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{{about|the concept found in Indian religions|}}{{short description|Key concept in Indian philosophy and religion, with multiple meanings}}{{multiple image|perrow=2|total_width=250|caption_align=center| title = Dharma
caption1 = Rituals and rites of passageGavin Flood (1994), Hinduism, in Jean Holm, John Bowker (Editors) – Rites of Passages, {{ISBN|1-85567-102-6}}, Chapter 3; Quote – "Rites of passage are dharma in action."; "Rites of passage, a category of rituals,..." caption2 = Yoga, personal behaviourssee:
  • David Frawley (2009), Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization, {{ISBN|978-0-9149-5581-8}}; Quote – "Yoga is a dharmic approach to the spiritual life...";
  • Mark Harvey (1986), The Secular as Sacred?, Modern Asian Studies, 20(2), pp. 321–331.
caption3 = Virtues such as Ahimsa (non-violence)see below:
  • J. A. B. van Buitenen (1957), "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, 7(1/2), pp. 33–40;
  • James Fitzgerald (2004), "Dharma and its Translation in the Mahābhārata", Journal of Indian philosophy, 32(5), pp. 671–685; Quote – "virtues enter the general topic of dharma as 'common, or general, dharma', ..."
caption4 = Law and justiceBernard S. Jackson (1975), "From dharma to law", The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Summer, 1975), pp. 490–512. caption5 = Sannyasa and stages of lifeHarold Coward (2004), "Hindu bioethics for the twenty-first century", JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 291(22), pp. 2759–2760; Quote – "Hindu stages of life approach (ashrama dharma)..." caption6 = Duties, such as learning from teacherssee:
  • Austin Creel (1975), "The Reexamination of Dharma in Hindu Ethics", Philosophy East and West, 25(2), pp. 161–173; Quote – "Dharma pointed to duty, and specified duties..";
  • Gisela Trommsdorff (2012), Development of "agentic" regulation in cultural context: the role of self and world views, Child Development Perspectives, 6(1), pp. 19–26.; Quote – "Neglect of one's duties (dharma – sacred duties toward oneself, the family, the community, and humanity) is seen as an indicator of immaturity."
}}Dharma ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|d|ɑːr|m|ə}};{{citation|last=Wells|first=John C.|year=2008|title=Longman Pronunciation Dictionary|edition=3rd|publisher=Longman|isbn=9781405881180}} , {{IPA-sa|dʱɐɽmɐ|pron|Dharma.ogg}}; , translit. dhamma) is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and others.WEB,weblink Dharma, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016-08-18, There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages.In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible,{{refn|group=note|name="ODWR-Dharma"|From the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions: "In Hinduism, dharma is a fundamental concept, referring to the order and custom which make life and a universe possible, and thus to the behaviours appropriate to the maintenance of that order.""Dharma", The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions.}} and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living".see:
  • "Dharma", The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. (2013), Columbia University Press, Gale, {{ISBN|978-0787650155}};
  • Steven Rosen (2006), Essential Hinduism, Praeger, {{ISBN|0-275-99006-0}}, Chapter 3. In Buddhism, dharma means "cosmic law and order", and is also applied to the teachings of Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomena".David Kalupahana. The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY Press, 1986, pp. 15–16.{{refn|group=note|name="DK"|David Kalupahana: "The old Indian term dharma was retained by the Buddha to refer to phenomena or things. However, he was always careful to define this dharma as "dependently arisen phenomena" (paticca-samuppanna-dhamma) ... In order to distinguish this notion of dhamma from the Indian conception where the term dharma meant reality (atman), in an ontological sense, the Buddha utilised the conception of result or consequence or fruit (attha, Sk. artha) to bring out the pragmatic meaning of dhamma."}} Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.
The word dharma was already in use in the historical Vedic religion, and its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia. The ancient Tamil moral text of Tirukkural is solely based on aṟam, the Tamil term for dharma {{citation-needed|date=August 2019}}. The antonym of dharma is adharma.


