Pramanas for Dharma (धर्मप्रमाणानि)

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The Vedas are the source of all धर्मः ॥ Dharma (in moral, social, religious, judicial, and spiritual sense) that have been in practice since times immemorial and hence is called सनातन-धर्मः ॥ Sanatana Dharma (eternal dharma). The word Dharma is used erroneously and loosely in the sense of sanctioning various unrighteous deeds in the name of changing society and times by different people all over the globe.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

धर्मः ॥ Dharma 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 rishis since times immemorial. It would be futile to attempt to give any definition of the word. It can only be explained and has a wide variety of meanings. The extensive vedic literature has shown the irrevocable link between Dharma and Vedas, a few instances are presented here.

व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology

The samskrit word वेदः || veda (knowledge, wisdom) is derived from the धातुः (root) विद् (vid) - ज्ञाने (वेत्ति) in the meaning "to know" (Dhatupatha 1064)[1]. Apart from this, Veda is derived from विद् (vid) धातुः with the addition of भावर्थकः ॥ Bhavarthaka, कर्मार्थकः || Karmarthaka and करणार्थकः || Karanarthaka "धम" प्रत्ययः || Dhama suffix, to form the meanings "knowledge, pertaining to knowledge and instrument of knowledge" respectively (See Page 2 footnote 1 for further reference).[2]

वेद्यन्ते ज्ञाप्यन्ते धर्मादिपुरुशार्थचतुष्ठयोपाया येन स वेदः।

vedyante jñāpyante dharmādipuruśārthacatuṣṭhayopāyā yena sa vedaḥ।

Meaning: That which is the means for obtaining the knowledge of Dharma and other (Artha, Kama and Moksha) पुरुषार्थ-s ॥ purusharthas is called Veda.[2] Thus, the inseparable link between Dharma and Vedas is well established by scholars in many instances.

स्मृति-s ॥ Smritis

 मनुस्मृतिः ॥ Manusmriti

Manusmriti has attached great importance to the Vedas and primarily advocates that the source of Dharma are the Vedas.

वेदोऽखिलो धर्ममूलं स्मृतिशीले च तद्विदाम् । आचारश्चैव साधूनां आत्मनस्तुष्टिरेव च । । २.६ । । (Manu. Smri. 2.6)[3][4]

vedo'khilo dharmamūlaṃ smṛtiśīle ca tadvidām । ācāraścaiva sādhūnāṃ ātmanastuṣṭireva ca । । 2.6 । ।(Manu. Smri. 2.6)

Meaning: Indeed ! Vedas are the source of all Dharmas. Secondly its source is attributed to tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who follow the Veda, thirdly, to the customs of holy men and finally आत्मनस्तुष्टिः || Atmasantushti (satisfaction of the inner self).[1][5]

धर्मजिज्ञासानां प्रमाणं परमं श्रुतिः ॥ (Manu. Smri. 2.3)[3]

dharmajijñāsānāṃ pramāṇaṃ paramaṃ śrutiḥ ॥ (Manu. Smri. 2.3)

Meaning : For those greatly interested seekers of Dharma, the Vedas (श्रुति-s || Shrutis) are the highest authorities.[5] That the Vedas are the very treasure house of all Dharma, i.e. religion, morality, righteousness, and good conduct, was unequivocally and unquestionably proclaimed by मनुः ॥ Manu, the first Law-giver after the Vedas as follows

बिभर्ति सर्वभूतानि वेदशास्त्रं सनातनम् । तस्मादेतत्परं मन्ये यज्जन्तोरस्य साधनम् । । १२.९९ । । (Manu. Smri. 12.99)[6]

bibharti sarvabhūtāni vedaśāstraṃ sanātanam । tasmādetatparaṃ manye yajjantorasya sādhanam । । 12.99 । ।

Meaning: The eternal Veda shastra upholds or protects all beings (by being their flawless guideline). Those endeavoring for the welfare of all beings, regard Vedas as their supreme authoritative instrument in achieving it.

याज्ञवल्क्य-स्मृतिः ॥ Yajnavalkya Smriti

The Yajnavalkya Smriti, on which is based the present day Hindu Law, claims it's foundation on Vedas. According to Brhadyogi-Yajnavalkya-Smriti (Page No. 11 of Ved aur Vedarth)[5][7][8]

न वेदशास्त्रादन्यत्तु किंचिच्छास्त्रं हि विद्यते । निःसृतं सर्वशास्त्रं तु वेदशास्त्रात् सनातनम् ॥ (Brha. Smri . 12.1)

na vedaśāstrādanyattu kiṃcicchāstraṃ hi vidyate । niḥsṛtaṃ sarvaśāstraṃ tu vedaśāstrāt sanātanam ॥ (Brha. Smri . 12.1)

Meaning : There are no greater shastras other than the Vedas, as all shastras arose from the eternal Veda shastras only.

