Chapter 8, Dharma as taught in the Vedas

God ordains:
Acquire duly the Dharma preached by me which is justly devoid of bias and partiality and refulgent with truthful characteristics. Combine together giving up all dissensions so that your best happiness may increase and all suffering may be destroyed. Having combined together hold discussions, lovingly putting questions and answering them and avoiding perverse reasoning such as sophistry, captious and fallacious arguments, so that noble qualities and true knowledge may ever increase amongst you. Acquire wisdom and so exert

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    yourselves that your minds may be stocked with knowledge and be always filled with joy. Always follow Dharma and never practice Adharma. You should follow the same Dharma as was followed by the learned, wise and impartial men, whether of past times or of the present age, i.e., whether dead or living, having a love for the preaching of the Divine Dharma.

They worshipped me as the Almighty and adorable God and followed the Dharma laid down by me. You also must do the same so that you may know the Dharma inculcated by the Vedas and have no doubts about it -Rigveda VIII. 8-49-2

Ye men! Let the end of your deliberations (Mantra) be true knowledge and the good of all beings and may they be harmonious, free from dissensions and characterized by impartiality and fairness.

Mantra means deliberation in which by means of mutual consultation, conversation

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    and instruction men investigate all things, of known or unknown qualities and virtues, from God to material objects and acquire a knowledge of them. King’s ministers are called Mantris because they also deliberate upon what is improper.

A number of persons should combine together for making investigation into objects in respect of which they possess not certain knowledge. Every one should give his individual opinion and then the best opinion which forms, as it were, the essence of all the opinions and which is beneficial to all men and possesses the marks of truth should be collected and all men should understand it thoroughly and should always conform to and act upon it.

By so doing happiness of the right sort will increase day by day amongst all men. With a view to secure freedom to all men and to augment the stock of their happiness you (men) should frame such uniform, impartial and good laws and social rules as may disseminate justice, conduce to advancement and enlightenment of all men, help on the acquisition of noble qualities as celibacy, purity of character and devotion

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    to duty, harmonize with the administration of the country, by means of an assembly of good men, perform the actions leading to the highest aim of human existence and improve the health and increase the vigor of the body and the mind. Let our minds harmonize with one another, i.e., they should not be opposed to one another.

You should keep your minds under your control so that you may be inclined towards good and be averted from bad qualities. [Manas (mind) consists of Samkalpa – desire or inclination and Vikalpa – hatred or aversion]. May there be concord and harmony among your thinking faculties. [Chitta – thinking faculty – is that with which one remembers past experiences and meditates upon God and Dharma].

All men should put forth as much effort for terminating the suffering and in increasing the happiness of all living beings as they would put forth for their own sake. Let all of your exertions be for the good and happiness of another. I bestow my grace upon those men who consider all living beings as their own selves and do good to others and make them happy. I command to follow the

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    Dharma laid down above. All men ought to act according, to it so that truth may never fail and falsehoods never prevail amongst them. Your givings and takings also should be according to the dictates of the true Dharma which I promulgate for your sake. Follow the Dharma. Rigveda VII.8.49.3.

“Ye men! May you always employ all of your powers in matters of Dharma for increasing the amount of happiness without coming into conflict with one another. May your exertions and enthusiasm and al that is noblest and best in you have mutual good and happiness of mankind in general as their end.

May you so act that this Dharma promulgated by me may never disappear. May your mental activities be full of love for and free from ill will towards others and let perfect agreement reign among them. May you so co-operate with

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    one another that happiness may continue to increase. May you rejoice in heart at the sight of the happiness of all men and may no one among you take pleasure in the sufferings of others.

All men should so conduct themselves that all may be happy and free. Let there be complete harmony and unison among your mental activities. All men should apply their minds to and bestow full consideration upon the matter in hand and should then translate their thoughts into action. Rigveda VIII.8, 49.4.

