The Doctrine of Dharma
This is reflected in the often-quoted maxims:
“The righteous side will have the victory.”
“Truth only prevails, not falsehood.”
“Dharma kills if it is killed; dharma protects if it is protected.”
“The entire world rests on dharma.”
Dharma is the law that maintains the cosmic order as well as the individual and social order. Dharma sustains human life in harmony with nature. When we follow dharma, we are in conformity with the law that sustains the universe. Dharma is of four kinds: universal dharma (rita), human dharma (ashram dharma), social dharma (varana dharma), and individual dharma (svadharma). All four dharmas together are called sanãtana dharma, the eternal philosophy of life.
Universal dharma includes the natural laws associated with the physical phenomenon of the universe, such as the laws of matter, science, and planetary motions. Human dharma means the human actions, which maintain the individual, social, and environmental order. Social dharma is exemplified in human actions associated with professional, social, community and national duties and responsibilities. Individual dharma consists of individual actions associated with one’s individual duties and responsibilities.
The doctrine of dharma states that right action must be performed for the sake of righteousness, and good must be done for the sake of goodness, without any expectation of receiving something in return. The question arises as to what is right?
Hindu scriptures include the following guidance that should be used to determine what is right under given circumstances:
Individual actions (svadharma) which are based upon truth, ahimsã, and moral values are considered righteous actions.
Political, social, and community-related activities, which are based upon unselfishness, truth, ahimsã, and moral and ethical values are defined as right actions.
Actions that arise as a consequence of one’s stage of life (ashram dharma) are considered good.
The dharma of a student is to acquire knowledge and skills, whereas the dharma of a house-holder is to raise the family, and that of a retiree is to advise and guide the younger generations.
Actions that are associated with one’s profession (varna dharma) are considered right actions.
The duty of a soldier may be to take the life of an enemy, whereas the duty of a doctor is to save the life, including that of an enemy.
Actions which ensure adherence to the laws of the land are righteous actions. If the laws are unjust, they must be changed through democratic means and non-violence.
In the event of a conflict between individual and social dharma, the social dharma takes precedence:-
“He who understands his duty to society truly lives. All others shall be counted among the dead,,” declares Tirukural, a Hindu scripture.
“What you desire for yourself, you should desire for others. What you do not like others to do to you, you should not do to others.”
(Mahãbhãrata, Shãntiparva, 258)
Dharma provides a rational approach to distinguish right from wrong and good from evil. In this philosophy, the duties and responsibilities are emphasized more than rights and privileges.
Unity of Existence
Science has revealed that what we call matter is essentially energy. Hindu sages have declared that the cosmic energy is a manifestation of the Universal Spirit (Brahman). The entire universe is a play between Brahman, or the cosmic consciousness, and the cosmic energy. Brahman has become all things and beings of the world. Thus we are all interconnected in subtle ways.
This doctrine encourages universal brotherhood, reverence for all forms of life, and respect for our environment. There is no racial, cultural or religious superiority. There are differences on the surface, but deep down there is perfect unity, as All is in One and One is in all.