I.  Notions of Dharma


1.    Dharma as part of the Path of Action

a.    The dharma-focused traditions hold that it is necessary to uphold, preserve, perpetuate, and refine the physical world generally, and human society specifically; Human beings are affirmed as essentially social, governed by physical needs and must live with other human beings

b.    Definition: The word dharma refers to (a) the cosmic and social order and (b) the rules pertaining to it.

                                              i.     Dharma as structure, samsara as flow

c.    Texts:

                                              i.     Early Vedas – From Rta to dharma

1.    Rigveda: Purusha Sukta

                                             ii.     Bhagavad Gita – each person responsible for own duty, social function, upholding order of society and so contributing to welfare of society as a whole

                                           iii.     Dharmashastras (“treatises on dharma”) – individual well-being and prosperity dependent on order of society and cosmos.  Disorder is a constant threat (collapse of caste distinctions, etc.)

1.    Manavadharmashastra


2.    Varnadharma: the dharma-focused tradition are often concerned with the maintenance of caste system in order to preserve social and cosmic stability

a.    Caste or varna: the Aryan ideal of social order

                                              i.     Bhramans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Sudras

b.    Hierarchy:  Purity and impurity

c.    Complementarity: division of labor

d.    Contextual nature of dharma



1.    Dharma

2.    Dharmashastra

3.    Varnadharma (all 4)


Any locations on the map exercises and information from the course Timeline (top of syllabus) can appear on a quiz or exam.