→व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology: added the content of this section to DHarma article, needs editing
Dharma (धर्मः) is a samskrit expression of the widest import. There is no corresponding word for Dharma in any other world language as it is a unique and ancient concept promulgated by rshis since ages. Any single definition of Dharma would be an insufficient attempt to define the word. It can only be explained and has a wide variety of meanings in various contexts.
In this article we revisit and compile the pramanas or
basis of Dharmas from Vedas and the subsequent vaidika vangmaya. The extensive vedic literature has shown the irrevocable link between Dharma and Vedas, a few instances are presented here. == व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology == The samskrit word veda (वेदः | knowledge, wisdom) is derived from the धातुः (root) विद् (vid) - ज्ञाने (वेत्ति) in the meaning "to know" (Dhatupatha 1064)<ref name=":122">Patel, Gautam. (1999). ''Traditional Vedic Interpretations.'' New Delhi : Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan</ref>. Apart from this, Veda is derived from विद् (vid) धातुः with the addition of Bhavarthaka (भावर्थकः), Karmarthaka (कर्मार्थकः) and Karanarthaka (करणार्थकः) "धम" Dhama pratyaya (प्रत्ययः | suffix) to form the meanings "knowledge, pertaining to knowledge and instrument of knowledge" respectively (See Page 2 footnote 1 for further reference).<ref name=":2">Singh, Ahilya. (2010) PhD Thesis Title: [http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/180070/3/03_chapter%201.pdf Pracheen bharat mein aarthik jeevan prarambh se vaidik kaal tak.] V. B. S. Purvanchal University.</ref><blockquote>वेद्यन्ते ज्ञाप्यन्ते धर्मादिपुरुशार्थचतुष्ठयोपाया येन स वेदः। vedyante jñāpyante dharmādipuruśārthacatuṣṭhayopāyā yena sa vedaḥ।</blockquote>Meaning: That which is the means for obtaining the knowledge of Dharma and other (अर्थः ॥ Artha, कामः ॥ Kama and मोक्षः ॥ Moksha) purusharthas is called Veda.<ref name=":2" /> Thus, the inseparable link between Dharma and Vedas is well established by scholars in many instances.
== धर्मप्रमाणानि ॥ Pramanas for Dharma ==
Kurma Purana describing what dharmas are to be followed mentions that Shrauta dharmas involving the tretagni are the most advisable followed by Smarta dharmas. When both Shruti and Smrti texts are unavailable (in unusual situations), Shistachara forms the third kind of dharma that is taken as standard for enforcing dharma.<ref name=":5">Kurma Purana, Hindi Translation. Gorakhpur: Gita Press. (Page 371)</ref><blockquote>श्रौतस्त्रेताग्निसंबन्धात् स्मार्त्तः पूर्वं मयोदितः । श्रेयस्करतमः श्रौतस्तस्माच्छ्रौतं समाचरेत् ।। २४.१५ </blockquote><blockquote>śrautastrētāgnisaṁbandhāt smārttaḥ pūrvaṁ mayōditaḥ । śrēyaskaratamaḥ śrautastasmācchrautaṁ samācarēt ।। 24.15</blockquote><blockquote>उभावभिहितौ धर्मौ वेदवेदविनिःसृतौ । शिष्टाचारस्तृतीयः स्याच्छ्रतिस्मृत्योरलाभतः ।। २४.१६ (Kurm. Pura. 24.15-16)<ref name=":6">Kurma Purana ([https://sa.wikisource.org/wiki/%E0%A4%95%E0%A5%82%E0%A4%B0%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%AA%E0%A5%81%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%A3%E0%A4%AE%E0%A5%8D-%E0%A4%89%E0%A4%A4%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%A4%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%AD%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%97%E0%A4%83/%E0%A4%9A%E0%A4%A4%E0%A5%81%E0%A4 Uttarabhaga Adhyaya 24])</ref></blockquote><blockquote>ubhāvabhihitau dharmau vēdavēdaviniḥsr̥tau । śiṣṭācārastr̥tīyaḥ syācchratismr̥tyōralābhataḥ ।। 24.16 (Kurm. Pura. 24.15-16)</blockquote>Thus it is to be noted that Shistachara is also one source of knowing dharma that is to be followed in particular situations when the same cannot be understood from the vedic and smrti texts.
