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Dharma Is Closely Related to the Concepts of Duty & Human Service: Ryan Baidya

Dharma is the natural order underlying existence.  It is both why things are as they are and the path to understanding them.  The eternal principles of dharma form the basis of the philosophers, beliefs, and practices that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Dharma sustains society

Education Post25 February 2023 06:28

Dharma Is Closely Related to the Concepts of Duty & Human Service: Ryan Baidya

What is Dharma

In Vedic literature, Dharma refers to the ritual custom that maintains the order of the cosmos.  According to spiritual Sanatana culture, Dharma is an individual’s duty fulfilled by observance of custom or law.  This law is the basic principle of cosmic or individual existence.  The eternal and inherent nature of reality is regarded as a cosmic law underlying right behavior and social order.  Vedic wisdom of dharma is over 21,000 years old, and that supports the preceding statement.

In other words, Dharma is the natural order underlying existence.  It is both why things are as they are and the path to understanding them.  The eternal principles of dharma form the basis of the philosophers, beliefs, and practices that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Dharma sustains society.  It includes both social duties and individual duties that are dependent on context and circumstance.

Dharma is the intrinsic order of existence.

Robert E. Buswell, Jr. Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained Dharma as notoriously difficult to translate.  Dharma derives from the Sanskrit verbal root dhri, which means “to hold” or “to maintain. The Sanskrit term dharmadhamma in Pali, chos (pronounced chö) in Tibetan, fa in Chinese, ho in Japanese, and pop in Korean—is a term of wide import in the followers of Vedic and Sanatana ways of life.

Dharma is our innate sense of right and wrong. It is innate to all human beings. It is the authority that preserves humanity; it makes us ethical citizens or rather allows humans to act morally.  Dharma implies that there is a right or true way for each person to carry out their lives to serve both themselves and others. Dharma is closely related to the concepts of duty and selfless service.

It is our highest value or should be, but these days often takes second place in our desires for personal gain. This is apparent on an individual as well as a corporate level.

“dharma is a form of universal collective conscience”

When collective consciences are largely pure and moral, the dharma is in good health, thus the society is in harmony.  When the collective conscience is affected by impure, corrupt, and deceptive thoughts and acts, the dharma is in bad health which leads to societal chaos, anarchy, grief, and despair.

What is my dharma in life

Dharma is the natural, eternal, and universal law that maintains cosmic and social order.  An Individual’s dharma comprises the duties of an individual towards family, society, humanity, and the environment.  Essentially, your dharma means your life purpose. Your dharma is your true calling – what you were born to do. Ancient Vedic texts describe dharma as a pearl of inner wisdom or cosmic guidance that governs not only you and us as individuals but the entire Universe itself.  We are connected through the universal collective conscience, and dharma is the decree that is intended to keep this universal collective conscience pure and clean.

Dharma steers personal mission or purpose. In Vedic culture, an individual’s dharma is thought to be pre-determined. A contemporary explanation could be if one continues to do what one’s parents and grandparents did, that person continues to receive similar rewards from the universal collective conscience.  However, one’s deeds (karmas) could overwrite one’s pre-destine life. If you are born poor, you will remain poor if you continue to do what your previous generation did.  If you want to be rich, you must do what is scientific, natural, and entrepreneurial in a dharmic way.  The result of living a rich “dharmic way” is to be self-realization and enlightenment. Above all, when your life is aligned with your dharma, it brings a sense of joy and fulfillment.

Dharma of a Student

Is to learn and help peers learn.  Respect teachers, parents, and elderly persons no matter what their economic situation is.  A student must earn a positive vibe and dissipate a positive vibe.  It is only possible as long as one keeps one’s heart and mind pure; understanding dharma and following the dharmic path help keeps the heart and mind pure.  It is very simple, as simple as rivers flow, and the wind blows.

However, we make it difficult to follow a dharmic path by introducing unhealthy competition, jealousy, wants, greed, lust, ungratefulness, and disrespectfulness in our daily life activities.  No, it is not your or our fault entirely to get some or all of these ill virtues, but certainly some of it.  So, let’s remove those that are in our control.  Others that are imparted to us by the system include the government, corporate world, media, the entertainment industry, law enforcement, imperfect judicial practices, societal unfairness and unclean norms, discrimination, prejudice, and inefficiency.

As students, we can collectively erode these ill virtues rapidly as we move forward in our professional lives through by-passing that is not dharmic.  Yes, from time to time it will cost us dearly, but surely we will reach a critical mass when numbers of the dharmic population supersede the non-dharmic followers – a harmonious societal condition is achieved.

