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Meaning of ‘Dharma’ (religion) in India

In India ‘Religion’ or ‘Dharma’ means a way of life embracing within itself ‘religion’, ‘sprituality’, ‘law, ‘duty’, ‘righteousness’, ‘morality’ and conformity with truth’.

‘Dharma’ gives common man an abiding sense of purpose to life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class, caste, creed or race distinctions and national boundaries, bridging distance between rural and urban folk and between illiterate and educated. To make ‘Dharma’ accessible to everyone, three traditionally sanctioned ways are prescribed –

  • Jnana Marg (Path of wisdom, search for truth and meditation),

  • Karma Marg (Path of rituals, activities and good deeds), and

  • Bhakti Marg (Path of love and devotion).

A person can choose any of the three according to the dictates of his temperament and life circumstances. ‘Dharma’ of an individual is based on one’s inherent qualities, aptitude and potentiality. Dharma of philosopher can not be the same as that of a serviceman, or Dharma of a young man same to that of an old man. Moulding one’s life according to Dharma is not an easy task. It requires tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties find it difficult to observe Dharma.

According to Dharma, right and wrong are relative terms, which depend on the total configuration of the following four variables of an action: –

  • Desa (region) – Culture of a place, in which a person is born.

  • Kala (time) – Period of historical time, in which a person iis born.

  • Shrama (Effort) – Efforts required of him at different stages of Life, and

  • Guna (Quality) – Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits.

As a ‘religion’, ‘Dharma’ is a means through which an individual approaches the desired ultimate goal of life, i.e. salvation from the cycle of birth and death. It helps a person to strengthen one’s character and improve his/her present as well as future. It not only brings satisfaction in one’s life, but also assures a better life after life.

Dharma inspires people to channelise efforts, energies and capacities of people in a definite direction. It inspires them not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances by telling them that they are neither slaves of circumstances, over which they do’nt have any control nor any of their effort gets waste. Therfore, they should keep on trying to improve their future, by performing their duties sincerely. It prevents people from blaming others for their failures, miseries, or being revengeful, as everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s doings and guides people to lead a disciplined life.

Apart from being a religious” Doctrine, ‘Dharma’ specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. It defines clearly duties and vocations for people belonging different sections of society, which are nothing, but norms and values of good conduct, leading individuals to the path of righteousness. Individuals are taught to lead a simple life free of covetousness, greed or lust. Dharma guides them to remain true, to fulfil their own duties earnestly, to do their jobs (social, economic physical and spiritual) well and to honour principles, traditions and culture of other communities as well. ‘Dharma’ guides individuals to control five faculties of senses and five organs of actions.i According to Hindu philosophy, desires fulfilled, never extinguishes, but grow stronger. Therefore, desires should be directed in proper manner towards proper objectives.ii The purpose of religion should be to train faculties of a person/to channelise his/her energies towards right activities.iii Leading a disciplined is necessary for people to live a purposeful life.

‘Dharma’ prescribes a compact life package, an appropriate common Dharma/a general norm of conduct at each stage of human life, applicable to all through a scheme known as Sanatan Dharma – Program of eternal values. After a deep study of natural instincts, behavioral pattern of human beings and inherent attributes, Indian philosophy has developed it. It nurtures over nature’s basic instincts of human beings and facilitates to achieve Sachchidanand (Bliss, consciousness and knowledge), helps people to follow their Dharma and Karma without difficulty and leads towards an ideal way of life. Messages of Sanatan Dharma are universal, eternal and much above race, caste or creed for all time to come. Even today it is as relevant as it was earlier. (About Sanatan Dharma in next blog)

According to ‘Dharma’, norms of give and take and ‘to each according to one’s needs and from each according to one’s capacity’ guide human relationships within a society . By specifying duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately, it tries to prevent rivalries/ jealousies. Principles of Hinduism guide people to maintain a smooth relationship with everybody, to live cooperatively and thus ensure social harmony. Principles of Dharma not only regulate behavior of an individual within a community, but also provides universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life,national life and global life for a better tomorrow.

i Manusmriti, II, 90-92-93.

ii Manusmriti, II, 94.

iii Manusmriti, II, 3 and 5.

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September 24, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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