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Hinduism – A Way of Life: What is Dharma?

Sagarneel Sinha

Hinduism is called the Sanatan Dharma,which in English means that it is an 'eternal religion'. Eternal means timeless. So,naturally the question arises – what is Dharma?

Hinduism is derived from the word 'Hindu' – which is a Persian word. The Persians actually tried to call the people living other side of the Sindhu river as Sindhus. As, the Sanskrit word 'S' changes to 'H' in Persian, so the word 'Sindhu' became 'Hindu' and 'Sindhus' became 'Hindus'. Thus, came the word 'Hindu'. The word is a foreign Persian word and as the Persian-related foreigners ruled the country for a long time – enough to influence the people and the culture of this land. In this way, the foreign word 'Hindu' came into existence. It is also the main reason for not finding the word 'Hindu' in the Hindu scriptures which were originally written long before the coming of the foreign rulers.

The Hindu scriptures mainly deal with the word 'Dharma'. This word often comes after the word 'Sanatan'. As in today's world 'Dharma' becomes religion, thus came the word 'Sanatan Dharma'. However, I am using the present words which are generally used today –

Hindu and Hinduism.

Religion is a subset of Dharma. Dharma is a broader concept. Dharma is right conduct of life. There are many different duties of right conduct. It depends on individualistic approach and inference. Some of the key principles of right deeds are – love, peace, non-violence,charity and free from anger and grief etc. That's why the Hindu scriptures state that every personal has his/her own dharma. But in religion this is not so. In religion, everyone has to follow strictly the rules mentioned, unlike Dharma which utters of principles and paths but leaves to the individual's understanding. In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna recited the divine 'Bhagavad Gita' to Arjuna (follower), but never asked him to strictly follow him. Krishna left it to Arjun's consciousness. Afterwards, Arjun did his actions depending on his awareness. He definitely took help of the Lord and his divine sayings but did what he perceived. Sayings are to be listened and pursued based on self understanding as Krishna said that the conduct of rules and regulations of Dharma does change according to time and situation. It doesn't mean that Dharma changes, it is to realise the essence of Dharma based on paths of time which always keep changing. Religion however stresses only on principles and regulations. Dharma also does that but it depends on time and individual's approach. In this world, billions of people do live and they obviously also think uniquely. The concept of Dharma is based on this scientific inference.


Dharma stresses on self understanding. This realization is very important. To know the world, it is first required to know the knowledge of self. Self understanding is to know the thinkings of the own mind at different situations and analysis of it – whether right or wrong and perform the actions based on results of the inspection. Now the questions arise – what is right or wrong?


Dharma mainly concerns with this two concepts – right and wrong. Right is the positive aspect of the human action while the wrong is the negative one. Positive state is a notion that concerns with non-violence, love, peace, harmony and charity with other humans and the nature. Negative aspect concerns with hate, injury, killings and theft of other humans. Negative perspective comes out of unending materialistic desires – the desires which want to conquer everything even at the cost of anything. This materialistic desires keep the human engaging and never allowing to take rest. That's why it is said that through negative actions one may achieve happiness but that doesn't last for long, as the negative thoughts don't allow the one to satisfy. If one performs treachery the person will never stay in peace thinking he/she may be harmed by the other. Such thoughts never allow the person to stay calm. Otherside, positive actions provide calmness to the being. Positive actions like helping others help the person to interact with others. Such actions keep the self satisfied as pure thinking and actions are suitable to the proper growth of the mind and the body. It is because our body mechanism is more kin to positive thinkings and actions.


Pursuance of Dharma is very important in today's world. It teaches the human beings to do deeds which ensure benefit of self and others. As in this world cycle of nature, everything that occurs repeats itself just like the six seasons. Individual actions done earlier come back as consequences to the person only. So, if one follows Dharma one will live a life based on the consequences of self actions. Dharma never keeps the world under illusion. It ensures that the human beings do face the reality of the world which includes joy, comfort and also pain and sorrow and helps the human to live the life in a way which ensures good for self and others. Challenges are part of life in this mortal world and Dharma prepares the human to deal with it.

In the conclusion it can be said that –

“Dharma is the boat which helps its riders – the human beings to steer through the mighty waters and waves of the sea to reach the sea shore.”


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