Values Based On Dharma (धर्माधिष्ठितगुणाः)

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Values based on Dharma (Samskrit: धर्माधिष्ठितगुणाः) refers to the virtues enumerated in various texts as fundamentals or characteristics of dharma that are prescribed to be practiced by all. These virtues help an individual realise what should be done and what should not be done. And helps one secure real happiness and harmony in life.

There are many main and subsidiary values of life, traditions and customs envisioned in the bharatiya parampara. All of them fall within the framework of Dharma and were in fact, evolved on the basis of certain fundamental principles. These fundamental values that are based on a dharmik view of life are discussed in this article.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction[1]

Based on 'Dharma' and the doctrine of Trivarga, certain basic values of life were evolved and sustained with great care and perseverance through out the history of Bharata. These values were intended to ensure the good and happiness of all, not only in this land but in the entire world. This culture constitutes our rich heritage and wealth which is more valuable than all the material wealth of the world. Further, it is this culture which has established unity in diversity and it is this cultural bond which has welded the people of this Land into a Nation.

The most essential factors that constitute a basis for the formation of or bringing into existence a Nation are,

  1. A common territory which people concerned have made their home and existence of familial attachment between the territory and the people.
  2. Common values of life evolved and cherished by the people.

The people and the territory which is their homeland together constitutes the body of a Nation whereas the values of life evolved by the people, constitute its quintessence. And both together constitute "National Life". In fact, common values of life i.e., culture evolved by the people living in a specific territory, constitute not only national vitality but also national identity. Therefore, as long as they are preserved, the nation survives. Highlighting this aspect, Swami Vivekananda, the harbinger of our National renaissance, says,

"If any nation attempts to throw off its National vitality, the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, that Nation dies, if it succeeds in the attempt."

And the greatest satisfaction for the people of Bharata has been that all our values that are the basis of our nationalism, have withstood the test of time over several centuries. Such sustenance of the National Vitality and identity has been possible only because it is firmly based on noble values which are the very life breath of our people.

राष्ट्रभक्तिः ॥ Love for Motherland[1]

In his book "Fundamental Unity of India", Dr. Radha Kumud Mukherjee says that the name Bharatavarsha is not a mere geographical expression having only a physical reference. It has a deep historical significance symbolising a fundamental unity. He says,

"The Rigveda, one of the oldest literary records of humanity, reveals conscious and fervent attempts made by the rishis, those profoundly wise organisers of Hindu polity and culture, to visualise the unity of their mother-country, nay, to transfigure mother earth into a living deity and enshrine her in the loving heart of the worshipper."

Thus, there has been a familial attachment between the territory of Bharata and the people. In fact, it is equated to the attachment of an individual to his mother which is the highest, as the mother is the dearest. This emotional attachment is depicted in the following verse :

न मे वांछास्ति यशसि विद्वत्वे न च वा सुखे | प्रभुत्वे नैव वा स्वर्गे मोक्षेऽप्यानंददायके ||

परं तु भारते जन्म मानवस्य च वा पशोः | विहंगस्य च वा जन्तोः वृक्षपाषाणयोरपि ||

na me vāṁchāsti yaśasi vidvatve na ca vā sukhe | prabhutve naiva vā svarge mokṣe'pyānaṁdadāyake ||

paraṁ tu bhārate janma mānavasya ca vā paśoḥ | vihaṁgasya ca vā jantoḥ vr̥kṣapāṣāṇayorapi ||

Meaning: I am not enamoured by fame, knowledge, luxuries of life, power, Svarga or Moksha, but my desire is to have rebirth in Bharata, as a human being or as an animal or as a bird, or as an insect or at least as a stone.

This concept of love for the motherland among the citizens is the very foundation of every nation. This feeling makes every citizen patriotic and makes him remain loyal to the nation not only in its prosperity but also in its adversity and to dedicate himself to the seva (सेवा | selfless service) of the Nation and offer great sacrifices for the welfare and happiness of the people.

This is exemplified by none other than Sri Rama himself. It is said that after the defeat of Ravana in the war, Rama's younger brother Lakshmana appears to have told Rama that, instead of returning to Ayodhya, the place where they were insulted and from which they were driven out, they could as well become the rulers of Lanka which was a rich country. Then Rama replied thus,

अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते | जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी ||

api svarṇamayī laṅkā na me lakṣmaṇa rocate | jananī janmabhūmiśca svargādapi garīyasī ||

Meaning: May be, Lakshmana, Lanka is full of gold. But one's mother and the motherland are greater than even Svarga.

Though he had won the war against Ravana and could have easily become the Raja of rich Lanka, Rama decided to go back to Ayodhya being eager to return to the mother and the motherland like a child eager to join its mother after having been separated for a long time. This shows his intense love for his mother and motherland though his coronation was cancelled at the last moment, and he was asked to undergo forest life for fourteen years, and as a result he had suffered great hardship.

