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Meaning of Dharma - It's not religion?

We all had heard the word 'Dharma' from our parents, society, teachers or media channels. The first thing that comes to our mind immediately after hearing 'Dharma' is 'Religion' but does that really is the actual meaning? Our mind automatically redirects us to Religion but actually it is much more than this.

Dharma is the most valuable contribution of India's ancient Political thought. It has emerged from the land of India and in words of famous philosopher 'Annie Besant', "it is the word from India with the greatest contribution to humanity".

In Hinduism, dharma is one of the four components of the Puruṣārtha, the aims of life, and signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible. It includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living" - WikiPedia

The word Dharma has it's roots to 'dhr' which means to 'uphold', 'to support' and 'to sustain'. In reality there is no English word that is its equivalent and it is not religion as it is understood. It has been variously described as duty, right, justice, morality, law, virtue, religion, ethics, code of conduct and so on.

The Bhagavad Gita says that one's own Dharma , however imperfect , is a safer guide than another's Dharma however perfect and it is one's own conscience which decides on which is the best dharma to be exercised.
Vedas says "Prithivi Dharman Dhritam" that means "world is upheld by dharma"

Dharma has significance in ethical conduct as sought by Manu in Dharmashastras. It is relevant to mans contribution to society,

  • As a religious duty

  • As bhakti

  • Moral order

  • Following of purusharthas - dharma , artha, kama and moksha

  • As ashram - brahmcharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, sanyas

  • As rajdharma - administration and kingship as laid by Kautilya in Arthashastra

Dharma also holds relevance in Buddhist and Jain school as well, Dhamma in Budhhism is the eightfold path and Jain use it in the matter of the motion of matter and souls.

Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of Tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings.

In Sikhism, dharma means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice and one's own moral duties toward God.

The significance of Dharma is immense is Indian society and it is considered as an act of sacrilege to violate it




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