What is Dharma for a Hindu?

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. )


10 Responses to What is Dharma for a Hindu?

  1. ramkumaran says:

    Very True , our history books teach us on Eight Fold Path of Buddha , Five Pillars of Islam and hype on them but they fail to teach the underlying 8 fundamental Atma Gunas of Hinduism

  2. Prashanth K.P. says:

    Ha! What satisfaction reading this article especially the concluding corollary. Yes, nothing else exists in its true sense other than Hinduism. Others are all iconoclastic man made dogmas fearfully followed by a lot aided by petro-dollars and looted wealth. In essence, does these so called man-made religions, Islam & Xians in the forefront and Judaism a little behind offer anything as intrinsic, as legitimate, as holy, as meaningful as Hinduism offers.

    The various Hindu Scriptures, authored from unknown times, like the Vedas, Smritis, Darshanas, Samhitas, Brahmanas, Puranas, Upanishads, Tantras etc. are a wealth of philosophies, developed at different periods of time forms the fundamentals of what is a way of life called HINDUISM!

    There is nothing as enriched as it, nothing as philosophic as it, nothing as varied as it, nothing as vast as it and nothing as precise as it in this universe. We are fortunate to be born a HINDU and thank God Almighty for blessing us so.

  3. oliveriddles says:

    Dharma is that which defines the complete human. Though ideal not impossible to achieve. Isn’t it possible to just be the followers of Dharma and not seek for the negation of other dogmas along the way? The very fact that Dharma will guide the way and emerge as the final truth, won’t the other dogmas you speak of, anyway fade away in its brilliance? Why the negative propaganda of that which is irrelevant and NOT a positive propaganda of that in which we have faith? I wonder.

    • zoomindianmedia says:

      Excellent question. Would Dharma not automatically triumph as it is superior to dogmas?

      Way world works is complicated. Many times truth gets obfuscated by determined groups that have the resources to peddle canards, shape the discourse.

      Eternal vigilance remains the price of civilization.

      Disagreeable aspects of dogmatic creeds (hate towards non believers etc) must be pushed back. Efforts by dogma mandated creeds to place their dogmas and their false idols above criticism should be punctured.

      Inertia backed by fear, squeamishness to do the right thing, ends up costing heavy.

  4. oliveriddles says:

    True about the ways of the world. But I would still work anyday towards talking about my dharma than waste my energies taking on dogmas that are anyway irrelevant and temporary. Dharma is eternal…my tuppence.

    • zoomindianmedia says:

      Not sure if we can ignore dogmas by citing them ‘Irrelevant and temporary’. They have been around for millennia doing serious damage spanning generations.

      Impact of the dogmas are very real on our sensibilities: Blaring of loudspeakers, creeps coming out of nowhere to peddle their false idols & canards and mouthing hate towards native traditions; And making sure by threatening violence & by deploying rhetorics like secularism, that their dogmas/idols are kept beyond critical examination. Where the demographies and the situation favored them, leadership of dogma peddling hate mongers has not hesitated to network with subversive and foreign forces and undermine harmony to the extent of splitting India.

      That the dogmas are false, there is no doubt. Despite all their pretentiousness, their core remains fragile. One has to aid the process of getting to the core! do one’s bit.

      • Sarvesh says:

        Cannot agree more, Letting falsehood spread in veil of secularism is just lack of Dharma.
        As Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, Lack of any action is also a Karma. Lack of Action in doing ones duty of confronting bad dogmas is bad karma.

  5. oliveriddles says:

    When one gives too much importance to “peddlers” who come in selling their wares, one gives them undue recognition that gives them the advantage of getting “noticed”. If I keep reiterating what I believe in with conviction and a strong sense of belief, no dogma will ever take way the importance of what is essentially true- the dharma that is all abiding. The ‘karma’ of keeping native tradition alive by way of discussions,discourses and dialog is the unequivocal way of keeping dharma alive. That would be doing one’s bit.

  6. SushJ says:

    True, it’s only because there are no extremes of belief that Hinduism truly empowers it’s followers to pursue their dreams while being true to their faith.
    Dharma, as I understand, is something which my conscience permits me to or not to do. Whether it is being compassionate to others or keeping our promises or even a simple thing like keeping our neighborhood, locality and cities clean.

  7. It has been asserted that there is no such thing as Indian Religion, though there are many Religions in India. This is not so. As I have already pointed out (Is India Civilized?) there is a common Indian religion which I have called Bharata Dharma, which is an Aryan religion (Aryadharma) held by all Aryas whether Brahmanic, Buddhist or Jaina.

    These are the three main divisions of the Bharata Dharma. I exclude other religions in India, namely, the Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Not that all these are purely Semitic. Christianity became in part Aryanized when it was adopted by the Western Aryans, as also happened with Islam when accepted by such Eastern Aryans as the Persians and the Aryanized peoples of India. Thus Sufism is either a form of Vedanta or indebted to it.

    The general Indian Religion or Bharata Dharma holds that the world is an Order or Cosmos. It is not a Chaos of things and beings thrown haphazard together, in which there is no binding relation or rule. The world-order is Dharma, which is that by which the universe is upheld (Dharyate). Without Dharma it would fall to pieces and dissolve into nothingness. But this is not possible, for though there is Disorder (Adharma), it exists, and can exist only locally, for a time, and in particular parts of the whole. Order however will and, from the nature of things, must ultimately assert itself. And this is the meaning of the saying that Righteousness or Dharma prevails. Anyone who holds these beliefs follows the Bharata Dharma or common principles of all Aryan beliefs. Thus as regards God we may either deny His existence (Atheism) or affirm it (Theism) or say we have no sufficient proof one way or another (Agnosticism). It is possible to accept the concept of an eternal Law (Dharma) and its sanctions in a self-governed universe without belief in a personal Lord (Ishvara). So Samkhya, which proceeds on intellectual proof only, does not deny God but holds that the being of a Lord is “not proved”.

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