Vedic Dharma is based on the essential teachings of the Vedas and how we should live based on them i.e. practice them, in order to find peace, happiness, harmony and fulfillment in life. The Sanskrit word dharma is usually translated as religion in English. Dharma unlike religion, however, does not signify beliefs in specific dogmas based on the exclusive teachings of a specific incarnation, prophet, or person. Moreover, dharma implies, never to lose common sense and blindly follow the dogmas of any religion. Similarly, dharma does not require participation in designated sacred prayers, rites, or rituals on a regular (daily or weekly) schedule or on special occasions. More properly, dharma refers to a moral or virtuous way of practical living in accordance with truth with the eventual goal of Eeshvara/God realization and attaining bliss. This type of living is based on moral principles and includes moral commitments, moral duties, moral responsibilities and moral deeds or virtues that dharma declares are essential to every aspect of life. Thus, dharma helps one distinguish right from wrong or a good karma/action from a bad one. 

The word dharma depending upon the context may also have different but related meanings. For example, for inanimate things, the word dharma implies the innate attributes of the thing, e.g. heat and light are dharmas of fire, wetness and coolness are dharmas of water. Non-human beings have their own dharma e.g. lion’s dharma is to hunt other animals for food, cow’s dharma is eating grass and herbs and being an herbivore.

For human beings in whose context the word dharma is most used, however, it implies moral or virtuous attributes and conduct worth adopting in life which would be considered universally applicable to all human beings as their innate or naturally worthy attributes such as: A person who learns to treat other human beings with respect recognizing that their joys and sorrows as well as aspirations in life are similar to one’s own. The root word for dharma is dhr which means ‘dharyate iti dharmah’ i.e. conduct worth adopting in life is dharma. 

The following two Veda mantras defines dharma as follows:

Mantra #27: Omnipresent Eeshvara/God Defines and Sustains Dharma of All Entities

त्रीणि पदा वि चक्रमे विष्णुर्गोपा अदाभ्यः । अतो धर्माणि धारयन् ॥

Trini padā vi chakrame vishnuh gopā adābhyah.

Ato dharmāni dhārayan. (Rig Veda 1:22:18) 

Vishnuh                                  gopā                                        adābhyah

Omnipresent Eeshvara/God              is the Sustainer, Maintainer               He is the Ultimate Power that

called Vishnu in this mantra,            and Protector of the universe,            cannot be suppressed or conquered

by any other entity, 

trini padā vi chakrame.                      Atah                dhārayan dharmāni.

He creates all three aspects                               Thus,                      is the basis Who defines and sustains dharma

of the universe from prakriti                              Eeshvara               i.e. attributes of all entities (living and inanimate)

by His special orderly rules.                                                              of the universe.This mantra states that Eeshvara/God is the creator, sustainer, maintainer of the universe. He creates all aspects of the universe by His special orderly rules. The three aspects of the universe mentioned in this mantra as trini pada are the visible universe (in Sanskrit called sthool jagat); invisible universe at microscopic, atomic and subatomic (particle) universe (in Sanskrit called sooksham jagat); and primordial universe before the creation of manifest universe (in Sanskrit called kāran prakriti). Some authors translate the words trini pada of this mantra as our gross physical body, mind, and gives birth/life to our soul. In this manner, Eeshvara/God is the basis who defines and sustains dharma i.e.  attributes of all entities (living and inanimate) of the universe.

Mantra #28: Performing Virtuous and Generous Deeds is the Basis of Dharma

य॒ज्ञेन॑ य॒ज्ञम॑यजन्त दे॒वास्तानि॒ धर्मा॑णि प्रथ॒मान्या॑सन् ।

ते ह॒ नाकं॑ महि॒मानः॑ सचन्त॒ यत्र॒ पूर्वे॑ सा॒ध्याः सन्ति॑ दे॒वाः ॥

Yajnyena yajnyamayajanta devāstāni dharmāni prathamānyāsan.