शिष्टाचारम् ॥ Shistaachara ===
Shistaachara means the aachara (traditional lifestyle) of a Shista. It is founded in turn on Shrutis and Smrtis (which are again based on Shrutis). Kurma Purana and Manu define who a शिष्टः or a person of virtuous conduct is, as follows<ref name=":4" /><blockquote>धर्मेणाधिगतो यैस्तु वेदः सपरिबृंहणः । ते शिष्टा ब्राह्मणाः प्रोक्ता नित्यमात्मगुणान्विताः ।। २४.१७ (Kurm. Pura. 24.17) </blockquote><blockquote>dharmēṇādhigatō yaistu vēdaḥ saparibr̥ṁhaṇaḥ । tē śiṣṭā brāhmaṇāḥ prōktā nityamātmaguṇānvitāḥ ।। 24.17</blockquote><blockquote>तेषामभिमतो यः स्याच्चेतसा नित्यमेव हि । स धर्मः कथितः सद्भिर्नान्येषामिति धारणा ।। २४.१८ (Kurm. Pura. 24.18)<ref name=":6" /></blockquote><blockquote>tēṣāmabhimatō yaḥ syāccētasā nityamēva hi । sa dharmaḥ kathitaḥ sadbhirnānyēṣāmiti dhāraṇā ।। 24.18 (Kurm. Pura. 24.18)</blockquote>One who is knowledgeable in the dharmik concepts given in Vedas and Paribhrimhanas (परिबृंहणः । Includes the vedic extensions such as Ramayana and Mahabharata Itihasas and Purana texts), and who is filled with Atmagunas (such as Ahimsa, Daya, Satya and eight such others) engrossed in pursuing the knowledge of Brahman (Brahmana) is called Shista (शिष्टः). It is laid down that the views (policies) held by these Shistas, which are ever present in their Antakarana (Chetas), are called Dharma by scholarly people and do not constitute the views of those who live (or do not have the moral qualities) otherwise.<ref name=":5" />
==== शिष्टानां स्वरूपम् ॥ Qualities of Shista Brahmanas ====
Baudhayana Dharmasutras gives elaborate details about who is called a Shista and what his Atma and Buddhi gunas are.<blockquote>शिष्टाः खलु विगतमत्सरा निरहंकाराः कुम्भीधान्या अलोलुपा दम्भदर्पलोभ-मोह-क्रोध-विवर्जिताः ॥</blockquote><blockquote>धर्मेणाधिगतो येषां वेदः सपरिबृंहणः । शिष्टास् तदनुमानज्ञाः श्रुति-प्रत्यक्ष-हेतवः ॥ इति ॥(Bau. Dhar. Sutr. 5-6)<ref>Baudhayana Dharmasutras ([https://sa.wikisource.org/wiki/%E0%A4%95%E0%A4%B2%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AA%E0%A4%83/%E0%A4%A7%E0%A4%B0%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%82%E0%A4%A4%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%A3%E0%A4%BF/%E0%A4%AC%E0%A5%8B%E0%A4%A7%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%A8-%E0%A4%A7%E0%A Full Text])</ref></blockquote>Shistas are devoid of matsarya (intolerance to others good qualities), ahamkara (pride due to vidya or social position), hypocrisy, arrogance, greed, moha (inability to discriminate), anger, they are content and have few desires. They have a though understanding of the Vedas and associated granthas like puranas and itihasas, who can clearly envisage the reasoning that "this shruti (words) is directly pertinent to this dharma" (श्रुति-प्रत्यक्ष-हेतवः), and are experts at pointing out the inferential references of Vedas in Smrtis, acharas, agamas (स्मार्तशिष्टागमयोश्श्रुत्यानुमानविदः). Thus he is one who, having understood the dharmas defined by the shastras, applies and executes them as per situations (अनुष्ठानम्).<ref>Pt. Srinivasacharya, L. (1907) ''The Bodhayana Dharmasutra with the commentary of Govindasvamin''. Mysore: The Government Branch Press (Pages 2-3)</ref>
Manusmrti reiterates the importance of Shistas and their exceptional qualities.<blockquote>धर्मेणाधिगतो यैस्तु वेदः सपरिबृंहणः । ते शिष्टा ब्राह्मणा ज्ञेयाः श्रुतिप्रत्यक्षहेतवः । । १२.१०९ । (Manu. Smrt. 12.109)<ref name=":222">Manusmriti ([https://sa.wikisource.org/wiki/%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%A8%E0%A5%81%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AE%E0%A5%83%E0%A4%A4%E0%A4%BF%E0%A4%83/%E0%A4%A6%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B5%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%A6%E0%A4%B6%E0%A5%8B%E0%A4%A7%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%AF%E0%A4%83 Adhyaya 12])</ref></blockquote><blockquote>dharmēṇādhigatō yaistu vēdaḥ saparibr̥ṁhaṇaḥ । tē śiṣṭā brāhmaṇā jñēyāḥ śrutipratyakṣahētavaḥ । । 12.109 । (Manu. Smrt. 12.109)</blockquote>Those who have thoroughly studied the Dharmashastras, well-versed in the Vedas and vedangas, and leading a life according to the prescribed way laid down in the Shrutis are to be known as qualified persons of virtuous conduct or Shista Brahmanas (शिष्टा ब्राह्मणा-s).<ref>Pt. Manmath Nath Dutt, (1979) ''The Dharmashastra, Hindu Religious Codes, English Translation and Text. Volume 5.'' New Delhi: Cosmo Publications (Page 436)</ref>
It is further debated that if one who follows the activities as given by the Vedas and one who knows the Vedas (वेदविद्) becomes the pramana or standard for Shistachara, then even the (unlawful) living of Ahalya and Tara with Indra and Chandra respectively is be called as virtuous conduct (इन्द्रचन्द्रादेरहल्यातारादिगमनमपि प्रमाणं स्यात् किम्?) That is not the case. Then how is Aachara pramana (कथमाचारप्रामाण्यम्?) to be determined?
