What is Varnashrama Dharma


The word Dharma (Sanskrit, m., धर्म, dharma; Pali: Dhamma; thai. ธรรม, RTGS Tham; Chinese 法, Pinyin fǎ) has a broad meaning as a term used in Asian religions. It includes law, justice and custom, ethical and religious obligations and teachings.


The eternal immutable Sanatana Dharma here denotes the eternal cosmic order that sustains the entire universe.

  • On a human level, Dharma is the order of society with the three obligations to the gods, from whom people get everything, to the rishis and the gurus, and to the ancestors.
  • Dharma also means religious, social and moral righteousness, both spiritual and ritual.

Added to this are the social duties and responsibilities of the Varnashrama Dharma.

  • The Sadharana Dharmas are general rules of conduct for everyone. The following appear particularly frequently in the scriptures: truthfulness (satyam), abstinence from violence (ahimsa), angerlessness (akrodha), generosity (danam), abstention from theft (asteyam), ritual, spiritual and physical purity (saucam), restraint of the senses indriya-nigraha, forbearance and forgiveness (ksama), self-control (dama), judgment (dhi), benevolence (dana), compassion (daya), hospitality (atithi).

One of the most important textbooks on Dharma is the Manusmriti or mānavadharmashāstra, the code of law of Manu.

Sanatana Dharma

The eternal Sanatana Dharma describes the cosmic order behind the universe, to which animals and plants are also subject. It emerges from the Brahman. This includes both the laws of nature and the derived wisdom of the Vedas. The term is also a name for Hinduism. Not only humans are subject to the Sanatana Dharma, also animals and even plants as well as the entire universe. Everyone has their own personal dharma. It is the supreme rule for Hindus to follow the Sanatana Dharma, which includes many rules.

Varnashrama Dharma

The Dharma also includes the order of society. In this regard, the Hindu tradition has three obligations:

  1. towards gods - is z. B. fulfilled through prayer and worship
  2. towards the Rishis and the Gurus - is z. B. fulfilled by studying the scriptures
  3. compared to the ancestors - z. B. fulfilled by raising offspring

The social duties and responsibilities of this Varnashrama Dharma depend on age, stage of life, gender, caste and social status. There are therefore different orders and laws for persons in a certain stage of life (Ashrama), as well as different regulations for the individual members of the four classes of society, the Varnas or castes.

Dharma personified

A Dharma as a personification of righteousness appears in the Mahabharata in the form of a deity closely linked to the god of the dead Yama, who is also considered the mythical father of the Pandavas Yudhishthira. In the process he appears as a crane and as a forest spirit (yaksha). He asks ethical and moral questions that only Yudhishthira can answer, similar to the questions posed by the Sphinx while his brothers are dying. The scene represents stage 7.2 of the universal path.


The opposite of Dharma is Adharma, which is associated with injustice, sin, illegality, injustice, guilt, moral decline[1].

  • In the Nyaya philosophy, Dharma and Adharma are among the 24 qualities that produce pleasure and pain.
  • According to chapter 19 of Shiva Purana, the wheel of time is based on Adharma (of illusion and sin).
  • In Vishnu Purana 1.7 there is a Prajāpati Brahma son Adharmawho was born from Brahma's back as the destroyer of beings. Hiṅsā (violence) is his wife, anṛta (falsehood) is his son, nikṛti (deceit) is his daughter. Māyā (delusion), Bhaya (fear), Vedanā (torment), naraka (hell), Duhkha (worry), and Mṛtyu (death) are the other children in this line.[2] [1]
  • In the Bhagavata Purana, Adharma is the husband of Mrishá (falsehood) and the father of Dambha (hypocrisy) and Máyá (deception) who were adopted by Nirritti (Hindu god of misery). Its three main characteristics were pride, luxury and drunkenness. Five branches emerged: Vidharma, Paradharma, ābhāsa, Upamā and chala. [3]


The word Dharma (Pali. Dhamma) stands for the reality experienced by the Buddha and its laws, but also for the law of existence and principle recognized and taught by the Buddha.

Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary[4] counts as meanings: proper the 'bearing ‘,' contract '(√ carrying dhar), custom; Law, natural law (teaching of the Buddha), law (jus), duty, truth, justice, righteousness; Property, thing, object of thought, appearance.

  • Dharma is an expression for the totality of all phenomena of the building blocks of reality (Dharmadhatu), the conditioned and unconditional factors of existence.

In Abhidharma, the term dharma (dhamma) refers to the fundamental, irreducible elements that make up the human world of experience with its mental and material-physical conditions. Buddhism developed the doctrine of 'two truths' in the Abidhamma, in which a distinction is made between the level of relative, veiled reality (samutti sacca) and the level of the highest reality (paramattha sacca), which are also called paramattha dhammas. Our body thus belongs to the rupa-paramattha dhammas.

  1. citta, cetasika, rupa (conditional dhammas, anicca, dukkha - sankhara dhamma) - cittas can be classified by various associated dhammas, sampayutta dhammas[5]
  2. nibbana (unconditional dhamma - visankhara dhamma)

Nagarjuna fundamentally changed the classification of the degrees of truth using samvritti satya ('empirical truth') and paramartha satya ('absolute truth'). He shifted the factors of existence previously described as the highest reality to the level of samvritti satya.

The total number of dharmas taught in Buddhism therefore varies from school to school. It ranges from 75 (in Sarvastivada) through 82 (Theravada) and 84 (Sautrantika) to 100 in Yogacara. With regard to the nature and status of the dharmas, opinions differed greatly from one another.

  • Dharma is also an expression for the teachings of the Buddha[6]. This includes the practice (paṭipatti) of the truth of the highest Dharma. The term 'paṭivedha' (penetration) denotes the realization of the truth of the Dhamma.

The Dhamma includes the teaching of the four noble truths and the three jewels[7](Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). Dharma is also an object of meditation Ten considerations(Anussati).

In Theravada the word Dhamma also stands for the moments of consciousness.

In Mahayana it is also the teaching of all bodhisattvas. According to Jamgön Kongtrul, the Dharmachakra is driven by the Vajra-Nada.
The Huayan Chinese School taught classifications in 5 Dharma areas, while the Tiantai School taught 10 Dharma areas:

  1. Hell dwellers
  2. hungry ghosts
  3. Animals
  4. People
  5. Asuras
  6. Gods
  7. Voice listener
  8. Pratyekabuddhas,
  9. Bodhisattvas
  10. Buddhas.


  • [1] Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide by Roshen Dalal, Penguin Books India 2014, Language: English, ISBN-10: 0143423177 ISBN-13: 978-0143423171 p.4: Adharma


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