato jayaḥ।" which means ’where there is dharma, there is victory”, would become "yato religion tato jayaḥ" which means 'victory is always to religion' and not to dharma. Such are the consequences of erroneous translation of dharma as religion.[1]

धर्मपरिभाषा ॥ Definition of Dharma

There is no proper equivalent word in English for the Sanskrit term Dharma.[2] With its rich connotations, Dharma is not translatable to any other language. It would also be futile to attempt to give any definition of the word. It can only be explained.[1] It takes many English words to describe the concept of Dharma.[4]

  • It is generally defined as ‘the principle of righteousness’ or ‘duty.’
  • It is also the principle of unity. In his instructions to Yudhishthira, Bhishma says, 'whatever creates conflict is Adharma, and whatever puts an end to conflict and brings about unity and harmony is Dharma.' Therefore, anything that helps to unite all and develop pure divine love and universal brotherhood, is Dharma. Anything that creates discord, split and disharmony and foments hatred, is Adharma.
  • It is the cementer and sustainer of social life. The rules of Dharma have been laid down for regulating the worldly affairs of men and brings as its consequence happiness, both in this world and in the next.
  • It is the means of preserving one’s Self. If you transgress it, it will destroy you. If you protect it, it will protect you. It is the sole companion after death and the sole refuge of humanity.
  • Another definition of dharma says "That which elevates one is Dharma.' It helps one to have direct communion with the Lord. It leads one to the path of perfection and glory thereby facilitating the ascending stairway unto the Supreme. In fact, Self-realisation is the highest Dharma.[2]

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says,

तस्माच्छास्त्रं प्रमाणं ते कार्याकार्यव्यवस्थितौ । ज्ञात्वा शास्त्रविधानोक्तं कर्म कर्तुमिहार्हसि ॥१६- २४॥[5]

tasmācchāstraṁ pramāṇaṁ te kāryākāryavyavasthitau । jñātvā śāstravidhānoktaṁ karma kartumihārhasi ॥16- 24॥

Meaning: Let the scriptures be the authority in determining what ought to be done and what ought not to be done.

In the matter of Dharma, the Vedas are the ultimate authority. One cannot know the truth about dharma through any source of knowledge other than the Vedas. Reason cannot be the authority in the matter of dharma. According to Manu, the four Vedas, the Smrti texts, the behaviour of those who have entered into their spirit and act according to their injunctions, the conduct of holy men and satisfaction of one’s own Self are the bases of dharma.[2]

The explanation of Dharma from a few texts are enumerated below.

मीमांसायां धर्मः ॥ Dharma in Mimamsa

Maharshi Jaimini, the author of the celebrated Purvamimamsa, explains dharma thus,

स हि निःश्रेयसेन पुरुषं संयुनक्तीति प्रतिजानीमहे । तदभिधीयते |[6]

sa hi niḥśreyasena puruṣaṁ saṁyunaktīti pratijānīmahe । tadabhidhīyate |

Meaning: Dharma is that which is indicated by the Vedas as conducive to the highest good.[1]

वैशेषिकदर्शने धर्मः ॥ Dharma in Vaisheshika Darshana

Rishi Kanada, the founder of the Vaisheshika system of philosophy, gives the definition of Dharma in his Vaiseshika Sutras as,

यतोऽभ्युदयनिःश्रेयससिद्धिः स धर्मः । १,१.२ | yato'bhyudayaniḥśreyasasiddhiḥ sa dharmaḥ । 1,1.2 |[7]

Meaning: That which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihshreyasa (total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma.[2]

स्मृत्यां धर्मः ॥ Dharma in the Smrti

Madhavacharya in his commentary on Parashara Smrti, has briefly and precisely explained the meaning of Dharma as follows:

अभ्युदय-निश्रेयसे साधनसत्त्वेन धारयति इति धर्मः । स च लक्षण-प्रमाणाभ्यां चोदनासूत्रैर्व्यवस्थापितः ॥[8]

abhyudaya-niśreyase sādhanasattvena dhārayati iti dharmaḥ । sa ca lakṣaṇa-pramāṇābhyāṁ codanāsūtrairvyavasthāpitaḥ ॥

Meaning: Dharma is that which sustains and ensures progress and welfare 'of all in this world and eternal Bliss in the other world'. It is promulgated in the form of commands. (positive and negative - vidhi and nishedha)[1] However, the essence of various definitions of Dharma is put together by Manu (मनुः). He says,

अहिंसा सत्यमस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः । एतं सामासिकं धर्मं चातुर्वर्ण्येऽब्रवीन्मनुः ॥ 10.63 ||

ahiṁsā satyamasteyaṁ śaucamindriyanigrahaḥ । etaṁ sāmāsikaṁ dharmaṁ cāturvarṇye'bravīnmanuḥ ॥ 10.63 ||

Meaning: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (not coveting the property of others), Shaucha (Purity) and Indriyanigraha (control of senses) are in brief the common dharmas for all Varnas.[1]

महाभारते धर्मः ॥ Dharma in the Mahabharata

Mahabharata, the great epic which is acclaimed as the मानवकर्तव्यशास्त्रम् (Manava Kartavya Shastra । code of duties of human beings) contains a discussion on Dharma. On being asked by Yudhisthira to explain the meaning and scope of Dharma, Bhishma who had mastered the knowledge of Dharma replied thus:

