Concept of Dharma

Philosophy and morality are so closely intertwined that only can they be properly understood with a thorough grasp of India's religious and philosophical traditions. Ethics is a complicated and multifaceted subject in India since it comprises several diverse religious and philosophical traditions. Indian morality, complex and multifaceted like the rest of Indian culture, reflects this multiplicity of metaphysical views and valuational attitudes. The idea that there is a distinct worldview, ethos, or moral code that can be referred to as Indian as such must be avoided, nevertheless. Despite being open to new concepts and ideals; Indian tradition has included certain of these in its religio-moral philosophy.

What is Dharma?

"Dharma" is the Indian word meaning morals and ethics. The word "dharma" derives from the root "dhr," which means to hold. Dharma, therefore, serves to maintain the stability and development of human civilization by acting as a unifying force within it. If human civilization is to thrive, then moral behavior is crucial. Dharma and morality are intertwined in Hinduism. The Dharmasastras and the Vedas perform Vedic sacrifices and other rituals, and "dharma" refers to the ultimate truth and power in the Vedas. Dharma is therefore defined in the Vedas as exceptional responsibility. Dharma is also typically defined as the obligations owed by people based on their caste and stage of life (Varnasrama Dharma).

Thus, according to many Hindu thinkers, doing one's duty will result in either achieving paradise, having a better birth in the future life, or even achieving affluence in the present. As a result, the Hindu notion of dharma has been identified by its intimate links to ceremonial and caste-based obligations. Moreover, the obligation that stems only from morality is obscured. However, Hindu philosophers support and encourage the practice of moral qualities and standards that define a man as a man. Sadharana Dharma, or universal obligations, refers to these moral traits. As a result, the word "dharma" in Hinduism has two meanings.

  • Execution of ceremonial sacrifices and responsibilities by one's caste.

  • Application of moral qualities and standards.

Dharma in Vedic Period

Indian ethics may be traced back to the Vedas, notably the Rig Veda, from which we can learn about its early development. The idea of a moral rule or unifying order permeating everything is known as "rta," and it is one of Rig Veda's fundamental ethical notions. Two more significant notions, Dharma and Karma, have their roots in the term "rta." Dharma has various and varied connotations, but it is most commonly associated with the obligation. The idea of karma denotes a single moral code governing human behavior and determining the rewards and punishments fitting for those activities.

The basis for these two ideas is 'Rta.' The love and adoration offered to the gods in total subjection is the more crucial and fundamental component of Vedic ethics. One who makes these sacrifices and the ceremonial responsibilities outlined in the scriptures will accomplish the goal of eternal pleasure in heaven because the proper execution of sacrifices reflects moral order or law. As a result, the Vedic Hindus' ethics are essentially god-oriented.

In contrast to the Rig Veda, the Upanishads state that freedom from enslavement to transient existence and the realization of the inner essence of the soul are life's greatest goals. Atman-centric and intellectualistic are the main characteristics of Upanishadic ethics. According to the Upanishads, the Vedic sacrifices are wholly unnecessary for achieving moksa. Man is continually urged to pursue his own personal emancipation and to care less about other social and moral obligations.

This form of intellectual individualism unquestionably threatens the principles of social morality. The Upanishads emphasize the connection and realization of the self with Brahman. Only in this metaphysical space are we able to discuss Upanishad ethics. According to the earliest Upanishads, a saint who burns away evil and is free from evil is the ideal sage. We can observe the Upanishads' obvious moral message in their emphasis on avoiding evil. According to Katha Upanishad 1,2,24, a person who is always unclean is born again and again and is unable to achieve the greatest objective. To achieve man's metaphysical good, good behavior is required (identification of the self with Brahman). Moreover, a wise man has a good moral character and a nature similar to God's. Therefore, it is apparent from the Upanishads that a wise man does not sin. He stops doing evil and using knowledge, and he undoes the wrongdoing of his previous existence.

