If you were interested in Eastern philosophy, then you should have heard the word “Dharma”, used in different meanings. This word seems one-sided, but it has many meanings, which we will analyze and combine this concept into one definition, as far as possible. To understand this word will be extremely useful for those who want to understand the important points of practical philosophy.
Dharma – duty
In this understanding, dharma is the duty of man. This debt is predetermined before its birth. The fulfillment of such a duty is the main task of man. The fulfillment of such a duty leads one to happiness in all aspects of life. Those who follow their dharma achieve perfection.
Krishna speaks about this in the Bhagavad Gita in two places: 3.8 and 18.45.
Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work.
By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done.
In the following verses, He explains that any person performing his duties can achieve perfection by worshiping the Supreme Lord. He also explains:
It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.Bhagavad-Gita. 3.35
However, it also states that any activity has a flaw. Therefore, it is forbidden to refuse any activity if it is not sinful, under the pretext of its imperfection. However, such an activity must be consistent with the nature of man, his dharma.
In the comments, Srila Prabhupada explains that: killing in war, cunning during trade, serving a bad master who gives the wrong orders — such flaws are found in the activities of a person who, with all this, should not refuse this kind of activity.
I repeat: murder in war, not in peace, cunning during trade, not in everyday life, and so on. It is necessary to learn to see the line between a permitted activity and an unauthorized activity. This requires knowledge.
Perfection man achieves from the performance of their duties. Perfection gives a person the opportunity to find all the benefits he needs: abundance, happiness, love, wealth and everything else. But perfection is different for everyone: one needs to be incredibly strong and courageous, another needs to be the wisest and so on.
Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah – protect your dharma and your dharma will protect you.
Everyone has their own perfection. And the duties from which perfection comes are also different for everyone. There are certain types of human psychophysical nature that give him a set of responsibilities. These duties are different for each person and are performed in accordance with the time, place and circumstance.
The rulers of different countries rule differently, fulfilling their obligations in accordance with necessity. Also, any person should know what to do, how to do it, and even better so that he knows more and when to do it. Responsibilities are a way of life that a person must lead. Understanding their duties and performing them in a timely manner, a person is able to fulfill them fully.
It is also a series of things that he needs to do: the mother must take care of the child, care for her husband, and the trader must watch the prices, buy and sell, advertise the goods. Every person has a lot of things to do. From this comes all the diversity of labor in human society.
The Сhaitanya-charitamrita also states that it is the duty of all to take care of the welfare of all sentient beings through their wealth, reason, speech and action.
Nonviolence, truthfulness, honesty, desire for the happiness and welfare of all others and freedom from lust, anger and greed constitute duties for all members of society.Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.17.21
However, the ultimate goal of all sacred texts comes down to the highest duty of all living beings — devotional service to the Supreme Lord. It is said that the Supreme Lord – the owner of all wealth, pleasure, happiness, knowledge, virtues and other goods, and therefore striving to receive these material and spiritual goods – should strive to serve Him. In India, rich businessmen dedicate weekends to serving in temples: they wash floors, dishes, and carry food to get the opportunity to faithfully serve the Lord. Dharma is a duty.
Dharma is an activity.
Now specifically about individual activities. In total there are 4 human nature and their corresponding activities. This is stated in the Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam:
Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguished by their qualities of work, O chastiser of the enemy, in accordance with the modes of nature.
Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness-these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.
Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the ksatriyas.
Farming, cattle raising and business are the qualities of work for the vaisyas, and for the sudras there is labor and service to others.Bhagavad-Gita. 18.41-44.
Brahman – knowledge holder
Dharma Brahman: perform religious rites, teach people to preach, advice, stories and own example of correct life. To educate people directly is to take as disciples. Do research, both scientific and philosophical. Brahmins perform the role of teachers, ministers, priests, priests, scholars, researchers. Intellectual work.
Develop knowledge and humility.
Kshatriy – Warrior
Dharma Kshatriya – to protect, provide everything necessary, care and rule over his people, support the Brahmins and respects their advice. Fight, lead and organize people, take part in competitions and win them, improve physical abilities, perform austerity, public service. Administrative, administrative and organizational work. Battle and fight.
