Integrations of Dharma and Moksha
I. Notions of Dharma
1. Dharma as part of the Path of Action
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
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.)
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
a. Dharma, Kama, Artha, Moksha
a. Brahmacarya – studenthood. Study of Vedas. Lasting about 12 years after initiation (upanayana). Education in home of preceptor, ritual skills, in exchange for service to teacher. Terminates with marriage.
b. Grhastya – householder.
Devoted to enjoyment of life, duties of care for family, acquisition of artha.
When one’s children are adults, temples graying.
c. Vanaprasthya – life in the forest. Hand over worldly affairs to sons. With wife. Devote oneself to moksha.
d. Sanyasa – world renunciation. Life of homeless ascetic, possesses nothing,
desires nothing but liberation
3. Bhagavad Gita:
a. The great War of the Mahabharata
b. Arujuna’s dilemma: to kill or not to kill
c. Action (in the world) vs. non-action (sanyasa)
d. Krishna’s counsel:
i. Nishkamakarma: Action without attachment to the fruits of one’s actions
ii. No karma accrued
iii. Live in the world and move toward moksha