This is the feeling towards motherland developed in this country as one of the values of life which inspires many to make great sacrifices in the seva (सेवा | selfless service) of the people and the motherland. In fact, it is this feeling towards the motherland alone, that preserves and protects our national unity.

धर्माधिष्ठितगुणाः ॥ Values Based On Dharma

The system of values of life is an important factor that welds the people of a Country into a Nation. Some such important values within the purview of Dharma are,

  1. Duty Orientedness (कर्तव्यप्रधानता)
  2. Code of Conduct (आचारः)
  3. Respect for Womanhood (स्त्रीत्वसत्कारः)
  4. Equality (समानता)
  5. Compassion (करुणा)
  6. Simple Living reflecting sparing use of Natural Resources
  7. Gratitude (कृतज्ञता)
  8. Seva (सेवा | selfless service) To Others (सेवा परोपकारः च |)
  9. Sacrifice (त्यागः)
  10. World is one Family (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् |)[1]

कर्तव्यप्रधानता || Duty Orientedness

Bharatiya culture and civilization attached primary importance to duty. The society established by the ancestors in Bharata is duty based in which the right given to an individual is the right to perform his duty. It is this philosophy which is the essence of the Bhagavad Gita that is declared in the verse,

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते |[2] karmaṇyēvādhikārastē |

Meaning: Your right (adhikara) is to perform your duty. This duty based philosophy has been reiterated in Vishnu Purana thus,

अत्रापि भारतं श्रेष्ठं जम्बूद्वीपे महामुने । यतो हि कर्म्मभूरेषा ततोऽन्या भोगभूमयः ।। 22 ।।[3]

atrāpi bhārataṁ śrēṣṭhaṁ jambūdvīpē mahāmunē । yatō hi karmmabhūrēṣā tatō'nyā bhōgabhūmayaḥ ।। 22 ।।

Meaning: Among the several countries Bharata is great. For, this is a land of duty whereas others are lands of enjoyment. Mahatma Gandhi quoted this as the basis of his love for the country. He said,

"India is to me the dearest country in the world, not because it is my country but because, I have discovered the greatest goodness in it. Everything in India attracts me. It has everything that a human being with the highest possible aspirations can want. India is essentially Karmabhumi (land of duty) in contradistinction to Bhogabhumi (land of enjoyment).

Our civilization, our culture, our swaraj depend not upon multiplying our wants and self indulgence, but upon restricting our wants - self denial."

This duty based philosophy makes Bharata qualitatively different from others. It is a need based culture, not greed based. And it is this value alone, that can instill in individuals the desire to perform their duty and to surrender/sacrifice their personal interests in the larger interest of the nation and/or humanity.[1]

आचारः ॥ Code of Conduct

All the rules of righteous conduct of human beings in every sphere of human activity evolved from times immemorial in this country, fall within the meaning of the word 'Dharma'. It is a code of conduct for all human beings for all time to come and is thus, Universal in nature. Manu describes this Dharma as a collection of specific qualities that are eternal.[1]

अहिंसा सत्यं अस्तेयं शौचं इन्द्रियनिग्रहः । एतं सामासिकं धर्मं चातुर्वर्ण्येऽब्रवीन्मनुः । । १०.६३ । ।[4]

ahiṁsā satyaṁ astēyaṁ śaucaṁ indriyanigrahaḥ । ētaṁ sāmāsikaṁ dharmaṁ cāturvarṇyē'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 Dharma for all.

As these conduct codifying qualities apply to all, they are referred to as Samanya Dharma.

Apart from this, it has also been a fundamental practice in the Bharatiya tradition to pray individually, as well as collectively, for the well being of all. This is evident from the following prayers.

सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः । सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद् दुःखभाग्भवेत् ॥ (Vajasaneyi Samhita)

sarvē bhavantu sukhinaḥ sarvē santu nirāmayāḥ । sarvē bhadrāṇi paśyantu mā kaścid duḥkhabhāgbhavēt ॥

Meaning: May all be happy, May all be free from diseases, May all see auspicious things and May nobody suffer from grief.

लोकाः समस्ता सुखिनो भवन्तु || lōkāḥ samastā sukhinō bhavantu ||

Meaning: May all people be happy. The Bharatiya Parampara also laid stress on the principle that the Supreme Being is one though people call him by different names.[1]

एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति |[5] ekaṁ sadviprā bahudhā vadanti |

It emphasized that whatever the name addressed in offering obeisance, the destination is the same.

आकाशात् पतितं तोयं यथा गच्छति सागरम् | सर्वदेवनमस्कारः केशवं प्रति गच्छति ||

ākāśāt patitaṁ tōyaṁ yathā gacchati sāgaram | sarvadēvanamaskāraḥ kēśavaṁ prati gacchati ||

Meaning: Just as the rain water coming down to the earth from the sky reaches the same ocean, obeisance to the Supreme by any name reaches the same destination ie. the Supreme One by whatever name He is called. The Upanishads also unfold the ideals evolved in the Bharatiya culture since ancient times.

