Dharma – this one word in Sanskrit / Hindi / Sanskrit derived vernacular languages often confuses us. Is it just to do the right things ? Who defines what’s right ? Is there a formal definition ?

Thankfully, there is one.

The 10 marks of Dharma are clearly specified in Manusmriti:

धृति: क्षमा दमोऽस्‍तेयं शौचमिन्‍द्रियनिग्रह:।

धीर्विद्या सत्‍यमक्रोधो दशकं धर्मलक्षणम्‌।। (मनुस्‍मृति ६.९२)

1. Dhriti – fortitude 

2. Kshama – forgiveness 

3. Dama – self-control 

4. Asteyam – non-stealing 

5. Shauch – purity

6. Indriya nigrah – control of sensory organs

7. Dhi – wisdom

8. Vidya – knowledge

9. Satyam – truthfulness

10. Akrodha – absence of anger

These are universal values acceptable to all humans. 

Moreover, the Mahabharata makes it clear : 

धर्मस्य तत्त्वं निहितं गुहायां 

महाजनो येन गतः स पन्थाः॥     

– महाभारते वनपर्वणि यक्ष-युधिष्ठिर-संवादे

Indeed, the essence of right conduct (dharma) is a subtle secret. So the only recourse is to follow the footsteps of great people.

Coming to a word connoting the same meaning in any foreign language : the closest one that I came across is a Greek word called philotimo (φιλότιμο). Its etymology is simple — philos, or friend/love, and timi, or honor — the Greek word philotimo conveys decency, dignity, honesty, altruism, and several other ideals encompassing what all it takes to live with integrity. It is greater than the individual, with a person’s act of philotimo reflecting positively on his or her family, community, organization, and society.

Philotimo was first spoken of by pagan poets of the past. Native Greek speakers like St. Paul included it in his letters, urging his readers to fill their lives with philotimo. It is a universal, transcendent good, an internal ethical compass of fairness, compassion, and justice.

In the context of an organization, corporate philotimy determines how a company operates at the cellular level. It is the principle that guides a company’s sustainability behavior, which can then be quantified with Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) metrics.

Corporate philotimy translates to the hiring process as well. To identify candidates aligned with the ideals of corporate philotimy, companies look for candidates who use “we” rather than “I,” who share credit, own errors, and enjoy contributing to collective success.

Socrates expressed in his own imitable way that an undying sense of philotimy is what inspires individuals and organizations to behave as they would wish to be remembered.

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