File:Dhamma inscription.jpg|thumb|The Prakrit word "Dha-ṃ-ma"/(wikt:𑀥𑀁𑀫|𑀥𑀁𑀫) (Sanskrit: Dharma (wikt:धर्म#Sanskrit|धर्म)) in the Brahmi script, as inscribed by Emperor Ashoka in his Edicts of AshokaEdicts of AshokaThe Classical Sanskrit noun dharma ((wikt:धर्म#Sanskrit|धर्म)) or the Prakrit Dhaṃma ((wikt:𑀥𑀁𑀫|𑀥𑀁𑀫)) are a derivation from the root dhṛ, which means "to hold, maintain, keep",{{refn|group=note|name="Monier Williams"|Monier Williams, A Sanskrit Dictionary (1899): "to hold, bear (also bring forth), carry, maintain, preserve, keep, possess, have, use, employ, practise, undergo"Monier Willams.}}. Hence, dharma holds one falling down or falling to hell. Therefore, takes the meaning of "what is established or firm", and hence "law". It is derived from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta.{{sfn|Day|1982|pp=42–45}}In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, {{IAST|dhárman-}}, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm" (in the literal sense of prods or poles). Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter" (of deities). It is semantically similar to the Greek Themis ("fixed decree, statute, law").JOURNAL, Brereton, Joel P., December 2004, Dhárman In The Rgveda, Journal of Indian Philosophy, English, 32, 5–6, 449–489, 10.1007/s10781-004-8631-8, 0022-1791, In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic: {{IAST|dharma-}}.The word dharma derives from Proto-Indo-European root
  • (wikt:Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/dÊ°er-|dÊ°er-) ("to hold"),BOOK, Helmut, Rix, Helmut Rix, Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben, 2001, German, 145, Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2nd, Wiesbaden, Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben, which in Sanskrit is reflected as class-1 root{{clarify|date=January 2018|What is a "class-1 root"? I find no article on that topic and no mention of it in the article about Sanskrit. Does that correspond with the numbering in the "Sonority hierarchy" section of the "Proto-Indo-European root" article?}} (wikt:धरतिSanskrit|dhá¹›). Etymologically it is related to Avestan dar- ("to hold"), Latin (wikt:firmusLatin|firmus) ("steadfast, stable, powerful"), Lithuanian (wikt:derÄ—tiLithuanian|derė́ti) ("to be suited, fit"), Lithuanian dermÄ— ("agreement")Karl Brugmann, Elements of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic languages, Volume III, B. Westermann & Co., New York, 1892, p. 100. and darna ("harmony") and Old Church Slavonic (wikt:дръжатиOld Church Slavonic|drъžati) ("to hold, possess").
  • Classical Sanskrit word dharmas would formally match with Latin o-stem (wikt:firmusLatin|firmus) from Proto-Indo-European dÊ°er-mo-s "holding", were it not for its historical development from earlier Rigvedic n-stem.
In Classical Sanskrit, and in the Vedic Sanskrit of the Atharvaveda, the stem is thematic: {{IAST|dhárma-}} (Devanāgarī: धर्म). In Prakrit and Pāli, it is rendered dhamma. In some contemporary Indian languages and dialects it alternatively occurs as dharm.
Ancient translations
When the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka wanted in the 3rd century BCE to translate the word "Dharma" (he used Prakrit word Dhaṃma) into Greek and Aramaic,WEB,weblink How did the 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharata' come to be (and what has 'dharma' got to do with it)?, he used the Greek word Eusebeia (εὐσέβεια, piety, spiritual maturity, or godliness) in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription and the Kandahar Greek Edicts, and the Aramaic word Qsyt ("Truth") in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription.BOOK, Hiltebeitel, Alf, Dharma: Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative, 2011, Oxford University Press, USA, 9780195394238, 36–37,weblink en,


Dharma is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion.JOURNAL, Dhand, Arti, 17 December 2002, The Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma: Quizzing the Ideals of Hinduism, Journal of Religious Ethics, en, 30, 3, 351, 10.1111/1467-9795.00113, 1467-9795, It has multiple meanings in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is difficult to provide a single concise definition for dharma, as the word has a long and varied history and straddles a complex set of meanings and interpretations.J. A. B. Van Buitenen, "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, Volume 7, Number 1/2 (April–July 1957), p. 36. There is no equivalent single-word synonym for dharma in western languages.See:
  • Ludo Rocher (2003), The Dharmasastra, Chapter 4, in Gavin Flood (Editor), The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism, {{ISBN|978-0631215356}}.
  • Alban G. Widgery, "The Principles of Hindu Ethics", International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Jan. 1930), pp. 232–245.
There have been numerous, conflicting attempts to translate ancient Sanskrit literature with the word dharma into German, English and French. The concept, claims Paul Horsch, has caused exceptional difficulties for modern commentators and translators. For example, while Grassmann'sHermann Grassmann, Worterbuch zum Rig-veda (German Edition), Motilal Banarsidass, {{ISBN|978-8120816367}} translation of Rig-veda identifies seven different meanings of dharma, Karl Friedrich Geldner in his translation of the Rig-veda employs 20 different translations for dharma, including meanings such as "law", "order", "duty", "custom", "quality", and "model", among others. However, the word dharma has become a widely accepted loanword in English, and is included in all modern unabridged English dictionaries.The root of the word dharma is "dhri", which means "to support, hold, or bear". It is the thing that regulates the course of change by not participating in change, but that principle which remains constant.Steven Rosen (2006), Essential Hinduism, Praeger, {{ISBN|0-275-99006-0}}, pp. 34–45. Monier-Williams, the widely cited resource for definitions and explanation of Sanskrit words and concepts of Hinduism, offerssee:
  • "Dharma" Monier Monier-Williams, Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (2008 revision), pp. 543–544;
  • Carl Cappeller (1999), Monier-Williams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Etymological and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Asian Educational Services, {{ISBN|978-8120603691}}, pp. 510–512. numerous definitions of the word dharma, such as that which is established or firm, steadfast decree, statute, law, practice, custom, duty, right, justice, virtue, morality, ethics, religion, religious merit, good works, nature, character, quality, property. Yet, each of these definitions is incomplete, while the combination of these translations does not convey the total sense of the word. In common parlance, dharma means "right way of living" and "path of rightness".
The meaning of the word dharma depends on the context, and its meaning has evolved as ideas of Hinduism have developed through history. In the earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, dharma meant cosmic law, the rules that created the universe from chaos, as well as rituals; in later Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and the Epics, the meaning became refined, richer, and more complex, and the word was applied to diverse contexts.see:
  • English translated version by Jarrod Whitaker (2004): Horsch, Paul, "From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma", Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5–6, pp. 423–448; Original peer reviewed publication in German: Horsch, Paul, "Vom Schoepfungsmythos zum Weltgesetz", in Asiatische Studien: Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Asiankunde, Volume 21 (Francke: 1967), pp. 31–61;
  • English translated version by Donald R. Davis (2006): Paul Hacker, "Dharma in Hinduism", Journal of Indian Philosophy", Volume 34, Issue 5, pp. 479–496; Original peer reviewed publication in German: Paul Hacker, "Dharma im Hinduismus" in Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft'' 49 (1965): pp. 93–106.
In certain contexts, dharma designates human behaviours considered necessary for order of things in the universe, principles that prevent chaos, behaviours and action necessary to all life in nature, society, family as well as at the individual level.see:
  • "...the order and custom which make life and a universe possible, and thus to the behaviours appropriate to the maintenance of that order". citation in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions
  • Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, 2007.{{refn|group=note|name="ODWR-Dharma"}} Dharma encompasses ideas such as duty, rights, character, vocation, religion, customs and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright.see:
  • Albrecht Wezler, "Dharma in the Veda and the Dharmaśāstras", Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5–6, pp. 629–654
  • Johannes Heesterman (1978). "Veda and Dharma", in W. D. O'Flaherty (Ed.), The Concept of Duty in South Asia, New Delhi: Vikas, {{ISBN|978-0728600324}}, pp. 80–95
  • K. L. Seshagiri Rao (1997), "Practitioners of Hindu Law: Ancient and Modern", Fordham Law Review, Volume 66, pp. 1185–1199.
The antonym of dharma is adharma (Sanskrit: अधर्म),see
  • अधर्मा "adharma", Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Germany (2011)
  • adharma Monier Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, University of Koeln, Germany (2009). meaning that which is "not dharma". As with dharma, the word adharma includes and implies many ideas; in common parlance, adharma means that which is against nature, immoral, unethical, wrong or unlawful.see:
  • Gavin Flood (1998), "Making moral decisions", in Paul Bowen (Editor), Themes and issues in Hinduism, {{ISBN|978-0304338511}}, Chapter 2, pp. 30–54 and 151–152;
  • Coward, H. (2004), "Hindu bioethics for the twenty-first century", JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 291(22), pp. 2759–2760;
  • J. A. B. Van Buitenen, "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, Volume 7, Number 1/2 (Apr. – Jul., 1957), p. 37.
In Buddhism, dharma incorporates the teachings and doctrines of the founder of Buddhism, the Buddha.


