Dharma listen (help·info) (Sanskrit: धर्म dhárma, Pali: धम्म dhamma) is the Law that "upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe". Dharma has the Sanskrit root dhri, which means "that without which nothing can stand" or "that which maintains the stability and harmony of the universe."
Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism all have the idea of dharma at their core, where it points to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. Dharma is not the same as religion. Though differing in some particulars, all concur that the goal of human life is moksha or nirvana, in which the ultimate nature of dharma (as cosmic law) is apprehended experientially.
In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm" (in the literal sense of prods or poles), figuratively "sustainer, supporter" (of deities), and semantically similar to the Greek ethos ("fixed decree, statute, law"). In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic, dharma-.
It is a derivation from Proto-Indo-Iranian root *dhar- ("to fasten, to support, to hold"), in turn reflecting Proto-Indo-European root *dʰer- ("to hold"), which in Sanskrit is reflected as class-1 root √dhṛ. Etymologically it is related to Avestan √dar- ("to hold"), Old Persian √dar- ("to hold, have"), Latin frēnum ("rein, horse tack"), Lithuanian derė́ti ("to be suited, fit"), Lithuanian dermė (agreement), darna ("harmony") and Old Church Slavonic drъžati ("to hold, possess"). Classical Sanskrit word dharmas would formally match with Latin o-stem firmus *Proto-Indo-European *dʰer-mo-s "holding", were it not for its historical development from earlier Rigvedic n-stem.
From the Atharvaveda and in Classical Sanskrit, the stem is thematic, dhárma- (Devanāgarī: धर्म), and in Pāli, it takes the form dhamma. It is also often rendered dharam in contemporary Indian languages and dialects.
Dharma is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In Hinduism it means the religious and moral Law or Natural Law governing the conduct of the individual and of the group . The literal meaning is, from the Sanskrit, decree or custom.  As well as referring to Law in the universal or abstract sense, dharma designates those behaviours considered necessary for the maintenance of the natural order of things. Dharma may encompass ideas such as duty, vocation, religion and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright.
The idea of dharma as duty or propriety derives from an idea found in India's ancient legal and religious texts, that there is a divinely instituted natural order of things (rta), and that justice, social harmony and happiness require that people discern and live in a manner appropriate to the requirements of that order. The guidelines and rules regarding this, accumulated in a body of literature called the Dharmashastra. In these texts civil law is inextricably linked to religion. The Shastras include instructions on the correct way to perform religious rites and rituals, as well as the way to lead a morally pure life.
In traditional Hindu society, dharma has historically included such phenomena as Vedic ritual (yajna), ethical conduct, behaviour and duties appropriate to one's caste, and civil and criminal law. Its most common meaning, however, pertained to two principal ideas: that social life should be structured through well-defined and well-regulated classes ((varna) castes), and that an individual's life within that class should be organized into defined stages known as (ashrama). A Hindu's dharma is therefore affected by age, caste, occupation, and gender.
"Dharma" is used in most or all philosophies and religions of Indian origin—sometimes summarized under the umbrella term of Dharmic faiths—including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. It is difficult to provide a single concise definition for dharma, as the word has a long and varied history and straddles a complex set of meanings and interpretations.
In the Rigveda, the belief (or observation) that a natural justice and harmony pervades the natural world becomes manifest in the concept of rta, which is both 'nature's way' and the order implicit in nature. Thus rta bears a resemblance to the ancient Chinese concept of Tao and the Heraclitan, Stoic or Christian conceptions of the logos.
This "power" that lies behind nature and that keeps everything in balance became a natural forerunner to the idea of dharma. The idea of rta laid the cornerstone of dharma's implicit attribution to the "ultimate reality" of the surrounding universe. In classical Vedic Hinduism the following verse from the Rigveda is an example where rta is mentioned:
O Indra, lead us on the path of Rta, on the right path over all evils—RV 10.133.6
The transition of the rta to the modern idea of dharma occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Upanishads saw dharma as the universal principle of law, order, harmony, and all in all truth, that sprang first from Brahman. It acts as the regulatory moral principle of the Universe. It is sat (truth), a major tenet of Hinduism. This hearkens back to the conception of the Rigveda that "Ekam Sat," (Truth Is One), and of the idea that Brahman is "Satchitananda" (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Dharma is not just law, or harmony, it is pure reality. In the Brihadaranyaka's own words:
Verily, that which is Dharma is truth.
Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, "He speaks the Dharma,"Verily, both these things are the same.
or of a man who speaks the Dharma, "He speaks the Truth."—(Brh. Upanishad, 1.4.14) (2)
- "Dhaaranaad dharma ity aahur dharmena vidhrtaah prajaah, Yat syaad dhaarana sanyuktam sa dharma iti nishchayah,"
Dharma upholds both this-worldly and other-worldly affairs—(Mbh 8.69.58).
Through the four ashramas, or stages of life (Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vaanprastha, Sanyaasa), a person also seeks to fulfill the four essentials (purusartha) of kama (sensual pleasures), artha (worldly gain), dharma, and moksha (liberation from rebirth). Moksha, although the ultimate goal, is emphasized more in the last two stages of life, while artha and kama are considered primary only during Grihastha. Dharma, however is essential in all four stages. As a purusartha, in terms of a human goal, dharma can also be considered to be a lens through which humans plan and perform their interactions with the world. Through the dharmic lens, one focuses on doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, while the kama perspective focuses on doing what is pleasurable to our higher nature (not referring to sex) and avoiding pain, and the artha perspective focuses on doing what is profitable for our higher nature (not referring to material goods or money) and avoiding loss.
Yama the lord of justice, also the god responsible for the dead, is sometimes referred to as Dharma. Mythologically, he is said to have been born from the right breast of Brahma, is married to 13 daughters of Daksha and fathers Shama, Kama and Harahsa.
In the epic Mahabharata, he is incarnate as Vidura. Also, Dharma or Yama is invoked by Kunti and she begets her eldest son Yudhisthira from him. Yudhisthira is also known as Dharmaraja, or king of dharma. 
Technical literature 
In technical literature, e.g., in Sanskrit grammar, dharma also means "property" and dharmin means "property-bearer". In a Sanskrit sentence like shabdo 'nityaḥ, "sound is impermanent", "sound" is the bearer of the property "impermanence". Likewise, in the sentence iha ghataḥ, "here, there is a pot", "here" is the bearer of the property "pot-existence" – this shows that the categories of property and property-bearer are closer to those of a logical predicate and its subject-term, and not to a grammatical predicate and subject.
For many Buddhists, the Dharma most often means the body of teachings expounded by the Buddha. The word is also used in Buddhist phenomenology as a term roughly equivalent to phenomenon, a basic unit of existence and/or experience.
Nastika dharma is referred to in the Mahabharata as more attached to Buddhist practice which draws upon the principles and disciplines of yoga to encourage equality and harmony among people, which promotes altruism.
In East Asia, the translation for dharma is 法, pronounced fǎ in Mandarin, beop in Korean, hō in Japanese, and pháp in Vietnamese. However, the term dharma can also be transliterated from its original form.
Buddha's teachings 
For practicing Buddhists, references to "dharma" (dhamma in Pali) particularly as "the Dharma", generally means the teachings of the Buddha, commonly known throughout the East as Buddha-Dharma.
The status of Dharma is regarded variably by different Buddhist traditions. Some regard it as an ultimate truth, or as the fount of all things which lies beyond the "three realms" (Sanskrit: tridhatu) and the "wheel of becoming" (Sanskrit: bhavacakra), somewhat like the pagan Greek and Christian logos: this is known as Dharmakaya (Sanskrit). Others, who regard the Buddha as simply an enlightened human being, see the Dharma as the essence of the "84,000 different aspects of the teaching" (Tibetan: chos-sgo brgyad-khri bzhi strong) that the Buddha gave to various types of people, based upon their individual propensities and capabilities.
Dharma refers not only to the sayings of the Buddha, but also to the later traditions of interpretation and addition that the various schools of Buddhism have developed to help explain and to expand upon the Buddha's teachings. For others still, they see the Dharma as referring to the "truth," or the ultimate reality of "the way that things really are" (Tib. Cho).
