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OM, AUM

Hinduism
Many Paths to One God

Dharma

The actions of outstanding people set an example which others try to follow; their behavior is the standard by which others judge themselves.

I gain nothing from my own actions. I act continuously for the well-being of others; but I am not motivated by any need of my own. If I ever refrained from working, everyone would immediately stop working also -and the world would be thrown into chaos, which would lead to its destruction.

Ignorant people work only for their own profit; wise people work for the welfare of others, without thought for themselves. By your own actions demonstrate to the ignorant the joy of work. Act always in accordance with the soul; perform all your actions out of devotion to me.

Those who act in accordance with the soul, are released from the consequences of sin. But those who violate the soul by their action, cause themselves terrible suffering.

In deciding how they should act, wise people recognize the limitations of their own natures. They also recognize that at any time feelings of hate or lust may rise up within them. They are constantly watching for these obstacles in their path; and thus they never stumble on them. 
Do the work that your nature allows you to do; and never try to do work that suits other people better.

Gita 3.21-26. 31-35

Dharma is a Sanskrit word translated literally as "innate characteristic". What is the innate characteristic of a human being? According to Shiva Purana, human beings seek and yearn for happiness placed beyond that originated in the satisfaction of the senses. The indisputable aim of all human beings, whether aware of this or not, is to obtain absolute peace and freedom, infinite knowledge and spiritual beatitude.

I shall describe the people whom I love. 

They have goodwill towards all living beings, and are incapable of ill will. They are friendly and compassionate. They regard nothing as their own possession, and want no position of power for themselves.

They are indifferent to both pleasure and pain. They are patient, contented, and self-controlled. They are firm in faith, and their hearts and minds are utterly devoted to me.

Their serenity is constant, and cannot be disturbed by others; on the contrary, their presence makes others feel serene.

They are not elated by good fortune, nor depressed by misfortune. They do not compete with others and they have no fear of failure.

They are not attracted to particular people and places; nor are they repelled by particular people and places. They are both selfless and efficient in all their actions.

They have no desire for pleasure and no fear of pain. They never grieve over the death of others or the loss of material goods; they accept with equanimity every event as it occurs.

They love friends and enemies equally. They are not encouraged by praise nor discouraged by blame. Whether they are honored or despised, they remain perfectly calm. Within their hearts there is silence.

These are the people whom I especially love.

Gita 12.13-19

Hindus are taught to live a life of duty and good conduct. They learn to be selfless by thinking of others first, being respectful of parents, elders and swamis, following divine law, especially ahimsa, mental, emotional and physical non-injury to all beings. Thus they resolve karmas.

Who weary of Brahman studentship, having fully learnt the Vedas, is discharged by the teacher he had ever obeyed, such a one is called the asramin. Choosing a wife of equally high birth, he should deposit the sacred fires, and bring to those Deities the Brahman sacrifice day and night until, dividing among the children his property, abstaining from conjugal pleasures, he gives himself to the forest life, wandering in a pure region. Living on water and on air, and on such fruit as proper, fire within the body, he abides on earth without obligations, without tears. -- Atharva Veda 

He who understands his duty to society truly lives. All others shall be counted among the dead. -- Tirukural 

By the laws of dharma that govern the body and mind, you must fear sin and act righteously. Wise men, by thinking and behaving in this way, become worthy to gain bliss both here and hereafter. -- Natchintanai 

A man or woman attains perfection when his work is worship of God, from whom all things come and who is in all. Greater is thine own work, even if this be humble, than the work of another, even if this be great. When a man or woman does the work God gives him, no sin can touch this man or woman. -- Bhagavad Gita

Ways of Benefiting The Soul

There are sixteen gates by which the effects of good actions reach the soul.

1. There is purity of world-view. This in turn consists of eight factors: absence of suspicion; absence of misguided tendencies; absence of doubt; absence of delusion; strong conviction; firmness of intention; affection for truth; and belief in the supremacy of truth.