According to the authoritative book History of Dharmasastra, in the hymns of the Rigveda the word dharma appears at least fifty-six times, as an adjective or noun. According to Paul Horsch,Horsch, Paul, "From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma", Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp. 423–448. the word dharma has its origin in the myths of Vedic Hinduism. The Brahman (whom all the gods make up), claim the hymns of the Rig Veda, created the universe from chaos, they hold (dhar-) the earth and sun and stars apart, they support (dhar-) the sky away and distinct from earth, and they stabilise (dhar-) the quaking mountains and plains.RgVeda 6.70.1, 8.41.10, 10.44.8, for secondary source see Karl Friedrich Geldner, Der Rigveda in Auswahl (2 vols.), Stuttgart; and Harvard Oriental Series, 33–36, Bd. 1–3: 1951. The gods, mainly Indra, then deliver and hold order from disorder, harmony from chaos, stability from instability – actions recited in the Veda with the root of word dharma. In hymns composed after the mythological verses, the word dharma takes expanded meaning as a cosmic principle and appears in verses independent of gods. It evolves into a concept, claims Paul Horsch, that has a dynamic functional sense in Atharvaveda for example, where it becomes the cosmic law that links cause and effect through a subject. Dharma, in these ancient texts, also takes a ritual meaning. The ritual is connected to the cosmic, and "dharmani" is equated to ceremonial devotion to the principles that gods used to create order from disorder, the world from chaos.Paul Horsch, "From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma", Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp. 430–431. Past the ritual and cosmic sense of dharma that link the current world to mythical universe, the concept extends to ethical-social sense that links human beings to each other and to other life forms. It is here that dharma as a concept of law emerges in Hinduism.P. Thieme, Gedichte aus dem Rig-Veda, Reclam Universal-Bibliothek Nr. 8930, pp. 52.Paul Horsch, "From Creation Myth to World Law: the Early History of Dharma", Journal of Indian Philosophy, December 2004, Volume 32, Issue 5-6, pp. 430–432.Dharma and related words are found in the oldest Vedic literature of Hinduism, in later Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, and the Epics; the word dharma also plays a central role in the literature of other Indian religions founded later, such as Buddhism and Jainism. According to Brereton, Dharman occurs 63 times in Rig-veda; in addition, words related to Dharman also appear in Rig-veda, for example once as dharmakrt, 6 times as satyadharman, and once as dharmavant, 4 times as dharman and twice as dhariman.Indo-European parallels for "Dharma" are known, but the only Iranian equivalent is Old Persian darmān "remedy", the meaning of which is rather removed from Indo-Aryan dhárman, suggesting that the word "Dharma" did not have a major role in the Indo-Iranian period, and was principally developed more recently under the Vedic tradition.Joel Brereton (2004), "Dharman in the RgVeda", Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 32, pp. 449–489. "There are Indo-European parallels to dhárman (cf. Wennerberg 1981: 95f.), but the only Iranian equivalent is Old Persian darmān 'remedy', which has little bearing on Indo-Aryan dhárman. There is thus no evidence that IIr. *dharman was a significant culture word during the Indo-Iranian period." (p.449) "The origin of the concept of dharman rests in its formation. It is a Vedic, rather than an Indo-Iranian word, and a more recent coinage than many other key religious terms of the Vedic tradition. Its meaning derives directly from dhr 'support, uphold, give foundation to' and therefore 'foundation' is a reasonable gloss in most of its attestations." (p.485) However, it is thought that the Daena of Zoroastrianism, also meaning the "eternal Law" or "religion", is related to Sanskrit "Dharma".BOOK, Morreall, John, Sonn, Tamara, The Religion Toolkit: A Complete Guide to Religious Studies, 2011, John Wiley & Sons, 9781444343717, 324,weblink en, Ideas in parts overlapping to Dharma are found in other ancient cultures: such as Chinese Tao, Egyptian Maat, Sumerian Me.

