Dharma Vs Religion
   Date :04-Feb-2024

The word Dharma is often translated as religion and both are treated as synonyms. Dharma is a Sanskrit word derived from the root Dhri meaning to hold and sustain. Religion is derived from the Latin word Religare meaning to bind. Dharma has multidimensional meaning. It encompasses a set of beliefs about God, soul, hell, heaven, salvation, righteous conduct, eternal values, etc.
Asfar as eternal values are concerned, Dharma never changes. Truth, non-violence, compassion, contentment, etc, are the values which remain the same through ages. The second type of Dharma is related to a particular time or era. With the passing of time, this type of Dharma changes. The third type of Dharma relates to some specific area or place.This type of Dharma also undergoes changes with the change of places. The fourth type of Dharma is associated with particular individuals. So this Dharma is also changeable. On the other hand religion is a fixed and non changeable set of beliefs in God, scriptures and practices. Indian tradition believes that except eternal values which have nothing to do with religious beliefs,all ideologies or sets of beliefs whether secular or religious are bound to change with the passage of time. Hence, there cannot be a watertight ideological framework in the Dharmic scheme of things. Secondly,there is a spirit of inquiry in the framework of Dharma. As a result diverse and multifaceted opinions and views are found here. Freedom of speech is the sine qua non of the Dharmic traditions.
Therefore, a multitude of literature is produced here. The four Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads, Vedangas, Dharma Shastras, epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, Bhakti literature, etc are the epitome of multidimensional expression. In addition to the Vedic tradition of literature, we find huge Buddhist and Jain literature in Pali and Prakrit languages. Literature in local languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannad, Malayalam , Marathi , Gujarati, Bengali etc, is another huge treasure of knowledge. India has got a very rich tradition of philosophy. Astik or Vedic branches of philosophy have interpreted the truth in different ways. Mimansa, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga and Vedanta are the different expressions of the same truth. Ekam Sadma Vipra Bahudha Vadanti is the declaration of Indian tradition. The truth is the same and the scholars describe it in various ways. It is only in the Dharmic tradition that Aham Brahmasmi - I am God is declared.
This is the ultimate realisation any human being may have. But, this is a blasphemous statement in the opinion of some other religions. And those who declared like that had been persecuted also. But there is no concept of blasphemy in Dharmic tradition because Dharma allows freedom of speech and views the Ultimate Truth being expressed in different ways. Dharma sees all in one and one in all. Hence tolerance and mutualrespect are the soul of Dharma. There is no evidence of theocracy in Indian history. There were end numbers of Dharmic beliefs, but no ruler declared that all citizens had to follow a particular set of religious beliefs. We find even such philosophy which has denied the existence of God also. Charvaka and Lokayatanas were materialists. It is only in the Indian tradition that we find the great tools and techniques developed over ages from ancient times to elevate consciousness. Yoga and allied disciplines are the best and time tested techniques of mind management. All this has become possible because Dharma acceptslife as a dynamic flow.

bhushan Kumar 
(The writer is Former DG Police & CG, Homeguards, Maharashtra) ■