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This world is divided on dharma and all are involved in fighting for their respective dharmas. In this fight of dharmas, many people lose their lives, families and sometimes get punished in this world. How does dharma protect these people as per the sloka dharmo rakshati rakshitaha? I understand what shloka means but what is its relevance in this kaliyuga, how is this justified in this yuga.

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  • If you're on path of Dharma, you will not lose life. So from this we can know whether we're in Dharma or not :) Sep 18, 2018 at 11:28
  • We're involved in satisfying the needs of ours or family without knowing the route on how to do it. That's why there's loss of life. So let's be clear between Dharma and needs. Sep 18, 2018 at 11:31
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    "people lose their life, family and sometimes punished" Once krishna said, path of dharma is actually very tough to travel, indeed this is the reason the travelers of this path are considered/called "Great (mahaan)".
    – Vishvam
    Sep 18, 2018 at 11:43
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    Read Please hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/26515/14986 Sep 18, 2018 at 13:31
  • thanks @Rishabh Indeed following dharma and travelling in its path is tough and attain greatness Sep 18, 2018 at 13:47

5 Answers 5

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The verse of which " Dharmo rakshita rakshitah" is a part is found in Manu Smriti.

We need to understand the context in which it was said.

The following is the translation of the full verse.

Manu Smriti 8.15. ’Justice, being violated, destroys; justice, being preserved, preserves: therefore justice must not be violated, lest violated justice destroy us.

This verse and the adjoining verses are discussing how the king's judgement should be impeccable in the court of justice. So, it's basically about courts, witnesses, judges, justice and the king.

The following verses should give you an idea about the context:

8.12. But where justice, wounded by injustice, approaches and the judges do not extract the dart, there (they also) are wounded (by that dart of injustice).

8.13. Either the court must not be entered, or the truth must be spoken; a man who either says nothing or speaks falsely, becomes sinful.

8.14. Where justice is destroyed by injustice, or truth by falsehood, while the judges look on, there they shall also be destroyed.

So, it is so easy to misinterpret the verse without knowing in which context it was said.

Coming to fights and deaths that result from inter-religion clashes, then those in no way prove this verse to be false.

Those people might be fighting for their own Dharma but what's the guaranty that such a Dharma is the one which is defined in Manu Smriti as Dharma? It is not actually.

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    last sentence seems very appropriate here. In all ages Dharma has its definition as per vrutti(work) dharma, manava(human) dharma, pitru(father/parent) dharma, dharma karyas/kartavya. Injustice in any means to any of these are considered as adharma, if am not wrong Sep 19, 2018 at 5:41
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    Yes you are quite right @sunil.kms123
    – Rickross
    Sep 19, 2018 at 7:52
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As Vālmīki notes in his Rāmāyaṇa, the notion "dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ" (dharma protects its protector) in its traditional sense doesn't always hold true.

Rāma himself realizes this when Sītā was abducted and feels helpless. Speaking to Lakṣmaṇa, he says:

sughora hṛdayaiḥ saumya rākṣasaiḥ kāma rūpibhiḥ || 3-64-51
hṛtā mṛtā vā sītā hi bhakṣitā vā tapasvinī |
na dharmaḥ trāyate sītām hriyamāṇām mahāvane || 3-64-52

The highly stony-hearted demons that are guise-changers by their wish have either abducted, or killed or gluttonised saintly Seetha... but, they say that rectitude saves such saintly persons... yet that rectitude has not saved Seetha while she is being abducted in great forest... [3-64-51b, 52]


Commentary: Dharma or Righteousness does not go on safeguarding either its adherents or antagonists, everyone, everywhere, everlastingly. dharmo rakshati rakshitaH and suchlike sayings are also time-bound and when the time is negative, aapatsu raksha ko dharmaH, 'in difficulties which rightness safeguards?' is the ensuing dilemma.

Alternate translation and commentary from valmiki.iitk.ac.in:

O handsome one, those demons can change their form at will and are of dreadful nature. Have they abducted or devoured or killed her in this great forest. Even her righteousness could not protect the helpless Sita.


Commentary (Tattva-dīpikā): There is a maxim "apatsu raksako dharmah" (Dharma is the saviour in a calamity). Rama says that even Dharma did not save Sita when she was kidnapped.

(In the Critical Edition, this verse belongs to Araṇya-Kāṇḍa, Sarga 60)

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    As per your answer, I realize every life on this earth has to go through these tough times and those who abide to dharma will get protected by dharma. Sep 19, 2018 at 5:46
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    'those who abide to dharma will get protected by dharma' - most of the time, not always. @sunil.kms123 Sep 19, 2018 at 19:11
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    But in this case it was Rama who had to protect and complete the meaning !! He is the dharma he is the humanity the truthfullness the righteous which had to be done only by him .
    – OM-ॐ
    Sep 20, 2018 at 6:54
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According to me, we may also interpret this verse as a standalone verse, just like we have the famous Vedic-Mahāvākyas.