The Dharma is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism in which practitioners of Buddhism seek refuge, or that upon which one relies for his or her lasting happiness. The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha, meaning the mind's perfection of enlightenment, the Dharma, meaning the teachings and the methods of the Buddha, and the Sangha, meaning those awakened beings who provide guidance and support to followers of the Buddha.
Buddhist phenomenology 
Other uses include dharma, normally spelled with a small "d" (to differentiate), which refers to a phenomenon or constituent factor of human experience. This was gradually expanded into a classification of constituents of the entire material and mental world. Rejecting the substantial existence of permanent entities which are qualified by possibly changing qualities, Buddhist Abhidharma philosophers enumerated lists of dharmas which varied by school. They came to propound that these "constituent factors" are the only type of entity that truly exists (and only some thinkers gave dharmas this kind of existence). This notion is of particular importance for the analysis of human experience: Rather than assuming that mental states inhere in a cognizing subject, or a soul-substance, Buddhist philosophers largely propose that mental states alone exist as "momentary elements of consciousness" and that a subjective perceiver is assumed.
One of the central tenets of Buddhism, is the denial of a separate permanent "I", and is outlined in the three marks of existence.
- Dukkha – Suffering or unsatisfactoriness (Pali: Dukkha)
- Anitya – Change/Impermanence (Pali: Anicca)
- Anatman – Not-Self (Pali: Annatta)
At the heart of Buddhism is the understanding of all phenomena as dependently originated.
Later, Buddhist philosophers like Nāgārjuna would question whether the dharmas (momentary elements of consciousness) truly have a separate existence of their own. (i.e. Do they exist apart from anything else?) Rejecting any inherent reality to the dharmas, he asked (rhetorically):
śūnyeṣu sarvadharmeṣu kim anantaṁ kimantavat
kim anantam antavac ca nānantaṁ nāntavacca kiṁ
kiṁ tad eva kim anyat kiṁ śāśvataṁ kim aśāśvataṁ
aśāśvataṁ śāśvataṁ ca kiṁ vā nobhayam apyataḥ 'tha
sarvopalambhpaśamaḥ prapañcopaśamaḥ śivaḥ
na kvacit kasyacit kaścid dharmo buddhena deśitaḥ|
When all dharmas are empty, what is endless? What has an end?
What is endless and with an end? What is not endless and not with an end?
What is it? What is other? What is permanent? What is impermanent?
What is impermanent and permanent? What is neither?
Auspicious is the pacification of phenomenal metastasis, the pacification of all apprehending;
There is no dharma whatsoever taught by the Buddha to whomever, whenever, wherever.
--Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, nirvṇānaparīkṣā, 25:22–24
According to S. N. Goenka, a teacher of Vipassana meditation, the original meaning of dhamma is "dharayati iti dharmaH", or "one that contains, supports or upholds" and dharma in the Buddhist scriptures has a variety of meanings, including "phenomenon" and "nature" or "characteristic". Dharma also means "mental contents," and is paired with citta, which means heart-mind. The pairing is paralleled with the combining of shareera (body) and vedana (feelings or sensations which arise within the body but are experienced through the mind) in major sutras such as the Mahasatipatthana sutra.
Dharma is also used to refer to the direct teachings of the Buddha, especially the discourses on the fundamental principles (such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path), as opposed to the parables and to the poems.
In Jainism, dharma is natural. Acharya Samantabhadra writes, Vatthu sahavo dhammo: "the dharma is the nature of an object". It is the nature of the soul to be free, thus for the soul, the dharma is paralaukika, beyond worldly. However the nature of the body is to seek self-preservation and be engaged in pleasures. Thus there are two dharmas.
Two Dharmas 
Acharya Haribhadra (c. 6th–7th centuries) discusses dharma in Dharma-Bindu. He writes (Translation by Y. Malaiya): soayam-anuṣṭhātṛ-bhedāt dvi-vidho
gṛhastha-dharmo yati-dharmaś ca |
Because of the difference in practice, dharma is of two kinds, for the householders and for the monks.
tatra gṛhastha-dharmo api dvi-vidhaḥ
sāmanyato viśeṣataś ca |
Of the householder's dharma, there are two kinds, "ordinary" and "special"
tatra sāmanayato gṛhastha-dharmaḥ kula-krama-agatam-anindyaṃ
vibhavady-apekshayā nyāto anuṣṭhānaṃ |
The ordinary dharma of the householder should be carried out according to tradition, such that it is not objectionable, according to ones abilities such as wealth, in accordance with nyaya (everyone treated fairly and according to laws).