The activities of the mind according to the Shatpatha XIV.4, are the following:-
Kama – a desire for noble qualities; Samkalpa – a desire to adopt the means for acquiring them; Vichikitsa – doubt which is raised

  • simply with a view to ascertain the truth; Shraddha -utmost faith in God and true religion (Dharma); Ashraddha – complete disbelief and want of faith in atheism and Adharma; Dhriti – firm resolve to keep faith unshaken in God and Dharma under prosperity and adversity; Adhriti – fixed determination never to adopt evil ways; Hri – aversion to or the keeping aloof of the mind from untruthful conduct and from non-compliance with the dictates of true Dharma; Dhi – the power of the intellect to readily and firmly grasp noble qualities and Bhi – the realization of the fact that God sees us everywhere and therefore to fear from acting untruthfully, sinfully and in disobedience to God’s commandments.


In Yajurveda XIX. 77, God enjoins men to follow Dharma. ‘All men should in all conditions and at all times keep their faith firm in Dharma and no faith whatever in Adharma. He has through His all-knowing intellect drawn a line of distinction between

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    Dharma and Adharma some of whose characteristics are well-known and obvious and some fine and not easily discernible. The Omniscient Lord had implanted faith in the minds of men in the true Dharma explained in the Vedas and Shastras which had the support of the proofs, the direct cognition, etc., is based on justice, and is free from partiality and bias.

Likewise He has implanted want of faith in Adharma, untruth and injustice. God commands men to have no faith in Adharma. All men should, therefore, make utmost efforts to resolutely fix their minds on Dharma and to turn them away from Adharma.

There is another verse – Yajurveda XXXVI.18, which exhorts all men to have friendly relations with all living beings at all times and in all conditions. All men should accept this divinely ordained Dharma and should pray God so that they may become steadfast

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    in Dharma. “O Lord, the Destroyer of all suffering! Be gracious unto me that I may know the true Dharma as it is. May all beings look upon me lovingly with the eyes of an impartial friend, i.e., become my friends. Make me, who am filled with this desire, always prosperous with the possession of true happiness and auspicious qualities. And may I in my turn look upon all beings with friendly eyes and loving thoughts and treat them as my own self. In this way driving away all feeling of enmity may we look upon one another with friendly eyes and strive to live for making one another happy.’

Thus should all men accept this – the only divinely ordained Dharma.

AGNE BRATAPATE BRATAM CHAARISHYAAMI TACHCHHAKEYAM TANME RAADHYATAAM EDAM AHAMANRITAAT SATYAM UPAIMI. Yajurveda 1.5, lays down that all men should always seek the Divine help; for without it one can neither know the true Dharma nor successfully practice it.
O God, the Lord of vows truth! I shall follow the true Dharma. Do Thou grant me strength to follow it and to act truthfully, and do Thou through Thy grace crown my efforts with success. I take a vow to act truthfully and to abstain from doing what is wrong and false and against the Dharma.

In the practice of Dharma one should depend on Divine help and prayer and on one’s own exertions, for, God never shows His favor to a man who is inactive and lazy. God showers His mercies on that man alone and on no other, who has a desire to perform the Dharma, exerts himself and has a yearning after God’s grace, just as He makes him alone see who has got eyes and not him who is blind. God provides man with the means of doing a thing successfully even before he can have an occasion to use them. Man should take as much utility out of an object as it is capable of yielding, but at the same time he should possess a desire for the help of God.’

The Shatapatha I.1, also says: ‘One

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    becomes a deva by acting truthfully and a mortal man by acting untruthfully. Truthful conduct alone is therefore, called Dharma.

Yajurveda XIX, 30 says that man knows the truth when he possesses a desire to know the truth and to act truthfully. One should have faith in truth alone but never in untruth.

A man who acts truthfully obtains high worth. By becoming worthy he obtains high rank by means of good qualities and becomes universally respected and successful. This is his reward. It can be achieved by means of good qualities and actions only.