तादृशोऽयमनुप्रश्नो यत्र धर्मः सुदुर्लभः । दुष्करः प्रतिसंख्यातुं तत्केनात्र व्यवस्यति ॥

प्रभवार्थाय भूतानां धर्मप्रवचनं कृतम् । यः स्यात्प्रभवसंयुक्तः स धर्म इति निश्चयः ॥ (Maha. Shan Parv. 109.9-10)[9]

tādr̥śo'yamanupraśno yatra dharmaḥ sudurlabhaḥ । duṣkaraḥ pratisaṁkhyātuṁ tatkenātra vyavasyati ॥

prabhavārthāya bhūtānāṁ dharmapravacanaṁ kr̥tam । yaḥ syātprabhavasaṁyuktaḥ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ ॥

Meaning: It is most difficult to define Dharma. It has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings. Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma.[1] Mahabharata also proclaims that ultimately it is Dharma which holds together all the entities of the Universe. Karna Parva eulogises Dharma in the following words:

धारणाद्धर्ममित्याहुर्धर्मो धारयते प्रजाः। यत्स्याद्धारणसंयुक्तं स धर्म इति निश्चयः॥ (Maha. Karn Parv. 69.58)[10]

dhāraṇāddharmamityāhurdharmo dhārayate prajāḥ। yatsyāddhāraṇasaṁyuktaṁ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ॥ (Maha. Karn. 8.69.58)

Meaning: That which supports, that which holds together the people (of the universe), that is Dharma[11]

Therefore, Dharma sustains the society, maintains the social order, ensures well being and progress of Humanity.[1]

धर्मोत्पत्तिः ॥ Origin of Dharma

Dharma was formulated as the solution to the eternal problems confronting the human race, originating from natural human instincts.[1]

Manusmriti says,

अकामस्य क्रिया काचिद्दृश्यते नेह कर्हिचित् । यद्यद्धि कुरुते किं चित्तत्तत्कामस्य चेष्टितम् । । २.४ । ।[12]

akāmasya kriyā kāciddr̥śyate neha karhicit । yadyaddhi kurute kiṁ cittattatkāmasya ceṣṭitam । । 2.4 । ।

Meaning: There is no act of man which is free from desire; whatever a man does is the result of the impulse of desire.

Therefore, the source of all evil actions of human beings was traced to the desire for material pleasure which in turn gave rise to conflict of interests among individuals.

Further, it was found that kama (कामः । desire) of human beings could also be influenced by the other impulses inherent in human beings such as krodha (क्रोधः । anger), moha (मोहः । passion), lobha (लोभः । greed), mada (मदः । infatuation) and matsarya (मात्सर्यम् । enmity). These six natural impulses were considered as Arishadvarga (अरिषड्वर्गः | six internal enemies) of a human being, which if allowed to act uncontrolled could instigate one to entertain evil thoughts in the mind for fulfilling one's own selfish desires and for that purpose cause injury to others. Thus, Dharma or rules of righteous conduct evolved as a solution to this eternal problem arising out of the natural instinct of man.

In fact, every civil or criminal injury caused by an individual to other individuals or society is traceable to one or more of the six enemies acting alone or in combination. This inherent weakness of human being has been the central focus through the formulation 'Dharma'. Therefore, Manu cautions everyone to have self-control, so that the mind does not act as instigator for committing any immoral mental action which would inevitably lead to one or the other type of evil verbal actions or wicked bodily actions.[1]

वाग्दण्डोऽथ मनोदण्डः कायदण्डस्तथैव च । यस्यैते निहिता बुद्धौ त्रिदण्डीति स उच्यते || १२.१० ||

त्रिदण्डमेतन्निक्षिप्य सर्वभूतेषु मानवः । कामक्रोधौ तु संयम्य ततः सिद्धिं नियच्छति || १२.११ ||[13]

vāgdaṇḍo'tha manodaṇḍaḥ kāyadaṇḍastathaiva ca । yasyaite nihitā buddhau tridaṇḍīti sa ucyate || 12.10 ||

tridaṇḍametannikṣipya sarvabhūteṣu mānavaḥ । kāmakrodhau tu saṁyamya tataḥ siddhiṁ niyacchati || 12.11 ||

Meaning: That man is called 'Tridandin' who has established three controls, on his mind viz.,

  1. Manodanda - control over his thoughts
  2. Vakdanda - control over his speech
  3. Kayadanda - control over his body

He who exercises these three controls with respect to all created beings and wholly subdues desire and wrath, assuredly gains complete success in his life.

These verses from the Manusmrti enumerate the root cause of all civil and criminal wrongs and the essence of philosophy necessary for the safety and happiness of individuals and the society. It indicates that training of the mind through proper education is essential. For, it is only through such education and training that it is possible to inculcate a sense of self imposed discipline in an individual which in turn enables him to exercise control over the mind, and through it, speech and physical actions can be controlled. In fact, it is the experience of individuals that the absence of such control leads to undesirable and sometimes disastrous results.

