What is Dharma?
dharmō rakṣati rakṣitaḥ
We often hear the saying, Protect Dharma, It Protects You.
These days, we often see this slogan on buses and on the walls. What is the meaning of the word Dharma?
The word Dharma is found in the Indian religions like Hinduism (Vaidika), Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. There is no reference to this term in other religions. They might be having the same idea in a different form.
In the Indian scriptures, one who bears and supports everything is defined as Dharma - dhārayāteeti dharmaḥ. The visible world is in an order and being organized in a systematic way. It is not disorganized or haphazard. The planets, stars and the milky ways are all orbiting in the space following an unseen order.
The energy behind the universe and running it in a systematic way is believed as Dharma by the Vedas. This energy is known as God or Eswara. That is why God is defined as the embodiment of Dharma.
In Kathopanishad, there is a famous sloka. The meaning of it is “ The five elements - Fire, Wind, Earth, Air, Water, Space, and demi gods like Lord Indra, Death are managing their duties successfully, because of the fear of the supreme Lord.” This supreme Lord is believed to be Dharma. Man cannot survive if he does not follow Dharma and punishment is inevitable if Dharma is not followed.
For example, Dharma of fire is to burn. If we touch the fire by not respecting its Dharma, what happens? The hand is burnt. So Dharma knows very well how to do its work. Dharma means rule or order.
This is the consolidated shape of Dharma. The proper definition of Dharma at the individual level is given by Manu in Manu Samhita.
ślōka || dhṛtirdamō kṣamōstēyaṃ śauca mindriya nigraḥ
dhīrvidyā satyamakrōdhō daśakaṃ dharma lakṣaṇaṃ ||
dhṛti - Energetic effort
dama - Self control
kṣama - Forgiveness
astēyaṃ - Non Stealing
aśauca - Purity
indriya nigraḥ - Control of six senses
dhī - Awakened Intelligence
vidyā - Knowledge of scriptures
satyam - Truthfulness
akrōdha - No anger
Dharma means following the above ten rules as stated by Manu in Manu Samhita. Following Dharma is necessary if the life of man has to be in an orderly way. The man who follows the above ten rules is said to be following Dharma. Acting as we like and believing that we are following Dharma will never protect us.
The Lord looks after the well-being of a person who follows Dharma, because He is the embodiment of Dharma. All the others are responsible for their own karma.
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