Eusebeia and dharma

File:AsokaKandahar.jpg|thumb|220px|The Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription is from Indian Emperor Asoka in 258 BC, and found in Afghanistan. The inscription renders the word Dharma in Sanskrit as EusebeiaEusebeiaIn mid-20th century, an inscription of the Indian Emperor Asoka from the year 258 BC was discovered in Afghanistan, the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription. This rock inscription contains Greek and Aramaic text. According to (:de:Paul Hacker|Paul Hacker), on the rock appears a Greek rendering for the Sanskrit word dharma: the word eusebeia.Paul Hacker (1965), "Dharma in Hinduism", Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp. 479–496 (English translated version by Donald R. Davis (2006)). Scholars of Hellenistic Greece explain eusebeia as a complex concept. Eusebia means not only to venerate gods, but also spiritual maturity, a reverential attitude toward life, and includes the right conduct toward one's parents, siblings and children, the right conduct between husband and wife, and the conduct between biologically unrelated people. This rock inscription, concludes Paul Hacker, suggests dharma in India, about 2300 years ago, was a central concept and meant not only religious ideas, but ideas of right, of good, of one's duty toward the human community.Etienne Lamotte, Bibliotheque du Museon 43, Louvain, 1958, p. 249.

Rta, maya and dharma

The evolving literature of Hinduism linked dharma to two other important concepts: Ṛta and Māyā. Ṛta in Vedas is the truth and cosmic principle which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it.Barbara Holdrege (2004), "Dharma" in: Mittal & Thursby (Editors) The Hindu World, New York: Routledge, {{ISBN|0-415-21527-7}}, pp. 213–248. Māyā in Rig-veda and later literature means illusion, fraud, deception, magic that misleads and creates disorder,Māyā Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary, {{ISBN|978-8120603691}} thus is contrary to reality, laws and rules that establish order, predictability and harmony. Paul Horsch suggests Ṛta and dharma are parallel concepts, the former being a cosmic principle, the latter being of moral social sphere; while Māyā and dharma are also correlative concepts, the former being that which corrupts law and moral life, the later being that which strengthens law and moral life.Koller, J. M. (1972), "Dharma: an expression of universal order", Philosophy East and West, 22(2), pp. 136–142.Northrop, F. S. C. (1949), "Naturalistic and cultural foundations for a more effective international law", Yale Law Journal, 59, pp. 1430–1441.Day proposes dharma is a manifestation of Ṛta, but suggests Ṛta may have been subsumed into a more complex concept of dharma, as the idea developed in ancient India over time in a nonlinear manner.{{sfn|Day|1982|pp=42–44}} The following verse from the Rigveda is an example where rta and dharma are linked:


{{Hinduism small}}Dharma is an organising principle in Hinduism that applies to human beings in solitude, in their interaction with human beings and nature, as well as between inanimate objects, to all of cosmos and its parts. It refers to the order and customs which make life and universe possible, and includes behaviours, rituals, rules that govern society, and ethics.{{refn|group=note|name="ODWR-Dharma"}} Hindu dharma includes the religious duties, moral rights and duties of each individual, as well as behaviours that enable social order, right conduct, and those that are virtuous."Dharma", The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed. (2013), Columbia University Press, Gale, {{ISBN|978-0787650155}} Dharma, according to Van Buitenen,J. A. B. Van Buitenen, "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. – Jul., 1957), pp. 33–40 is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is neither the act nor the result, but the natural laws that guide the act and create the result to prevent chaos in the world. It is innate characteristic, that makes the being what it is. It is, claims Van Buitenen, the pursuit and execution of one's nature and true calling, thus playing one's role in cosmic concert. In Hinduism, it is the dharma of the bee to make honey, of cow to give milk, of sun to radiate sunshine, of river to flow. In terms of humanity, dharma is the need for, the effect of and essence of service and interconnectedness of all life.In Hinduism, dharma includes two aspects – sanātana dharma, which is the overall, unchanging and abiding principals of dharma and is not subject to change, and yuga dharma, which is valid for a yuga, an epoch or age as established by Hindu tradition.

