[Sanskrit, literally “carrying,” “holding,” “that which holds one’s true nature,” akin to Latin firmus, “firm”] In Hinduism, dharma is defined as that which determines our true essence; righteousness; morality; the religious and moral law governing individual conduct; that which holds the world together; the lawful order of the universe and the foundation of all religion; religious duty; the way of life to be followed according to one’s nature and station in life; conformity to one’s duty and nature; an individual’s duty fulfilled by observance of custom or law.
As defined in Man’s Eternal Quest, by Paramahansa Yogananda, dharma is the “eternal principles of righteousness that uphold all creation” and “man’s inherent duty to live in harmony with these principles.” The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion says: “For the individual, dharma is inseparable from one’s karma, since dharma can be realized by the individual only to the extent permitted by one’s karmic situation.”
In Buddhism, dharma has many of the same connotations as in Hinduism but also specifically refers to the universal doctrine, the teaching of the Buddha, and the way of life that is consistent with this teaching.
The messengers teach that one’s dharma is one’s duty to fulfill one’s reason for being. It is the divine plan, which runs as a thread through all lifetimes, culminating in the mission fulfilled and the soul’s liberation from the round of rebirth. This takes place only when one balances at least 51 percent of one’s karma and attains ultimate reunion with God because the dharma has been fully self-realized and fully accomplished.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 35, no. 17..
- Paramahansa Yogananda, Man’s Eternal Quest (Self-Realization Fellowship, 1975), p. 471.
- The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion (Boston: Shambhala, 1994), s.v. “Dharma.”