Dharma is a Sanskrit word that has no equivalent in English language.

The closest imitation of this word is Righteousness' but after reading even a little bit about Dharma in Hindu scriptures, anyone would conclude that Dharma is more than 'just' :) Righteousness.

Question: Is there any Official Definition for Dharma? If yes then please Define dharma

  • 1
    Thinking similar, I had asked What is Dharma according to Veda or Upanishad?
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 6:08
  • @Pandya Yeah good Question. I am thinking of expanding the question, with "Who is the creator of Dharma"... Obviously its bramhan but how.can we ensure that what we know from shrutis smritis is actually dharma.
    – Yogi
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 8:35
  • Any act of a Jiva by which it exhausts it's mental impressions & thus reduces the coverage upon chitta is Dharma. Commented May 1, 2017 at 13:50
  • @Rohit I don't​ think that's a valid definition, If you could exaust all your karmas with Dharma, then there wouldn't​ have been a separate Vedanta or Upanishads to give bramhan jnana.
    – Yogi
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


The official definition of Dharma is:

prabhāvārthāya bhūtānāṃ dharmapravacanaṃ kṛtam
yat syād ahiṃsāsaṃyuktaṃ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ

dhāraṇād dharma ity āhur dharmeṇa vidhṛtāḥ prajāḥ
yat syād dhāraṇa saṃyuktaṃ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ

Righteousness was declared (by Brahman) for the advancement and growth of all creatures. Therefore, that which leads to advancement and growth is Righteousness. Righteousness was declared for restraining creatures from injuring one another. Therefore, that is righteousness which prevents injury to creatures. Righteousness (dharma) is so called because it upholds all creatures.

[The Mahābhārata, Śānti-parva, Bhīṣma responding to Yudhiṣṭhira]

It comes with a disclaimer:

tādṛśo 'yam anupraśno yatra dharmaḥ sudurvacaḥ
duṣkaraḥ pratisaṃkhyātuṃ tarkeṇātra vyavasyati

The question ('How should a person act who desires to adhere to virtue?') you have asked me is a difficult one, since it is difficult to say what righteousness is. It is not easy to indicate it. No one in discoursing upon righteousness, can indicate it accurately.

Kṛṣṇa defines it in a similar manner:

dhāraṇād dharmam ity āhur dharmo dhārayati prajāḥ
yaḥ syād dhāraṇa saṃyuktaḥ sa dharma iti niścayaḥ

Dharma protects and preserves the people. So it is the conclusion of the pandits that what maintains is Dharma.

[The Mahābhārata, Karṇa-parva, Kṛṣṇa speaking to Arjuna]

Kaṇāda in his Vaiśeṣika Sūtras defines dharma as:

यतोऽभ्युदयनिःश्रेयससिद्धिः स धर्मः ॥ १ । १ । २ ॥

Dharma (is) that from which (results) the accomplishment of Exaltation and of the Supreme Good.

Another translation:

That which leads to the attainment of Abhyudaya (prosperity in this world) and Niḥśreyasa (total cessation of pain and attainment of eternal bliss hereafter) is Dharma.

  • Thanks for giving Kanada's definition. I was searching for an English translation of it. Commented May 1, 2017 at 13:24
  • Thanks a lot. Good answer to this very important question.
    – Lokesh
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 2:45

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