View all articles by Dr. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman
universal ordering principle from Vedic to modern times
Dharma is not religion.
Religion is only a method of worship and is a word which
came into use in the nineteenth century. The word is
based on a Christian concept and rooted in a Christian
background of affiliation.
Dharma is a very ancient word. Dharma is non-divisive,
non-exclusive, and non-conclusive. Dharma is a quest
for understanding cosmic order of the universe and
consciousness order at a personal level.
Dharma unites. Religion and its obverse secular are
divisive. Religion is a restrictive canvas related to
modes of worship of a divinity called by a variety of
names. Religion and its obverse secular is restrictive
in relating to parts of society and parts of social
Dharma is all-encompassing and resolves conflicts.
Religion and secular foment conflicts. Kerry Brown
the culture that we know now as
Hindouisme and that the Indian ones call Sanatana Dharma
- the Law Eternal - precedes this name by thousands of
years. This is more than a religion, more than the
theological direction in which the west understands
religion. One can believe in all divinities or in no
divinity and remain Hindu. This is a manner to living."
(unquote) (Kerry Brown, The Essential Teachings of the
hindouisme; loc. cit. Rama Jois, Dharmarajya or true
government according to dharma http://pages.intnet.mu/ramsurat/Textesdivers/dharmarajya.html)
Arvind Sharma questions the use of the word religion
itself in the context of comparative studies of
what we are dealing with at the
moment is not so much the Christian West as the secular
West, and it is on account of this difference that for
the organising category of Christianity, one now
substitutes the word religion
Wilfred Cantwell Smith
(1916-2000) is well known for pointing out how the word
religion became reified in the course of the
intellectual evolution of the modern West.1 It is not as
often recognised that he also connects this development
with the rise of secularism
In place of the Christian
religion we are now, in fact, operating with a Christian
conception of religion
A subtle fact needs to be noted
herethat Christianity and Islam first deny one
salvation because one is not in them and then offer it
to all who would join them. This is one kind of
universalism. But according to the Hindu position
salvation is yours as your areand without having to
become a Hindu. Thus it too offers universal salvation
without making itself the intermediary of it. So I ask
you: Which of these two universalisms is more
universalthe conditional one (join us) or the
unconditional one? Now contrast this with two
conceptions of rightshuman rights and citizens right.
Which of the two are more universal? You have citizens
right if you are a citizen of a state, but even a
stateless human being possesses human rightsmerely by
virtue of being a human being. This is the whole point
in calling them universal. It is worth noting that up to
a point in the deliberations at the U.N.O. the document
which ultimately became the Universal Decollation of
Human Rights was referred to as the International
Declaration of Human Rights. The significance of
ultimately designating them as universal rather than
international should not be overlooked.1 The situation
is analogous to the Indic position on religious
salvationthat a human being has access to it not by
virtue of belonging to this or that religionbut by the
mere fact of being a human being. This, I submit to you,
is also the dharmic positionthe position of much of
Asia and of the indigenous world. It is also the more
universal of the two. It is therefore ironical that the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not accord
explicit recognition to this position. In advocating the
dharmic position the Indic tradition is perhaps poised
to make a crucial contribution to both contemporary
religious discourse and contemporary human rights
discourse. [unquote] [Loc. Cit. Arvind Sharma, 2002,
An Indic Contribution Towards an Understanding of the
Word Religion and the Concept of Religious Freedom
Wilfred Cantwell Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion
(New York: The Macmillan Company, 1963)].
Dharma is a complex word. It has no equivalent in
English. To understand dharma, we have to inquire into
ancient texts of Bharat, that is India.
Dharma is an abiding identity of Hindu civilization
right from Vedic to modern times.
Dharma is the greatest contribution of Hindu Ra_s.t.ra
(Hindu Nation) to the world of thought and to
civilization. Dharma is the quintessence of the
perceptions of r.s.i-s (seers) of yore, who
laid the early foundations of the Bha_ratam Janam
(R.gveda), the Nation of Bha_rata.
Dharma sets forth an ideal to strive for, an ideal for
all humanity; dharma is a universal ethic, which evolved
over time as an eternal satyam (truth) which
should govern every human endeavour which should result
in the good of all living entities, bhu_tahitam.
history of dharma, this human ideal is inexorably
inter-twined with the story of civilization.
is the responsibility of every ra_s.t.ra to uphold and
protect dharma. The responsibility of the Hindu
ra_s.t.ra to uphold and protect dharma is a historic
necessity. For several millennia, the Hindu ra_s.t.ra
has been the trustee of dharma, this treasure of
civilization. To forsake dharma, will be a deriliction
of duty, an a-dharma, a pa_pam, a defiance of the r.ta,
the natural, cosmic order, a repudiation of the r.n.a,
the debt owed to the pitr.-s, the ancestors of the
There are many thematic accounts of Dharma and
philosophical foundations of the traditions of Bha_rata,
the Hindu Ra_s.t.ra or Hindu Nation.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was widely believed
to have been a non-religious and scientific type - an
avowed agnostic - wrote in the introduction to a book (
Socialism in Indian Planning, written by a member of
Parliament Srimannarayan Agarwal): " In India it is
important for us to profit by modern technical processes
and increase our production in agriculture and industry.
But, in doing so, we must not forget that the essential
objective to be aimed at is the quality of the
individual and the concept of Dharma underlying
it." [loc.cit. AV Srinivasan at
] Talk of devil quoting scriptures !
first book of Tirukkural of Tiruvalluvar in Tamil is
called aram, dharma; the second is porul. wealth; and
the thirs is inbam joy; the three-fold division is
consistent with the purushartha trivarga: dharma artha
ka_ma (duties, wealth, joy). Illaram means
householders dharma and is explained in 20 chapters
of the first book on aram, dharma. A compound such as
cid-dharma is interpreted as transcendental nature, so
is ma_nava dharma human nature, giving the word dharma
a comprehensive elucidation as natural order. Rishi
Kanada in Vaisesika sutra notes a definition of dharma
by its beneficial impact, focusing on discharge of ones
responsibility: "That which leads to the attainment of
Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihsreyasa
(total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss
hereafter) is Dharma".
the quest, veda, continued to unravel the ordering
principles, the source of dharma is perceived in the
first creation yajna by Prajapati; the rica notes, taani
dharmani prathamani aasan (from that yajna arose the
first ordering principles). Thus, dharma is an
extraordinarily perceptive phenomenon which could
perhaps explain the natural order and also the order of
consciousness, from the macro to the micro levels. It is
also an explanatory statement for many phenomena
observed, for example, in polity related to rajadharma,
in society related to samajadharma, in interpersonal
relationships related to asramadharma. Closely
associated with the term, dharman are satyam, ritam and
vrata. An explanation of these profound terms in context
are conditions precedent to an understanding of the
ethos which have governed Hindu civilization for several
millennia. Dharma could provide a universally acceptable
foundation and framework for world peace, while
resolving the faith-based conflicts which recur in many
parts of the globe.
Dharma is sacred duty. The very performance of ones
duty makes it sacred. This is a metaphysical concept
which has to be elaborated further, given the problems
of bhasha pariccheda, of explaining the sanatana dharma
idiom which evolved in the cultural domain of Bharatam,
Dharma is inviolate, dharma is divine. As one attains
the full potential of his aatman, one attains divinity.