For instance, scientific inventions which are intended to be a boon to humanity are becoming a curse. The reason is human beings have not been educated and trained to exercise control over the mind, speech and bodily actions and not to inflict injury on others with purely selfish motive. In fact, this should be the most fundamental education imparted to individuals right from their childhood. It is by such education only that the character of an individual can be moulded so that he lives a useful, purposeful and honest life which gives him real happiness and enables him to devote his time, energy and capacities to the service of other human beings and prevents him from exploiting others for selfish ends. Everyone should be made to realise that, for the sake of satisfying one's greed or desire, if one were to indulge in illegal and immoral acts, it might secure momentary physical enjoyment, but would eventually lead to deep trouble and loss of mental peace and happiness thereby suffering through out life. This was clearly stated by Manu when he says that a society that doesn't follow Dharma would destroy itself.[1]

धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद्धर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत् || ८.१५ ||[14]

dharma eva hato hanti dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ । tasmāddharmo na hantavyo mā no dharmo hato'vadhīt || 8.15 ||

Meaning: Dharma protects those who protect it. Those who destroy Dharma get destroyed. Therefore, Dharma should not be destroyed so that we may not get destroyed as a consequence thereof.[1]

This consequence is natural: powerful individuals with uncontrolled Kama and in disregard for Dharma oppress the weak and severely injure the society with their actions. Bhishma tells Yudhishtira, after the Mahabharata war, that there existed a time when every individual followed Dharma and mutually protected the society. As time progressed and few strong individuals started flouting Dharma, that the Raja was brought into existence with the duty to protect Dharma and with the right to punish the individuals practising Adharma.[1]

धर्मविस्तृतिः ॥ Scope of Dharma

Dharma is a Sanskrit expression of the widest import. It has a wide variety of meanings. A few of them would enable us to understand the range of that expression.[1] For instance, the word 'Dharma' is used to mean

  1. The Principles of Justice (न्यायः | Nyaya)
  2. What is right in a given circumstance
  3. Virtue or Moral values of life
  4. Pious obligations of individuals
  5. Righteous conduct in every sphere of activity
  6. Being helpful to other living beings
  7. Giving charity to individuals in need of it or to a public cause or alms to the needy
  8. Natural qualities or characteristics or properties of living beings and things
  9. Duty towards oneself, family, community, country, and the world at large.
  10. Law as also constitutional law.
  11. The principle on the foundation of which a society stands.[1][4]

Hence, there are multiple facets of dharma. Knowledge of Dharma is the knowledge of what is right and wrong. It is to guide mankind through life. It is the universal code of behavior towards all living creatures and nonliving things. Therefore, Dharma sustains and supports life in general, and helps to hold the community together. Dharma can be broadly viewed as twofold.

  1. Samanya Dharma (सामान्यधर्मः । General or Universal Dharma) – duties that are common to all people. For example, Contentment, forgiveness, self-restraint, non-stealing, purity, control of senses, discrimination between right and wrong, between the real and the unreal, spiritual knowledge, truthfulness and absence of anger come under the general or universal Dharma. In fact, Manu mentions these as the tenfold characteristics of Dharma.
  2. Vishesha Dharma (विशेषधर्मः । Specific or Personal Dharma) - that is special duties of husband, wife, child, student, teacher, farmer, business person, Raja, soldier, etc. For example, the rules of Varnas and Ashramas of life are specific Dharmas.[2][4]

Thus, Dharma assumes various forms. It manifests as :

  1. Sanatana Dharma (सनातनधर्मः । Eternal Law)
  2. Samanya Dharma (सामान्यधर्मः । General duty)
  3. Vishesha Dharma (विशेषधर्मः । Special duty)
  4. Varnashrama Dharma (वर्णधर्मः । Varna dharma and आश्रमधर्मः | Ashrama dharma)
  5. Svadharma (स्वधर्मः । one’s own duty)
  6. Kula Dharma or Kautumbika dharma (कुलधर्मः or कौटुम्बिकधर्मः । duty towards family)
  7. Samajika dharma (सामाजिकधर्मः । duty towards society)
  8. Rashtra dharma (राष्ट्रधर्मः । duty towards the nation)
  9. Yuga Dharma (युगधर्मः । duty of the Age)
  10. Manava Dharma (मानवधर्मः । duty towards mankind)
  11. Purusha Dharma (पुरुषधर्मः । duty of a man)
  12. Stri Dharma (स्त्रीधर्मः । duty of a woman)
  13. Raja Dharma (राजधर्मः । duty of a Raja)
  14. Praja Dharma (प्रजाधर्मः । duty of subjects)
  15. Pravrtti Dharma (प्रवृत्तिधर्मः । duty in worldly life)
  16. Nivrtti Dharma (निवृत्तिधर्मः । duty in spiritual life)
  17. Svabhava Dharma स्वभावः । duty in character)
  18. Achara Dharma (आचारधर्मः । duty in behaviour)
  19. Apaddharma (आपद्धर्मः । duties during exegencies)[2]

Therefore, Dharma embraces every type of righteous conduct covering every aspect of life essential for the sustenance and welfare of the individual and society and includes those rules which guide and enable those who believe in the divine and svarga to attain moksha (eternal bliss).[1]

Constituents of Dharma

A common territory and common values of life evolved and cherished by the people of Bharatavarsha by far have welded the people of this sacred land into a nation bound by the system of values of life. There are many main and subsidiary values, traditions and customs but all of them within the framework of Sanatana Dharma. Universal acceptance that 'Dharma' bears the Universe and holds entities together (Maha. Karn. 8.69.58) is the moral binding factor of different people of Bharatavarsha. A few important values may be summarized here.[15]

  1. Duty towards others
  2. A Code of Conduct: Samanya Dharma (for all human beings) and Raja Dharma (Duty of Rulers)
  3. Respect for Womanhood
  4. Equality (Samanata)
  5. Gratitude (Kritajnata)
  6. Compassion (Daya)
  7. Simple Life -Sparing use of Natural Resources
  8. Service (Seva -Paropakara)
  9. Sacrifice (Tyaga)
  10. World is one Family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)

Aptly, in modern thought processes, the dharmika paradigm encompasses[16]

  1. integral unity (dharmika tattvajnana)
  2. perspective of life (dharmika jeevan drishti)
  3. codes of conduct (dharmika vyavahar sutra)
  4. systems and structures (dharmika vyavastha)

These aspects are studied at length in Dharmika Jivana Vidhana, through which we aim to bring back restructuring of the society along with the ancient glory, and peace in global dharmika communities.