In Vedas and Upanishads

The history section of this article discusses the development of dharma concept in Vedas. This development continued in the Upanishads and later ancient scripts of Hinduism. In Upanishads, the concept of dharma continues as universal principle of law, order, harmony, and truth. It acts as the regulatory moral principle of the Universe. It is explained as law of righteousness and equated to satya (Sanskrit: सत्यं, truth), in hymn 1.4.14 of Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, as follows:, p. 481, for discussion: pp. 478–505.Horsch, Paul (translated by Jarrod Whitaker), "From Creation Myth to World Law: The early history of Dharma", Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol 32, pp. 423–448, (2004).}}

In the Epics

The Hindu religion and philosophy, claims Daniel Ingalls,Daniel H. H. Ingalls, "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. – Jul., 1957), pp. 43. places major emphasis on individual practical morality. In the Sanskrit epics, this concern is omnipresent.In the Second Book of Ramayana, for example, a peasant asks the King to do what dharma morally requires of him, the King agrees and does so even though his compliance with the law of dharma costs him dearly. Similarly, dharma is at the centre of all major events in the life of Rama, Sita, and Lakshman in Ramayana, claims Daniel Ingalls.Daniel H. H. Ingalls, "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (April – July 1957), pp. 41–48. Each episode of Ramayana presents life situations and ethical questions in symbolic terms. The issue is debated by the characters, finally the right prevails over wrong, the good over evil. For this reason, in Hindu Epics, the good, morally upright, law-abiding king is referred to as "dharmaraja".The Mahābhārata: Book 11: The Book of the Women; Book 12: The Book of Peace, Part 1 By Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen, James L. Fitzgerald p. 124.In Mahabharata, the other major Indian epic, similarly, dharma is central, and it is presented with symbolism and metaphors. Near the end of the epic, the god Yama, referred to as dharma in the text, is portrayed as taking the form of a dog to test the compassion of Yudishthira, who is told he may not enter paradise with such an animal, but refuses to abandon his companion, for which decision he is then praised by dharma.WEB,weblink The Mahabharata, Book 17: Mahaprasthanika Parva: Section 3, The value and appeal of the Mahabharata is not as much in its complex and rushed presentation of metaphysics in the 12th book, claims Ingalls, because Indian metaphysics is more eloquently presented in other Sanskrit scriptures; the appeal of Mahabharata, like Ramayana, is in its presentation of a series of moral problems and life situations, to which there are usually three answers given, according to Ingalls: one answer is of Bhima, which is the answer of brute force, an individual angle representing materialism, egoism, and self; the second answer is of Yudhishthira, which is always an appeal to piety and gods, of social virtue and of tradition; the third answer is of introspective Arjuna, which falls between the two extremes, and who, claims Ingalls, symbolically reveals the finest moral qualities of man. The Epics of Hinduism are a symbolic treatise about life, virtues, customs, morals, ethics, law, and other aspects of dharma.There is considerable amount of literature on dharma-related discussion in Hindu Epics: of Egoism versus Altruism, Individualism versus Social Virtues and Tradition; for examples, see:
  • Johann Jakob Meyer (1989), Sexual life in ancient India, {{ISBN|8120806387}}, Motilal Banarsidass, pp. 92–93; Quote – "In Indian literature, especially in Mahabharata over and over again is heard the energetic cry – Each is alone. None belongs to anyone else, we are all but strangers to strangers; (...), none knows the other, the self belongs only to self. Man is born alone, alone he lives, alone he dies, alone he tastes the fruit of his deeds and his ways, it is only his work that bears him company. (...) Our body and spiritual organism is ever changing; what belongs, then, to us? (...) Thus, too, there is really no teacher or leader for anyone, each is his own Guru, and must go along the road to happiness alone. Only the self is the friend of man, only the self is the foe of man; from others nothing comes to him. Therefore what must be done is to honor, to assert one's self..."; Quote – "(in parts of the epic), the most thoroughgoing egoism and individualism is stressed..."
  • Raymond F. Piper (1954), "In Support of Altruism in Hinduism", Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jul., 1954), pp. 178–183
  • J Ganeri (2010), A Return to the Self: Indians and Greeks on Life as Art and Philosophical Therapy, Royal Institute of Philosophy supplement, 85(66), pp. 119–135. There is extensive discussion of dharma at the individual level in the Epics of Hinduism, observes Ingalls; for example, on free will versus destiny, when and why human beings believe in either, ultimately concluding that the strong and prosperous naturally uphold free will, while those facing grief or frustration naturally lean towards destiny.Daniel H. H. Ingalls, "Dharma and Moksa", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 7, No. 1/2 (Apr. – Jul., 1957), pp. 44–45; Quote – "(...)In the Epic, free will has the upper hand. Only when a man's effort is frustrated or when he is overcome with grief does he become a predestinarian (believer in destiny)."; Quote – "This association of success with the doctrine of free will or human effort (purusakara) was felt so clearly that among the ways of bringing about a king's downfall is given the following simple advice: 'Belittle free will to him, and emphasise destiny.{{'"}} (Mahabharata 12.106.20). The Epics of Hinduism illustrate various aspects of dharma, they are a means of communicating dharma with metaphors.Huston Smith, The World Religions, {{ISBN|978-0061660184}}, HarperOne (2009); For summary notes: Background to Hindu Literature {{Webarchive|url= |date=2004-09-22 }}

