Dharma is a word that can be found in many religions, but it does not mean the same in all of them. For example, Dharma in Buddhism almost always means the teachings of Buddha. In Hinduism, however, it has a much different meaning.
Hinduism Dharma: The Basics
Even within the confines of Hinduism, the word dharma has more than one meaning. It is the name of a deity who is, appropriately, in charge of all things relating to dharma. “Living a life of dharma” is not something that can be neatly summed up in a paragraph or two. Instead, it refers to many aspects of person’s life including their callings and daily obligations. To live a life of dharma means, in part, to fulfill such callings and to fulfill one’s obligations in an appropriate manner.
This goes for the small trivialities of daily life just as much as it does for more lofty responsibilities. For example, it is just as important to pay small debts and be ethical about personal finances as it is to fulfill a calling to become a swami. Right is right and wrong is wrong. All wrong deeds accumulate bad karma. All good deeds accumulate good karma.
Other ways that one can live a life of dharma include:
- Having compassion for all life
- Living according to moral laws
- Abstaining from alcohol
- Being virtuous in business dealings
- Being patient
- Being honest
Of course, these are just a few of many, many examples. Living a life of dharma requires study, meditation and years of dedication.
Hinduism Dharma: Why it Matters
So important is Hinduism dharma that the concept is mentioned in the sacred writings called vedas. Asking why it matters is akin to asking a Jew or a Christian why the Ten Commandments matter. Dharma is an integral part of Hinduism, but it does not stand alone. If you live a life of Dharma then you will accumulate good karma. Good karma (and dharma) is required for happiness in this life and in the life to come.
Because Hindus believe in rebirth after death, dharma means that you will have a positive experience in the next life.
Hinduism Dharma: How to Achieve It
As mentioned above, there is no quick and easy formula for living a life of dharma. It comes by making one good choice after another. It comes by avoiding those things which are wrong, such as lust and pride, while clinging to those virtues that are good, such as forgiveness, honesty and patience.
Hinduism dharma is a journey. As one grows in wisdom they can also grow in virtue. Past mistakes can be covered by a commitment to do what is right going forward and then acting on that commitment.