In the profound realm of existence, the term ‘Dharma’ resonates with multifaceted meanings – duty, goodness, morality, and even religion. At its core, Dharma represents the power that upholds the very fabric of the universe and society. Rather than imposing practices, the ancient dharma-shastras simply documented the existing ones.
It is the driving force that nurtures society, making the vegetation grow, animals birth, the sunshine, and instilling moral virtues within us, granting humanity the opportunity to live by elevated ethical standards. However, the virtuous path is not a one-size-fits-all concept; each bears unique obligations and duties based on age, gender, and social standing.
Differences Between Dharma and Religion
Dharma: The Universal and Contextual Duty
While Dharma is universal, it is equally contextual, operating within the framework of concrete circumstances. Hence, each person has their distinct dharma, known as ‘swa-dharma.’ What may be right for a woman might not hold for a man, just as the obligations of an adult might differ from those of a child. Aligning oneself with correct actions by dharma is also viewed as service to humanity and a higher power.
Religion: A Man-Made Creation of Beliefs
On the other hand, ‘religions’ are man-made creations – sets of codified beliefs followed by a multitude of people. Belief in a supernatural force greater than ourselves, one that can influence or even manipulate us, forms the foundation of religion.
Comparisons Between Dharma and Religion
Dharma: Predates and Encompasses Religion
It is important to understand that Dharma predates religion. Dharma embodies duty, truth, and the essence of life. While religion often revolves around devotion to a higher power, Dharma urges us to stay true to the core of reality, even if it means employing force when necessary. Religion is optional and subject to individual beliefs, but Dharma is an inherent necessity that applies to both society and the individual. Religion may not be essential when one lives apart from society, but Dharma remains indispensable.
Religion: A Tool for Control
Religion did not originate as a mere ideology; rather, it was often wielded by certain individuals seeking control over others for their own agendas.
Dharma: Cosmic and Inherent
Unlike religion, which pertains exclusively to humans, Dharma transcends to encompass the entire cosmos. All creatures, plants, and galaxies have their dharma, which they naturally abide by, devoid of intention. As humanity’s essence lies in divinity, they can comprehend their dharma through direct experience, without external intervention or historical context.
Religion: Bound by Human Beliefs
Yet, there exists a dangerous tendency to equate Dharma solely with religion and law, which has resulted in dire consequences. In the name of secularism, the true essence of Dharma has been confined and restrained.
A society that may be irreligious can still uphold ethical values even without a belief in God. However, a society devoid of Dharma loses its ethical compass and descends into corruption and moral decay, marked by excessive indulgence in pleasure and luxury.
In conclusion, Dharma embodies the essence of truth and duty, serving as a guiding light for individuals and societies alike. While religion holds significance for some, it is crucial not to lose sight of Dharma’s profound wisdom that governs all aspects of life and existence.
Embracing Dharma leads to a harmonious and purposeful existence, promoting ethical conduct and the well-being of all beings in this vast cosmos. The differences and comparisons between Dharma and religion highlight the fundamental nature of Dharma as a cosmic force, inherent in every being, and its role in shaping individual actions and society’s moral fabric.