By observing virtuous vows such as Brahmacharya he gains respect in his as well as in others; estimation. This creates an abiding faith in truthful conduct, for; truthful conduct alone is the source of respect. When this faith goes on constantly increasing, man by its means ultimately attains God and emancipation.
Hence a man should always cultivate faith and enthusiasm for the acquisition of truth.

The following verses of the Atharvaveda reveal the characteristics of Dharma.

‘God had made men the possessors of volition, exertion, energy and righteous (Dharmie) conduct. They should, therefore, become wise by studying the Vedas and by acquiring knowledge of God. They should always seek the protection of God and depend on strenuous action.

‘May all men be endowed with truth which is incalculated in the Vedas and Shastras, which is free from error and stands the tests of direct cognition, etc. Let them make supreme efforts to cover themselves with highest glory resplendent with the light of right conduct and auspicious qualities, and having the resources of a universal empire at it service. May the masters of fair renown for the acquisition of noble qualities and truthful conduct and may they shed its luster on all sides.

‘May all men find their fullest contentment in their own property and in their good qualities

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    and may they do good to all beings. May they have firm faith in truth in every way. May they protect others and be themselves protected by the true teachings of honest and trustworthy learned men. May they obtain place of honor before the all pervading God and in activities of universal utility, such as Ashvamedha, in the knowledge of physical sciences and skilful performance of arts. God ordains men to impress this on their minds that they are here in this world for the performance of good works which may be beneficial to all, up to the time of their death.’

‘Let all their activities follow the dictates of justice. Let them show courage, fearlessness and fortitude in acting truthfully. Let them be not elated with joy at gain and pleasure and dejected with sorrow at loss and pain in which they may find themselves involved for the time being. They should, on the other hand, try their best to alleviate their suffering and should bear it with resignation. Let them root out the diseases of the body and the mind and render their limbs strong and their intellects firm and acquire strength requisite

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    for the performance of redoubtable deeds by obeying the good rules of Brahmacharya, etc. Let them acquire learning and education and let their speech be truthful and sweet and possessed of similar good qualities. Let them keep manas (mind) and the five organs of cognition and five organs of action, tongue, etc. constantly engaged in the pursuit of true Dharma and away from sinful acts. [Here the word vak – tongue, is used as a generic term for the organs of actions].

Let them spend their best energies in acquiring glories of imperial rule. This alone is the Dharma promulgated by the Vedas, based on justice, free from partiality and bias, associated with truthful conduct and universally beneficial. All men should follow it always. What has gone before as well as what comes after is an exposition of this very Dharma. God has revealed the Dharma in these and the following verses for the good of all mankind.

‘The special qualifications of a Brahmana, viz., the acquisition of the highest learning, qualities and actions and the dissemination of virtuous, etc., should always be given
scope to develop themselves and the special virtues of a Kshatriya such as learning, skill, courage, fortitude and valor should have always room to grow. Let the assembly of good men always make the empire full of happiness and auspicious virtues by making good laws for it.

The Vaishyas, i.e., the merchants, should have free access to all quarters of the globe and should be afforded every protection so that they may increase the wealth by means of trade and commerce. Let noble qualities shine forth and let a pure desire for virtuous traits of character be cultivated. Let men achieve fair renown. Let there be proper permanent arrangements for the teaching, learning and diffusion of true knowledge.

Men should have a desire to acquire, what they do not possess, by just means, should protect and preserve and improve and increase what they possess and, lastly, should spend their riches in righteous actions. In this fourfold way they should always strive to increase their wealth and provisions and happiness.

‘Men should prolong their lives and become physically strong by leading a chaste life,
observing the salutary laws of food and dress and thoroughly obeying the good rules of Brahmacharya. They should preserve beauty of their persons by not giving themselves up to incontinence and unrestrained gratification of the sense. They should establish a fair reputation for themselves by means of doing righteous acts so that (their example) may add to the zeal of others in their performance.