The very performance of one's responsibility makes the
action, the motion, divine. Sacredness inheres in the
responsibility. That is why, dharma is sacred.
does Valmiki refer to Rama as 'ramo vigrahavaan
dharmah'? (Rama is the embodiment of dharma). Because,
as the prince who attained divinity, he embodied dharma
by the performance of his responsibilities. That is why,
Rama is the ideal to aspire for every student, every
son, every husband, every ruler.
was a prince who became an ideal ruler. Such an ideal
ruler that there are hundreds of epigraphs of later-day
rulers claiming to use Sri Ramachandra as a role model
in the performance of rajadharma.
Within this all-enveloping framework, dharma as applied
to governance, called rajadharma is explained as the
facilitation of individuals of the samajam attaining the
purushartha of dharma, artha and kaama without
transgressing dharma, the ethical principles of conduct
and inter-personal relationships. This is affirmed by
Barhaspatya sutra, II-43-44: The goal of rajaniti
(polity) is the accomplishment of dharma, artha, kaama.
Artha and kaama must be subject to the test of dharma.
Dharma was supreme law of the state and rulers and
subjects alike were subservient to this law. Dharma is
the constitutional law of modern parlance, explaining
the contours of the functions and responsibilities of
the state, constraining the ruler by regulations which
restrain the exercise of sovereignty by the ruler a
parallel to the paradigm of checks and balances
enshrined in modern constitutions to prevent abuse of
power while ensuring equal protection to the subjects
without discrimination. "Just as the mother Earth gives
an equal support to all the be living, a king must give
support to all without no discrimination." (Manusmruti).
"The king must furnish protection to associations
following ordinances of the Veda (Naigamas) which
protection should extend to all those non-believers
(paashandi) and to others as well." (Naradasmruti,
Dharmakosa, p. 870).
absence of discrimination, provisions to check abuse of
power and enjoining the state to promote the
individuals and samajams activities for the attainment
of purushartha [achieving the goals of life -- of dharma
(righteous conduct), of artha (economic well-being) and
of kaama (mental well-being)] are the key facets of
rajadharma. Such a rajadharma is beyond secular and is a
sacred trust to be administered with diligence and
a rajadharma is exemplified by ramarajyam which is
evoked by many rulers of Bharatam in many parts of the
nation in their references to Sri Ramachandra as the
ideal ruler whose example the rulers hoped to emulate in
rendering social justice and in regulating the affairs
of the state. Ramarajyam is a dharma polity, governed by
a dharma constitution. This is the reason why Valmiki
refers to Rama in eloquent terms: Ramo vigrahavan
dharmah. (Rama is the very embodiment of dharma).
two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata and the
Bhagavata Purana explain dharma in action, the
application of the ordering principles in specific
real-life situations, in moments of creative tension
such as when a proponent like Arjuna had to decide to
fight against his own kith and kin, members of his own
kula. This moment of decision results in the delineation
of the Dharmakshetra (the domain of dharma) in that Song
Celestial, Bhagavad Gita. An enduring metaphor of the
Bhagavatam is samudramanthanam: deva and asura
apparently in conflict work together to harness the
resources of the ocean by churning the ocean together.
This togetherness to achieve artha and kaama is a
dharmic cooperative endeavour, an example of a samajam
in harmony, pulling together for a common purpose that
purpose is loka hitam, well-being of loka. Loka hitam
is the touchstone which determines the dharmic nature of
positive action. Just as satyam is truth that is
pleasing, dharma is action which is loka-hitaaya for
the well-being of the society. How should such action
be performed or such responsibility be discharged?
Governed by ethical conduct, a social ethic which
respects the responsibilities being discharged by
everyone in society.
Dharma is sacred because it is the divine ordering
principle. Dharma is the principle which recognizes the
way things are or the nature of things or phenomena. In
Thai language, the compound dharmacarth (dharma carati)
means nature. Hence, the compound sva-dharma in the
evolution of sanatana dharma in Bharatam, means law and
responsibility, according to ones nature.
Rigveda notes that ritam occurrence of phenomena or
order is dharma. Atharva Veda notes: Prithivim
dharman.a_ dhr.tam the world is upheld by dharma.
Sanatana Dharma in bharatiya metaphysics (elaborated
further in Buddha, Jaina, Khalsa pantha thought) is not
a moral connotation. It is an inexorable organizing,
creative principle which operates on the plane of the
aatman and the cosmos.
Sanatana dharma is thus beyond a law regulating an
individuals action. It is the very _expression of the
divine. Such adherence to the divine principle is the
purusharta, the purpose of life.
us see how an Egyptian islamist understood dharma: It
[dharma] is, so to speak, the essential nature of a
being, comprising the sum of its particular qualities or
characteristics, and determining, by virtue of the
tendencies or dispositions it implies, the manner in
which this being will conduct itself, either in a
general way or in relation to each particular
circumstance. The same idea may be applied, not only to
a single being, but also to an organized collectivity,
to a species, to all the beings included in a cosmic
cycle or state of existence, or even to the whole order
of the Universe; it then, at one level or another,
signifies conformity with the essential nature of
beings... [Rene Guenon (aka Sheikh 'Abd Al Wahid
Yahya), Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines]
an elucidation can also explain why another name for
Yama is Dharma. Yama is the organizer of death and he
does this consonant with another divine principle of
karma (of cause and effect).
Given the broad spectrum of phenomena explained as
dharma, the cosmos and consciousness are best viewed as
metaphysical systems. Thus, pot is the bearer of a
property called pot-existence (iha ghat.ah); dharmin
is the property-bearer; dharma is the property. This is
how dharma dravya in Jaina thought can be explained as
six properties which explain the universe of dravya
(substances animate and inanimate) and dharmin as the
Annam bahu kurvi_tha, tad vratam, says Taittiriya
Upanishad (Bhr.guvalli). 'Ensure abundance of food all
around. That is the vrata'. This can be explained as
dharma, as one's responsibility to the samajam which
defines the very existence, of being. The process of
movement from being to becoming is vratam, performance.
As one engages in annam bahu kurvi_tha, he is in motion
from being to becoming.
is the sacredness of dharma and explained with reference
to ritam and vrata.
Bhishma explained to Yudhishthira: "It is very difficult
to define the dharma. Dharma was explained as that which
helps the elevation of the human. This is the reason,
this that assures well-being is assuredly dharma. The
learned rishis declared: this that supports is dharma."
satyam, dharma was explained with reference to the
beneficial effect it generates: well-being and progress
of humanity. "Dharma is this that supports and that
assures the progress and the well-being of all in this
world and the eternal happiness in the other
world. Dharma is promulgated in the form of orders
(positive and negative: Vidhi and Nishedha)." This was
the elucidaton of Madhvacharya in his commentary on
Parasarasmruti. This rendering of the semantics of
dharma explains why dharma covered all aspects of life
for the well-being of the individual and also the
Karna Parva, Ch. 59, verset 58, praises the dharma in
the following terms:
Dharma supports the corporation, The Dharma maintains
the social order, The Dharma assures well-being and the
progress of humanity, The Dharma is certainly this that
fills these objectives."
Jaimini, the author of the famous Purvamimamsa and
uthara Mimamsa, explains that:
Dharma is this that is indicated in the Vedas as driving
to the biggest good."