धर्मपुरुषार्थः ॥ Dharma Purushartha

Of the four grand objects of human aspiration—Purusharthas—viz., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, Dharma is given the foremost rank in the scriptures. Dharma alone is the gateway to Moksha, to immortality, infinite bliss, supreme peace and highest knowledge. Dharma alone is the primary Purushartha. Dharma is the first and foremost Purushartha. Through the practice of Dharma alone can you ever hope to achieve the crowning glory of all human endeavours, viz., Moksha which is the best and the highest of all desirable things. Practice of Dharma leads to the perfect realisation of essential unity or the final end, the highest good, namely, Moksha. The practitioner experiences peace, joy, strength and tranquillity within himself. His life becomes thoroughly disciplined. His powers and capacities are exceedingly intensified. He realises that there is one underlying homogeneous essence, a living truth, behind these names and forms. He is transmuted into divinity. His whole nature gets transformed. He becomes one with the Eternal. He beholds Brahman above, Brahman below, Brahman to the right, Brahman to the left, Brahman in front, Brahman at the back, Brahman within, Brahman without and Brahman pervading the whole world.

The development of the divine qualities is indispensable for the attainment of Self-realisation. Brahman or the Eternal is purity. The Eternal cannot be attained without the attainment of purity. Brahman is truth. The Eternal cannot be attained without practising truth. Brahman is fearlessness. The Eternal cannot be attained unless you become absolutely fearless. Attachment to the body causes fear and Dehadhyasa. If only you become fearless, then the identification with the body will vanish.[2]

धर्ममूलानि ॥ Fundamentals of Dharma

THE MAHABHARATA enumerates the performance of Sraaddha or offering oblations to the forefathers, religious austerity, truth, restraint of anger, satisfaction with one’s own wife, purity, learning, absence of envy, knowledge of the Self and forbearance as the fundamentals of Dharma.

It is said in PADMA PURANA that Dharma proceeds from continence, truthfulness, austerity, charity, self-control, forbearance, purity, non-violence, serenity and non-thieving and that one should recognise Dharma by these ten factors. According to this Purana, bestowing gifts on deserving persons, fixing one’s thoughts on Lord Krishna, adoration of one’s parents, offering a portion of the daily meal to all creatures and giving a morsel of food to a cow are the characteristics of Dharma.

According to MATSYA PURANA, freedom from malice, absence of covetousness, control of the senses, austerity, celibacy, compassion, truthfulness, forbearance and fortitude constitute the fundamentals of Sanatana Dharma.

PATANJALI MAHARSHI, the exponent of Raja Yoga philosophy, recommends that ten virtues should be practised by all men. The first five are: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Brahmacharya (celibacy in thought, word and deed), Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness). These constitute Yama or self-restraint. The other five virtues are:

Saucha (internal and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of scriptures or recitation of Mantra) and Isvara-pranidhana (consecration of the fruits of all works to the Lord). These constitute Niyama or religious observance.

THE GITA enumerates the following virtues as Daivi-Sampat or divine qualities: fearlessness, cleanness of life, steadfastness in the Yoga of Wisdom, alms-giving, self-restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, straightforwardness, harmlessness, truth, absence of wrath, renunciation, peacefulness, absence of crookedness, compassion to living beings, non-covetousness, mildness, modesty, absence of fickleness, vigour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity and absence of envy and pride. All these virtues are manifestations of the four fundamental virtues:

(i) non-violence, (ii) truth, (iii) purity and (iv) self-control. All the above virtues come under the above four cardinal virtues.[2]

While Dharma touches on a wide varieties of topics, the essence of Dharma common to all human beings is also declared in various works.

अक्रोधः सत्यवचनं संविभागः क्षमा तथा । प्रजनः स्वेषु दारेषु शौचमद्रोह एव च ॥

आर्जवं भृत्यभरणं नवैते सार्ववर्णिकः ।

Meaning : Truthfulness, to be free from anger, sharing wealth with others, (samvibhaga) forgiveness, procreation of children from one's wife alone, purity, absence of enmity, straightforwardness and maintaining persons dependent on oneself are the nine rules of the Dharma of persons belonging to all the varnas. (Yaj. 1-122 is similar).

A reading of each one of the above rules at once makes an individual realise what he should do and what he should not do. The observance of the above rules alone secures real happiness and harmony in life. Manu Smriti is more concise and brought 'Dharma' under five heads.

अहिंसा सत्यमस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः । एतं सामासिकं धर्मं चातुर्वर्ण्येऽब्रवीन्मनुः ॥ Manu Smrt 10.163

Meaning : Ahimsa(non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (not acquiring illegitimate wealth), Shoucham (purity), and Indriyanigraha (control of senses) are, in brief, the common Dharma for all the varnas.