Te ha nākam mahmānah sachanta yatra poorve sādhyāh santi devāh. (Yajur Veda 31:16)

 

Devāh                                     yajnyena                                 ayajanta          yajnyam

Learned, thoughtful            through yajnya i.e. performing virtuous          worship                  Eeshvara/God

and generous persons,         actions, keeping company of truth seekers                                     (who in this mantra

and honoring other generous persons,                                             is called yajnyam),

 

tāni                              prathama dharmāni anyāsan.           Te mahmānah

their these deeds of             are the primary/main methods of                     Thus, such people progress and

yajnya and worship             adopting and performing dharma in life.         acquire greatness in their lives,

 

ha sachanta yatra nākam                              sādhyāh devāh poorve santi.

and they attain Eeshvara realization and                        just like accomplished, learned, thoughtful

enjoy bliss that is devoid of all suffering,                       and generous persons (devas) did in the past.

 

This mantra states that performing virtuous and generous deeds is the basis of dharma; this is true worship of Eeshvara/God. The Sanskrit word yajnya, based upon its roots has following three main components: performing virtuous and generous deeds; keeping company of and honoring other generous persons; and charity. Performing such yajnya is the true worship of Eeshvara/God who in this mantra is called Yajnyam. When one consistently does such virtuous deeds like deva persons have done in the past, then he/she progresses in his/her personal life towards attaining Eeshvara realization and enjoying bliss that is devoid of all suffering and acquire greatness in his/her life.

 

Based on the teachings of the Vedas, there are four main definitions of dharma that have been quoted in India since ancient times. The first three and more commonly known definitions (described below in detail) are given by Manu (the first law giver of India) and respectively define dharma as virtuous moral conduct in life is dharma’ (Manusmriti 1:108); truth is the basis of all dharma (Manusmriti 4:138); and a combination of 10 virtuous acts constitutes dharma (Manusmriti 6:92). The fourth definition given by Kannad rishi states that dharma is made up of all acts or deeds that help us proceed toward self-realization and the attainment of Eeshvara/God, peace and bliss both in this life and after death in next life(s) Vaisheshik Darshana (1:2–4).

The first definition per Manusmriti (1:108) states Āchāro parmodharmā which means that virtuous moral conduct in life is supreme (most important part of) dharma. While dharma is based upon moral principles and knowledge (see second and third definitions below), it always expresses its principles in the act of living. Therefore, dharma always requires active participation; there is no such thing as passive dharma. No one else can perform dharma for you. A priest may listen to your confession, accept your charitable donation and say prayers for you and make his living in this manner, but he cannot perform moral deeds on your behalf or buy your sins away.

If one were to get away from the rituals and dogmas of one’s own religion, one would find that there are many basic truths and human moral/virtuous values common to all religions, and one should be willing to incorporate into one’s life positive aspects of other faiths (but one should not have faith in unbelievable dogmas or miracles of various religions). A religious belief or practicing its rituals, however, are not worth much unless they teach one to become a better human being first—a person who is thoughtful and recognizes that we all have similar souls (Yajur Veda 40:5 and 6). A person who learns to treat other human beings with respect recognizing that their needs and aspirations as well as joys and sorrows in life are similar to one’s own. This has been described in the Vedas as manur bhava—i.e. become a human being; behaving like a human being is a prerequisite for spiritual progress (Rig Veda 10:53:6). To be truly religious one must learn to adopt the ‘Golden Rule’ in one’s life “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” One Veda mantra (Yajur Veda 40:5) describes the same thing as: Yastu sarvāni bhutāni ātmanyev anupashyati, sarvabhuteshu cha ātmanam tato na vichikitsati—whoever sees a similar soul in all living beings, and in all living beings sees the Supreme Soul (i.e. Eeshvara/God), that person does not have any loathing for others and develops love and compassion for all human beings. In a Sanskrit shloka i.e. verse, the same thing has been stated as ātmanah pratikoolāni pareshām na samāchareta i.e. Listen! The essence of virtuous living is: “Do not do to others what you would not like done to you.” Do not hurt others just the way you do not want others to hurt you. Practice non-violence at thought, verbal and action level. The essence of religion is not in believing dogmas, but rather in incorporating what is truth and universally good into the fabric of one’s life. One who has not learnt empathy, respect, care and love for a fellow being, how is such a person going to love and be devoted to Eeshvara/God? His/her prayer rituals then are a rote public show that do not uplift the soul or take the person closer to Eeshvara/God. Unfortunately, the “Golden Rules” often used in the world by persons who are powerful, greedy, narcissistic, fanatics and tyrants are: “Them that have gold (power) will rule,” or “Do unto others before they do unto you,” both of which see people not as similar beings, but as objects of domination and exploitation.

