THE MEANING OF THE WORD DHARMA

Hindus follow the sanatana vidheka dharma.  Sanat means everlasting (eternal). Sanatana means that which is eternal.  Vidheka means that which is related to Vedas.  It also means that which is originated from the Vedas.  It also means that which is sustained by the Vedas.  Dharma is a concept (tattwa) which has deep meaning.  We cannot precisely define it however, using metaphors we can explain to an extent, which I will explain in this article. 

  1.  Dharanat iti dharma.  This is the understanding of dharma at the highest level.  Dharanat means that which supports.  That which supports this entire universe is called dharma.  In that sense Brahman/Conciousness or Ishwar/ God is dharma.
  •  Dharma is that which makes an object different from others, by its nature or guna.  For example, the dharma of the sun is heat and light.  Likewise, we all have a unique nature which makes us different from others.  That unique nature is the dharma of that person.
  • Jagat sthiti karanam dharma – The universe is existing because of dharma.  The Lord created this universe and he created the Sapta  Rishis and the Prajapati.  He also created the four Sanat kumaras – Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana,  Sanat kumara.  The Lord as Dakshinamurthy imparted the Vedic law of work, which is otherwise known as the law of righteousness (pravirthi marga) or knowledge to the Sapta Rishis.  He imparted the law of cessation of work (nivritti marga), that is meditation and detachment to the Sanat kumaras.  The two Vedic laws, the law of righteousness and the law of cessation of work (knowledge and renunciation)   bring stability to the creation.  The Sapta Rishis taught these laws to the future generation, to the sishyas.  They in turn taught to their sishyas and thus it came to us generation after generation.  Practicing these laws help to sustain this creation.  Due to the lapse of long periods of time, the practitioners of the law of righteousness had dominant desires in them and due to the lack of discriminative knowledge it brought lawlessness in the society.  The adharmic way of life dominated the society.  And so to revive the spiritual knowledge and to bring stability in creation, at times the Lord or the pure Consciousness manifests among human beings as avatars.  The avatars have pure knowledge and they teach the fellow beings this knowledge and thus bring back stability in creation and help to sustain the creation.  Therefore, law of righteousness and knowledge help to sustain this creation. 
  • When one performs his duty with a pure devoted mind, then it brings satisfaction to his life.  That which gives satisfaction to one’s life is dharma. 

These are the meanings given for dharma in the scriptures. 

Dharma leads one to the higher level of existence.  It removes the negatives in one’s life and it expands the mind.  Whoever follows the vidheka dharma is a Hindu.