The first rule is not to indulge in violence against other living beings. The second rule requires every one to be truthful in day to day life. The third rule is of the utmost importance. It is the desire to secure wealth by illegitimate methods which makes a man corrupt, a cheat, a smuggler, a black marketeer, an exploiter, and makes even men in noble professions exploit the miseries of others to make more and more money in utter .disregard to professional ethics. Therefore, it is very essential to ingrain in the heart and mind of every individual the desire not to indulge in 'asteya' i.e., acquiring wealth by illegitimate and immoral methods. The fourth one commands every individual to maintain purity of thought, word and deed (Trikarana shuddi i.e., Kaya, Vacha, Manasa), which is also called Antaranga Shuddi (internal/mental purity) and Bahiranga Shuddi (external purity or purity in action). This rule means absolute honesty in that there should be harmony in thought, word and deed of an individual. One should not think something in the mind, speak something else, and do entirely another thing.

The fifth perhaps is very important i.e., control of senses. It is lack of control over the senses which results in individuals indulging in all types of illegal and immoral actions, being instigated by the one or more of the six inherent enemies (Arishadvargas). This lands himself as well as others in misery and loss of happiness.

The mere knowledge of the rules of Dharma, however does not make a man 'Dharmishta' i.e., a man acting always in conformity with Dharma. Therefore, Dharma has to be ingrained in the mind of every individual from child hood. Just as triple antigen for giving immunity to the body against dreaded disease has to be administered to a young child for giving immunity to the mind against immoral thoughts Dharma- the antigen has to be administered to the mind of an individual as part of education. It is a slow but a sure process. This process was called 'Samskara'.

Adi Shankara in his commentary on Vedanta Sutra has explained this process thus:-

संस्कारो हि नाम गुणाधानेन वा स्याद् दोषापनयनेन वा ।

Thus, when knowledge of rules of Dharma and of Dharma abiding nature is ingrained in the mind of an individual, it acts as antigen against the six enemies inherent in him and always makes him conform to dharma. That is why 'Dharma' is given the pride of place by our ancestors. This aspect is declared in Mahanarayanopanishat Section 79-7 thus:-

धर्मो विश्वस्य जगतः प्रतिष्ठा । लोके धर्मिष्ठं प्रजा उपसर्पन्ति । धर्मेण पापमपनुदति । धर्मे सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् । तस्माद्धर्मं परमं वदन्ति ।

Meaning : Dharma constitutes the foundation of all affairs in the World. People respect those who adhere to Dharma. Dharma insulates (man) against immoral thoughts. Everything in this world is founded on Dharma. Dharma therefore, is considered supreme.

The role of Dharma is, that it acts as an internal check, a preventive against immoral actions as it destroys the very cause of such actions, namely immoral thoughts.

To put it in a nutshell, the power of law is to punish those who commit offences after the acts if only they are caught and evidence is available. It is punitive in nature. But "Dharma" has the power to prevent a man from committing an offence by acting as an antigen against the six enemies inherent in every man. It is preventive. Therefore, it can rightly be described as the six antigen for the mind which gives immunity against immoral thoughts arising on account of the instigation of one or more of the six inherent enemies (arishadwarga).[1]

युगधर्मः ॥ Yuga Dharma

In Satya-Yuga or the golden age there was a different set of Dharmas or laws; in Treta, they changed into another form; in Dvapara, the Dharmas were different from the Dharmas of other Yugas; and in Kali-Yuga, they assumed still another form. The Dharma changes according to the changes of the cycles. Man is undergoing change. His nature gets transformed through experiences. Hence, his external form of Dharmas also should change. That which is achieved through contemplation in Satya Yuga, through sacrifices in Treta Yuga, and through the worship of Lord Hari in Dvapara Yuga, may be attained through Kirtana or loud chanting of Lord Vishnu’s Name in Kali Yuga or Iron age. In the Satya Yuga, the mind of men was generally pure. They had no distraction of the mind. There were neither cinemas, nor hotels, nor dancing halls and similar other distractions. Hence, meditation was easy and natural for them. That is the reason why contemplation has been prescribed for men of Satya Yuga. In the Treta Yuga, materials for the performance of Yajnas or sacrifices were easily available. The people had active tendencies. Therefore it was easy for them to perform Agnihotra, Jyotistoma, Darsa-Paurnimas and other Yajnas. That is the reason why Yajna has been described as the external form of Sanatana Dharma in that age. In the Dvapara Yuga, there was the manifestation of Avataras and men could easily have direct worship of God. Hence, worship was prescribed as the principal form of Sadhana in that age. In the Kali Yuga, there are many distractions for the mind. People lack in Brahmacharya, strength of will and power of enquiry or rational investigation. It is very difficult to procure materials for the performance of sacrifices. Therefore, Hari Kirtana or loud chanting of the Divine Name and selfless service of humanity have been recommended as the principal forms of Sadhana.[2]

Dharma for Peaceful co-existence

The necessity of scrupulous practice of Dharma is forcefully expressed by Manu :

धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद्धर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत् ॥ Manu Smrt 8,15

Meaning : Dharma protects those who protect it. Those who destroy Dharma get destroyed. Therefore, Dharma should not be destroyed so that we may not be destroyed as a consequence thereof.

The principle laid down in this saying is of the utmost importance and significance. In the above very short saying, the entire concept of Rule of Law is incorporated.