Dharma often does not represent the convenient or popular thing to do and may not reflect the majority opinion, but it is always the correct and moral thing to do. Concerning right and wrong, it has been said that a hundred wrongs do not make it right, or that telling the same lie a hundred times does not make it the truth. A further principle of dharma suggests that one must not only be content with one’s own moral progress but must, as far as is feasible, help other fellow human beings to improve their lives as well.

The second definition of dharma also given by Manu states that truth is the basis of all dharma.

सत्यं ब्रूयात्प्रियं ब्रूयान्न ब्रूयात् सत्यमप्रियम् । प्रियं च नानृतं ब्रूयादेष धर्मः सनातनः ॥

Satyam brooyātpriyam brooyānna brooyāt satyamapriyam.

Priyam cha nānrtam brooyādesha dharmah sanātanah. (Manusmriti 4:138).

 

Satyam brooyāt                      priyam brooyāt                       na brooyāt satyam apriyam.

Always speak the truth,                      always speak pleasant                        but avoid speaking unnecessary

dear, and helpful words,                     hurtful truths (keep mum).

 

Priyam cha anrtam na brooyāt                     esha dharmah sanātanah.

But do not ever speak untruths                                         this is the basis of eternal dharma.

even if they are pleasant,  

This shloka/stanza of Manusmriti starts by saying that always speak the truth, because truth is the basis of all dharma. However, this stanza adds that when you speak the truth, make sure your words are pleasant, dear and helpful to others and are not spoken to hurt others e.g. calling pejoratively a person who has lost vision to his/her face as blind, or calling a person born out of wedlock as bastard (as stated earlier, “Listen! The essence of virtuous living is: Do not do to others what you would not like done to you”. Practice verbal non-violence in addition to physical non-violence). Regarding an unpleasant truth, keep mum and your mouth shut unless it is necessary to inform the listener the unpleasant untruth to avoid a miscomprehension. In the next line, there is an additional major caution that one should never lie or speak untruth just because it is pleasant, and it would please the listener. Do not do flattery or insincere praise. A hurtful truth is always better than a lie.  

The third definition of dharma also given by Manu is more precise and states that dharma is characterized by 10 virtuous acts. Some of these 10 acts, are the same as the first two steps of yoga called yamas and niyamas. Dharma and yoga are intertwined; a person who is to become a true yogi (yoga master) must practice dharma. These 10 acts are classed as follows:

 

धृतिः क्षमा दमोऽस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः। धीर्विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकं धर्मलक्षणम्॥

Dhriti kshama damoasteyam shoucham indriyanigrah,

Dheevidya satyam akrodho dashkam dharmalakshnam. (Manusmriti 6: 92).

 

Dhriti Steady Thoughtful Mind; Kshama Forgiveness; Dama Mental Discipline; Asteya Not coveting; Shouch Cleanliness, Purity; Indriya-nigrah Controlling the senses (jnyanaindriya) and motor organs (karmaindriya); Dhee Intellect to discriminate between right and wrong; Vidya: Knowledge, both secular and spiritual; Satya: Truth; Akrodh: Overcoming anger; Dashkam dharmalakshnam these ten are the characteristics/signs of dharma. 

  1. Dhriti: Steady Mind with thoughtfulness, patience and fortitude

All things in life, but particularly making important decisions, must be done after calm, considered and thoughtful analysis and never in an impulsive way. It is crucial to try to make wise decisions since they all have consequences. In dhriti, there is also an implied admonition not to commit self-destructive deeds. Even in the case of life and death or at other urgent times, it is one’s previous experience with similar situations that will help one make a quick, yet thoughtful decision.

