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Dharma can be broadly viewed as twofold.
- 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.
- 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.
Thus, Dharma assumes various forms. It manifests as :
- Sanatana Dharma (सनातनधर्मः । Eternal Law)
- Samanya Dharma (सामान्यधर्मः । General duty)
- Vishesha Dharma (विशेषधर्मः । Special duty)
- Varnashrama Dharma (वर्णधर्मः । Varna dharma and आश्रमधर्मः | Ashrama dharma)
- Svadharma (स्वधर्मः । one’s own duty)
- Kula Dharma or Kautumbika dharma (कुलधर्मः or कौटुम्बिकधर्मः । duty towards family)
- Samajika dharma (सामाजिकधर्मः । duty towards society)
- Rashtra dharma (राष्ट्रधर्मः । duty towards the nation)
- Yuga Dharma (युगधर्मः । duty of the Age)
- Manava Dharma (मानवधर्मः । duty towards mankind)
- Purusha Dharma (पुरुषधर्मः । duty of a man)
- Stri Dharma (स्त्रीधर्मः । duty of a woman)
- Raja Dharma (राजधर्मः । duty of a Raja)
- Praja Dharma (प्रजाधर्मः । duty of subjects)
- Pravrtti Dharma (प्रवृत्तिधर्मः । duty in worldly life)
- Nivrtti Dharma (निवृत्तिधर्मः । duty in spiritual life)
- Svabhava Dharma स्वभावः । duty in character)
- Achara Dharma (आचारधर्मः । duty in behaviour)
- Apaddharma (आपद्धर्मः । duties during exegencies)
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).
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.
- Duty towards others
- A Code of Conduct: Samanya Dharma (for all human beings) and Raja Dharma (Duty of Rulers)
- Respect for Womanhood
- Equality (Samanata)
- Gratitude (Kritajnata)
- Compassion (Daya)
- Simple Life -Sparing use of Natural Resources
- Service (Seva -Paropakara)
- Sacrifice (Tyaga)
- World is one Family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)
Aptly, in modern thought processes, the dharmika paradigm encompasses
- integral unity (dharmika tattvajnana)
- perspective of life (dharmika jeevan drishti)
- codes of conduct (dharmika vyavahar sutra)
- 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.
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.
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.
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).
- Swami Sivananda (1999), All About Hinduism, Uttar Pradesh: The Divine Life Society.
- Arun J. Mehta (2011), Vedic Dharma, Edited by B.V.K.Sastry.
- Justice M.Rama Jois, Dharma The Global Ethic.
- Mandagadde, Rama Jois. (1997) Dharma : The Global Ethic Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
- Rajiv Malhotra. (2011) Being Different
- Justice M.Rama Jois, Dharma The Global Ethic.
- Swami Sivananda (1999), All About Hinduism, Uttar Pradesh: The Divine Life Society.
- Justice M.Rama Jois, Dharma The Global Ethic.