In the case of knowing what Aachara pramanas are, even though deviations from Dharma are observed in examples such as
that seen with Ahalya and Tara with Indra and Chandra respectively, Gautama this as follows<blockquote>दृष्टो धर्मव्यतिक्रमः साहसं च महतां ॥ dr̥ṣṭō dharmavyatikramaḥ sāhasaṁ ca mahatāṁ ॥ (Gaut. Dhar. Sutr. 1.1.3)<ref>Gautama [https://sa.wikisource.org/wiki/%E0%A4%97%E0%A5%8C%E0%A4%A4%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%A7%E0%A4%B0%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%82%E0%A4%A4%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%AE%E0%A5%8D Dharmasutras]</ref> </blockquote><blockquote>(तेषां तेजोविशेषेण प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते) इति। साहसं परशुरामादेः मातुः शिरछेदादि। </blockquote><blockquote>(tēṣāṁ tējōviśēṣēṇa pratyavāyō na vidyatē) iti। sāhasaṁ paraśurāmādēḥ mātuḥ śirachēdādi।</blockquote>Meaning : Bigger instances of transgression of dharma and bold adventurous acts are observed such as the beheading of Parashurama's mother. But such instances do not diminish their greatness owing to their glorious deeds.
Bhagavata Purana talks about deviations from dharma as follows<blockquote>धर्मव्यतिक्रमो दृष्ट ईश्वराणां च साहसम् । तेजीयसां न दोषाय वह्नेः सर्वभुजो यथा ॥ ३० ॥ </blockquote><blockquote>dharmavyatikramō dr̥ṣṭa īśvarāṇāṁ ca sāhasam । tējīyasāṁ na dōṣāya vahnēḥ sarvabhujō yathā ॥ 30 ॥</blockquote><blockquote>नैतत्समाचरेज्जातु मनसापि ह्यनीश्वरः । विनश्यत्याचरन्मौढ्याद् यथारुद्रोऽब्धिजं विषम् ॥ ३१ ॥</blockquote><blockquote>naitatsamācarējjātu manasāpi hyanīśvaraḥ । vinaśyatyācaranmauḍhyād yathārudrō'bdhijaṁ viṣam ॥ 31 ॥</blockquote><blockquote>ईश्वराणां वचः सत्यं तथैवाचरितं क्वचित् । तेषां यत् स्ववचोयुक्तं बुद्धिमांस्तत् समाचरेत् ॥ ३२ ॥</blockquote><blockquote>īśvarāṇāṁ vacaḥ satyaṁ tathaivācaritaṁ kvacit । tēṣāṁ yat svavacōyuktaṁ buddhimāṁstat samācarēt ॥ 32 ॥</blockquote><blockquote>कुशलाचरितेनैषां इह स्वार्थो न विद्यते । विपर्ययेण वानर्थो निरहङ्कारिणां प्रभो ॥ ३३ ॥ (Bhag. Pura. 10.1.30-33)<ref>Bhagavata Purana (Skanda 10 [https://sa.wikisource.org/wiki/%E0%A4%B6%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%B0%E0%A5%80%E0%A4%AE%E0%A4%A6%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%AD%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%97%E0%A4%B5%E0%A4%A4%E0%A4%AA%E0%A5%81%E0%A4%B0%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4%A3%E0%A4%AE%E0%A5%8D/%E0%A4%B8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4%95%E0%A4%A8%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4% Purvardha Adhyaya 33])</ref></blockquote><blockquote>kuśalācaritēnaiṣāṁ iha svārthō na vidyatē । viparyayēṇa vānarthō nirahaṅkāriṇāṁ prabhō ॥ 33 ॥ (Bhag. Pura. 10.1.30-33)</blockquote>Transgressing the limits of dharma and over-adventurous acts are found to have been committed by mighty divine beings. But that does not amount to a blemish for those glorious beings, just as the fire having numerous flames (which does not get polluted by consuming impure things). These (transgressive) acts should not be committed even mentally by those beings who are not divine. Such people meet with destruction (people who transgress dharma) just like a person, other than Rudra, who swallows the poison that arose by the churning of the ocean. The words of those having divine wisdom are irrefutably truth and authoritative but their actions may be emulated only at certain times. A prudent and intelligent person should follow the actions of such virtuous men only when consistent with their own personal precepts. Such authoritative persons who are devoid of ahamkara (ego) have no selfish ends as they work for the welfare of others and gain nothing by acting on the contrary.<ref>Bhagavata Purana, English Translation. Volume 5 Delhi : Motilal Banarsidass. Pvt. Ltd. (Page 1463)</ref>
The people constituting the Parishad should have exceptional qualities described in the shastras. The concept of Vidvat Parishads led to modern day thesis defence in our education system wherein a thesis is evaluated by a panel of experts in that particular field. Formation of parishads has extended to other areas where a group of experts in any given field form the Parishad. Manu discusses this aspect as follows<ref name=":4" /><blockquote>अनान्मातेषु धर्मेषु कथं स्यादिति चेद्भवेत् । यं शिष्टा ब्राह्णा भ्रूयुः स धर्मस्स्यादशाङ्केतः।। १२.१०८ । । (Manu. Smrt. 12.108)<ref name=":222" /></blockquote><blockquote>anānmātēṣu dharmēṣu kathaṁ syāditi cēdbhavēt । yaṁ śiṣṭā brāhṇā bhrūyuḥ sa dharmassyādaśāṅkētaḥ।। 12.108 । । (Manu. Smrt. 12.108)</blockquote>Meaning: How are the dharmas not found in the Vedas dealt with if present? That which the Shishta Brahmanas pronounce is the Dharma without any doubt (in such situation).
'''Gautama''' mentions that when dharmas in question are not found in the available Amnayas (vedas) (as many Vedas themselves are lost over a period of time, or the issue of a particular dharma in the present day is unavailable in the vedic references) then the decision, of what is best suitable, made by a group of selfless (अलुब्धः। not a greedy person) Shistas are to be implemented without any doubt. The additional qualities of a Shista Brahmana are mentioned here, i.e., selflessness or devoid of greed or not acting for personal gains. <blockquote>अनान्माते दशावरैः शिष्टैः ऊहवद्भिः अलुब्धैः प्रशस्तं कार्यम्। यत्तैः प्रशस्तमित्युक्तं तत्कार्यमित्यर्थः।</blockquote><blockquote>anānmātē daśāvaraiḥ śiṣṭaiḥ ūhavadbhiḥ alubdhaiḥ praśastaṁ kāryam। yattaiḥ praśastamityuktaṁ tatkāryamityarthaḥ।</blockquote>Meaning: The best (for a given situation) solution given by a group of not less than ten selfless Shistas has to be enacted. It means that which is best as suggested by them is to be implemented.