When a person is presented with a dilemma, counsel from wise persons may be very helpful. Further, once a sound decision has been reached, it is important to remain steadfast and not get agitated or be swayed by people’s critical, derogatory or threatening comments. The goal is not to please others but to have the patience, strength, courage, fortitude and contentment, to do the right thing. While there may be failures along the way, it is important not to become discouraged, but rather to try again. Dhriti does not imply passivity or being afraid to try something new if the results are unknown. It does, however, demand adequate planning before starting. Innovation is fine, but one must also think ahead and consider the effects of the innovation upon other human beings, other living things and the physical universe. “Think before you act.” 

2.Kshama:  Forgiveness

One must learn to forgive other people’s mistakes. Forgiveness teaches us kindness and love toward others. It also shows us that all human beings are alike. Forgiveness reminds us that we could easily have made a similar mistake. It requires us to ask how we would like to be treated if the circumstances were reversed: would we want forgiveness or harsh punishment? Forgiveness is generally reserved for the unintentional harmful acts of others towards us as a result of chance, ignorance or change of circumstances.

Intentionally harmful or criminal acts, on the other hand, always deserve appropriate punishment by people in authority to deter others from similar actions. If one wishes to ‘turn the other cheek’ and forgive someone else’s intentional acts, that personal choice is always possible. This kind of saintly behavior, however, is not expected from everyone, including the government authorities. Eeshvara/God is immensely forgiving and kind, but God also is just and punishes sinners. “To err is human, to forgive appropriately is divine.” 

  1. Dama: Mental discipline
  2. Indriya Nigrah: Controlling the sensory and action (motor) organs

These two are discussed together as they are interrelated. It is important to learn to discipline the mind to concentrate upon important tasks, especially those at hand, and not allow the mind to wander aimlessly seizing upon whatever presents itself. The mind is curious; its nature is to flit from one thought to another regardless of whether the thought is serious or frivolous, good or bad. The goal is to channel the mind to think good and positive thoughts both towards oneself and others. A major way to achieve this is to reduce material or worldly wants and desires. Disciplining the mind is crucial to both meditation and to the attainment of bliss. An undisciplined and wandering mind will usually only build castles in the air and may conceive of harmful and destructive acts toward oneself or others.

The information the mind obtains about the outside world is received through our sensory (or perception) organs. It is processed and the response occurs via the action (motor) organs. In the Vedas, Upanishads and Yoga scriptures the mind is considered to be the controller of the senses. In one of the Upanishads, called Kathopanishad, the human body is compared to an excellent chariot, the senses to powerful horses, the mind to reins, the intellect to a skilled charioteer and the soul to the owner, who via the charioteer and the reins, guides the direction the horses should take (Kathopanishad 3:3). One would certainly want strong and powerful horses instead of weak ones, but one would also want them to be properly controlled rather than run amuck. Similarly, one should aim at having sharp and strong senses, but they must be directed by the soul via the mind to the right direction, instead seeking wild enjoyment of sensory pleasures without regard to the consequences. (Also see mantras # 87 and 88 pages 147 and 148 respectively.)

The five sensory (perception) organs and their respective senses are as follows:

Ears:                            hearing, listening
Eyes:                            seeing, visualizing
Skin:                            touch
Tongue:                       taste
Nose:                           smell

The five action (motor) organs and their responses are as follows:

Mouth:                         speaking, eating
Arms:                           performing tasks
Legs:                            moving, walking, running
Sex organs:                  procreating, having sexual intercourse
Excretory organs:        urinating, defecating

The five sensory organs are always sending new information to the mind from the outside world. It is possible, though, to have a certain degree of control over those things that are allowed to stimulate the sensory organs. One may choose to read a spiritual story or a racy novel, listen to uplifting music or a trashy hip-hop or pop-culture song, eat well and in moderation or overindulge on junk foods. It is also possible to choose whether to respond to other people each day with kindness or cruelty. The emphasis in the Vedic religion has always been upon controlling sensory input because when this is done, it is easier to rein in the action organs.

 The mind can also have sensory or motor experiences from past memories, such as visualizing objects or persons with the eyes closed or hearing music that is merely thought of. In Vedic scriptures, this is considered to result from the activation of subtle inner senses that directly interact with the mind. From past experiences, the mind has developed an extensive repertory of both sensory inputs and action responses. Disciplining the mind becomes a matter of using introspection or self-analysis, of focusing or concentrating the mind and continually directing it to stay on the right pathOnce the sensory organs have been properly trained to bring better messages to the mind, and the action organs are trained to respond in a more disciplined fashion, then concentrating and channeling the mind toward meditation becomes much easier. “Think good thoughts.” “Make all effort to purposely see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, do no evil.”