सह नाववतु | सह नौ भुनक्तु | सह वीर्यं करवावहै | तेजस्वी नावधीतमस्तु | मा विद्विषावहै | ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः |

saha nāvavatu | saha nau bhunaktu | saha vīryaṁ karavāvahai | tējasvī nāvadhītamastu | mā vidviṣāvahai | oṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ |

Meaning: May He (Supreme Being) protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; may we work conjointly with great energy; may our study be vigorous and effective; may we not hate anyone. Let there be peace, peace and peace. And in the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna emphasizes that people who observe a proper code of conduct are dear to Him. He says,[1]

अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्रः करुण एव च । निर्ममो निरहंकारः समदुःखसुखः क्षमी ॥१३॥

संतुष्टः सततं योगी यतात्मा दृढनिश्चयः । मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्तः स मे प्रियः ॥१४॥[6]

advēṣṭā sarvabhūtānāṁ maitraḥ karuṇa ēva ca । nirmamō nirahaṁkāraḥ samaduḥkhasukhaḥ kṣamī ॥13॥

saṁtuṣṭaḥ satataṁ yōgī yatātmā dr̥ḍhaniścayaḥ । mayyarpitamanōbuddhiryō madbhaktaḥ sa mē priyaḥ ॥14॥

Meaning: The person who hates none, who is friendly and has compassion for all, who has no selfishness and ego, who maintains balance of mind in pain and pleasure, who has contentment, who is steady in meditation, self controlled, and firm in his decision, who is dedicated to me, and who is my devotee, that person is dear to me.

A glance at the qualities mentioned above indicate that they are all general in nature. And cultivation of such qualities is sure to elevate an individual to a higher level of humanity.[1]

स्त्रीत्वसत्कारः || Respect for Womanhood

In Bharata, respect for women is another cherished value of life from times immemorial. Manusmrti mandates that highest respect and regard must be extended to women. It is said,[1]

यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः । यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रियाः । । ३.५६ । ।

शोचन्ति जामयो यत्र विनश्यत्याशु तत्कुलम् । न शोचन्ति तु यत्रैता वर्धते तद्धि सर्वदा । । ३.५७ । ।

जामयो यानि गेहानि शपन्त्यप्रतिपूजिताः । तानि कृत्याहतानीव विनश्यन्ति समन्ततः । । ३.५८ । ।[7]

yatra nāryastu pūjyantē ramantē tatra dēvatāḥ । yatraitāstu na pūjyantē sarvāstatrāphalāḥ kriyāḥ । । 3.56 । ।

śōcanti jāmayō yatra vinaśyatyāśu tatkulam । na śōcanti tu yatraitā vardhatē taddhi sarvadā । । 3.57 । ।

jāmayō yāni gēhāni śapantyapratipūjitāḥ । tāni kr̥tyāhatānīva vinaśyanti samantataḥ । । 3.58 । ।


Deities are pleased with the house in which women are respected. In that house where women are insulted and are made to suffer, every thing done is sure to go waste.

In a house if the daughter, daughter-in-law, sisters and other women suffer, that house is sure to be destroyed. It is that house where such women live happily, that secures wealth and happiness.

The family in which the wife, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, etc. are not respected and in which they suffer from insult, is sure to be destroyed.

Hence, people who seek (their own) welfare should always honour women with appropriate gifts, good attire and food. The Manusmrti says,[1]

स्त्रियां तु रोचमानायां सर्वं तद्रोचते कुलम् । तस्यां त्वरोचमानायां सर्वं एव न रोचते । । ३.६२ । ।[7]

striyāṁ tu rōcamānāyāṁ sarvaṁ tadrōcatē kulam । tasyāṁ tvarōcamānāyāṁ sarvaṁ ēva na rōcatē । । 3.62 । ।

Meaning: The house in which women folk are decorated with dress and jewellery shines. Otherwise, the house is sure to suffer. The importance given to Atithi Satkara in the Bharatiya tradition is well known. The normal duty of a Grhastashrami or the householder is to feed guests first and only thereafter, the owner of the house, his wife and other members of the family have to have food. However, it is said that newly married daughters, daughters-in-law, young girls as also pregnant women should be served with meals even before the guests.[1]

सुवासिनीः कुमारीश्च रोगिणो गर्भिणीः स्त्रियः । अतिथिभ्योऽग्र एवैतान्भोजयेदविचारयन् । । ३.११४ । ।[7]

suvāsinīḥ kumārīśca rōgiṇō garbhiṇīḥ striyaḥ । atithibhyō'gra ēvaitānbhōjayēdavicārayan । । 3.114। ।

This indicates the highest concern shown to women in view of their great importance to the happiness of the family. The verses also impress that any person who wants happiness at home and who desires that his family should prosper and secure enjoyment of life, must respect women always. There can be no doubt that the house in which husband and wife have mutual love and affection always secures happiness and good results, and is really equal to svarga. While, the house in which women are insulted and harassed, becomes a naraka. Though the above verses indicate the utmost consideration given to women in Manusmrti, there is a verse on the basis of which Manusmrti is criticized and condemned as being against women. It reads as,[1]

