November 07, 2007

The Sanskrit term Dharma (Pali: Dhamma) signifies the underlying order in nature and life (human or other) considered to be in accord with that order. The word Dharma literally means 'that which upholds or supports' (from the root 'Dhr' - to hold), here referring to the order which makes the cosmos and the harmonious complexity of the natural world possible. Dharma is a central concept in Indian civilization and Dharmic Traditions where it governs ideas about the proper conduct of living. So central is it, indeed, that the symbol of the dharma - the wheel - takes central place in the national flag of India.

In its most frequent usage (in the sphere of morality and ethics) dharma means 'right way of living', 'proper conduct', 'duty' or 'righteousness'. With respect to spirituality, dharma might be considered the Way of the Higher Truths. What is in the West called religion in India comes within the general purview of dharma. Thus the various Indian religions and Dharmic Traditions are so many versions of Dharma (versions of what is considered to be 'right' or in truest accord with the deepest realities of nature). Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, are referred to in India as Buddha-dharma, sanatana-dharma, Jain-dharma and Sikh-dharma respectively. Each of these paths emphasize Dharma as the correct understanding of Nature (or God, as the origin of nature) in their teachings. In these traditions, beings that live in accordance with Dharma proceed more quickly toward personal liberation, referred to as Nirvana in Buddhism. Dharma also refers to the teachings and doctrines of the founders of these traditions, such as those of Gautama Siddhartha who founded the Buddhist tradition.. Dharma in its universal meaning shares much in common with the way of Tao or Taoism.?