Adharma (Sanskrit: अधर्म) is derived from combining "a" with "dharma", which literally implies "not-dharma". It means immoral, sinful, wrong, wicked, unjust and against balance or nature.
Ariel Glucklich translates Adharma as chaos, disorder, non-harmonious and explains it as opposite of Dharma. Glucklich states that adharma is not understood as binary opposite or in absolute ethically negative term in Indian philosophy. Rather it is a complex functional subjective term just like dharma, with shades of meaning, that depends on circumstances, purpose and context.
The Vishnu Purana recites a Hindu legend that includes Dharma and Adharma as mythical characters, and it is loaded with symbolism about virtues and vices, morality and ethics. The myth is as follows,
The progeny of Dharma by the daughters of Daksha were as follows: by Sraddhá (devotion) he had Kama (desire); by Lakshmí (wealth, prosperity), was born Darpa (pride); by Dhriti (courage), the progeny was Niyama (precept); by Tusht́i (inner comfort), Santosha (contentment); by Pusht́i (opulence), the progeny was Lobha (cupidity, greed); by Medhá (wisdom, experience), Sruta (sacred tradition); by Kriyá (hard work, labour), the progeny were Dańd́a, Naya, and Vinaya (justice, politics, and education); by Buddhi (intellect), Bodha (understanding); by Lajjá (shame, humility), Vinaya (good behaviour); by Vapu (body, strength), Vyavasaya (perseverance). Shanti (peace) gave birth to Kshama (forgiveness); Siddhi (excellence) to Sukha (enjoyment); and Kírtti (glorious speech) gave birth to Yasha (reputation). These were the sons of Dharma; one of whom, Kama (love, emotional fulfillment) had baby Hersha (joy) by his wife Nandi (delight).The wife of Adharma (vice, wrong, evil) was Hinsá (violence), on whom he begot a son Anrita (falsehood), and a daughter Nikriti (immorality): they intermarried, and had two sons, Bhaya (fear) and Naraka (hell); and twins to them, two daughters, Máyá (deceit) and Vedaná (torture), who became their wives. The son of Bhaya (fear) and Máyá (deceit) was the destroyer of living creatures, or Mrityu (death); and Dukha (pain) was the offspring of Naraka (hell) and Vedaná (torture). The children of Mrityu were Vyádhi (disease), Jará (decay), Soka (sorrow), Trishńa (greediness), and Krodha (wrath). These are all called the inflictors of misery, and are characterised as the progeny of Vice (Adharma). They are all without wives, without posterity, without the faculty to procreate; they perpetually operate as causes of the destruction of this world. On the contrary, Daksha and the other Rishis, the elders of mankind, tend perpetually to influence its renovation: whilst the Manus and their sons, the heroes endowed with mighty power, and treading in the path of truth, as constantly contribute to its preservation.
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, a New Translation and Commentary, Chapter 1-6. Penguin Books, 1969, p 64-66 (v 40-41), p 262-263 (v 7)
- Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. Sutta 22:14. Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-072-X
- Adharma Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, Cologne University, Germany
- Ariel Glucklich (2014), The Sense of Adharma, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198024484, pages 8-10
- Ariel Glucklich (2014), The Sense of Adharma, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198024484, pages 9-10
- Vishnu Purana, HH Wilson (Translator), Chapter 7
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