As explained by Swami Sivananda in All about Hinduism
No language is perfect. There is no proper equivalent word in English for the Sanskrit term Dharma. It is very difficult to define Dharma.
Dharma is generally defined as righteousness or duty. Dharma is the principle of righteousness. It is the principle of holiness. It is also the principle of unity. Bhishma says in his instructions to Yudhishthira that whatever creates conflict is Adharma, and whatever puts an end to conflict and brings about unity and harmony is Dharma. Anything that helps to unite all and develop pure divine love and universal brotherhood, is Dharma. Anything that creates discord, split and disharmony and foments hatred, is Adharma. Dharma is the cementer and sustainer of social life. The rules of Dharma have been laid down for regulating the worldly affairs of men. Dharma brings as its consequence happiness, both in this world and in the next. Dharma is the means of preserving ones self. If you transgress it, it will kill you. If you protect it, it will protect you. It is your sole companion after death. It is the sole refuge of humanity.
That which elevates one is Dharma. This is another definition. Dharma is that which leads you to the path of perfection and glory. Dharma is that which helps you to have direct communion with the Lord. Dharma is that which makes you divine. Dharma is the ascending stairway unto God. Self-realisation is the highest Dharma. Dharma is the heart of Hindu ethics. God is the centre of Dharma.
Dharma means Achara or the regulation of daily life. Achara is the supreme Dharma. It is the basis of Tapas or austerity. It leads to wealth, beauty, longevity and continuity of lineage. Evil conduct and immorality will lead to ill-fame, sorrow, disease and premature death. Dharma has its root in morality and the controller of Dharma is God Himself.
Maharshi Jaimini defines Dharma as that which is enjoined by the Vedas and is not ultimately productive of suffering.
Rishi Kanada, founder of the Vaiseshika system of philosophy, has given the best definition of Dharma, in his Vaiseshika Sutras: - Yato-bhyudayanihsreyasa-siddhih sa dharmah. - - That which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Nihsreyasa (total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma.
Click here to go back to the Dharma Sastra Home Page