पिता रक्षति कौमारे भर्ता रक्षति यौवने । रक्षन्ति स्थविरे पुत्रा न स्त्री स्वातन्त्र्यं अर्हति । । ९.३ । ।[8]

pitā rakṣati kaumārē bhartā rakṣati yauvanē । rakṣanti sthavirē putrā na strī svātantryaṁ arhati । । 9.3 । ।

Meaning: The father protects the girl in her childhood, the husband protects her after marriage and her sons protect her in old age. At no stage should a woman be left free (without protection). On the basis of the last part of the above verse, and without reference to the earlier parts and other verses in Manusmrti referred to earlier, the criticism levelled against Manusmrti is that it wanted women to live like slaves of men throughout their life. However, the true meaning and purpose of the above verse is that a woman requires and is entitled to protection in every stage of life. And hence, it is the duty of the father, the husband and the sons to look after the daughter, the wife and the mother respectively.[9] It does not mean that woman must be kept without freedom. Such an interpretation runs counter to the verse, which says that the house in which women are insulted and shed tears gets destroyed. The above true meaning of the verse becomes more clear when it is read with another provision in Manu in which the highest respect is required to be given to women. It says,[1]

उपाध्यायान्दशाचार्य आचार्याणां शतं पिता । सहस्रं तु पितॄन्माता गौरवेणातिरिच्यते । । २.१४५ । ।[10]

upādhyāyāndaśācārya ācāryāṇāṁ śataṁ pitā । sahasraṁ tu pitr̥̄nmātā gauravēṇātiricyatē । । 2.145 । ।

Meaning: The acharya is more venerable than a Upadhyaya (teacher); the father is more venerable than an acharya; but the mother is more venerable than the father.

A combined reading of the verses quoted above indicate that women were placed at a higher position. So the real meaning is, the women should be honoured and protected. It is a humane and a duty-oriented provision, the mandate to provide security. This should not be misunderstood as making her life insecure. For, if women are denied freedom and they are kept under subjugation they are bound to be in grief and tears, and as a consequence the happiness of the family disappears. Hence, a meaning consistent with the above verses alone is appropriate.

This exposition can be completed best by quoting what Kerry Brown has stated in his book, "The Essential Teachings of Hinduism", having ascertained the real meaning of the controversial verse in Manu. He says,

In Hinduism, a woman is looked after not because she is inferior or incapable but, on the contrary, because she is treasured. She is the pride and power of the society. Just as the crown jewels should not be left unguarded, neither should a woman be left unprotected. No extra burden of earning a living should be placed on women who already bear huge responsibilities in society; childbirth; child care, domestic well being and spiritual growth. She is the transmitter of culture to her children.

This shows that women were known to and respected for shaping the fortunes of the family. In fact, an analysis of many other provisions concerning women in the Smrtis like

  1. Rights of women members of joint family
  2. Misuse or dependence of the property of women prohibited
  3. Right of Wives
  4. Right of mothers
  5. Rights of daughters
  6. Stridhana

also indicate that special provisions had been made in favour of women in many respects. They have been separately elaborated in the article Rights of Women.[1]

समानता || Equality

The first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is about Equality. It says,

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

In this context, it is worth quoting the Charter of Equality incorporated in the Vedas that is almost similar but most ancient. The Vedas constitute the primordial source of Dharma. And both, the Rgveda, considered the ancient most of the Vedas, as well as the Atharvana Veda speak about the virtue of equality. It is said,

अज्येष्ठासो अकनिष्ठास एते सं भ्रातरो वावृधुः सौभगाय ॥५॥[11] ajyeṣṭhāso akaniṣṭhāsa ete saṁ bhrātaro vāvr̥dhuḥ saubhagāya ॥5॥

Meaning: No one is superior or inferior. All are brothers. All should strive for the interest of all and should progress collectively.[1]

समानी व आकूतिः समाना हृदयानि वः । समानमस्तु वो मनो यथा वः सुसहासति ॥४॥[12]

samānī va ākūtiḥ samānā hr̥dayāni vaḥ । samānamastu vō manō yathā vaḥ susahāsati ॥4॥

Meaning: Let there be oneness in your resolutions, hearts and minds. Let the strength to live with mutual co-operation be firm in you all.

