Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Studying the Concept of "Dharma" (book)


This anthology of 19 well-researched articles examines the concept of dharma from various points of view: semantic, cultural, and religious. "Dharma" is considered the fulcrum of Indian civilization.

It is not affected by any linguistic, sectarian, or regional differences. The term itself is untranslatable, for it has many connotations. Paul Horsch, in his article, attempts to examine the evolution of the term dharma(n) from its Indo-Aryan origins to the position it occupies in the intellectual history of India, tracing the various phases it has gone through.

Place of dharma
Discussing the place of dharman in the Rig Veda, Joel P. Brereton says the term is not considered central to the lexicon even though it occurs 63 times. There are Indo-European parallels to dharman. Its Iranian equivalent in old Persian is “remedy,” which is different from the Indo-Aryan conception. Patrick Olivelle, who looks at the semantic history of the term, concludes that “it is likely that dharma was part of the specialised vocabulary associated with royalty, especially because of its frequent use within the royal consecration (râjasûya).”

[In Buddhism]
Rupert Gethin seeks to understand the concept of dhamma (of early Buddhism) mentioned in the Nikâyas [divisions of the Pali Canon]. He is of the view that it stands for something sublime, peaceful, subtle, and trans-rational.

Collett Cox discusses how the term “dharma” is used in Sarvastivada Abhidharma [the higher-teachings of a defunct Buddhist school], highlighting its relationship with other terms such as bhâva, svabhâva, dravya, and svalaksana in the inter-traditional context. The Buddhist scholasticism shows that the concept is, at once, stable enough for any sectarian debate and elastic enough for further refinements.

In Jain literature, Olle Qvarnström says, dharma is interpreted as virtuous behavior, behavior in accordance with intrinsic nature, and behavior in terms of activity (pravritti) and non-activity (nivritti), and cosmic order. More>>

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