Somadeva suri (10th century) terms the "ordinary" and "special" dharmas laukika ("worldly") and pralaukika ("extra-worldly") respectively:
dvau hi dharmau gṛhasthāṇam, laukikaḥ, pāralaukikaḥ |
lokāśrayo bhavedādyah, parah syād-āgama-āśrayaḥ ||
A householder follows both laukika and the paralaukika dharmas at the same time.
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For Sikhs, the word Dharm means the "path of righteousness". What is the "righteous path"? That is the question that the Sikh scriptures attempt to answer. The main holy scriptures of the Sikhs is called the Guru Granth Sahib. It is considered to be more than a holy book of the Sikhs. The Sikhs treat this Granth (holy book) as a living Guru. The holy text spans 1430 pages and contains the actual words spoken by the Sikh Gurus and various other Saints from other religions including Hinduism and Islam.
Sikh Dharma is a distinct religion revealed through the teachings of ten Gurus who are accepted by the followers as if they were spiritually the same. The Gurus are considered "the divine light" and they conveyed Gurbani (the word of God) in the form of the Guru Granth Sahib to the world. In this faith, God is described as both Nirgun (transcendent) and Sargun (immanent). Further, God pervades in His creation and is omnipresent, but cannot be incarnate. The principal Sikh belief lays stress on one's actions and deeds rather than religious labels, rituals or outward appearance or signs.
The primary object of a Sikh's life is to seek union with God and hence, liberation from the cycle of births and deaths (cycle of re-incarnation) which is dictated by a person's thought, deeds and actions in this life. Liberation can be achieved through meditating on God, truthful living and sharing ones wealth in the context of a normal family life and through divine grace. Amrit Pahul – Sikh baptism for both men and women – was instituted in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru. All Sikhs, on taking Amrit, are enjoined to lead a disciplined life by following a code of ethics leading to a "Saint-Soldier" way of life. In 1708, Guru Gobind Singh vested spiritual authority in the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scriptures) as the eternal Guru and hence Sikh Dharma acknowledges the end of human Guruship. At the same time, the temporal authority was vested in the Khalsa Panth (a community of Sikhs who have taken Amrit).
Other important aspects of a Sikh's life include Sewa (dedication to the service of God's creation) where the emphasis is often upon manual work, undertaking of goodwill towards other faiths and their followers, to defend for justice and assistance of the oppressed. In contrast to many other faiths, Sikhs believe that when all other means to achieve justice are exhausted, then it is just to wield the sword.
Congregational worship includes the following:
- Paath – Reading of the Holy scriptures
- Kirtan – Singing of Shabads (hymns).
- Langar – A communal vegetarian meal also call free kitchen is an important feature of the Sikh way of life, and food is served to everyone at the end of a Sikh service.
- Ardas – Sikhs conclude their prayers by doing the Ardas and invoking God's blessings on everyone – not just on Sikhs.
Scriptures and dharma 
The Guru Granth Sahib lays down the foundation of this "righteous path" and various salient points are found.
- Sikh is bound by Dharma: The followers of this faith are bound by Dharma as advocated in their holy scriptures. The committed Sikh is encouraged to follow this path at all times. The first recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib called the Japji Sahib says the following: "The path of the faithful shall never be blocked. The faithful shall depart with honor and fame. The faithful do not follow empty religious rituals. The faithful people are fully bound to do whatever the Dharma wants them to do. Such is the Name of the Immaculate Lord. Only one who has faith comes to know such a state of mind." (14) (Guru Granth Sahib Japji page 3.)
- Deeds are recorded: The persons thoughts and deeds are said to be recorded and the faithful is warned that these will be read out in the presence of the "Lord of Dharma". Two scribes called Chitr and Gupt, the angels of the conscious and the subconscious mind are busy writing ones thought and deeds. On death, the soul of the person he brought before "Lord of Dharma" are these account are read out as recorded in this quote: "Day and night are the two nurses, in whose lap all the world is at play. Good deeds and bad deeds – the record is read out in the Presence of the Lord of Dharma. According to their own actions, some are drawn closer, and some are driven farther away."