समानी प्रपा सह वोन्नभागः | समाने योक्त्रे सह वो युनज्मि | अराः नाभिमिवाभितः || (Atharvanaveda – Samjnana Sukta)

samānī va ākūtiḥ samānā hr̥dayāni vaḥ । samānamastu vō manō yathā vaḥ susahāsati ॥4॥

Meaning: All have equal rights to articles of food and water. The yoke of the chariot of life is placed equally on the shoulders of all. All should live together in harmony supporting one another like the spokes of a wheel of the chariot connecting its rim and the hub.[9]

As for question like was discrimination sanctioned by Dharma ? It is not so. The very expression Dharma is opposed to and inconsistent with any kind of social inequality. These Vedic provisions emphasise on equality among all human beings. The last of them impresses that just as no spoke of a wheel is superior to another, no individual can claim to be, or regarded as, superior to others. The relevant provisions of the Shruti (Vedas) leave no room for doubt that discrimination on the ground of birth or otherwise had no Vedic sanction; they were plainly opposed to vedic injunction. This was the grand concept of equality in this country at the earliest period of civilization. It should however, be pointed out that some time later, the society had been divided into four Varnas (Chaturvana) namely,

  1. Brahmanas: the class of people taking to teaching and other learned professions.
  2. Kshatriyas: warriors and people of the ruling class.
  3. Vaishyas: the class of people undertaking trade, commerce and agriculture.
  4. Shudras: the class of people rendering another essential services to the society.

But, this division was on functional basis and did not determine the superiority or inferiority of an individual by birth. For instance, Rshi Valmiki, the composer of one of the two great Itihasas, the Ramayana, who is held in the highest esteem down to this day by all sections of the society, belonged to the fourth varna. This is also true in the case of Shri Rama and Shri Krishna. Belonging to the Kshatriya varna, because of his superb qualities as a human being and as an ideal ruler, Shri Rama has won a place in the hearts of one and all for ever. And so has Shri Krishna, the greatest of diplomats and warriors, and a great teacher, being the propounder of the immortal Bhagavad Gita. They are both adored and worshipped by all sections of the society as avataras of the Supreme Being Himself. Therefore, discrimination of any kind is contrary to Dharma. It is really Adharma.

In fact, the Vyasa Smrti expressly provided that if at all there seems to be a conflict between the provisions in the vedas (shruti) and those in smrtis or puranas (including custom or usage) what is declared in the veda alone should be accepted. The provisions in the smrtis or custom, which ran counter to the Shruti were to be regarded as invalid being opposed to the Shruti. The directive to set aside things inconsistent with Dharma, which alone is of eternal value is mentioned in Manusmrti as follows,[1]

परित्यजेदर्थकामौ यौ स्यातां धर्मवर्जितौ । धर्मं चाप्यसुखोदर्कं लोकसंक्रुष्टं एव च । । ४.१७६ । ।[13]

parityajēdarthakāmau yau syātāṁ dharmavarjitau । dharmaṁ cāpyasukhōdarkaṁ lōkasaṁkruṣṭaṁ ēva ca । । 4.176 । ।

Meaning: Discard wealth (artha) or desire (kama) if it is contrary to Dharma, as also any usage, custom or rule regarded as source of Dharma if at any time they were to lead to unhappiness or arouse people's indignation.

At a still later point of time, in the long meandering course of our history, society got divided into innumerable castes and sub-castes on the basis of occupations, vocations, trade or business. The evil of discrimination as high and low among men, on the basis of birth, hereditary avocations and other considerations raised its ugly head and the detrimental practice of untouchability with all its degrading implications came into existence. However, social reformers have fought against these evils which were afflicting society. And in spite of such divisive and undesirable customs, the love for the country and its culture, the common heritage and aspirations of our people, and the basic tenets of dharma have held us together and there has always been unity despite diversity in the country. This was refurbished during our struggle for freedom when everyone fought for it unitedly.[1]

करुणा || Compassion[1]

To have compassion towards all living beings, including human beings is considered as the root of Dharma. Everyone was asked to look towards other living beings as one's own Self ie. आत्मवत् सर्वभूतानाम् | ātmavat sarvabhūtānām. The Smrtis even declared cruelty to animals as a punishable offence. In fact, there was a custom to give a weekly holiday to bullocks. Epitomizing this virtue of Karuna, in the Mahabharata, Raja Rantideva declares,

कामये दुःखतप्तानां प्राणिनामार्तिनाशनम् | kāmaye duḥkhataptānāṁ prāṇināmārtināśanam |

Meaning: My desire (as the) highest Dharma is to wipe out the tears from the eyes of living beings in distress. Furthermore, in the 12th century, Basaveshwara, the great reformer said,

Compassion is the root of Dharma. Bereft of compassion, there is no Dharma.

Simple Living Reflecting Sparing Use Of Natural Resources

It is the desire of all human beings to enjoy life and secure happiness. However, the question is how to secure it - by increasing the wants or limiting the wants. The ancient Bharatiya acharyas opted for the latter and incorporated the same in the first verse of the Ishavasyopanishad. It reads,[1]

ॐ ईशावास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत्। तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथाः मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम्॥१॥[14]

oṁ īśāvāsyamidam̐ sarvaṁ yatkiñca jagatyāṁ jagat। tena tyaktena bhuñjīthāḥ mā gr̥dhaḥ kasyasviddhanam॥1॥

Meaning: All we find in this ephermeral world is created by the Supreme Being. Let us use them sparingly and let us not snatch the wealth belonging to another. Swami Vivekananda who rejuvenated and propagated the greatness of Dharma also declared that only 'Sacrifice' brings harmony and real happiness. The life of Mahatma Gandhi has been the manifestation of the above principle. He said,

Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary restriction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness and contentment.

