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The meaning of «dharma»

Dharma (/ˈdɑːrmə/;[7] Sanskrit: धर्म, romanized: dharma, pronounced [dʱɐrmɐ] (listen); Pali: धम्म, romanized: dhamma, translit. dhamma) is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and others.[8] There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages.[9]

In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible,[10][note 1] and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and "right way of living".[11] In Buddhism, dharma means "cosmic law and order",[10][12] as applied to the teachings of Buddha [10][12] and can be applied to mental constructs or what is cognised by the mind.[12] In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomena".[13][note 2] Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina)[10] and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, dharma means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.[14]

The concept of dharma was already in use in the historical Vedic religion, and its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia.[15] The ancient Tamil moral text of Tirukkural is solely based on aṟam, the Tamil term for dharma.[16] The antonym of dharma is adharma.

The Classical Sanskrit noun dharma (धर्म) or the Prakrit Dhaṃma (𑀥𑀁𑀫) are a derivation from the root dhṛ, which means "to hold, maintain, keep",[note 3]. Hence, dharma holds one from falling down or falling to hell. Therefore, it takes the meaning of "what is established or firm", and hence "law". It is derived from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta.[18]

In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm" (in the literal sense of prods or poles). Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter" (of deities). It is semantically similar to the Greek Themis ("fixed decree, statute, law").[19] In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic: dharma-.

The word dharma derives from Proto-Indo-European root

In Classical Sanskrit, and in the Vedic Sanskrit of the Atharvaveda, the stem is thematic: dhárma- (Devanāgarī: धर्म). In Prakrit and Pāli, it is rendered dhamma. In some contemporary Indian languages and dialects it alternatively occurs as dharm.

When the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka wanted in the 3rd century BCE to translate the word "Dharma" (he used Prakrit word Dhaṃma) into Greek and Aramaic,[22] he used the Greek word Eusebeia (εὐσέβεια, piety, spiritual maturity, or godliness) in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription and the Kandahar Greek Edicts, and the Aramaic word Qsyt ("Truth") in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription.[23]

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