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What does the term Dharma mean?

Dharma is a notion of paramount significance in Indian philosophy and religion. It has numerous purposes in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. It isn’t effortless to deliver a brief description of Dharma, as the term has a lengthy and assorted history and straddles a complicated set of meanings and arrangements. There is no counterpart single-word synonym for Dharma in western languages. Dharma is seen as a subjective concept.

The term dharma has origins in the Sanskrit dhr-, which suggests to hold or reinforce, and is affiliated to Latin firmus (firm, stable). This represents “what is established or firm,” hence “law.” It emanated from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-with a literal definition of “bearer, supporter,” in a spiritual sense originated as an element of Rta.

What is the history of Dharma?

According to Pandurang Vaman Kane, writer of the traditional book History of Dharmasastra, the term dharma occurs fifty-six times in the hymns of the Rigveda as an adjective or noun. According to Paul Horsch, the term dharma has its roots in the tales of Vedic Hinduism. The hymns of the Rig Veda proclaim Brahman formed the universe from confusion; they hold the soil and sun and stars apart, sustain the sky away and separate from the ground, and stabilize the shaking mountains and plains. The gods, especially Indra, then return and maintain order from chaos, harmony from disorder, tranquility from flux – steps repeated in the Veda with the origin of the term dharma.

In hymns written after the mythical verses, the term dharma takes extended definition as a cosmic code and occurs in verses separate from gods. It develops into a notion, argues Paul Horsch, that has a vibrant operational sense in Atharvaveda, where it evolves the cosmic law that connects reason and effect through a topic. Dharma, in these archaic texts, also takes a ritual purpose. The ritual is bonded to the cosmic, and “dharmani” is correlated to proper dedication to the regulations that gods used to assemble order from chaos and the world from disorder

Dharma in Religion

There are simple ideas of Dharma shared by several religions worldwide. Dharma is a spiritual notion that extends itself into several cultures and societies. Its views of patience and peace are followed by disciples of various religious and spiritual leaders.


Dharma is an organizing code in Hinduism that spreads to human beings in isolation, in relations with human beings and nature, and between lifeless things, to all of the cosmos and its domains. It guides the directive and traditions that create life and the universe viable, including behaviors, rituals, rules controlling society, and values. Hindu dharma contains the religious duties, moral dues, and duties of each and manners that promote social demand, proper behavior, and virtue.

According to Van Buitenen, Dharma is what all existent beings must acknowledge and appreciate to maintain harmony and demand. It is neither the act nor the outcome but the natural laws that steer the action and create the effect to prevent confusion. An innate element makes the existing what it is. It argues Van Buitenen, the purpose and implementation of one’s nature and true calling, thus recreating one’s role in a cosmic show. Within Hinduism, it is the Dharma of the bee to create honey, of the cow to provide milk, of the sun to beam sunshine, of rivers to float. Dharma is the demand for, the development of, and importance of courtesy and interconnectedness of all life in periods of humankind.


In Buddhism, Dharma means cosmic law and hierarchy but is also used for the instructions of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also called “phenomena.”

For rehearsing Buddhists, connections to “dharma,” specifically as “the Dharma,” typically means the instructions of the Buddha, generally known throughout the East as Buddhadharma. It primarily contains the lessons on the fundamental principles of the myths and the poems.

The quality of Dharma is viewed variably by diverse Buddhist traditions. Some think the greatest reality or the foundation of all things lies outside the “three realms” and the “wheel of becoming.” Others, who follow the Buddha as merely an enlightened human being, see the Dharma as the core of the “84,000 different elements of the teaching” that the Buddha delivered to different people, established upon their proclivities and abilities.

Dharma directs to the expressions of the Buddha and the last conventions of arrangement and expansion that the diverse schools of Buddhism have designed to assist and expand upon the Buddha’s instructions. Others still see the Dharma as guiding to the “truth” or the supreme truth of “how things are.”


The term dharma in Jainism is located in all its essential texts. It has a contextual definition and guides several concepts. In the broadest sense, it represents the instructions of the Jinas, or education of any competing spiritual school, a full path, socio-religious obligation, and that which is the most elevated Mangala.

The Tattvartha Sutra, a central Jain text, notes daśa Dharma by guiding to ten moral virtues: patience, humility, straightforwardness, righteousness, honesty, self-restraint, temperance, rejection, non-attachment, and abstinence.


For Sikhs, the term Dharam represents the course of righteousness and valid religious tradition. Guru Granth Sahib connotes Dharma as responsibility and moral significance. The 3HO movement in Western civilization, which has specific Sikh beliefs, represents Sikh Dharma considerably as all that comprises religion, moral obligation, and manner of life.

Dharma in South Indian Literature

Various pieces of the Sangam and post-Sangam term highlight dharma, many of which are of Hindu or Jain heritage. Most of these texts are founded on aṟam, the Tamil word for Dharma. The archaic Tamil principled text of the Tirukkuṟaḷ or Kural, presumably a Jain or Hindu text, despite being an assemblage of aphoristic education on Dharma (aram), artha (porul), and kama (inpam), is entirely and solely established on aṟam. The Naladiyar, a Jain text of the post-Sangam period, observes a comparable routine as the Kural in highlighting aṟam or Dharma.

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