A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes hindrance instead of help. Therefore, the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a snare. The satisfaction of one's physical needs must meet at a certain point a dead stop, before it degenerates into physical voluptuousness. A man must arrange his physical and cultural circumstances so that they do not hinder him in his service of humanity on which all his energies should be concentrated.

Also, having seen the disastrous consequences of over exploiting natural resources, the world is awakening now. There is a great movement for preserving and protecting natural resources. And we have to fall back on the directive in the Ishavasyopanishad in order to ensure justice to posterity.[1]

कृतज्ञता || Gratitude

To have a feeling of gratitude towards people and other living beings who have been helpful to us, is another value of our national life. It is this feeling which is the basis of the custom of worshipping animals, plants as also Ayudhas ie. all the implements or instruments through which we earn our livelihood that is observed once in a year on the day of Ayudha Pooja. It is the same feeling of Krtajnata that also led to the prohibition of slaughter of cows, calves, oxen and bullocks. Because, cows give milk that sustains us from childhood till death. This is one of the reasons that the cow is worshipped as 'Gomata' (Mother Cow). In fact, Kautilya in his Arthashastra has made a specific provision banning cow slaughter. It reads,

वत्सो वृषो धेनुश्चैषामवध्याः | vatso vr̥ṣo dhenuścaiṣāmavadhyāḥ |

Meaning: Cattle such as calves, bulls or cows, shall not be slaughtered. The Yajnavalkya Smrti has also declared Govadha (killing of a cow) as an offence.[1]

गोवधो व्रात्यता स्तेयं ऋणानां चानपाक्रिया । अनाहिताग्नितापण्य विक्रयः परिदेवनम् । । ३.२३४ । ।[15]

govadho vrātyatā steyaṁ r̥ṇānāṁ cānapākriyā । anāhitāgnitāpaṇya vikrayaḥ paridevanam । । 3.234 । ।

Another concept that emanates from this virtue of Krtajnata, that evolved as part of Dharma, is the concept of Rna or Pious Obligations. The Vedas laid down that every individual should discharge three pious obligations. Namely,

  1. Deva Rna (Towards the Supreme Being)
  2. Pitru Rna (Towards Parents/ancestors)
  3. Rishi Rna (Towards Rishis)

As per this concept of Rna, every individual has an obligation to the source from which every type of benefit was received by him including his own coming into existence. Thus, the directive to every individual to discharge the pious obligations is one of the most important values of life which forms a part of 'Dharma'. Subsequently, Maharshi Vyasa added the fourth pious obligation towards Human Society, namely, Manava Rna. And the method by which the four pious obligations were required to be discharged were also indicated. This elaborated separately in the article titled 'Rna'. In fact, it is on account of this pious obligation that Seva and Tyaga ie. Service and Sacrifice have become our National Ideals.[1]

सेवा परोपकारः च || Service To Others[1]

Great importance was attached to the quality of seva (सेवा | selfless service) to others. This value is brought out with illustration in the following verse:

परोपकाराय फलन्ति वृक्षाः परोपकाराय वहन्ति नद्यः | परोपकाराय दुहन्ति गावः परोपकारार्थमिदं शरीरम् ||

paropakārāya phalanti vr̥kṣāḥ paropakārāya vahanti nadyaḥ | paropakārāya duhanti gāvaḥ paropakārārthamidaṁ śarīram ||

Meaning: The trees bear fruits to serve others, the rivers flow to serve others, Cows give milk to serve others; this human body is (also) meant to serve others.

It is this value that inspires every individual to serve the society through every profession or avocation. It impresses that, as rivers serve others, animals and plants serve others, and are not selfish; man being the highest form of life should not lag behind in serving others.

त्यागः || Sacrifice[1]

Tyaga is another cherished value of our national life. It refers to 'Subordinating smaller interest (or Self-interest) to a larger interest', even at the cost of some inconvenience and suffering. This principle is found incorporated in Hitopadesha. It says,

त्यजेदेकं कुलस्यार्थे ग्रामस्यार्थे कुलं त्यजेत् | ग्रामं जनपदस्यार्थे आत्मार्थे पृथिवीं त्यजेत् ||

tyajedekaṁ kulasyārthe grāmasyārthe kulaṁ tyajet | grāmaṁ janapadasyārthe ātmārthe pr̥thivīṁ tyajet ||

Meaning: Sacrifice or subordinate individual interest to that of the family, family interest to that of the village, the interest of the village to that of the nation; And renounce all worldly interest if you are inclined towards atmatattva.

The last one is adhyatmik and concerns those who believe in Svarga and Moksha from rebirth. But the first three concern life in this world. That is why this value has inspired individuals as well as national life.

Swami Vivekananda recounted that renunciation and seva (सेवा | selfless service) have been our main national ideals. In this regard he said,

The National ideals of India are renunciation and service. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest will take care of itself.