- Dharma administered by God: The scriptures further outline how the "Judge of Dharma" administers justice depending on the way that one has conducted life on Earth. The soul is either "cleared" or "subject to God's command" depending on the review of the person history. The holy text says: "The Righteous Judge of Dharma, by the Hukam of God's Command, sits and administers True Justice". and those followers who "chant the name of the Lord" are cleared as outlined thus: "Her account is cleared by the Righteous Judge of Dharma, when she chants the Name of the Lord, Har, Har."
See also 
- Ātman (Hinduism)
- Ātman (Buddhism)
- Ātman (Jainism)
- Dharma Maharaja
- Fard (Islamic)
- Hindu philosophy
- Ik Onkar
- Ma'at (Egyptian)
- Mitzvah (Jewish)
- Perennial philosophy
- Spontaneous order
- Themis (Greek)
- Yuga Dharma
- Dharma Is Not The Same As Religion
- David Kalupahana. The Philosophy of the Middle Way. SUNY Press, 1986, pages 15–16: "The old Indian term dharma was retained by the Buddha to refer to phenomena or things. However, he was always careful to define this dharma as "dependently arisen phenomena" (paticca-samuppanna-dhamma) ... In order to distinguish this notion of dhamma from the Indian conception where the term dharma meant reality (atman), in an ontological sense, the Buddha utilized the conception of result or consequence or fruit (attha, Sk. artha) to bring out the pragmatic meaning of dhamma."
- Rix, Helmut, ed. (2001). Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben (in German) (2nd ed.). Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag. p. 145.
- Karl Brugmann, Elements of the Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic languages, Volume III, B. Westermann & Co., New York, 1892, p 100
- Dhand, Arti (Fall2002). "The Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma : Quizzing the Ideals of Hinduism". Journal Of Religious Ethics 30 (3): 351.
- Britannica Concise Encyclopedia 2007
- Oxford Dictionary of English 2005
- "...the order and custom which make life and a universe possible, and thus to the behaviours appropriate to the maintenance of that order." citation in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions
- Carol Henderson Garcia Culture and customs of India. 2002, page 31
- Gächter, Othmar (1998,). "Anthropos". Anthropos institute.
- Ainslie Thomas Embree, Stephen N. Hay, William Theodore De Bary, Sources of Indian Tradition: Modern India and Pakistan. Columbia University Press, 1988, page 215.
- Brodd, Jefferey (2003). World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5.
- The Mahābhārata: Book 11: The Book of the Venus Book 12: The Book of Peace, Part 1 By Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen, James L. Fitzgerald pg.124
- The Mahābhārata: Book 11: The Book of the Women Book 12: The Book of Peace, Part 1 By Johannes Adrianus Bernardus Buitenen, James L. Fitzgerald pg.124
- Baltutis, Michael (2011). "http://search.proquest.com.authenticate.library.duq.edu/religion/docview/875498797/139606AC4AC2FEA7285/7?accountid=10610". International Journal of Hindu Studies. 1 15: 55–100. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
- "Sri Guru Granth Sahib". Sri Granth. Retrieved 2012-08-14.
- Guru Granth Sahib Japji page 8, Salok.
- Guru Granth Sahib page 38
- Guru Granth Sahib page 78
Further reading 
- Murthy, K. Krishna. "Dharma – Its Etymology." The Tibet Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Spring 1966, pp. 84–87.
- Radhakrishnan, S. (1923): "Indian Philosophy Vol.1" (2nd Edition). New Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks (Oxford University Press).
- Hume, R.E.: (1921): "The Thirteen Principal Upanishads" (2nd Edition, Revised). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Easwaran, E. (1987): "The Upanishads" (Seventh Printing). Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press.
- Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi : "Hindu Dharma: The Universal Way of Life". Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Press.
- Sâdhus, going beyond the dreadlocks, by Patrick Levy, published by Prakash Books, Delhi, 2010.
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