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Hindu Concept Of Dharma – Future Of Humanity

The article is an Excerpt from the editorial of Prabuddha Bharata magazine July 2021 issue.

The Hindu concept of Dharma can be an effective tool in the rejuvenation of religion in the future. The ideas of religion prevalent in the Western world are sectarian and related to secular structures of group of believers, while Dharma is entirely a spiritual ideal. The central idea of Dharma is not the sacralisation of human institutions as happened in Medieval Europe, but the spiritualization of all fields of human activity. Being the universal Law or Order, the Dharma does not depend upon the professing institutions for its survival, but rather the latter depends upon the Dharma for their sustenance. The only way for all religions to regain their past glory is to reclaim their spiritual credential and shape human life in the light of spiritual and ethical values. Dharma stands for these spiritual and ethical values, which are eternal and unchanging even during the vicissitudes of time.

These spiritual and ethical values gave a form and structure to all the existing religions, which continue to get sustenance from them. If any religion is to be of value in this modern period, it should protect its spiritual core and fine tune all the external appearances to manifest the inherent spiritual nature of human beings. The religion will be irrelevant or even evil, which fails to preserve its spiritual foundation strong. In this context, Dharma can be a central spiritual and ethical foundation idea for all religions to hold on to, in order to maintain their pristine purity in this troubling period.

Rta is the earliest concept in the Vedas that evolved into the idea of Dharma. Rta is the principle of the natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. In the Classical Sanskrit, noun dharma is a derivation from dhr, which means ‘to hold, maintain, keep’ and takes a meaning of ‘what is established or firm’, and hence ‘law’.

Dharma is empirically termed as the means of material prosperity and spiritual enlightenment. Dharma is an expression of the moral receptivity of a human being. Hence it is more often translated as virtue, morality and duty. Dharma is also the effective and legitimate medium to attain other values of life like acquisition of wealth and fulfillment of desire. The same Dharma, as rightful conduct, takes us towards final spiritual beatitude. It is said that Vyasa wrote Mahabharata in order to instruct the nuances of Dharma to common people.

An anecdote says that he lamented in this manner –

With uplifted arms I am crying aloud but nobody hears me. From Dharma, righteousness, comes Artha, wealth, as also Kama, fulfilling of desires. Why should not Dharma, therefore, be followed?