Develop courage and calm.
Vaishya – merchant
Dharma Vaisyas – to trade, raise animals, engage in agriculture and crafts, engage in charity, earn money and increase material wealth. Labor aimed at making a profit, commercial direction.
To develop generosity and selflessness.
Sudra – servant
Dharma sudra – serve others, engage in physical labor. In the modern world also engaged in creativity and crafts.
Develop dedication and hard work.
In the majority, very few people perform an activity that suits its nature. Psychophysical nature is fixed from birth. You can, of course, instill in a person some kind of love for knowledge, an interest. But he doesn’t compare with the innate talent of spending hours, from childhood, on books and exploring everything. No interest can be concealed as natural inclinations.
If you suppress them or try to “retrain” a child, then you can spoil the fate of a person very much. There are masters who are engaged in the favorite craft get a lot of money, self-taught. It was just on enthusiasm that we developed such abilities and became experts from innate talent.
Dharma – way of life
According to the Vedic knowledge that we are now considering, addressing the topic of Dharma, there are 4 lifestyles.
Brahmacharya – disciple
Brahmacharya – young students. They study in special educational institutions – gurkulah, where not only knowledge is invested in them, but they also place great emphasis on the development of morality, talents, abilities and virtues. Brahmacharyas refrain from sexual intercourse, serve the teacher and receive knowledge.
Education was free and lasted in different ways – from 10 to 20 years. However, at the end of the training, a large donation should have been given to the guru — what kind of student family could afford. The youngest age for admission to the gurkul is 5-7 years old, at 25 years old, the maximum, the training ends and the student must decide whether to remain as a monk apprentice or start a grihastha family life.
Grihastha – the head of the family
Grhastha – family life. After training, the student who decides to start a family life returns home, where he is selected a suitable bride. After the magnificent wedding ceremonies, a young family man begins a family life and making money, in accordance with the innate nature – traders began to trade, engage in crafts, soldiers entered the army or public service, priests began to perform the duties of priests or teachers.
Raising children, doing charity and economic activities, visiting holy places, cultivating a pure consciousness in oneself are the duties of a grihastha. Grhastha lasts about 30-40 years. Upon reaching 45-60 years, the head of the family went into a renounced way of life. The mother was transferred to the care of the eldest son, who became the owner of all property and the head of the family.
Vanaprasha – Hermit
Vanaprasha is a renounced way of life. A renounced lifestyle means settling in an ashram, wandering, or living in a forest or mountains. In the mountains or in the forest, a person indulged in austerities, clearing his mind of material desires and curbing his mind.
In the case of living in the forest, a person eats the roots and fruits, which themselves come to him. If a person wanders, he lives the life of a sadhu, a saint, and lives on the alms given to him by the grihasthas. When living in a monastery, one engages in devotional service and prepares to become a sannyasi.
Sannyasi – preacher
Sannyasi is a wandering preacher. Sannyasis become young brahmacharies who wish to remain in the gurkula, grhasthas who are disillusioned with family life and vanaprastha. Sannyas means that a person devotes the rest of his life to preaching or otherwise serving the Supreme Lord. Such a person abandons the property and, with a minimum set of necessary items, sends to preach and spread knowledge, devoting the rest of his life to devotional service.
Dharma – religion
The concept of dharma-religion can denote two types of religion: karma yoga and sanatana-dharma.
Karma yoga is religiosity aimed at achieving the 4 goals of life: Kama (pleasure), artha (well-being), dharma (duty) and moksha (liberation). From this point of view, religion is only a regulating principle in enjoyment and a means for achieving material enjoyment and abundance.
Performing ceremonies such as weddings, burials, prayers, sacrifices, funerals, and so on. Following a wide range of prescriptions and rules, as well as the worship of deities. All this is directed more towards the material side of life – for getting something: worthy sons, wealth, health, success in earning and so on.
This is a materialistic religion that we can observe everywhere. The main idea of this religion is: “God is omnipotent, which means he can punish or reward me, so I’d rather serve him.” This mercenary ministry, although it transcends the absence of ministry, is far from pure devotional service.
