A person who does everything for God’s sake

Is free and becomes a part of God.

Doing your duty for God’s sake

Is the secret.

(Gita 23)


Religions create communities that are united by shared philosophy and belief. These communities in turn develop socio-cultural value systems. As the socio-cultural composition of a community evolves, the religion that gave it birth must adapt itself or reinterpret itself to endure. However, it must do so without surrendering any of its basic beliefs or principles. Otherwise the religion becomes diluted and ceased to be itself.

Hinduism has had a long and vigorous life and throughout it has upheld the Vedic value system known as the Eternal Law, or the Sanatana Dharma.

A value may be a principle, an ideal, a standard, or a priority. It is a lodestar that determines what matters to a person, to a family, and to a community. It determines what choices people make, where they direct their efforts, and how they develop and maintain relationships. A value is not a religious belief, but it reflects the ideas that religious beliefs endorse.

The value system of Hinduism seems to have emerged as a full blown system, already part of the society in which it matured. Early Vedic scriptures contain its seeds, seeds that continue to blossom and bear fruit today. From the onset, Vedic literature has explicitly valued family life and the nurturing of children, hospitality, self-esteem, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of prosperity, the pursuit of happiness, respect for elders and teachers, living in harmony with all beings, avoidance of needless violence, and most importantly, fulfillment of duty. Doing one’s duty means following the path of righteousness or living in accordance with the principle of dharma which embraces all other values.

Click here to read more from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.



The idea of dharma is a central belief of Hinduism. Its meaning cannot be easily described or translated. Like karma, it is a fundamental concept.

The essence of Dharma is duty, but it is more. It is a universal principle as well as a personal principle. Hindu scripture says:

Dharma is truth.

It is said that

one who speaks truth

speaks dharma

and one who speaks dharma

speaks truth.

Bhridaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.14

Dharma embraces family life, social life and spiritual life. It is the guideline known as Sanatana Dharma meaning Eternal Law or Eternal Order which actually defines Hinduism.

See On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar.




The concept of “dharma” is difficult to convey in English. The term is an ancient one equivalent to the Persian word “daena” which means something like insight and revelation. In Zoroastrianism, Daena has been explained as a journey that enables the soul to see light at the end of life.

In the Upanishads, dharma is defined as truth, but both dharma and truth are philosophies unto themselves. They are short words that encompass entire belief systems. Dharma is a lodestar, an abiding principle, not only for Hinduism, but also for her sister religions, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. These faiths have arisen from different aspects of the Hindu world view and have evolved with their own specificities and emphases.

The word Hindu describes the original inhabitants of the Indus River Valley, but today many followers of Hinduism prefer to describe their faith as the Sanatana Dharma, an abiding principle which means The Eternal Order or Way.

See Chapter 8 of On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar to appreciate the full meaning of “dharma” in Eastern religions.



Dharma may be described as a religious path. It encompasses the idea of a universal and a personal principle which is is a lodestar for Hindus, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. According to Vedic scripture, dharma means truth:


Dharma is truth.
It is said that one who speaks truth speaks dharma
and one who speaks dharma speaks truth.

Bhridaranyaka Upanishad I.4.14

see On Hinduism, Chapter Eight, Darma

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