What is Dharma for a Hindu?

August 1, 2009

Following five aspects of life recommended in native Indian tradition as the essence of Dharma: Ahimsa Satyam Astheyam Shoucham Indhriya Nigrahaa: Each Hindu by practising the five facets of life will be true to his Dharma, whatever be his tribal, linguistic, caste or economic status. These are the touchstones that act as moral compass, help formulate Hindu behavior.

First is Ahimsa. Ahimsa not only means “not to use physical violence” and “not to kill”. It also means one should not hurt another even in the mind’s plane. So the words one speaks consciously should be such that another should not feel hurt. Dont hurt others is the essence of Ahimsa.

(Corollary: This does not mean one should pontificate ahimsa in a war situation. After extolling virtues of ahimsa, Krishn asks Arjun to fight citing it as his duty and indicates it’ll be a terrible mistake if he abdigates his responsibility. Pacifism in front of a osama’s islam or hitler type catholic bullying, wont be noble acts. That said, in an ordinary situation, everyone cant take to arms and choose violence. Another important corollary of this principle is that abuse of power is considered himsa)

Second is Satyam. What one knows should be communicated to others with accuracy, both in letter and spirit.

(Important corollary here is if one gives another a word, at all times it has to be kept. As Tulsidas famously put it “Raghukul ki Sadaa Rahi Reethi, Praan Jaayee Par Vachan Na Jayee”. This extortation is for everyone, not just Raghukul. Ram though is famous for maintaining Satya under trying circumstances and is set as an example for this)

Third is Astheyam. Greed for someone else’s wealth should be eschewed. One is expected to work hard and earn. Don’t covet what is not yours.

(Important Corollary: While one can donate one’s wealth, noone has the right earn easy money without effort. Hindu texts(Shastras) assert to earn wealth in a righteous way. Businessmen who make God a silent partner and apportion God a share in their ill gotten wealth is not going to make God happy. Similarly Robinhood is a rogue unlike in other frameworks where such behavior may be justified)

Fourth is Shoucham: Cleanliness indeed is an important facet. Now cleanliness is not just one of keeping the body clean. Being of Clean mind is even more important.

(Corollary:  Kaam (desires) and Krodh (angers) of different types can make the mind dirty.  So one has to be vigilant and watch out for these)

Fifth is Indriya Nigraha: One has to regulate the senses by controlling the sense organs – Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, touch and the mind.

(Corollary: If our sense of taste drives us to eat something proven to be unhealthy, one fails to control that sense organ)

‘Dharma is for the stability of society, the maintenance of social order and the general well-being and progress of humankind. Whatever conduces to the fulfillment of these objects is Dharma, that is definite.’
–          Karna Parva of the Mahabharata. Verse-58 in Chapter 69

Dharma is what contributes for the stability of society, the maintenance of social order and the general well-being and progress of humankind. -Verse 58, Chapter 69, Karna Parv, Mahabharat

To summarise Hindu Dharma is both universal & respectful for human well-being in the true sense. Focus is on behavior rather than on commands, providing vent for free will. There are no dogmatic hateful schisms:  believer versus heathen, momin versus kaffir, burgeois versus proletariat.

(IMPORTANT COROLLARY:  Since totalitarian dogmas whether atheist like communism or theist like islam, christianity, nurture intolerance towards non-believers of their dogmas, they do not conform to Hindu Dharma’s essence; Such dogmas nurture adharmic creeds, undesirable for societal well being – not just in India, but any place where they operate, and are kept on a pedestal. It is important to realize that koranic/biblical dogma are truth claims (assertive opinions demonstrably false often backed by violence, coercive threats of violence, fear-mongering) and not truth (~Satyam) per se. )