'''Baudhayana''' also mentions the importance of the Parishad formed with not less than ten people.<ref name=":4" /> Baudhayana gives a description about the formation of Parishads by the constituting scholars and their qualities.<blockquote>तदभावे दशावरा परिषत्।
तदाभावे श्रुत्याद्यभावे। tadabhāvē daśāvarā pariṣat। tadābhāvē śrutyādyabhāvē।<ref> Baudhayana Dharmasutras ([https://sa.wikisource.org/wiki/%E0%A4% 95%E0%A4% B2%E0% A5% 8D%E0% A4% AA%E0%A4% 83/%E0%A4% A7%E0%A4% B0%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4% AE%E0% A4% B8%E0% A5% 82%E0%A4% A4%E0%A5%8D%E0%A4% B0%E0% A4% BE%E0%A4% A3%E0%A4%BF /%E0%A4% AC%E0% A5% 8B%E0%A4% A7%E0%A4%BE%E0%A4% AF%E0%A4% A8-%E0%A4%A7%E0% A Full Text])</ref> </blockquote>'''Yajnavalkya''' mentions that a Parishad could consist of lesser number of Shistas and among them even if one Atmajnani is present his decision is to be accepted and followed as dharma in matters of ambiguity.<ref name=":4" /><blockquote>चत्वारो वेदधर्मज्ञाः परिषत्रैविद्यमेव वा। सा ब्रूते यं स धर्मस्स्यादेको वाऽध्यात्मवित्तमः।।</blockquote><blockquote>catvārō vēdadharmajñāḥ pariṣatraividyamēva vā। sā brūtē yaṁ sa dharmassyādēkō vā'dhyātmavittamaḥ।।</blockquote>Meaning: That which is pronounced by those who are well-versed either in the Four Vedas and Dharmashastras, or even in three Vedas, or a single Adhyatmavid (Brahmajnani), in a Parishad, is said to be Dharma.
'''Vasishta''' clearly spells out that<ref name=":4" /><blockquote>वेदाः प्रमाणं स्मृतयः प्रमाणं धर्मार्थयुक्तं वचनं प्रमाणम्। यस्य प्रमाणं न भवेत्प्रमाणं न तस्य कुर्याद्वचनं प्रमाणम्।।</blockquote><blockquote>vēdāḥ pramāṇaṁ smr̥tayaḥ pramāṇaṁ dharmārthayuktaṁ vacanaṁ pramāṇam। yasya pramāṇaṁ na bhavētpramāṇaṁ na tasya kuryādvacanaṁ pramāṇam।।</blockquote>Vedas, smrtis and the advices of dharma and artha are pramanas. Those whose pramanas do not include any of the above pramanas such a person’s words are not to be considered as having any basis or pramanas, and hence should be ignored.
=== सम्प्रदायोऽपि प्रमाणम् ॥ Sampradaya Pramana ===
Along with the above Dharma pramanas, Sampradaya also has been considered as pramana in some instances according to Manu. Sampradaya is defined as those aacharas (activities) that have come down traditionally in one’s own community/family. Where there are differences in aacharas according to shastras, that particular sampradaya has to be followed.<ref name=":4" /> <blockquote>तथा सम्प्रदायोऽपि कचित्प्रमाणमित्याह मनुः। स्वकुलपरम्परायात आचारः सम्प्रदायः। सोऽपि शास्त्रविप्रतिपत्तौ द्रष्टव्यः। </blockquote><blockquote>tathā sampradāyō'pi kacitpramāṇamityāha manuḥ। svakulaparamparāyāta ācāraḥ sampradāyaḥ। sō'pi śāstravipratipattau draṣṭavyaḥ।</blockquote><blockquote>येनास्य पितरो याताः येन याताः पितामहाः। तेन यातात्सतां मार्गे तेन गच्छन्नरिष्यति।।</blockquote><blockquote>yēnāsya pitarō yātāḥ yēna yātāḥ pitāmahāḥ। tēna yātātsatāṁ mārgē tēna gacchannariṣyati।।</blockquote>Meaning: One always go in the way (follow those acharas) in which the forefathers and grandfathers have traveled.
The above lines mean that it is better for one to perform the same dharmik activities that were previously followed by one’s forefathers and grandfathers.
For example, specific vratas (vows) for deities such as Vishnu and Lakshmi are typically performed in many families as a tradition because their forefathers had performed them in a certain way. Newly-weds perform Satyanarayana vrata in many families in South of
India as a tradition, but is widely performed in all regions of Bharat for well-being and auspiciousness at prescribed times.
'''Sumantu''' reiterates<ref name=":4" /><blockquote>यत्र शास्त्रगतिर्भिन्ना सर्वकर्मसु भारत। उदिते-नुदिते चैव होमभेदो यथा भवेत्।।</blockquote><blockquote>yatra śāstragatirbhinnā sarvakarmasu bhārata। uditē-nuditē caiva hōmabhēdō yathā bhavēt।।</blockquote><blockquote>तस्मिन्कुलक्रमायातमाचारंत्वाचरेद्रुधः। स गरीयान्महाबाहो सर्वशास्त्रोदितादपि।।</blockquote><blockquote>tasminkulakramāyātamācāraṁtvācarēdrudhaḥ। sa garīyānmahābāhō sarvaśāstrōditādapi।।</blockquote>