The word Dharma means the characteristic property which stands for the identification of an item. The Dharma of fire is burning by which it is identified as fire. It is the expected natural behaviour of an item in the creation. If the fire is cool, such coolness is Adharma which means that it is not the expected property of the specific entity.
The human being in this creation is a specified entity and is expected to show certain characteristic properties (Dharmas) by which he or she is identified as the human being. If the human being shows the characteristic properties of other specified items, it loses its identification. When God created various items in this world, He has assigned certain characteristic properties to be associated with the corresponding items. Therefore the possession of Dharma is the will of God. The balance of the creation is maintained when specified items exhibit their specified properties assigned by God. All the inert items like fire, water etc. are strictly following the will of God. God created this universe for entertainment. The entertainment is disturbed if the natural balance is upset. God has given freedom to the human beings, which is the inherent desire of the souls. God has full freedom to change any characteristic property of any specified item. When He wished, the fire could not burn, the air could not move and the water could not quench even a dry grass blade. Since He is omnipotent, He has unlimited freedom. But the souls have very little potentiality. Their freedom is naturally conditional and limited. The living being has little freedom within its specified boundary of its potentiality. If freedom is not given, it is not a living being. Among the living beings, the human being has full potentiality due to analytical faculty (Buddhi) and thus relatively more freedom is granted to it. The human being should understand the limits of its capability and should freely behave within that specified boundary. Such behaviour is Dharma which is expected by God. If the limits are violated and the behaviour of some other category like animals is shown, the soul is punished and the soul is pushed into the life cycle of animals. Such animal lives in the forest and can have its characteristic behaviour which does not upset the balance of animal kingdom in the forest. But when a human being lives in the society of human beings and behaves like an animal, the society of human beings is disturbed. The humanity is the most advanced race of the living beings into which God often enters in human form (Manusheem Tanumasritam –Gita). Dharma is called as Pravrutti which is the expected behaviour of the human being with the other co-human beings to maintain the balance of humanity. Only in humanity, the spiritual effort is taken up by some blessed and realized human beings. Therefore the behaviour of the human being should not upset any other human being. Therefore if a co-human being is a devotee of God and a spiritual aspirant, he or she should not be even hurt. God excuses even the atheist who abuses Him but will never spare if the atheist even hurts the devotee. You should not hurt the feelings of any co-human being except in the case of punishment. Even in the punishment, your aim should not be to hurt the sinner but to change him. Even if you are an atheist you must respect the devotees also because they are your co-human beings. Whether you are an atheist or theist, you are expected to maintain the balance of the human society. The highest Dharma is only not to hurt any soul including birds and animals. Even a tree is a living being and you should not cut any green tree. Non-violence towards the living beings is the essence of Dharma (Ahimsa Paramo dharmah). Ungratefulness is said to be the highest sin (Adharma). An atheist who may have any number of good qualities is the highest sinner because he is ungrateful to the creator. A theist who may have any number of bad qualities is good with reference to such atheist (Apichetsa –Gita). Of course you are expected to be a theist with good qualities. An atheist with bad qualities is the worst, called as demon and will be punished by God immediately. Therefore gratefulness to the creator and not hurting any soul except in the punishment is the essence of Dharma. As long as you are not disturbing the balance of society, God does not distinguish the good and bad qualities applied in the path of the spiritual journey. The hunter who gave flesh as offering to the Lord attained the eternal abode of God. He killed a rabbit which is a harmless animal but neither he nor his family took that flesh. He did not sell the flesh. This sin was excused by God due to lack of selfishness and immense love to God. As long as Lord does not enter into your life, you have to reject Adharma and vote for Dharma. But when God enters your life, you have to vote for God only even against Dharma, if required (Sarvadharman-Gita). Dharmaraja did not tell a lie even though the Lord asked him to tell a lie. He voted for Dharma against God. The result of Dharma is temporary and he went to heaven for some time. He did not go to the permanent abode of God. In fact, dharma need not have any reward because it is expected behaviour. The heaven is only a consolation gift to encourage not to do Adharma. Arjuna killed His grandfather Bhishma on the instruction of the Lord and he was permanently associated with the Lord Narayana as Nara. God is the greatest and is beyond even dharma. After all, the aim of Dharma is only not to displease God. In Pravrutti which has no reference to God, you should not displease any co-human being. In Nivrutti, you should please God at the cost of even sacrificing Dharma. In Pravrutti, you should not leave your old parents, your wife and your children. But in Nivrutti, Shankara left His old mother, Prahalada got his father killed, Buddha left His wife and child and Meera left Her husband. The result of Pravrutti is not to displease God whereas the result of Nivrutti is to please God. One should not confuse with these two fields (Pravruttincha Nivruttincha –Gita). The expected behaviour (Dharma) differs in these two fields separately. You have to follow Dharma corresponding to the field in which you exist. www.universal-spirituality.org Universal Spirituality for World Peace