Dharma protects those who protect it
Dharmo raksati raksitah is a remarkable statement by
Manu; the roots for the meaning of the term have to be
traced in the perceptions of the rishi-s from the days
of the R.gveda.yato dharmah tato jayah (success goes
hand in hand with righteousness) (MBh. 6.65.18)
dharma eva hato hanti dharmo raks.ati raks.itah
tasma_ddharmo na hantavyo ma_ no dharmo hatovadhi_t
Dharma protects those who protect it. Those who destroy
Dharma get destroyed. Therefore, Dharma should not be
destroyed so that we may not be destroyed as a
Dharma is eternal, imperishable. Manu says (Manu 4.239):
na_mutra hi saha_ya_rtham pita_ ma_ta ca tis.t.hatah
na pputrada_ram na jn~a_tidharmostis.t.hati kevalah
one departs from this world to the other world, neither
father nor mother, neither son nor wife will accompany
him. Only the Dharma practised by an individual follows
him even after death.
Dharman, satya, r.ta
satyam? bhu_tahitam. What is truth? That which leads to
well-being of all living beings. This is the question
and answer provided by Sankara. The same applies to
Dharma. Satya, the idea of morality is verily planted
in the heart, says Katha Up. 3.9.23. Sankara notes
that while the idea of dharma may be in the breast of a
human being, in reality it is activated only in relation
to the specific social environment (nimitta-vises.a).
Thus, the sense of right and wrong is a unique
characteristic of a human being within sentient
creation. (M. Hiriyanna, 1975, Indian Conception of
Values, Mysore, Kavyalaya Publishers, p. 154).
word often used in the R.veda is satya (truth), defined
as that on which the universe rests, almost an
elucidation of r.ta, the law, principle, or order of
things. (RV 10.85.1). Aghamars.an.a notes that r.ta is
the eternal law and order of the universe (RV
10.190.1). The concepts of satya and r.ta are expanded
in dharman, used in the R.gveda.
satyenottabhita_ bhu_mih su_ryen.a_ttabhita_ dya_h
r.tena_diya_s tis.t.hanti divi somo adhi s'ritah
10.85.1 [r.s.i: su_rya_ s_vitri_ (r.s.ika_); devata_:
soma] Earth is upheld by truth; heaven is upheld by the
sun; the A_dityas are supported by sacrifice, Soma is
supreme in heaven. [Truth: i.e., Brahman, the eternal
r.tam ca satyam c_bhi_ddha_t tapaso dhy aja_yata
tato ra_try aja_yata tatah samudra_ arn.avah
10.190.1 [r.s.i: aghamar.s.an.a ma_dhucchandasa;
devata_: bha_vavr.tta] Truth (of thought) and
truthfulness (of speech) were born of arduous penance,
thence was night generated, thence also the watery
ocean. [Penance: an allusion to the penance of Brahma_
preceding creation; tatah = from that penance, or from
him (Brahma_); watery ocean: samudra = firmament and
Definition of Dharma
Maha_na_rayan.opanis.ad (Section 79.7) declares thus:
dharmo vis'vasya jagatah pratis.t.ha_
loke dharmis.t.ha praja_ upasarpanti
dharme sarvam pratis.thitam
tasma_ddharmam paramam vadanti
Dharma constitutes the foundation of all affairs in the
world. People respect those who adhere to Dharma. Dharma
insulates (man) against sinful thoughts. Everything in
this world is founded on Dharma. Dharma, therefore, is
supremacy of dharma is emphasized in
tadetat ks.atrasya ks.atram yaddharmah
atho abali_ya_n bali_ya_msama_s'amsate dharmen.a
yatha ra_ja_ evam
law (Dharma) is the king of kings. No one is superior to
Dharma. The Dharma aided by the power of the king
enables the weak to prevail over the strong.
ta_dr.s'oyamanupras'no yatra dharmah sudurlabhah
dus.karah pratisankhya_tum tatkena_tra vyavasyati
prabhava_rtha_ya bhu_ta_na_m dharmapravanam kr.tam
yah sya_tprabhavasamyuktah sa dharma iti nis'cayah (MBh.
is most difficult to define Dharma. Dharma has beene
xplained to be that which helps the upliftment of living
beings. Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of
living beings is surely Dharma. The learned r.s.i-s have
declared that which sustains is dharma.
Jaimini, cited in Sabarabha_s.ya (pp. 4-7) states: sa hi
ni s'reyasena purus.am samyunakti_ti pratija_ni_mahe
tadabhidhi_yate (Dharma is that which is indicated by
the Vedas as conducive to the highest good).
is further emphasised in Karn.a Parva (ch. 69, verse
dha_ran.a_d dharma ityua_hurdharmo dha_rayate praja_h
yat sya_d dha_ran.asamyuktam sa dharma iti nis'cayah
Dharms sustains the society; Dharma maintains the social
order; Dharma ensures well-being and progress of
humanity; Dharms is surely that which fulfils these
the context of the purus.a_rtha-s or pursuits of human
beings, the supremacy of dharma is declared by Manu in
emphatic terms (Manu 2.224 and 4.176):
dharma_rtha_vus.yate s'reyah ka_ma_rtho dharma eva ca
artha eveha va_ s'reyastrivargam iti tu sthitih
parityajedarthaka_mau yau sya_ta_ dharmavarjitau
dharma ca_pyasukhodarka lokavikrus.t.ameva ya
achieve welfare and happiness, some declare Dharma and
Artha are good. Others declare that Artha and Ka_ma are
better. Still others declare that Dharma is the best.
There are also persons who declare Artha alone secures
happiness. But the correct view is that the aggregate of
Dharma, Artha and Ka_ma (Trivarga) secures welfare and
happiness. However, discard the desire (ka_ma) and
material wealth (artha) if contrary to Dharma; as also,
any usage or custom or rules regarded as source of
Dharma if at any time they were to lead to unhappiness
or arous people's indignation.
Sources of Dharma
Smr.ti explains the sources of dharma as follows:
vedokhilo dharmamu_lam smr.tis'i_le ca tadvida_m
a_ca_ras'caiva sa_dhu_na_matmanastus.t.ireva ca (Manu
Veda is the first source of Dharma. The exposition by
the Seers, handed down from generation to generation by
memory, the virtuous conduct of those who are
well-versed in the Veda, and lastly, what is agreeable
to the good conscience, are the other sources.
Dharman is used in the R.gveda in the following r.ca-s,
generally translated as nature of things or duties (to
tri_n.i pada_ vi cakrame vis.n.ur gopa_ ada_bhyah
RV1.022.18 [r.s.i: medha_tithi ka_n.va; devata_:
vis.n.u] Vis.n.u, the preserver, the uninjurable,
stepped three steps, upholding thereby righteous acts.
