There is the definition of dharma as religion. hindU dharmam for example. Then there is dharma as ethics. While it may be nyAya for someone to spend his earnings only on himself, dharma requires that he takes care of his dependents. There is dharma as in charity. “kAnI dharmam cey bAbu” – father, give a small coin in dharma. There is dharma as the puruSArtha.

By far the best definition of dharma I have ever seen is Given by Adi s’ankarAcArya as “that which uplifts”. See dharma: as defined by s’ankarAcArya : viSNu sahasranAma bhASya. My own present understanding of dharma is Dharma : The bearer and the borne.

When questioned on the best among the many good dharmAs, bhISma advised dharmarAja yudhiSThira, the son of yama dharmarAja, that it was to chant the thousand names of viSNu. The Best Dharma : According to Bhishma. hanumAn too upheld his devotion to rAma as the highest dharma. Bhakti as Dharma: Hanuman and Bhishma.

There are many dharmas’AstrAs that advise you on what your dharma is. dharmas’AstrAh kAla dEs’a parimitAh : Laws are bound to a time and place. Something that was right in kRta yuga may not be right in kali yuga. They evolved over time: Evolution of Dharma Sastras. vAsiSTha dharma s’Astra has topics relating to Anulled MarriagesWomen, Sons and Remarriage and Aryavarta boundaries among so many other things, that modern hindus are not always aware of.  Kautilya Arthasastra deals with Divorce by Mutual Consent : parasparam dveshánmokshah.

bRhaspati, the guru of the dEvAs says Use your common-sense in addition to Dharma Sastras : Brihaspati, bRhaspati, Bruhaspati. Blind adherence to the dharmas’AstrAs is neither good, necessary or expected. Here are some references: Dharmasastras: Books: Dharmasastra and Arthasastra

In this post, panca mahā yagnyās and apastamba sutrā: there is a link to the Apastamba sutrAs and a discussion of 5 debts a person owes. dharma s’AstrAs define how we should behave in our AcAra so that we attain mOkSa or sAkSatkAra and also how we must interact with society for it’s upliftment and lack of conflict (internal and external).  See Also : dharma and ācāra

When people give up an old practice for a new one, they hold the older way of thinking and it’s practitioners in contempt. They want to convert, teach, reform, and generally feel superior. Sanatana Dharma and Taboos explores some ideas with respect to that.

While Rama upheld Dharma, Krishna defined it! And thus kRSNa the path-breaker is a yugandhara. bhagavad gItA deals with the idea of a kSatriya dharma, the dharma of one who bears weapons (kSatrAs) for example a soldier or a king.

Cleanliness and Vegetarianism as per Manusmruti (a Dharma Sastra) are dhArmika ideas of personal code that have survived the test of time. Monogamy and celibacy are also such ideas.

dharma vs mOkSa. It is best to have all your goals aligned with the highest. Your desires kAma) and purpose (artha) must be aligned with the dharma relevant to your place and time. This is perhaps common knowledge. We are socialised to earn our wealth and fulfill our ambitions in a socio-legal frame-work that gives us our space in the context of well-being of the society and environment. But not everyone seems to be aware that even our dharma must lie in the scope define by our Ananda-mOkSa mArga – the path to our freedom and joy. of all the good and wonderful dharmAs to uphold – pick the one that uplifts you.

It is fairly evident that dharma is for samAja and not for mOkSa: Duty is for social welfare not self-realisation!  aSTAvakra samhitA (gItA) says for mOkSa, we must internally give up dharma, artha and kAma.  But I presently feel that any time you might be  able to find a path that leads to mOkSa through the dharma defined by your place and time, just as you could find dharma compatible jobs and spouses. How to get sAdhana credits for your actions – kAma, artha and dharma

There is a model that each person is either born in or operates at one of the cakrAs related to survival, family, ambition, dharma, purity or command. A dhArmika person would do all his actions consistent with dharma.  When a person of the hRdaya (dharma) cakra engages in activities of another cakra. I think this was the character of dharmarAja yudhiSThira.

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