Definitions from the Web
- basic principles of the cosmos;
- the principle that orders the universe; one’s conduct in conformity with such a principle; one’s obligation in respect to one’s position in society; the teachings of the Buddha; one’s path to enlightenment
- the teachings of the Buddha; the law, doctrine, or ethical precepts of Buddhism; an underlying cosmic principle taught by the Buddha; constituent …
- India Religious duty.
- (Sanskrit): the way or law; the path; basically, Buddhist teaching, but in a wider sense any teaching or truth.
- Righteousness, duty; the inner constitution of a thing which governs its growth.
Please note the similarity between “dharma” meaning “the inner constitution of a thing which governs its growth” and the Greek word “phusis” mentioned in the article “Idea of Nature“. The word “phusis” evolved into “physics”. The word “phusis” is also the origin of the concept of “Nature” in western thought. In the course of last 2 millenia the word “dharma” acquired new meanings in the eastern world. In some cultures it came to mean “dogmatic religion” which is a gross distortion of it’s original meaning
Shrii Shrii Anandamurti’s Comments on Dharma
“Dharma does not mean any particular religion; it means the quintessence of one’s very existence. As human beings have come in human form, they will have to live and grow, they will have to establish themselves in human life and die a glorious death, for this is their human dharma. They cannot afford simply out of the instincts of self-preservation and reproduction, to degrade themselves to the level of non-human beings.
The very essence of mánava dharma, human dharma, lies in three factors, plus a fourth factor which is the resultant of the first three: (1) vistára, the principle of expansion; (2) rasa, the principle of total surrender to Parama Puruśa; (3) sevá, selfless service to Parama Puruśa and His creation; and (4) tadsthiti, the final ensconcement in Parama Puruśa.
Human beings want expansion (vistára), but this is not possible by depriving others of their wealth. It is possible only by drenching one’s human values and existential awareness in a flow of sweetness and expanding them throughout the universe – by infusing the sweetest feelings the innermost recesses of one’s heart into the heart of each and every entity.
Rasa means to be saturated with ever-blissful awareness – to enliven human existence with sweet freshness. This becomes possible only when one maintains a constant link with the Supreme Entity from whom one’s individual existence has emerged.
This world of ours is a world of give-and-take. And in the process of give-and-take, the human mind neither progresses nor regresses. If one thinks only of receiving, the mind degenerates; again, if one thinks only of giving, at a certain stage one may develop indifference to one’s very existence. Thus, people will have to transcend this level of give-and-take: they will have to consider themselves as instruments of the Supreme Entity, and throw them selves unreservedly into the work desired by Him. This is the underlying spirit of sevá.
So vistára, rasa and sevá – these three come within the scope of sádhaná, and the goal of this sádhaná is the fourth factor, the resultant of all these three.
Mánava dharma, human dharma, is the combination of all the four factors. This dharma is the greatest friend of human beings. One can sacrifice anything for the sake of this dharma; for this dharma no hardship is too great. Therefore, this dharma is called Bhágavat Dharma.”
(Namah Shiváya Shántáya, 129)
“The topic of discussion is dharma sádhaná. What is dharma? What is sádhaná? Dharma means “nature”. Sádhaná means “to complete the journey”. Each and every being which has been created in this universe has to complete its journey. Every [ion], every cell, every being which is born will have to complete its journey, because there is an ever-increasing attraction between the unit and the Cosmic, between the jiiva and God. This continuous journey has been going on since the creation of this universe. Whether you like it or not, still you have to continue the journey. To continue this journey is known as dharma sádhaná.”
Ánanda Vacanámrtam Part 31
“It is universally true, for all ages and all realms, that dharma is the main current of human life. It is the impetus of living beings; it is also their source of wealth and the guidance for their journey through life. In the pervasive sense of the word, all objects, animate and inanimate, have their respective dharma; that is, dharma denotes the very existence of an object. In its narrow sense, dharma is less manifested in inanimate entities and more manifested in animate ones. In animate entities, the manifestation of the dharma of non-human creatures is instinctive and inborn. But the dharma of human beings is much more than this: it permeates and penetrates each and every sphere of life.
