This is in continuation of the article Hindu Sanatana Dharma “Toolkit For World Peace”. Part 1 was published on March 13, 2021.

Hindu Dharma is the binding force that regulates and upholds the entire creation in-universe. It defines human roles and responsibilities, social and moral order, purpose, and goals of life including the rewards and punishments commensurate with people’s actions. Dharma is like the law of God which is sacred, inviolable, all-pervasive, and at the same time responsible for universal order, regularity, harmony, control, predictability, and accountability in the society. According to one definition “Dharma exists in all planes, in all aspects and at all levels of creation.” At the individual level, “Dharma consists of all that a human being undertakes in harmony with divine injunctions and his own sense of morality and justice.”

The term Dharma is used to denote ‘religion’ as also in the context of “righteous duty.”. Hinduism is perhaps the only major religion that traces its origin in monotheism during the Vedic period but following its diversified nature, philosophy and doctrines, it assumed the characteristics and impression of a polytheistic religion while still retaining its ingrained philosophy of monotheism through monism[1]. Hinduism has been largely accepted as the world’s oldest existing religion nearly for more than four thousand years.

Hindu Dharma in The Vedas

In Rig Veda alone, the word Dharma appears more than fifty-six times in the hymns. In the mythological verses, a root ‘Dhar-‘ (word Dharma) has been used in the context of holding, supporting, and stabilizing the celestial objects in-universe. Beyond the hymns of the mythological verses, the word Dharma appears in several verses with expanded meaning as a cosmic principle.

In Atharva Veda, the terminology evolves into a dynamic functional sense assuming the form of the cosmic law that links cause and effect through a subject. In these ancient scriptures, Dharma also takes a ritual meaning where “dharmani” is equated to ceremonial devotion to the principles that gods used to create order from disorder, the world from chaos, and so on. Beyond the ritual and cosmic implications of Dharma, in the latter texts its relevance grew more in ethical-social sense that links human beings to each other and to different life forms and thus emerging as a concept of law in Hinduism.

The Connection of Life with Hindu Dharma in Vedas

When the Vedas speak of dharma in connection with human life, the word in English is often translated with religion, because religion is said to be the essence of human existence. Even an atheist will have some belief system or moral and ethical codes he adheres to. But religion or faith can change. A Christian can change and become an atheist, a Muslim can convert to Hinduism, so religion or faith describes only the temporary dharma we follow as human beings. It doesn’t describe that dharma or service which is eternal.

A better translation of the word Dharma is the word duty. Duty is inextricably connected with human life. But we don’t have the same duties. We have different duties according to the body we inhabit. Thus, the Vedas describe different types of dharma in terms of our different bodies and their inherent abilities. There are different dharmas for women, for men, for children, for old people, and for all the different types of people and social orders.

So, there are two forms of Dharma or duty associated with human life.

First, there is the dharma we have in relation to our body and culture and Second, there is the dharma we have as a spirit soul.

One is the duty we have to perform as conditioned, embodied souls Second is our duty as liberated souls.

First is a temporary duty in relation to our specific body type, which takes on a myriad of forms.

Second is our eternal duty as pure souls in relation to him.

Distinction between the duties that are laid down for us by God and the sages in the holy scriptures like the Vedas or scriptures from other cultures and the duties we fabricate ourselves as is evident in the modern culture.

If one follows the Dharma as directed by the Vedas it leads to happiness and welfare in life and one will gradually be promoted to increasingly advanced forms of life on the higher planetary systems. That is, one can become a Siddha, a sage, or any of the other sublime forms in the universal hierarchy. But if one neglects to perform his designated duties as a human being, one will not only create a hellish existence individually and collectively but if one insists on breaking with the natural balance of life, one will gradually sink down to the most abominable life forms.