  1. Shouch: Cleanliness, purity

Shouch refers to being pure and clean both inside and outside. External environmental cleanliness and peace and quiet are essential for physical and mental well-being. Inner cleanliness is even more important. It requires self-examination, the acknowledgement of bad habits and their correction, overcoming pride, greed, lust, anger, jealousy, envy, and laziness and acquiring honesty and integrity. Eeshvara/God is always pure and radiant, but the soul may often be obscured by impurities. It is only when these impurities are washed away that the soul may know itself and Eeshvara and achieve bliss. Manu said that the body is cleansed by water, the mind by truth and the soul by austerity, self-reflection and spiritual knowledge (Manusmirti 5:109). “Cleanliness of mind is next to godliness.”

  1. Asteya: Not coveting

The common meaning given to asteya is simply, ‘Do not steal what belongs to others.’ This is punishable by law in most countries and cultures. A deeper, more important meaning, however, forbids the coveting of another’s property for any reason. Overcoming the mind’s desire for that which belongs to others is much more difficult than overcoming the act of physical theft. The first step involves learning to be content with what one has that was earned by honest effort and hard work and not be greedy. Equally important is learning to reduce one’s desires and to acquire only what one needs rather than what one wants. Reducing desires makes contentment a lot easier to achieve than when wants are many. It is important to become grateful for what one has and to learn to become generous and share with others, especially those less fortunate. “Do not covet what belongs to others.” 

  1. Akrodh: Overcoming anger

Anger is a terrible vice that may cause even reasonable people to lose all sense of logical thinking and perform acts that at most times would be unthinkable. Anger provokes the tendency to be cruel rather than to be kind and non-violent. During a fit of anger, whether or not the angry person succeeds in harming the other party, he harms himself the most. Anger also creates unhappiness. Overcoming anger eventually makes people happy and cheerful as well as improves physical and spiritual well-being. Conquering anger does not mean suppressing it, as it will smolder and then burst forth later on. Some popular psychology recommends that one should ‘get the anger out.’ Although this may make the person feel better for a moment, it rarely deals with the effects of anger on the inner-self and the other party. Vedic dharma points out that anger is always self-destructive and will persist until one understands the reasons for the anger and deals with the root problem. The major causes for anger include the inability to fulfill one’s desires (right or wrong), jealousy, vanity and pure blind ego. Ways to reduce anger include reducing desires and wants and learning to think of other people’s needs as well as one’s own. “Anger burns from inside and provokes cruelty.” 

  1. Vidya (vidyā): Knowledge

Vedic dharma considers knowledge far more important than money or material treasures. Knowledge is that kind of treasure that thieves cannot steal, and yet, requires no guards to protect it. The more one gives it away, the more it increases for the giver. The only caveat is that knowledge be transferred to a deserving person rather than to someone who will use it for evil or exploitative purposes. According to the Vedas, Upanishads and Darshans, there are two types of knowledge, 1. Vidya—spiritual knowledge especially correct understanding of Eeshvara/God and soul, and 2. Avidya—knowledge of the material world and physical universe, and in other contexts avidya also means knowing what is wrong knowledge that would lead to ignorance and wrong conduct in life (see pages 200-205 for further details). Both types of knowledge have their benefits. Avidya is useful in finding a vocation or in better understanding the material world and the physical universe as well as refraining from wrong knowledge and conduct in life. Vidya is beneficial in progress­ing toward Eeshvara/God and attaining bliss. Moreover, knowledge exists at two levels, superficial and deep. Superficial knowledge involves memorizing a lot of information that can be acquired through books about secular and/or spiritual subjects without attaining a personal positive impact. Deep or discriminative knowledge, called viveka, enlightens a person allowing him to see things as they really are and to follow truth and virtue in life. “Vidya is a better treasure than wealth.”

