Dharma Politically Defined.


A spiritual term arose from Vedic philosophy and was embraced through the history of the Hindu religion by the astika (orthodox) and nastika (heterdox) sects. Politically used, it became broadly and ambiguously defined. This Sanskrit word “dharma” arises from the root “dhr” which means “to put on “.

Early Vedic meaning of dharma was the cosmic order, or whatever upholds the cosmos. It had been also interwoven, through connections to the Vedic ritual, to the societal order. You could consider dharma to be “the law “.Later schools of thought used the term to mean the greatest reality and highest truth, which were equal to another meaning of the phrase, the teachings of the founders of the schools. It is thought that the root “dhr”, since Sanksrit is an early on Indo-European language, may have led to words such as Deus, Zeus, Jupiter, Tao, and more, all which point to that which upholds and sustains the universe physically, socially, and morally.

Dharma was a term that might be embraced and utilized by any group to help expand it’s own ideas or agenda. This is precisely what occurred involving the brahmins (priests) and the samnyasins (renouncers). Brahmins had taught this one should follow the prescribed social order to reify the ability of the gods, which metaphorically allude to differing facets of reality and the cosmos. Following this established pattern of living, with respect to the class one exists into, ensures that all person within society, and thus society all together, performs their personal karma. If this social order is upheld, then it is alignment with the dharma. The motivation for the folks to surrender to this system was the hope of an improved rebirth within samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.

With the emergence of the cosmic and spiritual speculation of the Upanisads came a fresh focus on samsara and an escape as a result, moksa. The definition of karma shifted, with less focus on the Vedic ritual, and more on the causal facet of the word. The whole cosmology was now understood by the ascetics being an allegory for the inner conditions of the human mind current affairs. Dharma obtained a transcendental aspect, karma binds one to samsara, and liberation is no further a greater rebirth within samsara, but a total freedom from it. Karmic action lost its importance as moksa became the goal. Jnana, or familiarity with oneself as the greatest truth, is the key to liberation. This is realized by yoga, a withdrawal of the senses and a cessation of the turning of the mind. The absolute most conducive atmosphere to achieve this is away from society. These new definitions contradict the ideas of the brahmins and deem much of their special status as unnecessary. An effort to reemphasize the significance of a social obligation and moral duty can be found within the Ramayana.

The Ramayana tells an epic tale of an incarnation of Visnu, Rama, as he works through the consequences of following proper dharma while following his own purusarthas (goals of life), which ultimately result in a better great for all. The brahmins seek to explicate the reasons why you ought to follow dharma before artha (things of personal value) and kama (sensual pleasures). Although the reason why might be beyond intellectual grasping, the best good arises by following dharma. The next is one episode of the Ramayana which displays this reasoning.

The King of Ayodhya, Dasaratha, wants to elevate Rama, the son of his first wife, to kingship. But his third wife, Kaikeyi, uses this time to obtain two promises agreed to her by Dasaratha after she once saved him on the battlefield. She decides these promised boons to be that her son Bharata be named king as opposed to Rama, and that Rama is exiled to the wilderness for fourteen years, comprehending that Bharata would refuse kingship if Rama was present.

Here the dilemma arises. Dharmically Dasaratha must hold true to the promises he offered Kaikeyi, his favorite wife. His purusartha, goals of life, are to check out his dharma, seek and protect his personal properties, and fulfill sensual desires. Dharma is demonstrated to be most important as he chooses to exile Rama and name Bharata as king. Although he could have rather followed the social custom of primogeniture, naming his first-born son king, he did not. He chose to check out proper dharma, which held him obligated to be loyal to his oaths, and maintained his family structure, which is really a model for his citizens and part of his kingly dharma. In the end, many events occur which result in Rama getting a worthy wife, solving many injustices, ridding the planet of the asuras (demi-god demons), and becoming king anyways.

This polemical writing seeks in order to guarantee individuals who the delaying of their particular gratifications is infinitely more rewarding when dharma is at risk. For the people of the Vedic society, what this means is even their particular release from samsara must certanly be delayed in order to uphold the cosmic, social, and moral order, which eventually results in a world more conducive to attaining moksa for everyone. It attempts to get rid of the urgency of seeking liberation, thus convincing people to keep within society and their castes and perform their duties for the greatest good of society and the cosmos. This keeps power within the hands of the brahmins, the greatest and most privileged caste.

This argument has never found a resolution. If dharma is understood to be the upholding of the order of reality through performing moral and social duties, then one remains within society at the wish of the brahmins. If dharma is understood to be an ultimate, uninterpreted truth, which when understood liberates one from the dissatisfaction of life, then one renounces society and seeks solace in the wilderness while performing yoga. Dharma is completed or sought in either instance, but the decision of definition is wholly political.

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