[gopa_, sarvasya jagato raks.akah: the preserver of all
the worlds; the principal attribute of Vis.n.u].
sakamayam dhu_mam a_ra_d apasyam visu_vata_ para
uks.a_n.am pr.snim apacanta vi_ra_s ta_ni dharma_n.i
RV1.164.43 [r.s.i: di_rghatama_ aucatthya: devata_:
prathama_rddha s'akadhu_ma, dviti_ya_rddha soma] I
beheld near (me) the smoke of burning cow-dung; and by
that tall-pervading means (effect), discovered the cause
(fire); the priests have the Soma ox, for such are their
first duties. [The Soma ox: uks.a_n.am pr.s'nim
apacanta: pr.s'ni = Soma; uks.a_n.am = the shedder or
bestower of the reward of the sacrifice].
yajn~ena yajn~am ayajanta deva_s ta_ni dharma_n.i
ha na_kam mahima_nah sacanta yatra pu_rve sa_dhya_h
RV1.164.50 [r.s.i: di_rghatama_ aucatthya: devata_:
sa_dhya] The uniform water passes upwards and downwards
in the course of days; clouds give joy to the earth;
fires rejoice the heaven.
3.3.1 [r.s.i: vis'va_mitra ga_thina; devata_:
vais'va_nara agni] Intelligent (worshippers), offer to
the powerful Vais'va_nara precious things at holy rites,
that they may go (the way of the good), for the immortal
Agni worships the gods; therefore, let no one violate
samidhyama_nah prathama_nu dharma_ sam aktubhir ajyate
sociskeso ghr.tanirn.ik pa_vakah suyajn~o agnir
RV3.017.1[r.s.i: kata vais'va_mitra; devata_: agni;
chanda: tris.t.up] The righteous (Agni) when first
kindled on the several (altars) the object of adoration
by all, whose hair is flame, and who is cleansed with
butter, the purifier, the worthy-worshipped, is
sprinkled with oblations for the worship of the gods.
[The righteous Agni: prathama_nudharma_: dharma is a
synonym of agni; or, the construction may be anudharma,
according to law or religion].
indra r.bhuma_n va_java_n matsveha no smin savane
ima_ni tubhyam svasara_n.i yemire vrata_ deva_na_m
manus.as ca dharmabhih
RV3.060.06 [r.s.i: vis'va_mitra ga_thina; devata_;5,6
r.bhugan.a and indra] Indra, the praised of many,
associated with R.bhu, and with Va_ja, exult with S'aci,
at this our sacrifice; these self-revolving (days) are
devoted to you, as well as the ceremonies (addressed) to
the gods, and the virtuous acts of man. [S'aci = karman,
samidha_nah sahasrajid agne dharma_n.i pus.yasi
deva_na_m du_ta ukthyah
RV5.026.06 [r.s.i: vasu_yu a_treya; devata_: agni]
Victor over thousands, you favour, when kindled our holy
rites, the honoured messenger of the gods.
dharman.a_ mitra_varun.a_ vipascita_ vrata_ raks.ethe
r.tena visvam bhuvanam vi ra_jathah su_ryam a_ dhattho
divi citryam ratham
RV5.063.07 [r.s.i: arcana_na_ a_treya; devata_:
mitra_varun.a] Discerning, sagacious, Mitra and Varun.a,
by your office you protect pious rites, through the
power of the emitter of showers; you illumine the whole
world with water; you sustain the sun, the adorable
chariot in the sky.
vratena stho dhruvaks.ema_ dharman.a_ ya_tayajjana_
barhis.i sadatam somapi_taye
RV5.072.02 [r.s.i: ba_huvr.kta a_treya; devata_:
mitra_varun.a] Steady are you in your functions, whom
men animate by (their) devotion; come and sit down upon
the sacred grass to drink the Soma libation.
bhagaste hastamagrihi_t savita_ hastamagrahi_t patni_
tvamasi dharman.a_ham gr.hapatistava
Bhaga has grasped your hand; Savita_ has grasped your
hand; you are (my) spouse by ordinance (dharman), I your
house-lord. [Ppp. Reads dha_ta_ for bhagas] Atharva Veda
14.1.51 [Marriage Ceremonies] cf. Va_jasneyi Sam.hita_
Dharma (interpreted sometimes as custom or law) is
r.tam satyam tapo ra_s.t.ram sramo dharmasca karma ca
bhu_tam bhavis.yaducchis.t.e vi_ryam laks.mi_rbalam
Righteousness, truth, penance, kingship, soil, and
virtue (dharma) and deed (karman), being (bhu_ta), what
will be, (is) in the remnant; heroism, fortune
(laks.mi_), strength in strength. (Atharva Veda 11.7.17:
Extolling the remnant ucchis.t.a of the offering)
r.ta is explained by manasa yatha_rthasam.kalpanam,
right conception; bale is elucidated as: balavati
tasminn uchchis.t.e. Ppp has di_ks.a_ for ra_s.t.ram.
ojasca tejasca sahasca balam ca va_k cendriyam ca
force, and brilliancy, and power, and strength, and
speech, and sense (indriya), and fortune, and virtue
(dharma)AV 12.5.7 [The bra_hman.as cow; brahmagavi_
su_kta; AV 12.5.5 starts: tam_dada_nasya brahmagavi_m
jinato bra_hman.am ks.atriyasya, of the ks.atriya who
takes to himself that bra_hman.a-cow, who scathes the
bra_hman.a. When such an action occurs, there departs
happiness (sunr.ta_, the heroism, the good luck and also
force, brilliange, power etc. etc.]
na_ri_ patilokam vr.n.a_na_ ni padyata upa tva_ martya
pretam dharmam pura_n.amanupa_layanti_ tasyai praja_m
dravin.am ceha thehi
woman, choosing her husbands world, lies down (nipad)
by ou that are departed, O mortal, continuing to keep
(her) ancient duty (dharma); to her assign you here
progeny and property. (AV 18.3.1 [pitr.megha su_kta]).
Cf. TS 188.8.131.52; VS 15.6; VS 20.9; VS 30.6
is cognate with r.tu. R.ta is the cyclical order of
nature, a cosmic order which regulates the lives of the
people and is celebrated through the process of
yajn~a-s. The yajn~as are celebrated at the beginning of
each r.tu, each ca_turma_sya, a four-month season in a
year, dividing the year of 12 months into three seasons.
R.tu is season (RV 1.49.3; 84.18). R.tv-ij is a priest
who conducts the yajn~a. The seven priests enumerated in
the R.gveda (RV 2.1.2) are: hotr., potr., nes.t.r.,
agni_dh, prasa_str., adhvaryu, Brahman. They are
collectively called sapta-hotr., a term which occurs
frequently in the R.gveda. The term sarad is a
designation for a year; it denotes the harvest.; the
other terms used to denote a year are: hima_ and sama_.
AV 8.9.17 divides the year into two periods of six
months which may be an indication of an older tradition.
RV 1.164.2 (tri-na_bhi), RV 1.164.48 (tri_n.i nabhya_ni)
may refer to three seasons. Cha_turma_sya_ni are
four-monthly yajn~a-s performed at the beginning of the
season (cf. SBr. 184.108.40.206). RV 10.90.6 refers to
vasanta (spring), gri_s.ma (summer) and sarad (autumn).
Other seasons may be referred to by the terms in the
R.gveda: pra_-vr.s. (rainy season), hima_, hemanta
(winter season). RV 5.14.4; 10.91.4 may also refer to
three seasons: ga_vah (spring), a_pah (rains) and svar
(= gharma, summer). A_pastamba Srauta Su_tra (8.4.2)
refers to the three seasons: r.ta, gharma and os.adhi.
Hemanta is the last season according to the SBr.