अत्रि-स्मृतिः ॥ Atri Smriti

Atri Smriti attributes the highest position of a गुरुः ॥ Guru (teacher) to Vedas[5]

नास्ति वेदात् परं शास्त्रं, नास्ति मातु:समो गुरु: || (Atri. Smri. 5.148)

nāsti vedāt paraṃ śāstraṃ, nāsti mātu:samo guru: || (Atri. Smri. 5.148)

Meaning: There is no other shastra greater than Vedas, just as there is no greater Guru than the mother (to the child).

उपनिषदः ॥ Upanishads

मुण्डक-उपनिषद् ॥ Mundaka Upanishad

The Upanishad texts base their spiritual philosophy on Vedas and describe the origin of vedas to be from the परब्रह्मन् ॥ Parabrahma (Infinite Consciousness).[5][9]

तस्मादृच: साम यजूंषि दीक्षा || (Mund. Upan. 2.1.6)[10]

tasmādṛca: sāma yajūṃṣi dīkṣā || (Mund. Upan. 2.1.6)

Meaning: From Him (the Parabrahma) arise the the mantras of ऋक् ॥ Rig, यजुस् ॥ Yajus and साम ॥ Sama vedas.[5]

बृहदारण्यक-उपनिषद् ॥ Brhdaranyaka Upanishad

....एतस्य वा महतो भूतस्य नि:श्वसितमेतद् यद् ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेद: सामवेदोऽथर्वाङ्गिरस .... || (Brih. Upan. 4.5.11)[11]

....etasya vā mahato bhūtasya ni:śvasitametad yad ṛgvedo yajurveda: sāmavedo'tharvāṅgirasa .... || (Brih. Upan. 4.5.11)

Meaning: From the breath (exhalation) of this Supreme Being have arisen the ऋग्वेदः ॥ Rigveda, यजुर्वेदः ॥ Yajurveda, सामवेदः ॥ Samaveda and अथर्वनवेदः ॥ Atharvanaveda.[5]

महाभारतम् ॥ Mahabharata

Maharshi Vedavyasa in Mahabharata extols that Vedas are the path of life for all beings.

अनादिनिधनानित्या, वागुत्सृष्टा स्वयम्भुवा | आदौ वेदमयी दिव्या, यत: सर्वा: प्रवृत्तय: || (Maha. Shan. 232.24)[12]

Meaning : In the beginning of Sristi, the self existent Creator, revealed the Eternal and Divine Vedas, as they are they show the path for all activities of every being.[5]

षड्-दर्शनानि ॥ Shad Darshanas

It is to be noted that five of the Shad Darshana shastras, namely Saankhya, Vaiseshika, Nyaya, Mimaamsa (purva and uttara) and Yoga are deeply rooted on vedic principles, hence called Astika darshanas according to many scholars, though some believe that Samkhya is not an Astika Darshana. Charvaka or lokayuta is the only darshana which does not accept vedas as source of knowledge, hence called as Nastika darshana.

न्याय-दर्शनम् ॥ Nyaya Darshana

Gautama maharshi gave the Nyaya shastra to the world. It is also classified as one of the Shadvedangas which is very vital for the understanding of Vedas.

मन्त्रायुर्वेदप्रामाण्यवच्च तत्प्रामाण्यमाप्तप्रामाण्यात् || (Nyay. Shas. 2.1.69)[13]

Meaning: Just like the mantras (spells) counteract the poisons and Ayurveda (medical science) prescribes reliable remedies (for diseases and prevention of disease) with authority (as they are given by the maharshis and sages who are authoritative about the subjects), so also Vedas are standard (unequivocal guidelines) as the mantra drastas or rushis to whom they were revealed are the righteous sages.[5]

वैशेषिक-दर्शनम् ॥ Vaisheshika Darshana

Kanada maharshi who authored the Vaisheshika shastra also considers that the Vedas were revealed by Supreme Being

तद्वचनादाम्नायस्य प्रामाण्यम् । वैशेषिक-१,१.३ । (Vais. Shas. 1.1.3)[14]

In expounding पदार्थानां धर्मं - nature of matter, Kanada took for the pramana or source of valid knowledge the Vedas (Amnaya)

मीमांसा ॥ Mimamsa

Purva mimamsa deals extensively with Karmakaanda while Uttara mimamsa deals with Mokshakanda of vedas. Mimamsa attained significance as many vedic interpretations are based and debated on the basis of the logic and rules set forth by this shastra.