  1. Dhee: Intellect to discriminate right from wrong

According to the Vedic scriptures, the ability of the mind to think, analyze and make judgments is divided into four types, which are, in ascending order of merit: Buddhi, Dhee, Medha and Prajnya.

  1. Buddhi: This is the usual or ordinary level of intelligence that most humans possess. It is the process of thinking that allows us to function in our daily lives. A person who lacks sufficient buddhi is said to be retarded, and one with deranged buddhi is considered crazy or insane. Buddhi, based upon previous experiences, helps us decide such things as when to fight and when to flee, whether things appear right or wrong or whom to trust and whom not to. One component of buddhi is instinct or gut feeling. Instinct is not unique to humans since animals also possess it, but as far as we know, they lack the ability to think as we humans do.
  2. Dhee: This refers to intellect with the power to discriminate and separate right from wrong, truth from falsehood and propaganda from correct information. It also helps one understand moral responsibility and the need to act accordingly. Dhee is the intellect that helps a person follow the path of virtue even when tempted to do otherwise. A Hindu novice starting on his spiritual journey will traditionally be told to begin by praying for dhee or dhiya. Not until dhee has been acquired can one progress in yoga to the higher levels of buddhi called medha and prajna. “Without being able to discriminate between right and wrong a person is less than human.”
  3. Medha: Medha refers to the even higher activation of the brain’s concentrating and analyzing abilities. Medha is developed as a result of meditation (the practice of Steps 5 through 7 of the Patanjali’s Eight-Step Yoga) where one’s concentrating and analyzing abilities are highly activated. It is here that the understanding of the deep nature of the mind called antahkaran begins and the recognition that the soul is separate from the antahkaran is developed.  Now one can acquire any knowledge one desires very easily.
  4. Prajnya: Prajnya (also spelled Pragya) is the highest level of intellect which can only be acquired through samadhi, the eighth and final step of yoga where Eeshvara/God’s knowledge is revealed directly to the soul (Patanjali’s Yoga 1: 48-51). This is the state in which the rishis were when the Vedas were revealed. 
  1. Satya: Truth

Truth is that value that transcends all other moral values. Truth is the foundation on which all human interaction is based. Even liars use the pretense of truth in their dealings with others. It is necessary to always be willing to accept that which is true and discard that which is not in every aspect of life. One Veda mantra states: “The world is sustained by truth” (Rig Veda 10:85:1). To be scrupulously honest may require giving up financial or personal security or social position. Discarding cherished beliefs may be necessary, and in the final analysis, sacrificing one’s life too. Because of the fear of giving up their security or beliefs, most people at times are willing to lie. Also, they are more afraid of getting caught in a lie than actually lying. The inner joy and strength that a completely honest person feels can never be experienced by a liar. (Also see pages 206-209 for truth.)

Truth in the Vedic Hindu religion is considered at three levels:

  1. Thought mental                        intent
    b. Word                   verbal                         expression
    c. Deed                    action                         execution

It is important to make a diligent effort to adhere to the truth in thought, word and deed. One Veda Mantra states: “Your inside should be the same as what you state outside” (Atharva Veda 2:30:4). When a person says the right words, but the action betrays the words, it’s a deception. Because of this people are judged by what they do rather than by what they say. Many politicians and lawyers and other people in society are particularly adept at such deceptions. It is important to speak clearly to be easily understood and then to have the courage to carry out what you say (Rig Veda 4:33:6). Once one really starts to follow the truth, thoughts of lying or not carrying out a promised action permanently end. 

Eeshvara/God is considered the Eternal and Ultimate Truth in the Vedas and Upanishads and truth is frequently emphasized as the most important aspect of dharma.

There is no reason for a discrepancy between religion and science in the pursuit of truth. These two are not incompatible because they pursue the truth from different vantage points. While the scientific pursuit of truth is highly commendatory, the concept of truth originated in the pursuit of basic human moral values. The perception of what is true in science continues to change as more knowledge is made available. Once it was believed that the atom was the basic unit of the universe and that it could not be split further or converted into another form, such as energy. These ‘truths’ have changed over time. On the other hand, moral truth, particularly God’s truth, is eternal and never varies. Through its method of physical observation, modern science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of Eeshvara/God. The existence of Eeshvara/God can only be perceived by the soul through the practice of spiritual yoga/meditation. “Truth always ultimately prevails.” 

