Chapter

Dharma

Arvind Sharma

in Modern Hindu Thought

Published in print December 2005 | ISBN: 9780195676389
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081974 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195676389.003.0013
Dharma

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As a key concept in Hindu thought, dharma has a deep cultural resonance. The word ‘dharma’ comes from the root dhṛ, which means ‘to uphold’. Hence, a dharma is anything that upholds an individual, a society, a polity, even the cosmos. Dharma constitutes the inherent nature of a thing and involves a distinction between the inherent and the adventitious properties of a thing. Dharma—in the sense of what is the right thing to do under a given set of circumstances—is a pervasive theme in Hindu literature. There are four sources of dharma in classical Hinduism: Śruti, or revelation; smrti, or tradition; Ācāra, or exemplary conduct; and Ālmatusti, or conscience. Mahatma Gandhi's teachings on truth and nonviolence converge in the context of dharma. In modern Hinduism, dharma took on a fresh significance after it was juxtaposed with the English word ‘religion’.

Keywords: dharma; Hinduism; Śruti; smrti; ācāra; ālmatusti; Mahatma Gandhi; religion; conscience

Chapter.  5974 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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