1 The meaning it conveys is that an orderly society would be in existence if everyone acts according to Dharma and thereby protect Dharma, and such an orderly society which would be an incarnation of Dharma, in turn, protects the rights of individuals. Rules of Dharma were meant to regulate the individual conduct, in such a way as to restrict the rights, liberty, interest and desires of an individual as regards all matters to the extent necessary in the interest of other individuals, i.e., society and at the same time making it obligatory for society to safeguard and protect an individual in all respects through its social and political institutions. Briefly put, Dharma regulated the mutual obligations of the individual and society. Therefore, it was stressed that protection of Dharma was in the interest of both the individual and society. Manu Smriti warns; Do not destroy Dharma, so that you may not be destroyed. A 'State of Dharma' was required to be always maintained for peaceful co-existence, happiness and prosperity.

It is needless to state that it is only when a substantial number of citizens of a nation are by and large of "Dharma / law abiding Nature" the Rule of law can be maintained. But, if the majority are not of a law abiding nature, the nation gets destroyed. This aspect is sought to be impressed on every student in lesson Eight, Chapter-II, Shikshavalli (On Education) of Taittiriya Upanishad in these words :

युवा स्यात्साधु युवाऽध्यायकः । आशिष्ठो द्रढिष्ठो बलिष्ठ ॥

तस्येयं पृथिवी सर्वा वित्तस्य पूर्णा स्यात् । स एको मानुष आनन्दः ॥

Meaning : Happiness is this, youth should be of good character, learned, resolute and strong (morally and physically). Then only the earth will be full of prosperity and wealth. This is the measure of human happiness.

This lesson is highly enlightening. The real happiness and prosperity of any nation is directly proportional to the number of men of character it has produced, through proper education and environment. Today though on account of advancement of science many nations are affluent from the point of material prosperity, they are facing accute problems of greed and despair The crime rate among youth is increasing. There is lack of character. Short cuts and easy methods to secure maximum profit with minimum industry have become the order of the day.

When we look to the state of our nation, in particular as also the world in general, the situation is alarming. The number of individuals who indulge in crimes, abusing modern scientific knowledge and equipments and inflicting injury and suffering on other fellow human beings is increasing directly in proportion to the advancement of science (Vijnana). This indicates that Vijnana (Science) minus Jnana (Knowledge) of Dharma results in the ever increasing of selfishness and greed. It is op account of this, immorality and corruption, violence and sexual immorality are spreading like cancer and are threatening the health of our nation and of humanity. To this situation, the only remedy is the resurrection of the "Doctrine of Trivarga" which constitutes the Philosophy of our country - a philosophy universally applicable.[1]

Dharma as a Global Ethic

The eternal validity of the values based on Dharma, has to be accepted by the entire world if the human race is to be saved from total destruction, is established by the initial declaration {Towards Global Ethic) made at the Parliament of the World's Religions from August 28 to September 5,1993. at Chicago, to coincide with the centenary of Swamy Vivekananda 's Chicago Address. The declaration is signed by as many as 160 persons belonging to world religions and also those who represented Dharma. It incorporates values, which are all part of "Dharma" from times immemorial.

A comparison of the values declared as part of the Global Ethic and the corresponding rules of Dharma at once indicates that they are one and the same. They are :

1. We must treat others as : atmavat sarvabhutanam we wish others to treat us

2. We consider humankind : Vasudhaiva our family Kutumbakam

3. We should serve others : Paropakarartham idam shareeram

4. (a) We must commit to Ahimsasatyam- a culture of non violence asteyam

(b) We must speak and Shoucham act truthfully -we must not steal indriyanigraha,

(c) We must move beyond Etam the dominance of greed samasikam dharmam for power, money, prestige, consumption

(d) We must not commit Parityajedartha any sexual immorality Kamou Yau Syatam Dharma Varjitau

All these were declared as "Dharma" five thousand years ago in Mahabharata Shantiparva 60- 7 -8 (See Ch. II).

We have some thing more viz., in the form of a directive to a student at the culmination of their higher education, to treat his mother as God, treat his father and teacher as God, Don't indulge in acts which are forbidden (Vide Taittreeya Samhita) and also to treat every woman other than the wife as equal to mother" is part of the directive. The values of life found or laid down in any religious texts could supplement those values.

We should therefore compile all the moral values based on Dharma and classify them into different levels. The United Nations should adopt them as the GLOBAL ETHIC and prescribe it for study at appropriate levels from the primary to university courses in the education system of all nations and make it part of the Human Resources Development Programme.

This should constitute the Blue Print for education commencing from the 21st Century for all the Nations of the world in order to produce better individuals, lead a simple and better family life, secure a better national life, better environment ensuring happiness to Humanity as also to all living beings. This is the long range and the only solution for all the problems of the World.

Let the Entire World be Happy

संहृतिः ॥ Synopsis

Every individual should, by constant effort, regulate his mind, speech and action so that he does not inflict any physical or mental injury or any pecuniary loss or damage on other individuals.

It is a matter of common knowledge that in day-to-day life on account of greed and being actuated one or more of the six enemies inherent in man namely: Kama (love/desire), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (Passion), Mada (Infatuation) and Matsarya (enmity), a man indulges in wrongs. To illustrate, a man commits theft to acquire money or any other moveable property for gain. He indulges in cheating others or in corruption to acquire more money. For the same purpose he commits robbery, or dacoity or even murder. On many occasions man does these acts secretly thinking that no one knows or will come to know of these acts. But the fact remains that the ATMA within himself is an unavoidable witness. It is impossible for a human being to commit any wrongful act without the knowledge of the Atma. As far as the Atma is concerned, being part and parcel of Paramatma (the almighty God) it is incapable of compromising with the wrong acts of a human being within whose body it resides for the time being.