The Indian nation cannot be killed. Deathless it stands, and it will stand so long as that spirit shall remain as the background, so long as her people do not give up their adhyatmikata.

Aye, a glorious destiny, my brethern, as far back as the days of the Upanishads we have thrown the challenge to the world

न धनेन न प्रजया त्यागेनैक अमृतत्त्वमश्नुः | na dhanena na prajayā tyāgenaika amr̥tattvamaśnuḥ |

Meaning: Not by wealth, not by progeny, but by renunciation alone immortality is reached.

We have to resurrect this ideal. Every individual works hard and takes all trouble, not with purely selfish interest but, to secure the happiness of all those who depend on him - his wife, children, aged parents, sisters and brothers. Because, he feels for them and considers that he has a duty towards them; that their interest is his own interest. Similarly, if an individual is also made to realise that all his fellow citizens also belong to his larger family of a nation and that he has the duty to serve them, he is capable of making enormous sacrifice for the nation as well. This leads us to the next important value in Bharatiya Parampara, the value of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ie. World is one family.

वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् || World is One Family[1]

Though it is natural that for historical, cultural, civilizational, linguistic reasons there had always been many nations/states, the basic philosophy that all living beings are children of the Supreme Being is deep rooted. Therefore, anyone who considered someone as his own and others not as his own, was dubbed as petty minded. This value is expressed in the Hitopadesha as follows:

अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् | उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ||

ayaṁ nijaḥ paro veti gaṇanā laghucetasām | udāracaritānāṁ tu vasudhaiva kuṭumbakam ||

Meaning: Those who think "He is mine", "He is not", are petty minded. Those who are large-hearted regard the world as one family.

If the people constituting different nations understand this value, and act in that spirit, there will be friendly and harmonious relationship among the nations of the world and humanity will enjoy greater happiness.

धर्ममूलानि ॥ Fundamentals of Dharma[16]

According to Swami Sivananda, all the virtues enumerated in various ancient granthas as fundamentals or characteristics of dharma and prescribed to be practiced by all are manifestations of four fundamental or cardinal virtues. Namely,

  1. Non-violence (अहिंसा)
  2. Truth (सत्यम्)
  3. Purity (शौचम्)
  4. Self-control (इन्द्रियनिग्रहः)

अहिंसा || Non violence

Patanjali Maharshi, the propounder of Yoga Darshana, recommends that ten virtues should be practised by all people. They are,

Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Brahmacharya (celibacy in thought, word and deed), Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness) constituting Yama or self-restraint. And Shaucha (internal and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of scriptures or recitation of Mantras) and Ishvara-pranidhana (consecration of the fruits of all works to the Lord) constituting Niyama or religious observance.

Ahimsa or non-violence is the most important virtue. That is the reason Patanjali Maharshi has placed it first in Yama. Practice of Ahimsa must be in thought, word and deed. Practice of Ahimsa is not impotence, cowardice or weakness. It is the highest form of valour. Its practice demands immense patience, forbearance and endurance, infinite inner spiritual strength and gigantic willpower.

In fact, the one who is firmly rooted in Ahimsa can hope to attain Self-realisation. Because, due to the practice of Ahimsa one develops cosmic love to the maximum extent. Therefore, it eventually leads to realisation of oneness or unity of Self.

Constant vigilance and alertness are also needed in the practice of Ahimsa. If one is careless even for a bit, he/she will be carried away by the force of previous erroneous Samskaras and impulses and will become a victim of Himsa, despite of good intentions.

सत्यम् || Truth

Like Ahimsa, Truth also must be observed in thought, word and deed. If one is established in truth, all other virtues will come along by themselves. The Itihasa and Puranas enumerate this through the example of Raja Harishchandra who gave up everything for the sake of truth. Another example is that of Yudhishthira who was also very much devoted to truth.

There is no virtue higher than truth. It is the practice of Satya and Ahimsa that constitute the crown and glory of an ethical life. In the Taittiriya Upanishad, in the convocation address to students, the preceptor says, सत्यं वद | satyaṁ vada | Meaning, Speak the truth.

Thus, the entire world is rooted in truth. Dharma is rooted in truth. And honesty, justice, straightforwardness and sincerity are only modifications or expressions of truth.

शौचम् || Purity

Purity comprises of both external purity and internal purity ie. Purity of body and mind. In fact, purity of body is preliminary to purity of mind. Moreover, the body is considered the temple of the Supreme Being. Therefore, it should be kept clean by bathing daily and wearing clean dress.

And to make the mind pure, restriction in diet is considered best. Because food exercises a direct influence on the mind. Rather, mind is made up of the fine essence of food. Therefore, purity of food leads to purity of mind. And it is Sattvik food that makes the mind pure. Because as the food is, so is the mind.

Purity comprises virtues such as frankness, innocence, straightforwardness and absence of all evil thoughts. Naturally, one who is endowed with purity finds it easy to tread the spiritual path.

