Dharma is the path of
righteousness and living one's life according to the codes of conduct as
described by the Hindu scriptures.
Moral Law of the World
Hinduism describes dharma as the natural universal laws whose observance
enables humans to be contented and happy, and to save himself from
degradation and suffering. Dharma is the moral law combined with
spiritual discipline that guides one's life. Hindus consider dharma the
very foundation of life. It means "that which holds" the people of this
world and the whole creation. Dharma is the "law of being" without which
things cannot exist.
According to the Scriptures
Dharma refers to the religious ethics as propounded by Hindu gurus in
ancient Indian scriptures. Tulsidas, author of Ramcharitmanas, has
defined the root of dharma as compassion. This principle was taken up by
Lord Buddha in his immortal book of great wisdom, Dhammapada. The
Atharva Veda describes dharma symbolically: Prithivim dharmana dhritam,
that is, "this world is upheld by dharma". In the epic poem Mahabharata,
the Pandavas represent dharma in life and the Kauravas represent adharma.
Good Dharma = Good Karma
Hinduism accepts the concept of reincarnation, and what determines the
state of an individual in the next existence is karma which refers to
the actions undertaken by the body and the mind. In order to achieve
good karma it is important to live life according to dharma, what is
right. This involves doing what is right for the individual, the family,
the class or caste and also for the universe itself. Dharma is like a
cosmic norm and if one goes against the norm it can result in bad karma.
So, dharma affects the future according to the karma accumulated.
Therefore one's dharmic path in the next life is the one necessary to
bring to fruition all the results of past karma.
What Makes You Dharmic?
Anything that helps human being to reach god is dharma and anything that
hinders human being from reaching god is adharma. According to the
Bhagavat Purana, righteous living or life on a dharmic path has four
aspects: austerity (tap), purity (shauch), compassion (daya) and
truthfulness (satya); and adharmic or unrighteous life has three vices:
pride (ahankar), contact (sangh), and intoxication (madya). The essence
of dharma lies in possessing a certain ability, power and spiritual
strength. The strength of being dharmic also lies in the unique
combination of spiritual brilliance and physical prowess.
The 10 Rules of Dharma
Manusmriti written by the ancient sage Manu, prescribes 10 essential
rules for the observance of dharma: Patience (dhriti), forgiveness (kshama),
piety or self control (dama), honesty (asteya), sanctity (shauch),
control of senses (indraiya-nigrah), reason (dhi), knowledge or learning
(vidya), truthfulness (satya) and absence of anger (krodha). Manu
further writes, "Non-violence, truth, non-coveting, purity of body and
mind, control of senses are the essence of dharma". Therefore dharmic
laws govern not only the individual but all in society.
The Purpose of Dharma
The purpose of dharma is not only to attain a union of the soul with the
supreme reality, it also suggests a code of conduct that is intended to
secure both worldly joys and supreme happiness. Rishi Kanda has defined
dharma in Vaisesika as "that confers worldly joys and leads to supreme
happiness". Hinduism is the religion that suggests methods for the
attainment of the highest ideal and eternal bliss here and now on earth
and not somewhere in heaven. For example, it endorses the idea that it
is one's dharma to marry, raise a family and provide for that family in
whatever way is necessary. The practice of dharma gives an experience of
peace, joy, strength and tranquillity within one's self and makes life