Dharma- Introduction


As civilization progresses, the concept of belief and faith should be more refined and acceptable, however in current situation we see that this is becoming worse and intolerant. Everyone thinks that their view, opinion and understanding are the most appropriate and eternal. In the pursuit of objective of human life, people have taken their own path and progressed upon. There would be difference of opinion, conflict or agreement and consensus. During the freedom fight of India there were two friends, one among them was Lokmanya Tilak and the other one is great socialist Agarkar. They worked together and built many educational institutes in India. However they differed on one point and which became the point of separation of their path and ideology. According to Tilak it is Freedom 1st and then social uplifts and changes, and Agarkar said no matter you get freedom, what is the use of it, until there is no social maturity? I still feel in today’s condition Agarkar was somehow right to think so far.

Indian philosophical base is strong, eternal and timeless. It was applicable in ancient time as well as it is applicable in modern days, however we have conveniently forgotten it and conveniently accepted few things which were superficially taken by society. Today “Dharma” is translated as religion, and we have degraded the term “Dharma” itself. We classify ourselves as Christian, Islamic, Buddhist or Hindus. And we call that sect as religion, and it also got translated literally by Indians, and we call Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism as religion.

I shall try to narrate and express many stories folding and unfolding from the ancient scriptures and from Indian mythology. The unfolding of Indian philosophy primarily be taken as Vedic – coming from period of Veda, Pauranik- Coming from Puranas and mythological stories, period when Buddhism and Jainism was overpowering the basic belief of Veda and Purana, medieval period- period when Islam came to India and then the modern time.  I will try to unfold the concept of Dharma in this series of blogs.

Manu an ancient philosopher during vedic period is known for many reasons. However his writings and expressions are of careful study. In one of his quote he mentions धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षित:’- (Dharma Eva Hato Hanti Dharmo Rakshti Rakshita) what is Dharma? One who protects Dharma, the Dharma will be protector of him. Manu further explains Dharma. He gives 10 characteristics of an act which can be called as Dharma. Any action which is following the path of these 10 characteristics can be considered as Dharma.

धृतिः क्षमा शमोऽस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः।  धीर्विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकं धर्मलक्षणम् ॥

  1. धृतिः Dhruti- Determination
  2. क्षमा Kshama- Forgiveness
  3. शमः Shama- Control of mind
  4. अस्तेयं Asteyam- Non- Stealing
  5. शौचं Shaucham- Purity of Physical Body, Mind and Soul
  6. इन्द्रियनिग्रहः Indriya Nigraha- Usage of senses
  7. धीः Dhi- The ability to question
  8. विद्या Vidhya – Knowledge
  9. सत्यं Satyam- Truthfulness
  10. अक्रोधः Akrodha- Anger less

It might look a complex structure of Dharma, however I shall try to simplify for all of us. In one of the quote of Bhuddha, he proclaims

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your scriptures. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it

(एथ तुम्हे, कालामा, मा अनुस्सवेन, मा परम्पराय, मा इतिकिराय, मा पिटक सम्पदानेन, मा तक्कहेतु, मा नयहेतु, मा आकार परिवितक्केन , मा दिट्ठिनिज्झानक्खन्तिया, मा भब्बरूपताय, मा समणो नो गरूति। यदा तुम्हे, कालामा, अत्तनाव जानेय्याथ – इमे धम्मा अकुसला, इमे धम्मा सावज्जा, इमे धम्मा विञ्ञुगरहिता, इमे धम्मा समत्ता समादिन्ना अहिताय दुक्खाय संवत्तन्ती ति, अथ तुम्हे, कालामा, पजहेय्याथ। )

This quote of Buddha and the characteristics given by Manu for recognizing the act as per Dharma goes hand in hand. Dhi- धीः Questioning is one of the fundamental characteristics of Dharma.

The wonder of this word धीः- Dhi is so much that it reflects and unfolds many aspects of questioning itself. धी: – Dhi talks about aspects of questioning, thought, reflection, intention and opinion. Dhi can thus be seen reflected into various levels

Transformation of Dhi can be seen from Thought to opinion as

Thoughtà Questioningà Reflection à Understanding à Disposition or Intention à Opinion

As mentioned by both the philosophers Viz Manu and Buddha, the base is questioning and then finding your path.  And may be thus, the Intelligence is बुद्धि – Buddhi where “Bud” means to perceive. One who perceives the “Dhi”.  The act of perceiving his or her own thought, questions it, reflects upon the answers and post understanding intends to make appropriate opinion is Buddhi or Intelligence.

In a story of Shanti – Parva of Mahabharata; wife of Naga counsels him on what is Dharma. Serving and obeying Guru is dharma of student, Bearing knowledge and exploration is dharma of a Brahmine(one who is in search of knowledge), following instructions of manager (swami) is dharma of employee, protecting and nurturing people of nation is the dharma of nation’s leader or king, protecting all living beings is dharma of soldier, trading without cheating and respecting customer is dharma of trader, serving the nation/ world is dharma of all human being.

She further explains, a common homely man should protect the environment that’s his/ her dharma, following the controlled behavior is dharma of human limbs/ organs.

Questioning who am I? Why am I here? Whom do I belong to? And discovering the mind is dharma of a sanyasi (monk).  Protecting and listening to spouse is dharma of partners.

This series of blog on “Dharma” will unfold many stories and examinations by various scholars.

Dharma is prominent path according to Indian philosophy. Among the 4 purushartha – Object of human pursuit viz Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, Dharma is the base and path for rest of the purusharthas.

Ishopnishada says,

हिरण्मयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहितं मुखम् । तत्त्वं पूषन्नपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये – The face of truth is covered with a golden disc, unveil it, so that I who love the truth may see it

Let this series of blog be that truth which will unveil the cover over the face of truth- Dharma.

Compiled by

Sandeep Sadanand Chaugule

Abhishek Koli (Pali and Buddhism scholar)


Image courtesy: http://ibmsystemsmag.com/aix/administrator/performance/The-Business-Balancing-Act/


5 thoughts on “Dharma- Introduction

  1. Great start sirs….looking forward to reading more of this blog. This is a very important and much needed topical space in today’s day and age.Thank you.


  2. Great blog sir….hope will be able to learn a lot from these blogs…you anyways explain Indian scriptures with such simplicity in the classes…now many reader will get that chance…


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