इन्द्रियनिग्रहः || Self-control

Self-control implies both control of the body and control of the mind. It does not mean self-torture. It means leading a well-regulated and disciplined life by keeping all the senses under perfect control. As per the famous Ratha Rupaka, the senses are like turbulent, wild horses; the body is like a chariot; Mind is the reins; while intellect is the driver. And Atman is the Master of the chariot. Therefore, if the senses are not kept under proper control, they will throw the chariot into a deep bottomless pit. It is the one who keeps the reins firm and drives the chariot intelligently by controlling the horses (senses), who will reach the destination (Moksha or the Abode of Eternal Bliss) safely.

Self-control implies self-sacrifice, annihilation of egoism, patience, endurance, forbearance and humility. One is required to overcome attachment, anger, hatred, evil, lust, greed, pride, delusion, jealousy, egoism, etc. for the same. It is said that,

  • Attachment (रागः | Raga) is overcome by dispassion (वैराग्यम् | Vairagya). It dawns when the defects of sensual life (Mithya drshti) such as birth, death, disease, old age, pain, sorrow, etc. become evident.
  • Anger and hatred is overcome by forgiveness (क्षमा), love and selfless service.
  • Evil is overcome by good.
  • Lust is overcome by the practice of brahmacharya, regular japa and meditation.
  • Greed is conquered by charity, generosity and detached actions.
  • Pride is conquered by humility.
  • Delusion is conquered by the ability to discriminate and enquiry.
  • Jealousy is overcome by magnanimity, atmabhava and nobility.
  • Egoism is conquered by tyaga, self-surrender, renunciation of the Self and meditation on the non-dual, eternal, self-luminous brahman or the innermost Self who is the immortal, inner ruler.

संहृतिः ॥ Synopsis[1]

All the values of life enumerated above that evolved in this land of Bharata are collectively called Dharma or Sanatana Dharma. And their practice gave rise to the culture ie. 'Bharatiya Samskrti'. And it is through this cultural bond that the people of Bharata became a Nation and are surviving as a Nation. Because, in Bharata, national idealism was primary. This aspect has been brought forth even by the apex court in India, the Supreme Court. While expounding the basis which has made the people living in this vast sub-continent a nation, it says,

The history of India over the past centuries bears witness to the fact that India was at no time a single political unit. Even during the reign of the Maurya dynasty, though a large part of the country was under the sovereignty of the Maurya kings, there were considerable portions of the territory which were under the rule of independent kingdoms. So also during the Mughal rule which extended over large parts of the territory of India, there were independent rulers who enjoyed political sovereignty over the territories of their respective kingdoms. It is an interesting fact of history that India was forged into a nation neither on account of common language nor on account of the continued existence of a single political regime over its territories but on account of a common culture evolved over the centuries. It is cultural unity - something more fundamental and enduring than any other bond which may unite the people of a country together - which has welded this country into a nation.

Thus, it is the samskrti (culture) which was evolved in this country from times immemorial that not only welded the people of this country into a nation but also made it invincible. And consequently, the country has survived despite all odds.

With this background if we examine the values of life evolved in Bharata which are collectively called Dharma, they are of universal application. It is indeed Manava Dharma and not a religion. The instructions in these values such as

  1. Everyone should tell the truth
  2. No one should indulge in violence against other living beings
  3. No one should acquire illegitimate wealth
  4. Everyone should establish control over their senses
  5. There should be purity in thought, speech and deed
  6. Everyone should render seva (सेवा | selfless service) to other individuals
  7. Every one should abstain from selfishness and greed.
  8. The world should be regarded as one family

can be considered as applicable to all human beings. They are of eternal value and can ingrain in people character and love towards all living beings. It is a rich heritage and should be inculcated in all citizens. Because, ingraining these values in every individual through education is the solution to all the evils which the world including Bharata is now facing. The resurrection of these values can provide remedy for all the ills afflicting not only Bharata's National life but also the entire humanity. Hence, it is our duty to resurrect, protect and preserve "Dharmika Values" not only to safeguard national interest but also in the interest of humanity as a whole.


  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 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 Justice Mandagadde Rama Jois (1997), Dharma: The Global Ethic, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
  2. Bhagavad Gita, Adhyaya 2.
  3. Vishnu Purana, Amsha 2, Adhyaya 3.
  4. Manusmrti, Adhyaya 10.
  5. Rgveda, Mandala 1, Sukta 164.
  6. Bhagavad Gita, Adhyaya 12.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Manusmrti, Adhyaya 3.
  8. Manusmrti, Adhyaya 9.
  9. 9.0 9.1 M.Rama Jois (2004), Trivarga, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
  10. Manusmrti, Adhyaya 2.
  11. Rgveda, Mandala 5, Sukta 60
  12. Rigveda, Mandala 10, Sukta 191.
  13. Manusmrti, Adhyaya 4.
  14. Ishavasyopanishad.
  15. Yajnavalkya Smrti, Prayashchitta Adhyaya, Prayashchitta Prakarana.
  16. Swami Sivananda (1999), All About Hinduism, Uttar Pradesh: The Divine Life Society.