Manu Smriti Ch. 12-35 expounds this aspect thus

यत्कर्म कृत्वा कुर्वंश्च करिष्यंश्चैच लज्जति । तज्ज्ञेयं विदुषा सर्वं तामसं गुणलक्षणम् ॥

Meaning: If a man in his conscience, feels ashamed/guilty to do an act, or while doing an act, or after doing an act, it is the clearest indication of Tamasa Quality -viz, the act is a papa (पापम्).

Therefore, the soul always tells the man who has committed the offence, that he has committed a papa. If a person commits theft, his soul will always be telling him "You are a thief. you have committed theft". Similarly, if a person commits murder, his soul will always be saying "You are a murderer". If a minister or officer is corrupt and receives bribe, his soul will always be telling him "You are corrupt" and so on. To outward view, he might pose to be honest, and tell people that he has not committed any offence and all that happened was on account of a "System Failure", but his soul cannot be fooled. It does not allow him to have peace of mind. It constantly reminds him of his misdemeanours. Thus, he loses mental happiness.

It is for this reason that the individual feels ashamed within, though before others he may try to pose as a good man. It is this aspect which is highlighted by Manu in the verse and calls upon every individual to establish an internal check, which alone is the guarantee for good conduct or to eschew bad conduct and not the fear of Police which only makes a man to be more careful and secretive in committing offence. This internal check is what is meant by "God Fearing" as Atma (Soul) is God within the man.

Thus the substance of the verse is that a man is bound to feel ashamed within himself for his immoral acts. This happens at all the three stages.

(i) When a man thinks of doing an immoral act, he feels ashamed, But if the mind is allowed to be overpowered by greed or anger or by anyone of the other enemies (Arishadvarga) for any reason he commits a papa. If however, he listens to his conscience he will not commit the papa.

(ii) Similarly in the course of doing an illegal act, the soul keeps telling him continuously, 'What you are doing is an immoral act'. Even at that late stage if realisation comes, and he gets over that desire, he gives up the act and feels greatly relieved. Such instances are innumerable. It happens many times that though, on account of greed, selfishness, or anger or even dire necessity, a man decides to commit offences, some time before the offence is committed, self realisation dawns whether by itself or on account of the samskara received earlier or at the instance of his well wishers or advisers he stops, and then thanks himself and the well wishers for having stopped him from becoming a papi (पापी).

Manu Ch. viii-84 rouses the conscience of an individual in a verse which is intended to be part of an exhortation to witness, It reads:

आत्मैव ह्यात्मनः साक्षी गतिरात्मा तथाऽऽत्मनः । माऽवमंस्याः स्वमात्मानं नृणां साक्षिणमुत्तमम् ॥

Meaning : The Soul itself is the witness of the Soul and the Soul is the refuge of the soul. Despise not thy own Soul the supreme witness to the acts of men.

The eternal advise by Manu for all human beings to be followed throughout life is not to indulge in self deception. Manu has indicated this aspect to make every person realise that it is not necessary for any other person to come and say that a particular act is wrong and he should not indulge in it. The soul is the witness, the soul is the police, the soul is the judge. The soul is capable of indicating what is wrong and what is right. Therefore, it always warns an individual.

A man with good samskara immediately yields to the advice. But a man who is unable to control his desire, falls a prey to immoral desire. But at the same time after committing a papa he feels ashamed of himself for his immoral acts, though not witnessed by any outsiders, and suffers through out life. This is the fate of those who commit murder, who indulge in corruption and who are ultimately caught and punished. Those who are not caught and prosecuted and punished might not go to jail, but they suffer without fail and go to hell, here and now, not after death. They may not be caught by the police, or even if caught and prosecuted for want of evidence in the Courts, they may not go to jail, but they are bound to suffer by losing mental peace and by loss of reputation for themselves and members of their families. That is why it is said that death is preferable to loss of reputation.

Manu again warns every individual in the following words:

अधर्मेणैधते तावत् ततो भद्राणि पश्यति । ततः सपत्नात् जयति समूलस्तु विनश्यति ॥

Meaning : Those who indulge in adhanna attain immediate success and secure fulfillment of their desires. They overpower their opponents. But ultimately their ruin down to the roots is certain.

This is the warning to those who indulge in adharma to achieve their unlawful objects. Therefore, the universally applicable and eternally valid advice flowing from the verse is "When an evil thought comes to your mind and the soul tells you that it is an evil one you should make every effort to get over your weaknesses or greed anger or other feelings created by the other enemies inherent in man", even if it be at the instigation of your own kith and kin.

The principle flowing from this is, a man must be true to his conscience. Manu adds that many a man thinks of indulging in wrong acts with the object of securing wealth and when he is unable to secure it by legitimate methods, he thinks of securing it by illegitimate methods. Therefore every one should strive not to submit or surrender himself to such desires.

To illustrate, a man wants to earn money or even more money, so that he and the members of his family may lead a comfortable life. There is nothing wrong in the desire is. Then he should consider what the correct way of fulfilling that desire is. The right way is to secure knowledge of any art or craft or trade, business or avocation and thereafter with the aid of such knowledge to work hard, honestly and earn the money. Rightfully earned money gives mental happiness.