Varnashrama Dharma

Varnasrama is the name of the Vedic system of existence, and Varna-dharma is the Sanskrit term meaning social class. Along with promoting personal peace and growth, it is intended to maintain societal order, social progress, and social harmony. The word "varna" in the Rg Veda refers to skin tone, and humans are divided into Aryans and Dasas. Dasas are people with dark skin, while Aryans have pale skin. The word "Varna" comes from the root "vr," which means to pick or choose. Varna, divided into brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra classes, denotes a specific group or class in a community. The term varna refers to the four roles in human society, generally in Purusa-sukta. The terms brahmin, rajanya, vaisya, and sudra appear in purusa-sukta. However, these phrases are not used to denote the four varnas but rather the four roles of society as a whole.

The entire cosmos, according to purusa-sukta, is a manifestation of the purusa, or universal self. The lips of a brahmin, the arms of a rajanya, the thighs of a vaisya, and the feet of a sudra make up a body. The mouth, which serves as the place of communication, stands for education, the arms for power, the thighs for productive effort, and the feet for other manual labor. Therefore, rather than the four varnas, the four phrases refer to the four functions. Like the caste system, jati-based or birth-based Varna is now repressive and exploitative

As the foundation of Vedic sociology is Vedic psychology, Varna is founded on one's personality, svabhava, or guna. According to Vedic psychology, the human mind has three characteristics, propensities or temperaments. They reveal an individual's true character. They are rajas, active; tamas, passive; sattva, nonactive, quality of purity, goodness, wisdom, and knowledge. Varna is the method of choice used by the person to advance his mental growth. It represents the human mind's psychological foundation, inclination, and course. The four varnas represent the four fundamental human natures and allude to the four social orders. It is a comprehensive description of people based on their tendencies (pravrittis, or "enjoyment of life").

It does not represent life's occupations (vrittis). One's career may be changed, but one's nature cannot. The jati or caste system enters when varna is understood as a profession rather than a tendency. The varna system, not the jati system, is discussed in Vedic sociology. Varna is the social stratification based on aptitude or ability. Since it relies on a person's traits, no varna is superior or inferior. As a result, it represents the egalitarian spirit.

Ethics in Dharmasastras and Itihasas

The primary texts for Hindu ritualism and social morality are the institutions of Manu and other Dharmasastras. While the Manusmrti gave societal institutions priority over individuality, the Upanishads strongly emphasized the individual's freedom. Hindu social morality is relativistic in several ways because, although being an individual, one belongs to a family, a subcaste, and is always cared for by the family in which he is. It is acknowledged that man's obligations are related to space (Yuga) and time (Desa). A person's responsibilities are also firmly related to his or her Varna (class) and period of life (Asrama). Some virtues have been declared to be universal by Manu. They are cleanliness (saucha), non-stealing (asteya), self-control (dharma), self-forgiveness (kshama), forgiveness (kshama), knowledge of the Supreme Atman (vidhya), honesty (sathya), and lack of wrath (akrodha). These moral qualities are known as Sadharana Dharma, or common, universal morality. Thus, while each Dharmasastras, Epic, and Puranas has a distinct purpose, they appear to have a similar "ethos" regarding ethics.

Concept of Dharma-3

According to Hindu philosophy, the Brahmacari (Studenthood), a student constrained to celibacy, is one of four phases or Ashramas that comprise one's existence. The householder is the second stage, followed by the woodland dweller (Vanaprastha) and the sannyasin (Grihastha) (the mendicant). Men should frequently experience these stages; they should be started early enough. A man must join the householder order after studying the Vedas, or even only one Veda, in the proper order and without departing from celibacy. Furthermore, only then must the homeowner retreat to the wilderness after noticing wrinkles on his skin, whiteness in his hair, and the appearance of his grandson. The guy wanders as an ascetic, the fourth portion of life, after having completed the third phase of life in the forests and giving up attachments. This succession is considered crucial to the healthy development of the Jivatma and the harmonious organization of society.


Hinduism also recognizes that man's dharma, which consists of all his obligations and qualities, evolves with time. Hindu religious tradition is quite diverse. Therefore we must pick those elements that are most consistent with our modern principles while firmly rejecting those beliefs that are not.