DHARMA, KARMA, AND SAMSARA

 

 

Dharma and Moksha.  The central beliefs in Hindu traditions cluster around two concepts: dharma and moksha.

 

1.    Dharma-Focused traditions: 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

2.    Karma: law of cause and effect by which one reaps what one sows.

a.    karma” means “works,” “deeds”

b.    All actions, particularly moral actions, have predictable effects – each person is responsible for every action he or she performs; every action will influence one’s future

c.    One’s present conditions, character, circumstances are all the result of past actions

d.    Textual and popular understandings of karma

2.    Samsara: (1) the cycle of rebirth, and (2) as the flux and flow of creation

a.    The cycle of birth and rebirth

b.    One’s present life = one of a long chain of lives, countless lives in human and non-human forms (including existence as deities)

c.    Hierarchical order of all species in existence, such as caste

d.    Samsara as the fluid and changing universe

3.    The destabilizing course of time

                                              i.     Hindu notion of time as cyclical (cf. Vishnu and the lotus stem)

                                             ii.     Yugas and the decline in virtue (cf. the mythical cow)

1.    Krita: 1,728,000; Treta: 1,296,000; Dvapara: 864,000; Kali: 432,000

2.    1 cycle = 4,320,000 years = 1 mahayuga (then minor dissolution of the world for 1 mahayuga)

3.    1000 mahayugas = 4,320,000,000 years = 1 kalpa = one day in the life of Brahma, followed by return to cosmic nondifferentiation for 1 kalpa of time

4.    Individual, society, history = insignificant.  Even the gods are trapped in the cycle and eventually fall