(220.127.116.11). Five seasons are mentioned in other texts
(AV 8.2.22; 9.15; 13.1.18; TS 18.104.22.168; 22.214.171.124,2;
126.96.36.199; 3.1.2; 4.12.2; 6.10.1; 7.2.4; 188.8.131.52.2; MS
1.7.3; 3.4.8; 13.1; Ka_t.haka Sam.hita_ 4.14; 9.16; VS
10.10-14; SBr. 184.108.40.206; 220.127.116.11; TBr. 18.104.22.168;
11.10.4; cf. RV 1.164.13): vasanta, gri_s.ma, vars.a_,
sarad, hemanta-sisira. Sometimes vars.a_-sarad are
combined into one season (SBr. 22.214.171.124.11). Dividing
hemanta-sisira into two seasons, six seasons are
identified. (AV 6.55.2; 7.1.36; TS 126.96.36.199; 7.3; 2.6.1;
MS 1.7.3; 3.11.12; KS 8.6; VS 21.23-38; SBr. 188.8.131.52;
184.108.40.206; 220.127.116.11; TBr. 2.6.19; cf. RV 1.23.15). An
intercalary month may also be reckoned as a season
making the seasons seven. (RV. 6.61.2; 8.9.18; SBr.
18.104.22.168; 22.214.171.124; 2.3.45; 3.1.19; 5.2.8; cf. AV
4.11.9; RV 1.164.1).
R.n.a means, in the metaphorical sense, in the R.gveda,
debt. (RV 2.27.4). Debt is often contracted at dicing.
(RV 10.34.10; AV 6.119.1). Paying off a debt was r.n.am
swam-ni_ (RV 8.47.17 = AV 6.46.3). There is also an
allusion to contracting debt without intention of
payment (AV 6.119.1). Non-payment of a debt may result
in the dicer becoming a slave (RV 10.34). RV 10.34.4 may
refer to the binding (to a post, dru-pada) and taking
away of a debtor. RV 1.169.7 may also refer to a similar
binding of a debtor. AV 126.96.36.199 may also refer to debt
with an allusion to binding to a post as a punishment,
as a pressure put on the debtor to pay up the debt.
Three hymns of AV (AV 6.117-119) are interpreted in
Kausika Su_tra (xlvi. 36-40) may refer to the occasion
of the payment of a debt after the creditors decease.
concept of r.n.a is expanded to a pious obligations
towards (1) deva; (2) pitr.; (3) r.s.i; and (4) ma_nava.
Great Epic (A_diparva Ch. 120, 17-20) explains:
r.n.aais'caturbhih samyukta_ ja_yante ma_nava_ bhudi
pitr.deva_r.s.imanujairdeyam tebhyas'r dharmatah
yajn~aistu deva_n pri_n.a_ti sva_dhya_yatapasa_ muni_n
putraih s'raddhaih pitr.s'ca_i a_nr.s'amsyena ma_nava_n
Every individual should discharge four pious
obligations. They are devar.n.a (debt to god),
pitr.r.n.a (debt to ancestors), r.s.ir.n.a (debt to
teachers and seers) and manavar.n.a (debt to humanity).
A person should discharge pitr.r.n.a by maintaining
continuity of the family; devar.n.a by worship;
r.s.ir.n.a by the acquisition and dissemination of
knowledge; and ma_navar.n.a by every type of social
Since the individual is the foundation for a harmonious
society, the obligations are to be discharged during
various stages of a person's life and are referred to as
a_s'rama-dharma (a_s'rama further classified as related
to acquisition of knowledge as a student, discharging
family responsibilities as a householder and devoting
oneself to social service and ultimately renunciation of
temporal desires -- brahmacarya_s'rama-, gr.hasta_s'rama-,
va_naprastha_s'rama- and sanya_s'a_s'rama-dharma.
Samska_ra-s a(trans. sacraments) re prescribed for each
stage of life.
Jaina metaphysical categories: Dharma and Adharma
the Jaina thought, dharma and adharma are defined as the
principle of motion and principle of rest; this is a
unique characterization in Jaina metaphysics. The two
phenomena are said to pervade the whole of loka-a_ka_sa;
they are subtle; movement is associated with either a
ji_va or pudgala (being sakriya dravyas); the movement
is dependent upon the presence of dharma. Dharma dravya
makes movement possible; an analogy is provided by fish
swimming, while swimming is impossible without the
presence of water. Adharma dravya enables a moving
object, living or non-living to come to rest. The
analogy is of a bird coming to a stop by ceasing to beat
its wings; this is contingent upon the bird ceasing to
fly perching on a tree branch or on the ground. The two
principles, dharma and adharma account for the definite
structure of the world. So, too, ka_la is a dravya. [cf.
S.K. Chatterji et al. (eds.), 1937, The Cultural
Heritage of India, Vol. I, Calcutta, Ramakrishna
Mission, p. 425].
duties (dharma_h) are prescribed for the Jaina monks:
ks.ama_ (khama_, endurance), ma_rdavam (maddavam,
humility), a_rjavam (ajjavam, uprightness), s'aucam (s'oyam,
desirelessness), satyam (saccam, truth), samyamah (samjame,
self-discipline), tapah (tave, penance), tya_gah (ciya_ge,
renunciation), a_imcanyam (a_kimcaniya_,
possessionlessness), brahmacaryam (bambham, chastity).
as regards the precise character of dharma. Broadly
speaking, there are three views. According to some
Mi_ma_msakas, we have to understand by dharma an action.
But action being transient, it cannot by itself account
for the result, whose attainment is often put off to a
later day. So it is believed that, before it is
completed, the act produces an appropriate effect,
called apu_rva, which abides in the self of the agent
until its reqard is reaped by him. Dharma, then, in this
view, yields its fruit through the intermediary of
apu_rva. According to some others, like the followers of
the Nya_ya-vais'es.ika, it is this apu_rva and not the
action, that is designated by dharma. It thus becomes
here a quality characterising the self. Finally,
according to theistic doctrines, dharma is neither an
action nor a quality; it is rather the grace (prasa_da)
of God, the consequence of our meritorious deeds, that
is so called, and explains the conferment of the reward.
But, however its exact character may be explained., the
noteworthy point about dharma is that it is conceived as
instrumental to the attainment of some good or the
avoidance of some evil. S'abara, for example, defines it
as 'what conduces to good'. (s'reyaskara eva dharmah --
1.1.2)." . (M. Hiriyanna, 1975, Indian Conception of
Values, Mysore, Kavyalaya Publishers, pp. 159-160).
the Buddhist thought:
anussava itiha-itiha-parampara_-pit.aka-sampada_ dhamma
a system of moral discipline which is based upon
customs, usages, or traditions handed down from time
immemorial. (Majjhima-nika_ya, I.520). In broad terms,
dhamma may have meant phenomena. Buddhist thought
recognized the dhamma as applied to the upa_saka
(layperson), pabbajita (wanderer), and the arhat
(enlightened). Dhamm as an ideal already accepted by
many people and as it applied to the upa_saka
(layperson) was elaborated, about 250 BCE, in As'oka's
Rock Edict Nos.1,3,7,9 and 11, 12, Pillar Edict, No. 2
and 3 1, In the 13th Edict, As'oka
also notes, in an address to his sons and grandsons that
he himself found pleasure in conquests by the Dhamma and
not in conquests by the sword. On monuments of the third
century BCE, there is a reference to a donor described
with the epithet, dhamma-kathika; the term is explained
as, 'preacher of the system', dhamma signifying the
philosophical and ethical doctrine as distinct from the
Vinaya, the Rules of the Order. (T.W. Rhys Davids, 1902,
Buddhist India, repr. Delhi, Munshiram
Manoharlal, p. 167; Edict citations, pp. 295-297).
