The word ‘Dharma’ is translated in many different ways by different people. Generally it’s translated in English, especially for the western people, as ‘Religion’. Even in India, when someone asks “what is your Dharma”, they usually mean what is your religion.
However Dharma and religion are not the same.
There are certain criteria for a philosophical or theologian organization to be called a ‘Religion’.
For example, a Religion is supposed to have:
· A Founder
· Belief in a God or a Creator
· Belief in an ‘after-life’ (life after death)
· A written doctrine; its own book of ideology, whose word is final; and as a matter of fact.
· Rituals: Fixed guidelines how to worship or pray, along with certain do’s and don’ts.
· Promise of ‘Salvation’
And almost every religion claims to be the only true path.
‘Dharma’ is different than religion, because it does not have any of the above mentioned requirements.
Some people define Dharma as Righteousness, Duty or Right conduct. According to them “Dhaareyatay iti Dharmah”, meaning whatever we adopt (ideology), is called Dharma. In that sense, if someone adopts a certain religion then technically that religion can also be called 'his Dharma'.
However, in Vedic context, Dharma means ‘One’s constitutional make up’.
Every living and non-living thing has its own constitutional make up; what it is made of and what it is supposed to do.
In early childhood, we used to hear phrases such as:
Aag ka dharam hai jalaana aur Dharti ka Dharam hai dhaaran karnaa” etc.
Meaning: Fire’s Dharma is to burn; to provide heat and light.
Earth’s Dharma is to hold. Water’s Dharma is to put out the fire and provide coolness, etc.
According to Vedic and Vedantic philosophy, man’s (human’s) Dharma is to gain knowledge and render services to others.
If fire does not provide heat, it cannot be called ‘fire’.
If we do not attain Gyana and serve others (Seva), we may also not be worthy of being called ‘humans’.
“Nar Seva – Naraayan Seva” (Nirankari Baba)
"Service to humanity is service to God"
Let’s try to follow the ‘Dharma of Humanity’