2. There is humility. This means reverence for the path of liberation, and respect for those that guide people onto this path.

3. There is abstinence. This means abstinence from the four passions of anger, pride, deceit, and greed. And it means abstinence from the five indulgences of violence, falsehood, theft, sexual immorality, and possessiveness.

4. There is cultivation of knowledge. This means meditating on the seven categories of truth: the soul, which is sentient; objects, which are non-sentient; effects on the soul; the ways these effects bind themselves to the soul; the obstruction of these effects; the reduction of these effects; and liberation from these effects.

5. There is dread of worldly existence. This means constant anxiety about suffering, which is the central feature of worldly existence.

6. There is charity. This means sharing your food with ascetics. It also means sharing your knowledge with those with less knowledge than you have.

7. There is austerity. This means mortifying the body. 

8. There is relating to other people who wish to liberate the soul. Such relationships will only be beneficial if they are peaceful and harmonious.

9. There is practical service to those who wish to liberate the soul.

10. There is devotion to those who have attained a high degree of spiritual liberation.

11. There is devotion to those who teach the way of spiritual liberation.

12. There is devotion to those who follow the way of spiritual liberation.

13. There is adherence to those spiritual practices which are vital in attaining spiritual liberation. The first of these practices is daily meditation, during which perfect equanimity is maintained. The second is daily acknowledgement of bad actions in the past. The third is daily reflection on continuing bodily attachments. And the fourth is daily commitment to avoid bad actions in the future.

14. There is promotion of the way of spiritual liberation. This means preaching about it to others.

15. And there is the study of sacred texts which describe and analyze the path of spiritual liberation.

Source: Umasvati 6.23

Different Types of Dharma

In the day-to-day practice of morality and ethics, there are different types of dharma, such as:

vyakti-dharma - the dharma of an individual
parivarika-dharma - family-dharma
samaja- dharma - society-dharma
rashtra-dharma - national dharma
manava-dharma - the dharma of mankind

Vyakti-dharma

These are observance of moral and ethical principles that sustain an individual's mind. Some of the examples of vyakti dharmas are:

.Dama-control of the external organs 
.Arjava-straightforwardness at all times 
.Ahimsa-abstention from injury to all forms of life 
.Akrodha-absence of anger 
.Satya-truthfulness in thought and speech 
.Brahmacharya-control of carnal desires and passions 
.Santosha-contentment 
.Tyaga-renunciation of selfishness 
.Apaishuna-refraining from vilification and backbiting 
.Aloluptva-non-covetousness 
.Aparigraha-non-acceptance of unnecessary gifts from others 
.Hri-modesty 
.Mardava-gentleness 
.Daya-kindness and compassion 
.Shanti-peace of mind attained through its control 
.Kshama-forgiveness 
.Shaucha-purification of body and mind 
.Adroha-freedom from malice.

Parivarika-dharma or Family- dharma

These are the codes of conduct to be observed by individuals to prevent the disintegration of the family. Examples are:

mutual self- sacrifice and respect.
"Treat your mother as a god."
"Treat your father as a god."

Samaja-dharma or Society-dharma

Individuals must observe codes of conduct to maintain a well-integrated society. This is called samaja-dharma or society-dharma. Examples are the practice of:

nonviolence, 
non-stealing, 
truthfulness, 
refraining from speaking a truth which hurts, 
control of anger, 
control of the lower passions, 
practicing charity and kindness to all, 
refraining from backbiting, 
practicing hospitality, etc.

Rashtra- dharma or National-dharma

The self-sacrifice made by the individuals for their country is called rashtra- dharma or national-dharma.

Manava-dharma

Individuals have to act in a manner conducive to the sustenance of mankind. This is called manava-dharma. 

Self-sacrifice is the common denominator among all these dharmas. Without self-sacrifice the survival of the individual is not possible.

See Also:

Sanathana Dharma Principles

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