Practise dharma? (dharmam cara) is the command of the scripture. But what is dharma? How to
identify it? And what is its definition? These were the questions that seem to have been confronting
the great Indian thinkers of the yore. Sage Kanada of pre-Buddhist era, the founder of the Vaisesika
realistic school of philosophy, was perhaps the first to offer a definition: ‘Dharma is that which is the
means to attain prosperity and liberation’. He also put forward the thesis that t the knowledge of six
categories (sat padarthah) taught in the Vaisesikadarsana is also dharma. The historical forces that
might have led to the above idea were taken up for a brief study in a research paper published in the
Adyar Library Bulletin, vol. 65 (2001). It is now felt that this paper should reach a wider circle of the
students interested fin the history of ancient Indian ideas. Hence the same is republished as no. 56 in
the Adyar Library Pamphlet Series.
From the Flap
In ancient India, people were intensely desirous of knowing what Dharma is. For, they were aware:
‘Dharma is the foundation of the entire universe; for solace the creatures take refuge in one who is
firmly rooted in Dharma; one drives away sin by means of Dharma; everything rests on Dharma.
Hence the great men declare Dharma as the highest’ (Mahanarayana Upanisad).
The Vaisesikasutra of Kanada was one among the early authorities to offer a
definition of Dharma in clear terms.
Back of the Book
The Adyar Library and Research Centre was founded in 1886 by Henry Steel Olcott, first President
of the Theosophical Society, for research in Eastern Civilization, Philosophy and Religion. Its aim is
to promote understanding among the peoples of the world through knowledge of the higher aspects
of their respective cultures.
The collections of the Library consist of about 18,000 manuscripts, containing about
45,000 works, both palm-leaf and paper, and some 2,00,000 printed volumes. The manuscripts are
mostly from India and in Sanskrit. The printed books include old and rare Indological works and
also a fine collection of books on the different religions and philosophies, in Sanskrit, English, and
various other languages, eastern and western; and volumes of important Indological journals.
Brahmavidya, the Adyar Library Bulletin is being published since 1937,
presenting studies on religion, philosophy and various aspects of Sanskrit and other oriental literature
as well as editions of ancient texts and translations.
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