Let what they recite or hear being recited, be always for glorifying the name of God or for the acquisition of Godlike qualities and let them make themselves endowed with good renown. By means of Pranayama, i.e., control of breath they should strengthen and purify Prana i.e., in-breathing or the air which is drawn into the body from outside, and Apana, i.e., out-breathing or the air which is breathed out of the body.

By residing in a healthy place and by the forcible ejection and the withholding of the breath they should acquire strength of body and mind. They should thoroughly know the ocular, aural and inferential and other proofs and with their help should acquire correct and complete knowledge.

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    ‘Men should use liquids such as water, etc. and juices such as milk, ghee, etc. after purifying them thoroughly according to the rules of medical science. They should eat, cooked and uncooked edibles, after purifying and dressing them.

They should always worship God and should always speak the truth that has stood the test of the proofs, the direction cognition etc., exactly as it exists in their consciousness; and should always believe the same.

They should offer adoration to God and perform universally beneficial Yajnas and with proper care and energy should apply their minds, words and acts, to the collection of materials necessary for the completion of both.

They should properly educate, train and provide for the comforts of their children and the (subjects of the) empire. They should also train their domestic animals – the elephants, horses, etc. [The frequent use of the conjunction ‘and’ – Cha – in these verses signifies that men
should acquire such other good qualities also as have not been specifically enumerate above].

We shall now give some extracts from the Taittiriya Shiksha bearing on the subject of Dharma. All men should always act according to the essential requirements of Dharma as explained therein. They are briefly as follows:

  • To know a thing as it is, to act truthfully, to bring into practice the essential features of knowledge and Dharma such as rita (morals, divine worship as they are in reality), to restrain the senses from unrighteous conduct and to always employ them in righteous acts; never to let a desire to act unrighteously enter the mind, to utilize the Vedas and Shastras and the things of the world such as fire, etc., for the purpose of the spiritual and the practical sciences so that one may be able to do good to others. To always secure the happiness of all beings by purifying the atmosphere and the rain water by means of regularly performing the Yajna from the daily homa to the Ashvamedha; to arrive at pure truth and to remove doubts by associating with and serving righteous and pious men possessed of perfect and profound erudition, to obtain proficiency in human sciences such as the science of Government, etc.

To beget children in accordance with Dharma, to bring them up in true Dharma, to educate them and to make them cultured; to conserve virile powers and to have sexual intercourse at the proper time (ritu)
according to the rules of Putreshti; to provide for the safety of the children in the womb and at the time of their birth and to make their bodies and minds grow and develop.

The opinion of the Acharya Rathitara is that a man ought always to speak the truth. The Acharya Pauraushishthi lays down that a man should always act in accordance with dictates of true knowledge and Dharma by observing the rules such as rita (divine worship, moral behests, etc.)

The Acharya Nako Maudgilya, however, holds that the noblest act is to study and teach the Vedas, that there is no other work of Dharma among men better than this and that it is the highest religious exercise.

The preceptor on the conclusion of his disciple’s study of the Vedas should instruct him in the Dharma in the following words:-

“O disciple! Always speak the truth, follow the Dharma whose distinguishing mark is veracity. Never forsake the reading and the teaching of the Shastras. Serve your teacher and procreate children. Acquire proficiency in true Dharma and maintain and enhance your
prosperity and glory. You should always acquire knowledge from the learned (the devas) and the wise (the pitris) and should always serve them. Render loving service to your mother, father, preceptor and holy guests. Do not forsake it through carelessness and laziness.”

The mothers, etc., should address their sons as follows:-

“O sons! Follow us in our good works only, but never follow us if we happen to commit sinful acts. Associate with those persons only among us who may be learned and possess knowledge of God. You should always have faith in what they say, but never trust the words of others.

