What is Dharma?


Courtesy and Copyright Central Chinmaya Mission Trust

I was happy when I got to know that the Chinmaya Mission have come out with publication titled esp. since most people do not understand the meaning of Dharma. Some associate it with religion while others use it out of context for e.g. a Supreme Court judge criticized a particular minister for ignoring Raja Dharma. Since India is governed on the Westminster model that the British gave us and not on the basis of Dharma such criticism holds no water.

This piece contains three essays Swami Chinmayanandji, Swami Tejomayananda and Swamini Vimalananda. Before we move to the chapters this is what some learned people had to say about Dharma

1. Mahabharata Shantiparva 6-7-8 "Truthfulness, to be free from anger, sharing wealth with others, (samvibhaga) forgiveness, procreation of children from one's own wife only, purity, absence of enmity, straight forwardness & maintaining persons dependent on oneself are the nine rules of the Dharma of persons belonging to all the varnas".

2. Manusmriti, Manu X-63 "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".

3. Swami Rama i.e. explanation to verse 31 and 32 of chapter 2 of the Gita " Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna that one's duty is of paramount importance, for it is the means to fulfill the purpose of life. That which supports the fulfillment of one's duty is called Dharma. Dharma is not comparable to religion; it encompasses all the dimensions of life both within and without. It refers to duties done harmoniously, skillfully, selflessly and lovingly. It supports one in fulfilling the purpose of life and helps one to relate to others and to society in a harmonious way".

4. Swami Dayanand Saraswati "That which inculcates justice and equity, which teaches truthfulness in thought, speech and deed - in a word, that which is in conformity with the Will of God, as embodied in the Vedas, even that I call Dharma. But that which is intermixed with what is partial, which sanctions injustice, which teaches untruthfulness of thought, speech or deed - in brief that which is in antagonism to the Will of God, as embodied in the Vedas, that I term Adharma".

5. Munisri Nyayavijayaji from the book Jaina Darsana translated into English as Jaina Philosophy & Dharma by Shri Nagin Shah "This verse states that which saves living beings from falling into lower condition is Dharma. Again, it says that which lifts their life from the lower state to the higher one is Dharma. Dharma is the natural quality of the soul, which is experienced by all. On account of the removal of the traces of the past evil acts, the passions of attachment and aversion become mild, and consequently mental purity is attained, this purity is the real dharma. This is the luster of life. Compassion, friendliness, doing good to others, truthfulness, self-control, renunciation - all these good qualities constitute the auspicious light of the internal pure life. Life permeated with such light is called Dharmic life". Interestingly Shri Shah who translated the Gujarati version into English has used the word Religion in place of Dharma although the Sanskrit verses use the word Dharma.

6. Swami Tattwamayananda of the Ramakrishna Order "Dharma has two broad divisions, namely pravrtti and nivrtti dharma. Pravrtti dharma is dealt with in the sacrificial portion (karma kanda) of the Vedas and is a pursuit of life, which enables the individual to live a happy life in this world while performing actions, and caring for duties and responsibilities in his domestic, social and national life. Nivrtti dharma, dealt with in the Upanisadic portion of the Vedic literature, is a pursuit to make us understand the unity of the Spirit, which transcends the conventions of laws of social and domestic life. Pravrtti dharma is divided into two, special (visesa) dharma and ordinary (samanya) dharma. Special dharma denotes the performance of duties by people relevant to their particular position in life, whereas general dharma includes the virtues of character and good conduct such as non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, charity, cleanliness, compassion, simplicity, absence of greed etc".

7. Sri Aurobindo on Dharma vs. Democracy "It has been said that democracy is based on the rights of man; it has been replied that it should rather take its stand on the duties of man; but both rights and duties are European ideas. Dharma is the Indian conception in which rights and duties lose the artificial antagonism created by a view of the world, which makes selfishness the root of action, and regain their deep and eternal unity. Dharma is the basis of democracy which Asia must recognize, for in this lies the distinction between the soul of Asia and the soul of Europe".

8. President Kalam said at the Global Dharma Conference, July 27,2003 - Excerpts: "Dharma or Righteousness - Recently, I heard a hymn in the divine campus which I would like to share with you. The name of the hymn is 'Peace in the World': Where there is righteousness in the heart There is a beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home. There is a order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, There is peace in the world. Friends, we can see a beautiful connectivity between heart, character, nation and the world. How to inject righteousness in the human heart? This is indeed the purpose of human creation - that is divinity".

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