Our scriptures are full of eulogy for dharma. Who has not heard of the famous quotation from the Mahabharata, 'dharma eva hato hanti dharmo rahsati raksitah,' 'It is dharma that destroys (us) when destroyed; it is dharma again that protects (us) when protected by (us)?' Or, that famous sentence put in the mouth of Gandhari, 'yato dharmastato jayah.? 'Where there is dharma, there victory also is?' Consequently we are advised in poignant terms to accumulate dharma in our lives: 'anityani sarirani vibhavo naiva sasvatah, nityam sannihito mrtyuh. kartavyo dharma-sangrahah, , '( Our) bodies are short-lived, wealth does not last long, death is constantly knocking at our door; (so) accumulation of dharma is a must.'
WHAT IS DHARMA?
What is this 'dharma' about which our scriptures and great men have waxed so eloquent throughout our history?
As is the case with many other Sanskrit words, it is rather difficult to give an exact translation of the word dharma. It has been variously translated as 'religion,' 'law,' 'duty,' 'religious ordinance or rite,' 'code of conduct' and so on. It can mean anyone or more or all of these, depending upon the context. The reason seems to be that the word itself has been used in various senses down the ages and its meaning as also scope has been enlarged. It will be worthwhile to study this development.
It is universally accepted that the word dharma comes from the root dhr ('to uphold,' 'to support,' 'to sustain'). An oftquoted verse from the Mahabharata says: 'dharanat dharmam ityahuh. dharma dharayate prajah., 'They call it dharma since it upholds; it is dharma that upholds the people (of the world).'
That which upholds this created universe, supports it and sustains it, without which the universe just falls apart, is dharma. Viewed from this standpoint, dharma is none other than God Himself. It is what the Upanisads describe as sat or tat, the very essence of one's being. Whatever conduct or way of life helps us to reveal this fundamental principle in us, can also be called dharma, though in a secondary sense. Hence religious rites, ceremonies and observances, fixed principles of conduct, privileges, duties and obligations of a man depending upon his stage of life and status in society, even rules of law, customs and manners of society-everyone of these can be included under the term dharma.
From the Back of the Book
Dharma has been the basis of the Hindu religion and culture for millennia. Over the centuries, ideas and concepts about it seem to have evolved, evolved from the original Rita and Satya to the various duties and responsibilities accruing to the human life both at the individual and at the social level. This booklet traces its history and gives some essential information which will be useful even to the mod`ern minds.
Introduction 1 What is Dharma? 2 Rta and Satya 4 Dharma as the Foundation of the World 5 Dharma as Duties 7 Dharma in the Upanisads 9 Dharma in the Gita 10 Dharma in the Ramayana 11 Dharma in the Mahabharata 13 Dharma in Mimamsa and Vaisesika Systems 14 Dharma in Smrtis and Dharmasastras 15 Dharma not a Stagnant Concept 21 Sri Ramakrishna and Dharma 23 Conclusion 24
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