नित्यस्तु स्याद् दर्शनस्य परार्थत्वात् || (Mima. Shas. 1.1.18)

धर्मः ॥ Dharma

Mahabharata which is acclaimed as the मानव कर्तव्य शास्त्र || Manava kartavya sastra, has a discussion of this topic in the form of conversation between Yudhistira and Bhishma thus (Pt. Ramnarayan's Mahabharata: Volume 4[15] and Vol 5 Shanti Parva Page 323)[16]

तादृशोऽयमनुप्रश्नो यत्र धर्मः सुदुर्लभः । दुष्करः प्रतिसंख्यातुं तत्केनात्र व्यवस्यति ॥(Maha. Shanti. 109. 9)

प्रभावार्थाय भूतानां धर्मप्रवचनं कृतम् । यः स्यात्प्रभवसंयुक्तः स धर्म इति निश्चयः ॥ (Maha. Shanti. 109. 11)

tādṛśo'yamanupraśno yatra dharmaḥ sudurlabhaḥ | duṣkaraḥ pratisaṃkhyātuṃ tatkenātra vyavasyati || (Maha. Shanti. 109.9)

prabhāvārthāya bhūtānāṃ dharmapravacanaṃ kṛtam | yaḥ syātprabhavasaṃyuktaḥ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ || (Maha. Shanti. 109.11)

Meaning : It is most difficult to define Dharma. Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings. Therefore, that which helps ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma. The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma.

धारणाद् धर्म इत्याहुर्धर्मो धारयते प्रजाः | यत् स्याद् धारणसंयुक्तं स धर्म इति निश्चयः || (Maha. Karna. 69-58)

dhāraṇād dharma ityāhurdharmo dhārayate prajāḥ | yat syād dhāraṇasaṃyuktaṃ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ || (Maha. Karna. 69-58)

Meaning : The above verse eulogizes Dharma as follows Dharma sustains the society, Dharma maintains the social order, Dharma ensures the well being and progress of humanity, Dharma is surely that which fulfills these objectives

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 God and heaven to attain मोक्ष || moksha (eternal bliss). The necessity of scrupulous practice of Dharma is forcefully expressed in Manusmriti thus:

धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः | तस्माध्दर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत्  || (Manu 6-11-15)[4]

dharma eva hato hanti dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ | tasmādhdarmo na hantavyo mā no dharmo hato'vadhīt || (Manu 6-11-15)

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.

 संवादः ॥ Discussion

There are different versions and ways in which many slokas and mantras have been interpreted by different scholars across ages. Enforcement of Dharma was of prime importance since Vedic era.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Patel, Gautam. (1999). Traditional Vedic Interpretations. New Delhi : Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan
  2. 2.0 2.1 Singh, Ahilya. (2010) PhD Thesis Title: Pracheen bharat mein aarthik jeevan prarambh se vaidik kaal tak. V. B. S. Purvanchal University.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Manusmriti (Adhyaya 2)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kumar, S. (1996). The Vishuddha Manusmriti. Delhi:Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Acharya Dharma Deva Vidya Martanda. (2002). The Rigveda, with Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati's commentary, English translation, Vol I. New Delhi:Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha.
  6. Manusmriti (Adhyaya 12)
  7. Shastri, Jwalanth Kumar. (2009) Ved aur vedarth Rajasthan: Sri Ghudhmal Prahladkumar Arya Dharmarth Nyasa
  8. Gharote. M. L. (1982) Brhadyogi-yagnavalkya-smriti, English Translation Lonavla : Kaivalyadhama S. M. Y. M. Samiti
  9. Swami Sharvananda (1920) Mundaka and Mandukya Upanishads, Madras:Sri Ramakrishna Math
  10. The Works of Sri Sankaracharya (1910) The Upanishad Bhashya - Munda, Mandukya, & Aitereya. Vol 5 Srirangam: Sri Vani Vilas Press
  11. Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 4)
  12. Shri Mahabharatam (Shanti Parva)
  13. Nyaya Shastra of Goutama
  14. Vaisheshika Sutras
  15. Shastri. Pt Ramnarayan. (1955). Mahabharata Vol.4. Gorakhpur:Gita Press.
  16. Shastri. Pt Ramnarayan. (1955). Mahabharata Vol.5. Gorakhpur:Gita Press.