The main engine of such a religion is fear and desire. Fear of punishment and desire for rewards. In this case, God is just another master who can very painfully punish disobedience. Such a view is found everywhere and is a consequence of universal human ignorance, which subjugates everything for deliverance from suffering and the acquisition of pleasures.
Sanatana-Dharma is an eternal religion — it is devotional service to God. It is an eternal religion because the subject of service is not a person, but the soul that carries this service from life to life.
In other words, this kind of religion is not related to the temporary body of a person, but interacts directly with the soul. Since the soul is eternal and immortal, the reward of such a ministry are also eternal and immortal, as they relate directly to the soul.
Sanatana Dharma is a method of bhakti yoga, devotional service. Sanatana-dharma is an exclusively spiritual type of activity, although it does not deny economic, political and social activity, but all this must be subordinated to the highest goal – Krishna.
The submission of all activities to the Supreme Lord, complete surrender and submission to Him, as well as the rejection of matter as the goal of existence, is Sanata-Dharma – the eternal religion, the religion of the living soul, which serves its Creator – Bhagavan.
Dharma – destination
Each person has a series of events that should happen in his life. This may be the consequences of past actions or a pre-selected mission. A mission can be very large-scale, and maybe even quite small, although sometimes without small events that are almost not noticeable in a causal relationship, large ones would not have happened. An example of purpose is a specific task in a person’s life, without fulfilling which a person feels acute dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction with life.
In this sense, dharma appears as fate – a person must fulfill something – this is his purpose and duty. In case of refusal of debt – he is mistaken, which will lead him to a worse outcome. Krishna speaks about this to the great warrior Arjuna, who needed to accept the battle, but who was seized with compassion for his relatives, friends and mentors, against whom he would have to fight:
O Krsna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell. Alas, how strange it is that we are preparing to commit greatly sinful acts, driven by the desire to enjoy royal happiness. I would consider it better for the sons of Dhrtarastra to kill me unarmed and unresisting, rather than fight with them.
Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.
Then Krishna reminded him of his duty as a warrior:
Sanjaya said: Seeing Arjuna full of compassion and very sorrowful, his eyes brimming with tears, Madhusudana, Krsna, spoke the following words.
The Supreme Person [Bhagavan] said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.
O son of Prtha, do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of the enemy.
Fate and choice
The phrase: “ They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy” means a lot in the context of spiritual life and understanding of real renunciation and surrender to your Dharma and the Lord. Arjuna’s Dharma was in battle, the Lord instructed him:
Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasacin, can be but an instmment in the fight.
Destiny means to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. If the tool refuses to work, it is considered broken and they either try to repair it or throw it away. If a person is trying to “fix” a difficult millstone test, he will wait until he recognizes his fate and accepts it.
Everyone has his own millstone, Jesus said, “Everyone has his own cross” – this means that everyone has his own destiny and his own burden of trials. The second option is when the instrument is recognized as so inoperative that it is thrown out. In this case, a person comes to a disappointing outcome of life in the form of a voluntary renunciation of it – suicide.
What happens to a warrior who works as a porter? In addition to a life that does not correspond to his nature, he gets an acute sense of dissatisfaction, depression, and total disappointment in a life that seeks to score something. Most often alcohol. In this way, decent people who refuse to fulfill their duty do not come to higher planets, but to infamy.
Dharma – way
If we combine all this, then we will get that Dharma is an individual way of a person that he has to go through in order to understand himself, to fulfill his destiny and to benefit the whole society. If a person sincerely wants to develop, he must understand that gold is purified only through the flame. And diamonds arise only under pressure. Hardened steel breaks the usual. Difficulties harden.
There are many metaphors, but the meaning is one – it will be hard and the stronger the desire to fulfill your dharma, the more success there will be, but the more you will have to suffer in order to achieve the desired consistency, which will be the image of the ideal yourself. For the sake of happiness is to work hard, because this is the most honest exchange – happiness to work. Honest deal simply does not exist.