Although it is also found in other religions and cultures, Dharma is an important pillar in Hinduism as a religion and culture. In Hinduism, Dharma means a duty, righteousness or the right way of life. Nevertheless, a single translation of this term in the western languages does not exist (Clothey 11).
It describes the Hindu idea of how people should live, which is directed by a righteous way of living according to specific codes of conduct (Mittal and Thursbay 182). It is described through a set of rules and regulations that are expected to provide joy and happiness.
The laws also save an individual from suffering as well as degradation by the ill forces of the world (Embree, Hay and De Bary 11).
In addition, Dharma describes a combination of moral laws and spirituality that guides lives. It also protects the body as well as the soul. According to the scriptures, Hindu considers Dharma as the most important pillar in the foundation of human life.
The term Dharma is derived from the word ‘dhri’, a Sanskrit word that translates as ‘to uphold’ or ‘to sustain’ (Embree, Hay and De Bary 12). Therefore, various Hindu translations have defined dharma as “that which sustains or upholds the right or positive order of the world, a person, the family, society, nation and the entire world”.
This means that Dharma can be analyzed at various levels. At the social level, every person has a given dharma in respect to an individual’s place within the society. For instance, children, parents and leaders have different dharma that hold or sustain their lives.
For example, children’s Dharma requires them to spend their childhood life obeying their parents, the older people and seeking knowledge from teachers and parents. On the other hand, the dharma for the parents requires them to protect their children, support, educate and feed them (Doniger 95).
Therefore, it is worth considering Dharma as a virtue or morality. The dharma for political leaders is to lead the nation, protect people from crime, poverty and provide public services.
According to the Hindu scriptures, Dharma was presented to the people at Vedas and is written in ‘Dhammapada’. In the texts, Dharma is the power that upholds or sustains humans and their world.
In Hinduism, good dharma represents good kharma. Good karma represents the actions that a person undertakes with his or her body and mind. For a person to obtain good kharma, it is necessary to live according to dharma, which defines the right way of action (Hopkins 83).
The concept of reincarnation or life after death is an important belief in Hinduism. Therefore, one must do what is right and avoid what is wrong. For example, a person must do the right for the individual, colleagues, neighbors, family and other individuals in the society. If a person goes against the norm (dharma), a bad kharma will result (Hopkins 84).
Hindus believe in the Ten Rules of Dharma that are written in Manismriti by Manu, an ancient sage. These rules include patience, honesty, forgiveness, knowledge, sensual control, self-control, reasoning and absence of anger. Each of these rules have a corresponding name in Hinduism (Mittal and Thursbay 112).
It is worth noting that dharma has a purpose in Hinduism. It is meant to attain a union of human soul and the super natural reality. In addition, it provides a code of conduct or ethics that aims at securing joy and happiness for an individual while still living on earth.
Clothey, Fred W. Religion in India: A historical introduction. London, Routlegde, 2006. Print.
Doniger, Wendy. Hindu Myths. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1994. Print.
Embree, Ainslie, Stephen Hay and William De Bary. Sources of Indian Tradition: From the beginning to 1800. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Print.
Hopkins, Thomas. The Hindu Religious Tradition. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009. Print.
Mittal, Sushi and Gene Thursbay. The Hindu World. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2004. Print
This definition essay on Dharma in Hinduism