Men should always make a gift of such objects as learning, etc., with love without love, with grace, with modesty, moved by fear or for redeeming their promise. To make a gift is far better than to receive it from others. O disciples! If ever you be troubled with a doubt in respect of an act or a line of conduct you should approach the learning who know God, are free from bias and yogins

  • who keep aloof from adharma, possess learning and other good qualities

and have a love of Dharma. Get a solution (of your doubts) from them and act accordingly. You should travel by the road which is trodden by them. We implant this teaching, this advice, in your heart.

This is the inner teaching of the Vedas. All men should give this exhortation (to their sons and disciples.) The worship of God who is all existence, all consciousness and all bliss should be performed with the greatest faith and devotion, but should be preceded by such conduct as has been mentioned above. There is no other way to worship Him.” Taittiriya Aranyanka VII9. 11.

  • Now we describe the characteristics of the Tapas:- “Ritam, i.e., Tat-tvam (that-ness), the worship of Brahma and knowledge of a thing as it is in reality; Satyam, i.e., truthful speech and conduct; Shrutam, i.e., the learning and the teaching of all arts and sciences; Shantam i.e. the keeping aloof of the mind from Adharma and the fixing of it on Dharma, peace of
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    mind; Damah, i.e., to restrain the senses from Adharma and to employ them in Dharma; Shamah, i.e. to keep the mind back from Adharma and to concentrate in on Dharma; Danam, i.e., to always make a gift of true knowledge and Yajnam, i.e., the performance of the Yajnas described above. The word tapas signify all these and nothing else.” Taittiriya Aranyaka X.8.

“Also, O man! Believe that tapas is to worship God who pervades all regions. The opposite of this cannot be tapas. The distinctive mark of Dharma is no other than truthful speech and conduct, because through truth men attain to worldly happiness and to that uninterrupted bliss called moksha (emancipation) of good men is truthful conduct. Good men, therefore, always take delight in truth and tapas is, accordingly, to act according to the

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    requirements of Dharma whose distinguishing features are ritam, etc. Brahma is also, the name given to the acquisition of learning by means of the due observance of the laws of Brahmacharya. The other portions of the above extract, viz., danam (gift) etc. also are to be construed in a similar manner.

The characteristic of the learned is mental activity. The True (God) makes the wind blow and the sun shine. Men attain to honor by means of truth and not otherwise.” The words Manasa rishayah in the next mean vital airs, knowledge, etc. Taittiriya Aranyaka X. 62 & 63.

  • “This Atman (God) is attained by means

of truthfulness, right knowledge and constant Brahmacharya alone. The yatis, (those who possess self-control) whose imperfections have been destroyed, see Him – the pure effulgence residing within their body. God attained by the practice of the true Dharma, etc.” The meaning of this Mantra is easy. Mundakopanishad III. 1.

“Truth realized in conduct ever conquers. Through it man always becomes victorious and through untruth i.e., action opposed to Dharma he comes to defeat. The Devayana i.e., the path of the learned, viz., the road of
emancipation which is the giver of unending bliss is illumined and widened by truthful conduct. By taking the road illumined by the performance of the true Dharma the sages obtain what they desire and arrive there where the last abode of truth viz., Brahma is and enjoy the bliss of emancipation for ever and ever which can not be gained otherwise. All should, therefore, act according to Dharma and forsake Adharma.’ Mundakopanishat III.1.6.

“That alone is to be known as Dharma which has been enjoined to be performed by the Vedas and that which has been prohibited by God is Adharma having no substance in it (anartha). It ought to be given up, therefore, by men.” Purva Mimansa. I.1.2.

“That alone is to be recognized as Dharma which leads to the desired happiness in this
world and also to the highest bliss of emancipation. That which is opposed to it is Adharma.” Vaisheshika I.1.2.

All these extracts are only an amplification (of the teachings) of the Vedas. God has thus preached the Dharma for the sake of all men in a great number of the Vedic Mantras. This is the only Dharma for all men. There is no second Dharma different or separate from it.

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