Thus, the essence of life is service. Generally, it can be said that this service is expressed through the performance of our duties, and in relation to our status in life – body, age, position, culture, etc. – we have different duties to perform. These duties are ultimately given to us by Bhagwan/God, as prescribed in the different religions, with the expressed purpose of allowing us to live in harmony with nature and thus advance in happiness and prosperity. Some people have the idea that the duties given to us by Bhagwan/God are a nuisance and a hindrance to our enjoying life, but it is simply irrational to suggest that Bhagwan/God wants us to suffer. He wants us to become happy and satisfied and therefore he has given the directions on how to do exactly that, and it is obvious to any dispassionate observer that as the modern culture has discarded the rules of Bhagwan/God of invented its own rules for becoming happy, exactly the opposite has occurred – the modern civilization has turned the planet into a dump and everyone without exception is disturbed and miserable to the max. That’s the unavoidable consequence of ignoring the rules and regulations established by Bhagwan/God.

But besides the Dharma we have to perform as human beings, i.e., the different duties we have to perform if we want to live a good life in harmony with nature and all other creatures not only in this life but the next one as well, we also have an eternal dharma, which is constant, and that is our direct service to Bhagwan/God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In the Vedas, it is said, that the original position of the soul is to be the eternal servant of Bhagwan/God. That service to him is performed by the soul in its liberated state after it’s been freed from the necessity of having to exist in a physical body and it is being expressed by the soul allowing itself to be enjoyed by supreme personality. When the living entity no longer has any desires to enjoy selfishly, i.e., when it no longer wishes to enjoy separately from the “Supreme Personality of Godhead”, he serves him unconditionally by performing all activities to please Him. By such service, the soul expresses its love for him.

Such love is the eternal dharma of the soul and it is totally without hankering and lamentation and it continues forever. This type of love can be experienced even when the soul is still situated in his material body, for such pure devotional service is without any tinge of material properties and is thus not dependent on whether the soul is situated in the material or spiritual world. In fact, when the soul serves the Supreme Personality of Godhead with his body, mind, and words he is to be considered liberated even if he is within a material body. So, one does not have to wait until leaving his body to serve Bhagwan/God which is the Supreme Personality of Godhead purely.

Dharma and associated words find frequent use in the later Vedic literature viz. Upanishads, Puranas, and Epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana, where the concept of Dharma developed as a universal principle of truth, law, order, and harmony. In Hinduism, the Dharma has ultimately evolved as the regulatory moral principle of the universe. The word Dharma also appears and plays a key role in the literature of other Indian religions like Buddhism and Jainism.

An illustration is cited here from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (sloka/verse/hymn 1.4.14) wherein it is explained as the law of righteousness (Dharma) and equated to truth.

स नैव व्यभवत्, तत्छ्रेयोरूपमत्यसृजत धर्मम्; तदेतत् क्षत्रस्य क्षत्रं यद्धर्मः, तस्माद्धर्माद्परं नास्ति; अथो अबलीयान् बलीयांसमाशंसते धर्मेण, यथा राज्ञैवम्; यो वै स धर्मः सत्यं वै तत्, तस्मात् सत्यं वदन्तमाहुः, धर्मं वदतीति, धर्मं वा वदन्तम् सत्यं वदतीति, एतद्ध्येवैतदुभयं भवति ॥ १५ ॥
sa naiva vyabhavat, tatchreyorūpamatyasṛjata dharmam; tadetat kṣatrasya kṣatraṃ yaddharmaḥ, tasmāddharmādparaṃ nāsti; atho abalīyān balīyāṃsamāśaṃsate dharmeṇa, yathā rājñaivam; yo vai sa dharmaḥ satyaṃ vai tat, tasmāt satyaṃ vadantamāhuḥ, dharmaṃ vadatīti, dharmaṃ vā vadantam satyaṃ vadatīti, etaddhyevaitadubhayaṃ bhavati || 14 ||
Yet he did not flourish. He specially projected that excellent form, righteousness (Dharma). This righteousness (Dharma) is the controller of the Kshatriya. Therefore, there is nothing higher than that. (So) even a weak man hopes (to defeat) a stronger man through righteousness (Dharma), as (one contending) with the king. That righteousness (Dharma) is verily truth. Therefore, they say about a person speaking of truth, ‘He speaks of righteousness (Dharma),’ or about a person speaking of righteousness (Dharma),’ He speaks of truth,’ for both these are but righteousness (Dharma). || 14 ||

[1] Hindu, Hinduism and Hindustan: Part XXVIII by Jaipal Singh (

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