Sa_ma_nya Dharma, the ethic
moral edicts echo the statement of Manu:
ahimsa_ satyamasteyam s'aucamindriyanigrahah
etam sa_ma_sikam dharma ca_turvarn.yebravi_nmanuh (Manu
Non-violence, truthfulness, not acquiring illegitimate
wealth, purity and control of senses are, in brief, the
common dharma for all the varn.a-s.
adharmen.aaidhate ta_vat tato bhadra_n.i pas'ati tatah
sapatna_n jayati samu_lastu vinas'yati (those who
indulge in adharma attain immediate success and secure
fulfilment of their desires. They overpower their
opponents. But ultimately their ruin down in the roots
ethical code is emphasised in the Great Epic
akrodhah satyavacanam samvibha_gah ks.ama_ tatha_
prajanah sves.u da_res.u s'aucamadroha eva ca
a_rjavambhr.tyabharan.am navaite sa_rvavarn.ika_h
Truthfulness, to be free from anger, sharing wealth with
others, forgiveness, procreation of children from one's
wife alone, purity, absence of enmity,
straightforwardness and maintaining persons dependent on
oneself are the nine rules of the Dharma of persons
belonging to all the varn.a-s.
Exposure of children. Ka_t.haka Sam.hita_ (27.9) [cf. TS
188.8.131.52; Sa_n:kha_yana Srauta Su_tra 15.17.12;
Nirukta 3.4] may refer to an exposure of children or
getting rid of a daughter on her marriage, or just
laying the child aside, while a boy was lifted up.
Exposure of the aged. R.gveda (8.51.2) and AV (18.2.34)
refer to ud-hita_h (exposed persons). The latter passage
may be a reference to bodies being exposed after death
to elements (a practice followed by the Parsi_s). The RV
passage refers to some who may have been cast out. The
RV reference to Cyavana (RV 1.116.10; 117.13; 118.6;
5.74.5; 7.68.6; 71.5; 10.39.4) as an old decrepit man,
whom the Asvins restored to youth and strength may be
cited as an example of exposure of the aged.
Prostitution. R.gveda refers to the putting away of an
illegitimate child (RV 2.29.1); brotherless girls were
often reduced to becoming prostitutes (RV 1.124.7;
4.5.5; AV 1.17.1). The terms pum.scali_ (AV 15.2) and
maha_nagni_ (Av 14.1.36; 20.136.5; AiBr. 1.27) may mean
harlot. Other references to prostitution are: RV
8.17.7; RV 1.167.4 (may be a reference to polyandry). VS
(30.6) refers to kuma_ri_-putra (son of a maiden); RV
(4.19.9; 30.16, 19; 2.13.12; 15.17) refers to agru_ (son
of an unmarried girl), exposed and attacked by animals.
VS (30.5) uses the expressions ati_tvari_, vijarjara_;
TBr. (184.108.40.206) uses the epithets atis.hadvari_
(apashadvari_) which may indicate prostitution as a
Adultery. TS (220.127.116.11), MS (3.4.7) forbid connection
with another mans wife during certain rites.
Varun.a-pragha_sas (MS 1.10.11; SBr. 18.104.22.168) has a
wife naming her lover or lovers; this may have been a
means to banish the evil brought on a family by a wifes
fall. Br.hada_ran.yaka Upanis.ad (10.61.5-7) prescribes
a mantra to expiate relations with the wife of a
srotriya (theological bra_hman.a).
Incest. RV (RV 10.10) refers in disapproval, to Yama and
Yami_ and the marriage of brother andsister. Possibly a
similar situation is alluded to in RV 10.162.5. RV
10.61.5-7 refers to the marriage of Praja_pati and his
daughter, which is explained in the Bra_hman.as (AiBr.
2.33; SBr. 22.214.171.124; cf. AV 8.6.7).
Social responsibility and the glory of sacrifice is
exquisitely highlighted in the Hitopades'a:
tyajedekam kulasya_rthe gra_masya_rthe kulam tyajet
gra_mam janapadasya_rthe a_tma_rthe pr.thivi_m tyajet
Sacrifice (or subordinate) individual interest to that
of the family; sacrifice family interest to that of the
village; sacrifice the interest of the village to that
of the nation; renounce all worldly interest if you want
your soul to rest in peace.
Vyavaha_ra Dharma, the criminal and civil law
law of two broad categories: criminal law and civil law
Crime and punishment: king administers criminal
Cha_ndogya Upanis.ad (5.11.5), Asvapati provides a list
of sinners. The list includes a drinker of intoxicating
liquor, a thief, and one who does not maintain a
sacrificial fire. R.gveda (1.191.5; 6.27.3; 7.55.3;
8.29.6) denotes a thief or robber as a taskara. The same
term is used in other texts. (AV 4.3.2; 19.49.7; 50.5;
VS 11.77.78; 12.62; 16.21; Nirukta 3.14). Another term,
stena, is a synonym mentioned along with taskara. (V
8.55.3; AV 19.47.7; 50.5; VS 11.79; 16.21). AV (19.50.5)
refer to these terms as connoting cattle and horse
thieves. ChU (5.10.9) lists sins equal in wickedness:
stealing gold, drinking spirits, defiling a Gurus bed
and the murder of a Brahmin.
(6.16) mentions the ordeal of the red-hot axe in an
accusation of theft. When a theft was taken red-handed,
the punishment could be death (Gautama DhS 13.43; A_p
DhS 126.96.36.199). In other cases, theft was punished with
binding to posts. (AV 19.47.9; 50.1). Pan~cavimsa Br.
(14.6.6) refers to divya (ordeal). It is likely that RV
3.53.22 also refers to this ordeal.
(188.8.131.52), KS (27.9; 31.7), Kapis.t.hala Sam.hita_
(12.7), MS (4.1.9), TBr. (184.108.40.206), Tar (2.7.8; 8.3),
Br.U (4.1.22), Nirukta (6.27), Kaus.i_taki_ U (3.1), AV
(6.112.3; 113.2) refer to the slaying of an embryo
(bhru_n.a) as a crime. Slaying of a Brahmin is a crime.
(TS 220.127.116.11; 18.104.22.168; 22.214.171.124; KS 31.7; TBr. 126.96.36.199;
Tar. 1.38; SBr. 188.8.131.52; Nirukta 6.27). Vasis.t.ha
Dharma Su_tra (20.23) interprets bhu_n.a as Brahmin.
Treachery is a crime punishable by death. (Pan~cavimsa
Br. 14.6.8, story of Kutsa).
Slaying of a vi_ra (man) is a crime. In R.gveda, vi_ra
connotes a (strong and heroic) man (RV 1.18.4; 114.8;
4.29.2; 5.20.4; 61.5); so too in AV (2.26.4; 3.5.8). The
word also denotes male offspring, (RV 2.32.4; 3.4.9;
36.10; 7.34.20; TS 184.108.40.206).
