A spiritual term arose from Vedic philosophy and was embraced through the entire 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” comes from the main “dhr” meaning “to hold “.
The first Vedic meaning of dharma was the cosmic order, or that which upholds the cosmos. It was also interwoven, through connections to the Vedic ritual, to the societal order. One could consider dharma to be “regulations “.Later schools of thought used the definition of to mean the greatest reality and highest truth, of equal to some other meaning of the word, the teachings of the founders of the schools. It is thought that the main “dhr”, since Sanksrit is an earlier Indo-European language, would have generated words such as for example Deus, Zeus, Jupiter, Tao, and more, all which point compared to that which upholds and sustains the universe physically, socially, and morally.
Dharma was a term that would be embraced and utilized by any group to further it’s own ideas or agenda. This really is precisely what occurred involving the brahmins (priests) and the samnyasins (renouncers). Brahmins had taught that one should follow the prescribed social order to reify the power 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 each person within society, and thus society in general, performs their personal karma. If this social order is upheld, then it is alignment with the dharma. The motivation for the people to surrender to this technique was the hope of a much better 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. This is of karma shifted, with less focus on the Vedic ritual, and more on the causal part of the word international politics. The whole cosmology was now understood by the ascetics as an allegory for the internal conditions of the human mind. Dharma obtained a transcendental aspect, karma binds someone to samsara, and liberation is no longer a higher 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 best truth, is the important thing to liberation. This really is realized by yoga, a withdrawal of the senses and a cessation of the turning of the mind. The 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 attempt to reemphasize the significance of a cultural obligation and moral duty is found within the Ramayana.
The Ramayana tells an epic tale of an incarnation of Visnu, Rama, as he works through the results of following proper dharma while following his own purusarthas (goals of life), which ultimately lead to a greater beneficial to all. The brahmins seek to explicate reasons why one should follow dharma before artha (things of personal value) and kama (sensual pleasures). Although the main reason may be beyond intellectual grasping, the greatest good arises by following dharma. These 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 rather than Rama, and that Rama is exiled to the wilderness for fourteen years, understanding 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 follow along with his dharma, seek and protect his personal properties, and fulfill sensual desires. Dharma is shown to be most significant as he chooses to exile Rama and name Bharata as king. Although he might have rather followed the social custom of primogeniture, naming his first-born son king, he did not. He chose to follow along with 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 section of his kingly dharma. Ultimately, many events occur which lead to Rama locating a worthy wife, solving many injustices, ridding the world of the asuras (demi-god demons), and becoming king anyways.
This polemical writing seeks to make sure individuals who the delaying of their own gratifications is infinitely more rewarding when dharma are at risk. For the people of the Vedic society, this means even their own release from samsara should really 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 remain within society and their castes and perform their duties for the best good of society and the cosmos. This keeps power within the hands of the brahmins, the best and most privileged caste.
This argument hasn’t found a resolution. If dharma is understood to function as 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 performed or sought in either instance, but the decision of definition is wholly political.