What is dharam

Lexicon of Religions:

Law, Customs and Order in Hinduism

In Hinduism, “Dharma” is the term for the natural and established order, for custom and law in the broadest sense. Often one translates the term narrowly with the word "religion". Dharma includes not only the personal obligations of each individual, such as prayer, sacrifice, pilgrimages, gifts and family obligations, but also common law, state law and social regulations. Dharma does not only apply to humans, animals and even plants are equally tied to it.

Dharma belongs to the “four legitimate goals” (“Purushartha”) of a person along with “Artha”, the pursuit of prosperity, “Kama”, the pursuit of worldly and sexual pleasure, and “Moksha”, the desire for spiritual redemption.

“Sanantana dharma” is the law of nature

“Sanatana dharma”, the “Eternal Dharma”, is what holds the entire universe together. All natural laws are "sanatana dharma", including the wisdom of the Vedas, the most important and oldest Hindu texts. Hindus call their religion “Sanatana dharma”.

On a human level, Dharma means the duty and the order of society as well as of individual existence: life task, attitude, law, morality, cult, custom, customs. As a social law, the Dharma must enable a smooth life in family and society. However, there is no common moral code that is equally binding for everyone. The Dharma depends on social position, age and gender. The traditional box endharma assigns a specific mission and specific moral requirements to everyone within society. Different rights and duties apply to men and women.

Four stages of ideal life

Hindu traditions divide an ideal human life into four stages of life: student, housekeeper, early age and preparation for death. All stages of life have a very characteristic Dharma and thus make certain demands.

In the first phase of life, attention should be focused on learning. In the second section, starting a family also includes Artha, the pursuit of prosperity, and Kama, sexual pleasure. But duties such as looking after the family and helping those who are in need are also part of this phase. In the third stage of life everything should slowly be given up, and in the fourth one should strive for salvation without any worldly commitment.

Tradition of Dharma and Lawgiver

"Six Enemies"

According to tradition, they prevent the - fulfillment of the Dharma:

  • "Lobha" (greed, avarice),
  • "Krodha" (anger, anger)
  • "Kama" (worldly desire)
  • "Moha" (mental delusion)
  • "Mada" (arrogance)
  • "Matsarya" (jealousy and envy)

One of the most important textbooks on Dharma is the law book of the mythical sage Manu, the "Manusmiti" (between 200 BC and 200 AD). Although the book still plays an important role today, it is not viewed as a literal guide to right behavior that will last forever. Several religious legal texts by other authors from a wide variety of traditions also claim to represent the highest authority. Most of the ancient texts, including the epics like “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata” with the “Bhagavadgita”, contain important traditions regarding Dharma. They are thus “Dharmashastras”.

The popular script "Bhagavadgita" (16.1-3) names the following traits "of those who were born with a divine nature":

  1. Fearlessness, purity of mind, wise distribution of knowledge and immersion, charity, self-control and sacrifice, study of the scriptures, asceticism and righteousness
  2. Non-violence, truth, non-anger, renunciation, calm, non-slander, compassion for the creatures, dispassion, mildness, modesty and constancy.
  3. Power, forgiveness, strength, purity, non-malice and non-pride

Review article on Hinduism

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