Erroneous use of the word dharma

When life is simple, following dharma becomes simple.  When life becomes complex through the influence of ill virtues that we just mentioned above, following dharma becomes very difficult.  In our daily life, we will interact with and get affected by hundreds of individuals and their good and ill virtues directly and indirectly.  For this reason, rituals, and collective practices were introduced to the individuals’ lives.

With time, different geographically situated societies developed their distinctive rituals and collective practice methodologies to follow the dharmic path of life.  The followers of these rituals and collective practices with time began to be identified as proper nouns.  Their ritual and practices were begun to refer to as the dharma of that group, even though the dharma is eternal and universal.  Dharma is (should be) the same for all.  It is the ritual practices that diverge. Practitioners of certain sets of rituals are most often designated as of certain groups/religions.

Religion -Societal or tribal rituals and collective practices of their rituals are intended to hold or maintain that society’s existence –the dharma of that society or religion.  With time or at the get-go, holding or maintaining the community together got precedence over everything else.  Thus, restrictions, boundaries, coercions, deceptions, miss information, and misinterpretations were employed to keep the society together.  Universal dharma is being modified for tribal (narrower) objectives – a beginning of the end of eternal peace and harmony of coexistence.

Dharma is dharma.  It cannot be hyphenated or added with any other words to make a noun.  To give an analogy at this point, let us consider water (H2O).  Water from a stream, a river, a well, rain, or a Kalash vessel is simply water (H2O).  It is not changed because of where it is; so is the dharma.  When societal or tribal rituals and their collective practices are represented with the hyphenated word religion, it seems less confusing in contemporary times and environments.

Shiv Shankar Sharma, Editor in Chief, and the Publisher of The Education Post, once noted, when we asked him about his concept of dharma in simple terms:

I am a saint. A saint doesn’t go for deep research but does Bhakti (devotion). For me, Dharma means humanity and the duty that the Almighty expects from a human being.

नौ मन सूत उलझिया
ऋषी रहे झक मार
सतगुरु ऐसा सुलझा दे
उलझे दूजी बार
nau man soot ulajhiya
rshee rahe jhak maar
sataguru aisa sulajha de
ulajhe na doojee baar


This means a saint’s concept is always clear because he is connected directly with truth and the almighty (also known as God). Truth is truth, it doesn’t require research.

In another verse…

एकै साधै सब सधे
सब साधे सब जाय
ekai sadhai sab sadhe, sab sadhe sab jaye


This means, a true saint has only one connection and so with the Almighty. Dharma is always intact with a saint. … So I don’t know many definitions of Dharma, so I can’t comment on it. I live with my Dharma of humanity.”

Mr. Shiv Shankar Sharma, certainly observes dharma through his known ritual practices that connect to the universal conscience, and support and hold humanity in peace and harmony.  He, in turn, practices universal dharma – the dharma.

To make it simple, tabulated, and practicable for our generation of tablets and smartphones, we extracted a few bullet points for us to remember and observe dharma in our respective spheres.  In our contemporary vocabulary, we use words such as Integrity, Loyalty, Honesty, Faithful, Gratitude, Compassion, Empathy, Happiness, Peace, and Success.  These are the outcomes of dharmic life.  Dharma is the source of these virtues.  Without observance of dharma, none is truly and fully possible in the long run, even if transiently acquired through non-dharmic paths or practices. Once Oprah Winfrey said, “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”  In practicality, she most likely spoke of the dharma, as integrity is an offspring of dharma, hence dharma.

Vedic scholar Manu recommended 10 fundamental rules for the practice of dharma

1. Dhrti (patience)
2. Ks’ama (forgiveness)
3. Dhama (self-control)
4. Asteya (non-stealing)
5. Shaoca (cleanliness)
6. Indriyanigraha (control over organs/lust)
7. Dhii (benevolent intellect)
8. Vidya’ (spiritual knowledge)
9. Satyam (benevolent truthfulness/honesty)
10. Akrodha (non-anger)

Dharma Practices of our time

1.      Taking responsibility for your deeds and acts
2.      Putting others before you
3.      Putting others’ needs above your own
4.      Give others a chance by giving others the benefit of doubt
5.      Never compromise with honesty.
6.      Choose honesty in all things and deeds
7.      Respect all individuals irrespective of their shapes, sizes, and situations
8.      Be humble by abandoning pride
9.      Show empathy
10.   Build the courage to admit wrong
11.   Show gratitude
12.   And learn to accept gratitude graciously.


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