According to 4th century Vatsyayana

According to Klaus Klostermaier, 4th century Hindu scholar Vātsyāyana explained dharma by contrasting it with adharma.Klaus Klostermaier, A survey of Hinduism, SUNY Press, {{ISBN|0-88706-807-3}}, Chapter 3: "Hindu dharma". Vātsyāyana suggested that dharma is not merely in one's actions, but also in words one speaks or writes, and in thought. According to Vātsyāyana:Jha, Nyayasutras with Vatsyayana Bhasya, 2 vols, Oriental Books (1939).
  1. Adharma of body: hinsa (violence), steya (steal, theft), pratisiddha maithuna (sexual indulgence with someone other than one's partner)
  2. Dharma of body: dana (charity), paritrana (succor of the distressed) and paricarana (rendering service to others)
  3. Adharma from words one speaks or writes: mithya (falsehood), parusa (caustic talk), sucana (calumny) and asambaddha (absurd talk)
  4. Dharma from words one speaks or writes: satya (truth and facts), hitavacana (talking with good intention), priyavacana (gentle, kind talk), svadhyaya (self study)
  5. Adharma of mind: paradroha (ill will to anyone), paradravyabhipsa (covetousness), nastikya (denial of the existence of morals and religiosity)
  6. Dharma of mind: daya (compassion), asprha (disinterestedness), and sraddha (faith in others)

According to Patanjali Yoga

In the Yoga system the dharma is real; in the Vedanta it is unreal.The yoga-system of Patanjali The ancient Hindu doctrine of concentration of mind, embracing the mnemonic rules, called Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press
Dharma is part of yoga, suggests Patanjali; the elements of Hindu dharma are the attributes, qualities and aspects of yoga. Patanjali explained dharma in two categories: yama (restraints) and niyama (observances).The five yama, according to Patanjali, are: abstain from injury to all living creatures, abstain from falsehood (satya), abstain from unauthorised appropriation of things-of-value from another (acastrapurvaka), abstain from coveting or sexually cheating on your partner, and abstain from expecting or accepting gifts from others.The yoga-system of Patanjali Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press, pp. 178–180. The five yama apply in action, speech and mind. In explaining yama, Patanjali clarifies that certain professions and situations may require qualification in conduct. For example, a fisherman must injure a fish, but he must attempt to do this with least trauma to fish and the fisherman must try to injure no other creature as he fishes.The yoga-system of Patanjali Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press, pp. 180–181.The five niyama (observances) are cleanliness by eating pure food and removing impure thoughts (such as arrogance or jealousy or pride), contentment in one's means, meditation and silent reflection regardless of circumstances one faces, study and pursuit of historic knowledge, and devotion of all actions to the Supreme Teacher to achieve perfection of concentration.The yoga-system of Patanjali Yoga-sutras, James Haughton Woods (1914), Harvard University Press, pp. 181–191.


Dharma is an empirical and experiential inquiry for every man and woman, according to some texts of Hinduism.Kumarila, Tantravarttika, Anandasramasamskrtagranthavalih, Vol. 97, pp. 204–205; For an English Translation, see Jha (1924), Bibliotheca Indica, Vol. 161, Vol. 1. For example, Apastamba Dharmasutra states:In other texts, three sources and means to discover dharma in Hinduism are described. These, according to (:de:Paul Hacker|Paul Hacker), are: First, learning historical knowledge such as Vedas, Upanishads, the Epics and other Sanskrit literature with the help of one's teacher. Second, observing the behavior and example of good people. The third source applies when neither one's education nor example exemplary conduct is known. In this case, "atmatusti" is the source of dharma in Hinduism, that is the good person reflects and follows what satisfies his heart, his own inner feeling, what he feels driven to.Paul Hacker (1965), "Dharma in Hinduism", Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp. 487–489 (English translated version by Donald R. Davis (2006)).

Dharma, life stages and social stratification

Some texts of Hinduism outline dharma for society and at the individual level. Of these, the most cited one is Manusmriti, which describes the four Varnas, their rights and duties.Alf Hiltebeitel (2011), Dharma: Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative, {{ISBN|978-0195394238}}, Oxford University Press, pp. 215–227. Most texts of Hinduism, however, discuss dharma with no mention of Varna (caste).Thapar, R. (1995), The first millennium BC in northern India, Recent perspectives of early Indian history, 80–141. Other dharma texts and Smritis differ from Manusmriti on the nature and structure of Varnas. Yet, other texts question the very existence of varna. Bhrigu, in the Epics, for example, presents the theory that dharma does not require any varnas.Thomas R. Trautmann (1964), "On the Translation of the Term Varna", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jul., 1964), pp. 196–201. In practice, medieval India is widely believed to be a socially stratified society, with each social strata inheriting a profession and being endogamous. Varna was not absolute in Hindu dharma; individuals had the right to renounce and leave their Varna, as well as their asramas of life, in search of moksa.see:
  • Van Buitenen, J. A. B. (1957). "Dharma and Moksa". Philosophy East and West, Volume 7, Number 1/2 (April – July 1957), pp. 38–39
  • Koller, J. M. (1972), "Dharma: an expression of universal order", Philosophy East and West, 22(2), pp. 131–144. While neither Manusmriti nor succeeding Smritis of Hinduism ever use the word varnadharma (that is, the dharma of varnas), or varnasramadharma (that is, the dharma of varnas and asramas), the scholarly commentary on Manusmriti use these words, and thus associate dharma with varna system of India.Kane, P.V. (1962), History of Dharmasastra (Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law in India), Volume 1, pp. 2–10. In 6th century India, even Buddhist kings called themselves "protectors of varnasramadharma" – that is, dharma of varna and asramas of life.Olivelle, P. (1993). The Asrama System: The history and hermeneutics of a religious institution, New York: Oxford University Press.
At the individual level, some texts of Hinduism outline four āśramas, or stages of life as individual's dharma. These are:Alban G. Widgery, "The Principles of Hindu Ethics", International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Jan., 1930), pp. 232–245. (1) brahmacārya, the life of preparation as a student, (2) gṛhastha, the life of the householder with family and other social roles, (3) vānprastha or aranyaka, the life of the forest-dweller, transitioning from worldly occupations to reflection and renunciation, and (4) sannyāsa, the life of giving away all property, becoming a recluse and devotion to moksa, spiritual matters.The four stages of life complete the four human strivings in life, according to Hinduism. Dharma enables the individual to satisfy the striving for stability and order, a life that is lawful and harmonious, the striving to do the right thing, be good, be virtuous, earn religious merit, be helpful to others, interact successfully with society. The other three strivings are Artha – the striving for means of life such as food, shelter, power, security, material wealth, etc.; Kama – the striving for sex, desire, pleasure, love, emotional fulfillment, etc.; and Moksa – the striving for spiritual meaning, liberation from life-rebirth cycle, self-realisation in this life, etc. The four stages are neither independent nor exclusionary in Hindu dharma.see:
  • Koller, J. M. (1972), "Dharma: an expression of universal order", Philosophy East and West, 22(2), pp. 131–144.
  • Karl H. Potter (1958), "Dharma and Moká¹£a from a Conversational Point of View", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 8, No. 1/2 (April – July 1958), pp. 49–63.
  • William F. Goodwin, "Ethics and Value in Indian Philosophy", Philosophy East and West, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Jan. 1955), pp. 321–344.