The definition of dharma as contained in the 10 principles stated above consists of universal principles and values that are not the exclusive property of any specific religion or sect. Other virtues such as effort, perseverance, generosity, charity, selfless giving, compassion, non-violence, austerity, honesty, integrity and faith are all implied in the 10 principles and are mentioned in the Vedas in many mantras. 

As stated earlier (Manu’s first and second definition of dharma pages 50-51), dharma does not consist in simply knowing the words attached to the principles, but instead is the act of adopting them in one’s personal life and making the best effort possible to live by them. Following the path of dharma may be quite difficult at the outset and may feel lonely because those close to you may choose to do otherwise. Once there exists the intention of incorporating dharma into one’s life, then the pursuit of truth and faith in Eeshvara/God become one’s closest companions and provide the inner strength required to move forward. Living according to dharma now becomes one’s inner conscience, and one speaks the truth not because of fear of being caught lying but because it is the right thing to do.

As would be obvious from above definition of dharma, all good karmas, performing yajnya, and proper worship of Eeshvara/God constitute dharma. 

The initial progress in following Vedic dharma might seem a bit slow as it is often necessary to unlearn previous wrong beliefs (e.g. beliefs in unbelievable miracles and dogmas) and bad habits, but the journey is ultimately worth the effort. The practice of dharma requires constant effort and vigilance because there are many distractions along the way, such as the pursuit of money, fame, power, sex, amusement, or other indulgences. Only a person, who conquers these distractions and remains steadfast through all the trials, has the right to be called a dhārmic person. Such a person experiences increasing inner joy, peace, fulfillment and spiritual strength as they progress along the road to Eeshvara/God realization.

All that has been discussed up to this point refers to the observance of the principles of dharma in personal daily life. If everyone in the entire society lived by these rules, there would be peace and happiness on earth. But because not everyone in a society chooses to live by the principles of dharma, it is necessary for the government to make rules or laws that define dharma (moral conduct of life) at a minimal level in order to allow society to function. Those who break these laws are punished. While government authorities and education at schools should promote principles of dharma because they are morally good for the whole society and the nation, the government should not force that its citizens follow the principles of dharma since that is a personal decision. The government has no right to interfere, except as individual behavior impacts upon the rights or freedoms of others. In any case, it would be impossible to enforce personal laws, such as a law that forbids desire of coveting others’ goods, because the government cannot patrol people’s minds. Good personal conduct always represents a standard that is higher than the ones prescribed by law.

Benefits of Following Vedic Dharma

It has often been asked, ‘Why follow Vedic Dharma; what are the benefits’?  According to Vedic traditions, a person who follows the teachings of the Vedas, he/she develops inner joy and strength to do the right thing and follow the path of virtue in life, and he/she progressively acquires increasing mental peace, harmony, contentment, fulfillment, prosperity and bliss in life. One’s spiritual knowledge expands and deepens. Ability to concentrate is increased and the intellect becomes sharp both in spiritual and secular affairs so that one can easily solve most problems. One is able to see things clearly as they are and differentiate right from wrong. The will power is tremendously strengthened, and the person learns to complete tasks instead of finding excuses. One becomes master of one’s mind and senses, instead of becoming their slave. Vanity is removed; one becomes humble and develops empathy, love, and compassion for others instead of hate and jealousy. One’s fears in life are removed and the ability to withstand setbacks or even extreme miseries in life are markedly enhanced. One becomes willing to die for the sake of truth or freedom. Such virtuous living and dying is in sharp contrast to dying as a terrorist, who kills innocent people while one is brain washed by the exhortations of fanatic religious leaders; such a person is committing suicide and squandering a precious life given by God for heinous crimes and would eventually reap the bad consequences of his/her sinful karmas/deeds.