Pan~cavimsa Br. lists eight vi_ras of the king (19.1.4)
perhaps public officers in the administration of the
country: 1. kings brother, 2. his son, 3. purohita, 4.
mahis.i_, 5. su_ta, 6. gra_man.i, 7. ks.attr., 8.
sam.grahi_tr. A variant list occurs while defining
ratnin, the people of the royal court in whose houses
the ratna-havis, a yajn~a was performed during
ra_jasu_ya (royal consecration). TS (220.127.116.11) and TBr.
(18.104.22.168) list the ratnins: 1. purohita, 2. ra_janya, 3.
mahis.i_ (first wife of the king), 4. va_va_ta
(favourite wife of the king), 5. parivr.kti_ (discarded
wife), 6. sena_ni_ (commander of the army), 7. su_ta
(charioteer), 8. gra_man.i_ (village headman), 9.
ks.attr. (chamberlain), 10. sam.grahi_tr. (charioteer or
treasurer), 11. bha_gadugha (collector of taxes or
divider of food), 12. aks.a_va_pa (superintendent of
dicing or thrower of dice). SBr. (22.214.171.124) provides a
variant list: sena_ni_, purohita, mahhis.i_, su_ta,
gra_man.i_, ks.attr., sam.grahi_tr., bha_gadugha,
aks.a_vapa, go-nikartana (slayer of cows or huntsman)
and pa_la_gala (courier). The discarded wife is to stay
at home when an offering to Nirr.ti is made. MS (2.6.5;
4.3.8) provides a variant list: purohita, ra_jan,
mahis.i_, parivr.kti_, sena_ni_, sam.grahi_tr.,
ks.attr., su_ta, vaisyagra_man.i_, bha_gadugha,
taks.a-rathaka_rau (carpenter and chariot-maker),
aks.a_va_pa, and go-vikarta. KS (15.4) substitutes
go-vyacha for go-vikarta, and omits taks.a-rathaka_rau.
(30.13) and TBr. (126.96.36.199) refer to vaira-hatya_
(manslaughter). Tart. (10.40) refers to vi_ra-hatya_
(murder of a man) as a crime; vi_ra-han (man-slayer) is
mentioned in: TS (188.8.131.52; 184.108.40.206); KS (31.7);
Kapis.t.hala Sam.hita) (37.7); MS (4.1.9); TBr.
(220.127.116.11); VS (30.5); PBr. (12.6.8; 16.1,12). R.gveda
(2.32.4) prescribes a compensation for killing: a
hundred (cows) sata-da_ya i.e. one whose
compensation is a hundred. Yajurveda Sam.hita_ (11.1)
also refers to sata-da_ya. AitBr. (7.15.7) refers to
the compensation of a hundred (cows) for Sunahsepa. KS
(31.7), VS (30.5) refer to the slaying of a man (vi_ra)
as a crime. Vasis.t.ha Dharma Su_tra (3.15-18)
elaborates on cases of justiciable homicide. Vaira and
Vaira-deya refer to the money to be paid for killing a
man as a compensation to his relatives. (Pan~cavim.sa
Br. 16.1.12; TS 18.104.22.168; KS 9.2; Kapis.t.hala Sam.hita_
8.5; MS 1.7.5). RV 5.61.8 uses the term vaira-deya. (cf.
KS 23.8; 22.214.171.124). A_pastambha Su_tra (126.96.36.199-4) and
Baudha_yana Su_tra (188.8.131.52,2) refer to vaira-deya and
prescribe the scale of 1,000 cows for a ks.atriya, 100
for a vaisya, 10 for a su_dra; and in each case, a
bull is also to be paid as compensation. Killing of a
bra_hman.a is too heinous for a compensation. The
compensation is for the purpose of vaira-ya_tana
(requital of enmity) or vaira-nirya_tana (expiation).
Baudha_yana indicates that the compensation is to be
paid to the king. A_pastamba Su_tra (184.108.40.206)
prescribes the same scale for women.
heir is a da_ya_da (SBr. 220.127.116.11; Nirukta 3.4; AV
18.104.22.168), a receiver of inheritance. Da_ya means a
reward of exertion (srama) in the R.gveda (RV
10.114.10); the word is semantically expanded, in later
times, to mean, inheritance division among the sons
of a fathers property either during the latters
lifetime or after his death. Taittiri_ya Sam.hita_
(22.214.171.124) refers to Manus division of his property. One
son Na_bha_nedis.t.ha was excluded, the exclusion was
compensated by the son obtaining cattle (pasavah), a
clear indication that cattle was the foundation of
wealth. Aitareya Bra_hman.a (5.14) elaborates that the
division was made by Manus sons, during his lifetime,
while leaving their aged father to Na_bhanedis.t.ha.
Jaimini_ya Bra_hman.a (3.156) notes that four sons
divided the inheritance while their old father,
Abhiprata_rin, was still alive. Taittiri_ya Sam.hita_
(126.96.36.199) notes that the elder son was usually
preferred, in the method of division of land as
property. Pan~cavimsa Bra_hman.a (31.2) indicates tha
tduring the fathers life-time, another son, other than
the eldest son, might be preferred. SBr. (16.4.4) and
Nirukta (188.8.131.52) excliuded women from partition or
inheritance. The detailed procedures and rules of
inheritance are stipulated in the Su_tras (Acf. Jolly,
Recht und Sitte, 80 et seq.)
system of the vaira (compensation) which is to be paid
to the king (as stipulated in the Su_tra-s) may be
interpreted as an indication that criminal justice moved
into the jurisdiction of royal power from the hands of
the people who were wronged. SBr. notes that the king
wields the dan.d.a, i.e. punishment.
Equality before law
concept is traced to the R.gveda and Atharvaveda.
ajyes.t.ha_so akanis.t.ha_sa ete sam bha_rataro
5.60.5 No one is superior or inferior. All are brothers.
All should strive for the interest of all and should
sama_ni_ prapa_ saha tonnabha_gah
sama_ne yovate saha vo yunajmi
Samjn~a_na su_kta: All have equal rights to articles of
food and water. The yoke of the chariot of life is
placed equally on the shoulders of all. All should live
together in harmony supporting one another like the
spokes of a wheel of the chariot connecting its rim and
king himself is not above the law when a crime is
committed by the king. Vr.sa ja_na (descendant of Jana)
was a purohita who was with his king Tryarun.a. The
purohita saw a boy killed by the chariot driven fast by
the king. The purohita reproached the king and recalled
the by to life. (PBr. 13.3.12). Br.haddevata_ (5.23)
refers to Bha_llavi Bra_hman.a which also narrates this
story. Iks.va_kus are reported to have decided that the
action of the king was sinful, and required expiation.
(Sieg, Die Sagenstoffe des R.gveda, 66,67).
Ka_t.haka Sam.hita_ (27.4) notes that a ra_janya is
adhyaks.a when a suu_dra is punished (han); this
indicates that the judicial duties related to criminal
justice were administered by kings assessors.
ideal of ra_jadharma is explained in the Great Epic
(S'a_ntiparva, verse 3 (1), Ch. 90: dharma_ya ra_ja_
bhavati na ka_makarana_ya tu (the proper function of the
king is to rule according to Dharma (the law) and not to
enjoy the luxuries of life).
is elucidated further by Manu:
(9.31): yatha_ sarva_n.i bhu_ta_ni dhara_ dha_rayate
samam tatha sarva_n.i bhu_ta_ni vibhratah pa_rthiva
vratam (Just as the mother earth gives equal support to
all the living beings, a king should give support to all
without any discrimination).