Dharma and poverty

Dharma being necessary for individual and society, is dependent on poverty and prosperity in a society, according to Hindu dharma scriptures. For example, according to Adam Bowles,Adam Bowles (2007), Dharma, Disorder, and the Political in Ancient India, Brill's Indological Library (Book 28), {{ISBN|978-9004158153}}, Chapter 3. Shatapatha Brahmana links social prosperity and dharma through water. Waters come from rains, it claims; when rains are abundant there is prosperity on the earth, and this prosperity enables people to follow Dharma – moral and lawful life. In times of distress, of drought, of poverty, everything suffers including relations between human beings and the human ability to live according to dharma.In Rajadharmaparvan 91.34-8, the relationship between poverty and dharma reaches a full circle. A land with less moral and lawful life suffers distress, and as distress rises it causes more immoral and unlawful life, which further increases distress.Derrett, J. D. M. (1959), "Bhu-bharana, bhu-palana, bhu-bhojana: an Indian conundrum", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 22, pp. 108–123. Those in power must follow the raja dharma (that is, dharma of rulers), because this enables the society and the individual to follow dharma and achieve prosperity.Jan Gonda, "Ancient Indian Kingship from the Religious Point of View", Numen, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (Jan., 1956), pp. 36–71.

Dharma and law

The notion of dharma as duty or propriety is found in India's ancient legal and religious texts. In Hindu philosophy, justice, social harmony, and happiness requires that people live per dharma. The Dharmashastra is a record of these guidelines and rules.JOURNAL, Gächter, Othmar, Anthropos, Anthropos Institute, 1998, The available evidence suggest India once had a large collection of dharma related literature (sutras, shastras); four of the sutras survive and these are now referred to as Dharmasutras. Along with laws of Manu in Dharmasutras, exist parallel and different compendium of laws, such as the laws of Narada and other ancient scholars.Donald Davis, Jr., "A Realist View of Hindu Law", Ratio Juris. Vol. 19 No. 3 September 2006, pp. 287–313.Lariviere, Richard W. (2003), The Naradasmrti, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass These different and conflicting law books are neither exclusive, nor do they supersede other sources of dharma in Hinduism. These Dharmasutras include instructions on education of the young, their rites of passage, customs, religious rites and rituals, marital rights and obligations, death and ancestral rites, laws and administration of justice, crimes, punishments, rules and types of evidence, duties of a king, as well as morality.Patrick Olivelle (1999), The Dharmasutras: The law codes of ancient India, Oxford University Press, {{ISBN|0-19-283882-2}}


{{anchor|Buddhism}}{{Buddhism}}In Buddhism dharma means cosmic law and order, but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomena". In East Asia, the translation for dharma is (wiktionary:法|法), pronounced fǎ in Mandarin, choe ཆོས་ in Tibetan, beop in Korean, hō in Japanese, and pháp in Vietnamese. However, the term dharma can also be transliterated from its original form.

Buddha's teachings

For practicing Buddhists, references to "dharma" (dhamma in Pali) particularly as "the Dharma", generally means the teachings of the Buddha, commonly known throughout the East as Buddha-Dharma. It includes especially the discourses on the fundamental principles (such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path), as opposed to the parables and to the poems.The status of Dharma is regarded variably by different Buddhist traditions. Some regard it as an ultimate truth, or as the fount of all things which lie beyond the "three realms" (Sanskrit: tridhatu) and the "wheel of becoming" (Sanskrit: bhavachakra), somewhat like the pagan Greek and Christian logos: this is known as Dharmakaya (Sanskrit). Others, who regard the Buddha as simply an enlightened human being, see the Dharma as the essence of the "84,000 different aspects of the teaching" (Tibetan: chos-sgo brgyad-khri bzhi strong) that the Buddha gave to various types of people, based upon their individual propensities and capabilities.Dharma refers not only to the sayings of the Buddha, but also to the later traditions of interpretation and addition that the various schools of Buddhism have developed to help explain and to expand upon the Buddha's teachings. For others still, they see the Dharma as referring to the "truth", or the ultimate reality of "the way that things really are" (Tibetan: Cho).The Dharma is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism in which practitioners of Buddhism seek refuge, or that upon which one relies for his or her lasting happiness. The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, meaning the mind's perfection of enlightenment, the Dharma, meaning the teachings and the methods of the Buddha, and the Sangha, meaning the monastic community who provide guidance and support to followers of the Buddha.

