The concept of Dharma


From the Root DHR – “to hold”

“That which upholds or supports”.

It refers to the order that makes the universe and the complexity of it possible!

The Symbol of Dharma = The Wheel


Represents the cycle of:

 -         Birth and Death

-         Order

-         Faith

-         Relationship of Body, Mind and Universe

It can also can be seen on the Indian Flag…


There are many different interpretations of the word:

-         Right way of living

-         Proper Conduct

-         Truth

-         Destiny

-         Duty

-         Righteousness

-         Morality

-         Religion – (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Janism – all types of Dharma)


Historical Context

In the Hindu tradition the castes were divisions in society based on birth and role. Therefore your caste defined your life. – Your life was laid out pretty clearly. 

‘Do your duty, do what is appropriate’!

 A form of acceptance of ones role or duty within that lifetime?

Dharma within the Bhagavad Gita.

 1) The first word in the BG is DHARMAKSETRE

 BG1.1 “Dharmaksetre Kuruksetre”

 Ksetre means field.

The battle takes place on the field of Dharma.

Begins with a question?

Who holds us? What holds us?

 “The field of Truth”

The field of Kuruksetre is situated between 2 sacred rivers!

 Is Dharma the field between two states of consciousness?

 2) Chapter 3:35

 "It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.”

Eknath Easwaran

-         Notion of following your own spiritual pathway. One that is right for you.

-         Your dharma and someone else’s dharma are separate.

-         To not try and imitate someone else’s way of living.

Chapter 4:7

 “Whenever Dharma declines and the purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth.”

Eknath Easwaran

Chapter 9:31

 “Quickly their souls conform to dharma and they attain to boundless peace. Never forget this, Arjuna; no one who is devoted to me will ever come to harm.”


Eknath Easwaran

The message of the Bagavad Gita

Karma (action) – brings you to a place or situation.
It is your Dharma to work with it.

Krishna is saying to Arjuna – let go of your models and live your dharma.
Why be upset about the idea of fighting your family, when you cannot fight against your own destiny.

Play out the roles that have been assigned you, because when you do that, when you totally surrender to your dharma when you’re no longer trying for anything, then that is the way through

When we surrender to Dharma:

-         Our focus begins to change

-         No longer preoccupy ourselves with what we think we need or want.

-         Start to quiet and listen

-         Try to hear rather than decide

-         Over time we begin to hear our dharma more clearly.

-         Tuning to a deeper wisdom

-         Plans, desires and dramas begin to fade away.

-         Loose our lives but also find them again.

Whatever your part is, you have to play it as consciously as you can = Basic form of Dharma.
Not to act out of Striving but to act out of Spirit.


In Context of Contemporary Culture.

 TV Series LOST –

 Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications

 -         responsible for the food and shelter – the initiative that controls much of what happens on the island.

 Donnie Darko – Richard Kelley

 -         we see images of a fluid/ spear coming from the human chest with guides the way.

-         The concept of being on God’s pathway.

-         Also the whole concept of time travel based on this theory!

 Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials.

 -         The Alethiometer – An instrument which shows the Truth, the right pathway.
(interesting to note its shape is very much similar to the wheel)

Hakuin’s Zen Poem.

“If we turn inward and prove our true nature, the true self is no self, our own self is no self.
We go beyond ego and past clever words.
Then the gate to the oneness of cause and effect is thrown open. Not two and two and not three and three, straight ahead runs the way…
Now our thought is no thought, so our dancing and songs are the voice of dharma.”


Words, images, mental thoughts, distractions, things and words surround our lives.
They act as a distraction and take us further and further from the true essence of what we are.
Perhaps Dharma is our true essence, our true nature, out true path.
The more we try and give words to dharma, the more we try and intellectualise the concept of dharma, the further we move away from it.

To surrender to this unknowing law, to be held, and then to experience who we truly are.