A person following Vedic dharma does not need praise or accolades from others to do the right thing rather the virtuous path becomes one’s inner conscious. Finally, a person achieves Eeshvara/God realization and enjoys bliss and peace in life with Eeshvara/God as one’s constant Companion. If one does not attain moksha after this cycle of life and death despite living a virtuous life, one is born at a higher station in next life to have opportunity to get even closer to Eeshvara/God and attain moksha. The following Veda mantra describes various types of prosperity and other benefits one acquires by practicing Vedic dharma in one’s life. The following mantra describes the Vedas as Vedamata which means that they are like a nurturing mother. And when one follows Vedas’ teachings by practicing Vedic dharma in one’s life, they give many types of boons in the form of various types of prosperity and other benefits. These include, a long life full of strength and vitality, virtuous family, animals for milk and agriculture, fame, wealth and spiritual enlightenment. The mantra adds that while these all are wonderful boons, do not get attached to these rewards, but share them with others and do not forget your final goal of attaining moksha i.e. Eeshvara realization and bliss. 

Mantra # 29: Learning Vedas and Following Their Teachings Gives All Types of Prosperity

स्तु॒ता मया॑ वर॒दा वे॑दमा॒ता प्र चो॑दयन्तां पावमा॒नी द्वि॒जाना॑म्।

आयुः॑ प्रा॒णं प्र॒जां प॒शुं की॒र्तिं द्रवि॑णं ब्रह्मवच॒र्सम्।

मह्यं॑ द॒त्त्वा व्र॑जत ब्रह्मलो॒कम्॥

Stutā mayā vardā vedmātā prachodyantām pāvmānee dvijānām.

Āyuh prānam prajām pashum keertim dravinam brahmvarchasvam.

Mahyam datvā vrajat brahmlokam. (Atharva Veda 19:71:1)

 Stutā mayā vardā vedamātā              dvijānām                     prachodyantām pāvmānee.

I have learnt Vedas with a great degree           to twice born, i.e. those      they become inspired and their thoughts

of respect for them (like I would honor          who learn and practice       and actions become pure and virtuous.

my mother) and adopted the message of        the message of the

the Veda mantras in my life because they      Vedas in their lives, give boons

The rewards of living according to the messages of the Vedas are the following seven items which together constitute true prosperity: 

  1. Āyuh 2. prānam 3. prajām                    4. pashum       5. keertim        6. dravinam

Long life,              vitality,              virtuous family                    animal wealth             fame,               wealth and

strength,            and progeny,                         for milk and                                         prosperity,

                                                                                                                agriculture,

  1. brahmvarchasvam. Mahyam datvā                                    vrajat brahmlokam.

spiritual enlightenment.      Finally, God says that do not become attached to,       so you may acquire moksha

or lost in these rewards, I gave them to you                  i.e. very prolonged bliss.

give them back to me by sharing with others,

 

The following three additional examples are often cited to explain the benefits of following Vedic dharma and having true faith in Eeshvara/God:

One’s inner strength and will power, is tremendously increased and help a person deal with difficulties in life even when a great calamity befalls. One has the fortitude to deal with problems calmly and try to find solutions instead of drowning in sorrow and lamentations. In Maharshi Dayanand Sarasvati’s words, ‘True faith and devotion in Eeshvara/God give a person the courage to forbear even a huge misery the size of a mountain, and this is not trivial but an immense accomplishment in life’.

A person who has lost a job or other means of earning livelihood often becomes depressed and fearful; some may even become paralyzed to take any action. However, a person who perceives Eeshvara/God as his constant companion and protector would not become fearful and loose courage. He would ask for Eeshvara/God’s guidance, use his common sense and keep on making every effort to find a new path out of his misery and with Eeshvara/God’s grace usually will succeed.

A person who is feeling chilled and miserable because of cold weather and not having adequate clothing would find that when he finally manages to reach the warmth of a fire, his chill, discomfort and misery disappear. A follower of Vedic dharma finds that Eeshvara/God is that Ultimate warmth in life that removes miseries and with total surrender and devotion to Him one ultimately attains Eeshvara/God realization thus finding joy and bliss in life. 

 Vedic dharma overall is full of hope and optimism in life and not pessimism. While it recognizes that all human beings at some time or the other in their lives may find failure and or discouragement, yet it reminds us that our life journey is not predetermined or etched in stone. Vedas remind us that every day is a new day and we have an opportunity to change our lives for better any time we choose, so there is always hope for a better today and all tomorrows.