Further, apart from earning money honestly, spending -must also be for right causes. For instance, if a person earns the money legitimately, but spends the money on his bad habits or immoral habits or desires such as drinking alcohol, or giving trouble to others, he is sure to suffer from want of mental peace and happiness, Therefore, the advice is, even after having secured wealth rightly one must spend the money on the right purposes or causes. For instance, if a man secures money rightfully and spends the money to mitigate the miseries of others, such as feeding persons who are hungry or giving money to poor students, who are in need of it1or education or to persons who are in need of it, though his wealth decreases, his mental happiness increases.

In fact, the pleasure and happiness a man secures and enjoys by helping others in any manner, who are in need of such help is more than the pleasure he gets by spending money purely for selfish purposes.

Therefore, the whole purpose and object of education must be to develop good qualities in individuals and enable them to rise to a divine level higher than human beings at any rate not to degrade himself to the animal level. The above aspect has been forcefully brought out in the Nitishataka- 72:

एते सत्पुरुषाः परार्थघटकाः स्वार्थं परित्यज्य ये ।

सामान्यास्तु परार्थमुद्यमभृतः स्वार्थाविरोधेन ये ।

तेऽमी मानुषराक्षसाः परहितं स्वार्थाय निघ्नंति ये ।

Meaning: Persons who render selfless service to other human beings are the greatest. Persons who carry on their profession, avocation or business with self interest, but without exploiting and causing any injury to those who deal with them are good. But those who give trouble to or exploit others in utter selfishness are demons in human form.

The above moral code is a clear exposition of the principle laid down in Manu. It is only great people who sacrifice-their all for the welfare of society. But in the nature of things, all cannot be great. However, every individual can afford to be good. For this purpose, every individual should carryon his profession or avocation or business, which he undertakes to earn his livelihood, in a manner in which while he gets reasonable remuneration or profit, he does not exploit the misery of others. If the number of such persons who are good is larger in any society, there will be peace and happiness in the society. But instead, if people who selfishly carryon their profession, trade or business or avocation to make more money, and for this purpose consider that the misery of others is their opportunity and take advantage of the hardship or misery of others, they are just demons in the form of human beings. The word "demon" refers to the quality of persons whose nature is exploitation, i.e., giving trouble to others to secure or fulfill their own unlimited and immoral desires. This is at the root of the erosion of professional ethics in all professions and avocation, including noble professions such as those of lawyers, doctors and teachers.

The consequences of not controlling desires which arise in the mind are explained in the Bhagvadgita Ch. II 62-63, thus:

ध्यायतो विषयान् पुंसः सङ्गत्सेषूपजायते । सङ्गत्सेषूपजायते कामः कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते ॥

क्रोधात्भवति सम्मोहः सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रमः । स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति ॥ Meaning : When a man begins to think of securing anything in the first instance attachment to that develops. Attachment leads to desire; when the desire is not fulfilled it leads to anger; anger in turn leads to loss of sense of good and bad; this loss leads to destruction of sound discretion and finally; the loss of sound discretion leads to total destruction -the man perishes.

We see everyday the human beings just to achieve their selfish purposes indulging in all sorts of crimes, misappropriation, corruption. This ultimately ruins them and their families and also adversely affects the society as a whole.

To sum up, the solution to the above problems which are posing a serious threat to humanity is:

(i) for whomsoever it is possible to sacrifice their all for the welfare of humanity, or the human society concerned to do so and:

(ii) for all others to carryon their profession, avocation, trade or business in such a way as to render service to Society taking only reasonable remuneration or profit:

(iii) No one should cause injury to others to fulfill selfish desires. One should not exploit the misery of other human beings for illegitimate gains.

This is the 'Dharma' of every individual. This was evolved to combat the six enemies (Arishadvarga) inherent in every individual. It is a preventive measure. To put it in the language of modern health science, just as Triple Antigen was invented as a preventive medicine for the three fatal diseases to which a child might become a victim, Dharma was evolved as the-antigen against immoral thoughts entering the mind of an individual, influenced by one or more of the six inherent enemies whereby the mind acts as an instigator for indulging in verbal or bodily actions.[1]

References

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Justice M.Rama Jois, Dharma The Global Ethic.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Swami Sivananda (1999), All About Hinduism, Uttar Pradesh: The Divine Life Society.
  3. Vaman Shivram Apte (1985), The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Arun J. Mehta (2011), Vedic Dharma, Edited by B.V.K.Sastry.
  5. Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16.
  6. Maharshi Jaimini, Purvamimamsa Sutras.
  7. Maharshi Kanada, Vaisheshika Sutras.
  8. Pandit Vaman Sastri Islamapurkar (1893), Parasara Dharma Samhita (Vol.1 Part 1), Bombay Sanskrit Series no.XLVII, Bombay: Government Central Book Depot.
  9. Maharshi Vyasa, Mahabharata, Shanti Parva.
  10. Maharshi Vyasa, Mahabharata, Karna Parva (Chapter 72)
  11. Sanatana Dharma: An Advanced Textbook of Hindu Religion and Ethics (1903), Benares: The Board of Trustees, Central Hindu College.
  12. Manusmrti, Chapter 2.
  13. Manusmrti, Chapter 12.
  14. Manusmrti, Chapter 8.
  15. Mandagadde, Rama Jois. (1997) Dharma : The Global Ethic Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  16. Rajiv Malhotra. (2011) Being Different