Na_rada Smr.ti clarifies (cf. Dharmakos'a p.870):
samraks.etsamayam ra_ja_ durge janapade tatha_ (The king
should afford protection to compacts of associations of
believers of Veda -- naigamas -- as also of disbelievers
in Veda -- pa_s.an.d.is and of others).
R.gveda uses the terms urvara_ and ks.etra. (urvara_:
RV 1.127.6; 4.41.6; 5.33.5; 6.25.4; 10.30.3; 142.3; AV
10.6.33; 10.8; 14.2.14; ks.etra: RV 10.33.6; 3.31.15;
Urvara_ is a pieces of ploughland. Fertile fields
(apnasvati_: RV 1.127.6) and waste fields (a_rtana_: RV
1.127.6) are referred to. The fields are cultivated
using irrigation. (RV 7.49.2; AV 1.6.4; 19.2.2). Use of
manure on fields is alluded to. (AV 184.108.40.206; 19.31.3).
urvara_-sa_, urvara_-jit, are epithets [like ks.etra-sa_
in RV 4.38.1] meaning winning fields (RV 6.20.1;
2.22.1; 4.38.1). RV 4.41.6 refers to fields in the same
connection as children, indicating acquisition of fields
by conquest or transfers. urvara_-pati is lord of fields
used of a god (RV 8.21.3). It is noted that ploughland
was bounded by grass land (khila, khilya) (Pischel,
Vedische Studien, 2, 204-207).
ks.etra is cultivated land (RV 1.100.18; 9.85.4; 91.6),
is carefully measured off (RV 1.110.5); is carefully
marked (AV 4.18.5; 5.31.4; 10.1.18; 11.1.22; TS 220.127.116.11;
ChUp. 7.24.2) and also refers to a place in general (RV
5.2.3; 45.9; 6.47.20). ks.etra-jes.a is acquisition of
land (RV 1.33.15); ks.etra_-sa_ is gaining land (RV
4.38.1); ks.etram-jaya is conquering cultivated land (MS
2.2.11). ks.etrasya pati is lord of the field (RV
4.37.1,2; 7.35.10; 10.66.13; AV 2.8.5); ks.etrasya
patni_ is mistress of the field (AV 2.12.1);
ks.etra_n.a_m patih is lord of fields (VS 16.18).
Conquest of fields is referred to as ks.etra_n.i sam.ji
(TS 18.104.22.168; KS 5.2; MS 4.12.3).
SBr. 22.214.171.124 refers to a ks.atriya, who with the
consent of the people, gives a settlement to a man,
i.e., assigns to him a particular ks.etra for his own,
probably measured out and recorded as in RV 1.110.5.
These references indicate that the concept of separate
holdings, perhaps individual ownership in land, is as
old as the R.gveda. This is confirmed by Apa_la_
referring to her fathers field (urvara_) on the same
level as his head of hair as a personal possession (RV
8.91.5). ChUp. (7.24.2) includes fields and houses
(a_yatana_ni) as examples of wealth.
Taittiri_ya Sam.hita_ (126.96.36.199; 3.2; 3.9.2),
Maitra_yan.i_ Sam.hita_ (2.1.9; 2.3; 4.2.7) refer to
gra_ma-ka_ma (desirous of a village); this may be a
reference to the desire of people to obtain from the
king a grant of royal prerogatives over villages,
perhaps in fiscal matters. While a ks.atriya possesses,
with the consent of the clan, the right to apportion
land (SBr. 188.8.131.52), the grand of villages to landlords
is a common practice in the days after the later
recognized modes of transfer of chattels are da_na
(gift) and kraya (barter or sale). The Su_tras (Gautama
Dharma Su_tra 10.36 et seq.) have rules for the disposal
of lost property (given to the kind).
Va_jasneyi Sam.hita_ (30) and Taittiri_ya Br. (3.4)
refer to fixed allowances paid to technical workers of
No animal may be slaughtered for sacrifice.
Tribal feasts in high places are not to be celebrated.
Docility to parents is good.
Liberality to friends, acquaintances and relatives, and
to brahmins and recluses is good.
Not to injure living beings is good.
Economy in expenditure, and avoiding disputes, is good.
Self-mastery, 8. Purity of heart, 9. Gratitude, 10.
Fidelity: are always possible and excellent even for the
man who is too poor to be able to give largely.
People perform rites or ceremonies for luck on occasion
of sickness, weddings, childbirth, or on starting on a
journey -- corrupt and worthless ceremonies. Now there
is a lucky ceremony that may be performed -- not
worthless like those, but full of fruit, -- the lucky
ceremony of the Dhamma. And therein is included right
conduct towards slaves and servants, honour towards
teachers, self-restraint towards living things,
liberality to brahmins and recluses. These things, and
others such as these, are the lucky ceremony according
to the Dhamma. Therefore should one -- whether father or
son or brother or master -- interfere and say: "So is
right. Thus should the ceremony be done to lasting
profit. People say liberality is good. But no gift, no
aid is so good as giving to others the gift of the
Dhamma, as aiding others to gain the Dhamma."
Toleration. Honour should be paid to all, laymen and
recluses alike, belonging to other sects. No one should
disparage other sects to exalt his own. Self-restraint
in words is the right thing. And let a man seek rather
after the growth in his own sect of the essence of the
The Dhamma is good. But what is the Dhamma? The having
but little, in one's own mind, of the Intoxications;
doing many benefits to others; compassion; liberality;
Man sees but his good deeds, saying: "This good act have
I done." Man sees not all his evil deeds, saying: "Thus
had not have I done, that act is corruption." Such
self-examination is hard. Yet must a man watch over
himself, saying: "Such and such acts lead to corruption,
-- such as brutality, cruelty, anger, and pride. I will
zealously see to it that I slander not out of envy. That
will be to my advantage in the world, to my advantage,
verily, in the world to come."
Dharma is an ordering principle which is independent of
ones faith or methods of worship or what is understood
by the term religion, thus providing for total freedom
in the path chosen or ethical norms employed, in an
eternal journey from being to becoming. Hence, it is
truly universal, sanatana dharma, the ordering principle
eternal. Since it is an ordering principle, the word is
applied across many facets of life, for example to
rajadharma as an ordering principle for governance,
svadharma as an ordering principle of ones spiritual
quest or life in society or asramadharma denoting
responsibilities associated with ones station in lifes
progress from childhood, through studentship, marital
life and to old age. Dharma is elaborated with the use
of terms such as satyam, rita, rinam, vrata to defining
ethical responsibility performed in relation to social
and natural phenomena. Dharma can be the defining
paradigm for a world as a family, vasudhaiva kutumbakam.
Aano bhadraah kratavo yantu visvatah. Let noble
thoughts flow to us from all sides. These thoughts from
Vedic times are as relevant today as they have been over
millennia of pilgrims progress and exemplified by the
progress and abiding continuum of Hindu civilization,
Jaina ariya dhamma and Bauddha dhamma. In such an
ordering, dharma-dhamma becomes a veritable celebration
of freedom, freedom in moving from being to becoming.