Hinduism - The concept of Dharma

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Hinduism Revision - Topic 1: Dharma
Definitions of Dharma
o Dharma is derived from the Vedic concept of RTA
Rta­ derived form the Rig Veda = the belief that a natural justice and harmony pervades the natural world
becomes manifested in rta - which is both 'nature's way' and the order implicit in nature.
o Dharma is a concept central to Hinduism ­ it is through the fulfilling of one's dharma that Punya (Religious
merit) is acquired ­ leading to better rebirths
o Different categories of requirements that make up Dharma ­ complicates its meaning as it is universal and at
the same time specific to the nature of an individual
o Dharma is considered the Foundation of Hindu life ­ some refer to it as divine law (B = Truth B = source) ­ it
is a mode which many believe lead to better spiritual fulfilment (acquiring of punya )
o Dharma ­ for most people is either pre calculated (ie. Stridharma because you are a women), however
dharma can also evolve throughout a person's life ­ ie. as they move through the ashrama system
Examples of Dharma ­ The Gods
o Ramayana Epic ­ example of Ideal Dharma - Rama Rajya (the golden age of Dharma) ­ particularly for
Vaishnavas Rama is considered to be the ideal ruler, warrior husband ­ he is the epitome of Dharma Ravana
could be seen as Adharma (lust/greed/ lack of morality)
Vaishnav belief in avatars ­ descent onto earth in order rot restore dharma (order)- age of Kali
o Krishna and Argujna - the Gita
Santana Dharma ­ universal law ­ all the most basic precepts ­ religion, law, truth morality
o SD- applies to everybody ­ Dharma is universal order
o Santana ­ Eternal = it is without end or beginning
o Source of SD ­ Brahman
o Hinduism is commonly called Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism is an etic term) ­ it is the eternal right way of living
HOWEVER there is disagreement about what constitutes Hinduism + debate about whether SD (universal and
eternal D) can be separated from the practise of Varna Ashrama Dharma (more specific + ridged ­ social
o J Lippner ­ SD is a slipperly term - has been used to promote exclusivism
Some communities ­ have called their version of Hinduism ­ SD ­ the truth
Ie. Hindutva ­ right wing Hindu fundamentalists / Dayanda Sarasvati ­ Arya Samaj ­ no murti's/saguna (own
ideas about Hinduism)
Sadharan Dharma ­ The general Dharma that can be followed by everybody ­ DEFINITION
Ahmisa ­ Nonviolence- particularly advocated by Ghandi
Satya (The pursuit of truth)
Asteya (not stealing)
Sauca (purity)
Varna Ashrama Dharma (+Caste system) - SVA DHARMA (Personal Dharma)
o Caste ­ not Sanskrit but derived from the Portuguese term "casta" ­ means lineage
o Unique to Hinduism ­ it is one which a person is born, it is difficult for an individual to change their status
(ie. marriage to lower caste ­ denounces your own status ­ frowned upon)
o Social system ­ affects a person's everyday life, dharmaic responsibilities, job you perform etc.
o 2 aspects to caste ­ Varna and Juti

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Very Specific ­ Traditional (Strict set of laws in how each person should live their life according to scripture ­
VS.…read more

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Jati's ­ Craft based groups ­ 1000s
o Secondary aspect of the Caste system
o Believed to be more ancient than the Varna System ­ predates the Vedic period
o Jati's = thousands of trade groups, in which everyone is a member of by birth
o Examples include ­ Potters, grocers, messengers, fishermen, silk weavers etc.…read more

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Some Hindu's choose to stay in this stage for their whole lives ­ belief that the acquisition of knowledge is a
lifelong persuit ­ however the entering into the Grihastha stage through marriage is often encouraged
Grihastha stage (Householder)
Stridharma ­ Dharma of Women
o Stridharma - Duty of women
o Laws of Manu ­ made it clear that women were to be excluded from the ashrama Stage
BUT also praises women as being essential to the household and to the Dharma of men
o…read more

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Social issues ­ such as women being blamed for the failure of a marriage (single mothers not accepted) ­ men
in Vedic times were allowed to abandon them - 45% of women are beaten + 77% of males said that there
masculinity was threatened if a women disobeyed them
o Cinderella Syndrome ­ belief that marriage will be happily ever after ­ lack of qualifications, work
experience or mental makeup to fend for themselves in case of divorce etc.…read more

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Gita Ch. 1 Lines 40-41 ­ "when a family declines, ancient traditions are destroyed/ with them are
lost the spiritual foundations of life" ­ highlights the importance of fulfilling your Vivaha Dharma
o Marriage ­ Dharma = The procreation of children and continuation of family lineage
o Significant ­ marks the change between the Brahmacharya stage and the Grihastha ashram ­ the fulfilment of
the four goals (Kama, Artha, Moksha, Dharma) + 3 debts ­ become partners in household rituals (ie.…read more

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If divorced ­ the daughter will return home to her father's family (no obligation for husband to support)
o Remarriage of widows ­ particularly of that of upper-class is discouraged (Vedic Ideal ­ perform sati)
Dharma is an abstract ideal which cannot be applied to the everyday life of Hindus.' (20 Marks)
Looking at what kind of Dharma? General dharma is to purposefully be applied to everyday life.…read more


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