Chan Buddhism

Dharma is employed in Ch'an in a specific context in relation to transmission of authentic doctrine, understanding and bodhi; recognised in Dharma transmission.


(File:Jain Prateek Chihna.svg|thumb|140px|Jainism)The word Dharma in Jainism is found in all its key texts. It has a contextual meaning and refers to a number of ideas. In the broadest sense, it means the teachings of the Jinas, or teachings of any competing spiritual school,BOOK, John E., Cort, Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India,weblink 2001, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-803037-9, 100, a supreme path,BOOK, Peter B. Clarke, Peter Beyer, The World's Religions: Continuities and Transformations,weblink 2009, Taylor & Francis, 978-1-135-21100-4, 325, socio-religious duty,BOOK, Torkel, Brekke, Makers of Modern Indian Religion in the Late Nineteenth Century,weblink 2002, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-925236-7, 124, and that which is the highest mangala (holy).BOOK, John E., Cort, Jains in the World: Religious Values and Ideology in India,weblink 2001, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-803037-9, 192–194, The term dharma also has a specific ontological and soteriological meaning in Jainism, as a part of its theory of six dravya (substance or a reality). In the Jain tradition, existence consists of jiva (soul, atman) and ajiva (non-soul), the latter consisting of five categories: inert non-sentient atomic matter (pudgala), space (akasha), time (kala), principle of motion (dharma), and principle of rest (adharma).BOOK, John E., Cort, Open Boundaries: Jain Communities and Cultures in Indian History,weblink 1998, State University of New York Press, 978-0-7914-3786-5, 10–11, BOOK, Paul Dundas, Paul Dundas, The Jains,weblink 2003, 2, Routledge, 978-0415266055, 93–95, The use of the term dharma to mean motion and to refer to an ontological sub-category is peculiar to Jainism, and not found in the metaphysics of Buddhism and various schools of Hinduism.The major Jain text, Tattvartha Sutra mentions Das-dharma with the meaning of "ten righteous virtues". These are forbearance, modesty, straightforwardness, purity, truthfulness, self-restraint, austerity, renunciation, non-attachment, and celibacy.{{sfn|Jain|2011|p=128}} Acārya Amṛtacandra, author of the Jain text, Puruṣārthasiddhyupāya writes:{{sfn|Jain|2012|p=22}}


(File:Khanda Orange.jpg|thumb|140px|Sikhism)For Sikhs, the word dharam () means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.Rinehart, Robin (2014), in Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, {{ISBN|978-0199699308}}, Oxford University Press, pp. 138–139. Guru Granth Sahib in hymn 1353 connotes dharma as duty.W. Owen Cole (2014), in Pashaura Singh, Louis E. Fenech (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, {{ISBN|978-0199699308}}, Oxford University Press, pp. 254. The 3HO movement in Western culture, which has incorporated certain Sikh beliefs, defines Sikh Dharma broadly as all that constitutes religion, moral duty and way of life.Verne Dusenbery (2014), in Pashaura Singh and Louis E. Fenech (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies, {{ISBN|978-0199699308}}, Oxford University Press, pp. 560–568.

Dharma in symbols

(File:Flag of India.svg|thumb|200px|The wheel in the centre of India's flag symbolises Dharma.)The importance of dharma to Indian sentiments is illustrated by India's decision in 1947 to include the Ashoka Chakra, a depiction of the dharmachakra ( the "wheel of dharma"), as the central motif on its flag.Narula, S. (2006), International Journal of Constitutional Law, 4(4), pp. 741–751.

See also







  • BOOK, Sanatana Dharma: an advanced text book of Hindu religion and Ethics, Central Hindu College, Benaras, 1904,weblink
  • {{Citation |last = Day |first = Terence P. |year = 1982 |title = The Conception of Punishment in Early Indian Literature |location = Ontario |publisher = Wilfrid Laurier University Press |isbn = 978-0-919812-15-4}}
  • Murthy, K. Krishna. "Dharma – Its Etymology." The Tibet Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Spring 1966, pp. 84–87.
  • BOOK, Olivelle, Patrick, Dharma: Studies in Its Semantic, Cultural and Religious History, 2009, MLBD, Delhi, 978-8120833388,weblink
  • {{citation |last1 = Jain |first1 = Vijay K. |title= Acharya Amritchandra's Purushartha Siddhyupaya |year=2012 |publisher = Vikalp Printers |isbn = 978-81-903639-4-5 |url =weblink }}
  • {{citation |last = Jain |first = Vijay K. |title = Acharya Umasvami's TattvārthsÅ«tra |url =weblink |year = 2011 |publisher = Vikalp Printers |isbn = 978-81-903639-2-1 }}

External links

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