Hence in the realm of dharma, the only true guide and controller, motivating force and protector of the people, is an excellent and comprehensive ideology which provides definite, clear-cut and bold directions for all aspects of human life – from one’s personal daily routine, to one’s social activities and collective motivation, to the spiritual inspiration which brings one closer and closer to God. A scripture which does not fulfil these conditions is not worthy of being called a scripture at all. We should also remember that in the realm of dharma there must be clear-cut injunctions in the form of dharma shástra [scriptural treatises] and simultaneously there must be strict guardians who during their lifetime guide themselves as well as others according to those scriptural injunctions. After their demise, they will live forever in their teachings, which, though given for a particular age, will become a code of conduct for all time.”
(Namah Shiváya Shántáya, 167)
“Today’s subject of discourse is “Bhágavata Dharma”. The word “bhágavata” means “pertaining to divinity” and dharma means “inherent characteristic”, so Bhágavata dharma means “the way of life which leads to ensconcement in the supreme stance”. Dharma is a natural propensity, an inherent characteristic. It refers to a particular spiritual way of life. Each and every object in this universe has its own innate characteristic, or svabháva (Sva means “own” and bháva means “propensity”). The innate characteristic of fire is to burn whatever it meets. The innate characteristic of human beings is to practise spirituality. To make a clear distinction between spiritual practice and the other natural tendencies of mind in the mundane sense, such as eating and sleeping, the term “Bhágavata dharma” is used to describe the higher tendencies. Bhágavata dharma refers to the innate tendency which leads human beings towards the Supreme Entity, which arouses in them a spontaneous love and attraction for the Supreme Entity. In fact, in each and every human being there is love and attraction for the Supreme Entity. The human being who does not feel this attraction hardly deserves to be called a human being. Such a being is no better than a sub-human, although in human form. It is bhágavata dharma that clearly distinguishes human beings from animals. Even a thief who feels love for the Supreme Entity in the core of his heart, merits being called a human being. But a so-called virtuous person or a man of knowledge who feels no love for the Supreme Entity should not be considered a human being, because in such a person human dharma is wanting. Human beings are characterized by their bhágavata dharma. They have a spontaneous attraction for the Supreme, which non-humans do not possess. Hence, human beings have a glorious existence; animals do not.”
“Bhágavata dharma is dependent on three factors: vistara (expansion), rasa (flow) and sevá (service). The literal meaning of the word vistára is expansion, that is, to direct the mind toward the vast Cosmic Entity. This psychic movement towards the vast Cosmic Entity is not dependent on external factors. To move towards that Supreme Entity one must first overcome and transcend all sorts of meanness and pettiness. Hence, a follower of Bhágavata dharma must wage a relentless fight against these limiting tendencies within his or her own mind, as well as in the society at large.”
“When the mind is confined within the narrow limits of pettiness a polluted atmosphere of sin spreads all around. But when the human mind expands, the effulgence of virtue becomes increasingly manifest and humanity is exalted to the heights of divininity.”
“A religion or cult which does not encourage spiritual elevation but keeps the human mind confined to narrow limits, and depicts God in various imaginary forms, is far removed from bhágavata dharma. In bhágavata dharma there is no scope for differentiations and distinctions. The religion or philosophy which causes the human mind to become so analytical that it distances itself from the one integral Entity is contrary to bhágavata dharma. Those following bhágavata dharma strive to create unity and synthesis in the midst of disunity and analysis.”
“Individual salvation is also a service to humanity. Internal service (átmamokśártham) leads to fulfillment or immortality; external service (jagaddhitáya ca) leads to universal welfare. Thus both internal and external service have equal importance. External service purifies the mind, and with a pure mind one is more capable of rendering service to one’s iśt́a. Every sádhaka should render both types of service.”
“One should remember that here dharma does not refer to any particular religion. These religions have nothing to do with one’s svadharma, with the pursuit of one’s innate characteristics. Unfortunately, this is how the Giitá bas been misinterpreted by a section of the people. The dharma of all human beings is one and indivisible, and that dharma is bhágavata dharma. Establish yourself in that dharma and your victory is assured.”
– Subha’s’ita Sam’graha Part 8