Similarly, this may be treated as an equivalent Smṛti-Mahāvākya (for a lack of a better word).


The verse occurs in Manu-Smṛti Verse 8.15

धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद् धर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत् ॥ १५ ॥

  1. Justice, blighted, blights; and justice, preserved preserves; hence justice should not be blighted, lest blighted justice blights us.

An exact similar verse, with slight changes, is spoken by Yuddhisthira to the Yamaraja in Yaksha's disguise.1

युधिष्ठिर उवाच

धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद्धर्म न त्यजामि मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत् ॥ १२८ ॥


Hindi Translation:

युधिष्ठिर बोले - यदि धर्म का नाश किया जाय, तो वह नष्ट हुआ धर्म ही कर्ता को भी नष्ट कर देता है और यदि उसकी रक्षा की जाय, तो वही कर्ता की भी रक्षा कर लेता है। | इसी से मैं धर्म का त्याग नहीं करता कि कहीं नष्ट हो कर वह धर्म मेरा ही नाश न कर दे ॥ १२८ ॥


English Translation of the above Hindi by Self

Yudhishthira Said - If dharma is destroyed, then such a destroyed Dharma destroys the destroyer too, and if Dharma is protected, then such a Dharma will protect the protector too. Therefore, I don't relinquish my Dharma, lest it would destroy me too.


  • So, we can also interpret 'dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ' to mean, that whosoever identifies themselves as a follower of the Sanātan Dharma, must, to the best of their abilities, try to sustain and protect Dharma from insiders or outsiders, or anyone who is trying to destroy and desecrate it, if danger seems imminent and unavoidable.

The above statement become more clear in the light of a very relevant verse from the Kularnava Tantra (Ekadasha Ullāsa)

Chapter 11, Kularnava Tantram

गुर्वर्थ देवतार्थं वा कौलिकार्थ कुलेश्वरि । कुलागमार्थमथवा कुलधर्मार्थमेव वा ॥ ७६ ॥
देवि निन्दाकरं हत्वा बाधितः स्वयमेव वा । यस्त्यजेहुस्त्यजप्राणान् स परे लीयते शिवे ॥ ७७ ॥

  1. O Kulesvari! For the protection of Guru, Devata, Kaulika, Kulāgama and Kuladharma one who dies after killing a reproacher, merges in Parama Siva.

English Translation by Ram Kumar Rai (Prachya-Prakashan, Varanasi, 1999 Ed.)

  • The general implication is to protect our Dharma and gods from imminent dangers and reproachers, if present.



Conclusion:

  • Therefore, as a standalone maxim-statement, the statement, 'dharmo rakṣati rakṣitaḥ' ( धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः), may be interpreted to mean that if one's Dharma is in danger (mortal-peril) from someone, then raising arms against the danger, to protect Dharma (dharmo rakṣati), is also Dharma, and such protection of Dharma leads to our protection (rakṣitaḥ), since as per tantra and various other scriptures, the protector gets Moksha itself, and what can be greater than Moksha?


Footnote 1: Based on the Mahabharata Version, Published by Gita Press Gorakhpur, Hindi Translation by Ramanarayanadatta Astri

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Dharm means different things across the body of Hindu scripture, literature and mysticism. It can mean the following things: 1.Duty or Righteousness 2.Order and Cosmic Law 3‌. Law and Justice System 4‌. Social and Moral Order 5‌. Religious and Spiritual Practice 6‌. Customary and Traditional Laws 7‌. Intrinsic Nature or Inherent Qualia 8. Responsibility and Accountability

THIS SHLOKA IS 100% ABOUT JUSTICE SYSTEM. Not moral, not social not divine law but the law which is practiced in courts of the government. It is a teaching for Lawyers, Judges, Lawmakers, Ministers and Heads of the state. Using it outside this "frame of context" is fraud.

Well-being of justice is as important as well-being of an individual. Think of justice as a living entity which requires constant effort to sustain.

IF judgements and rulings bring Indiscipline, Poverty, Pain, Humiliation, Addiction, Unemployment, Isolation, Discrimination, Health Issues etc etc. The society will collapse and nothing would remain. So courts have to keep the nation alive. The way to keep nation alive is to pay attention to the well-being of justice.

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"Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha"

यतो धर्मः ततो जयः "धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः" धृति कुशम दामो'स्त्यम् शुकम-इन्द्रिया निग्रहः । धीर-विद्या सत्यम्-अक्रोधो दशकर्मं धर्मं लक्षणं

Dharma is not one word but defined by interpreters of it in a complicated way listed in above sloka on DHARMA LAKSHANAM.

   Example of How Dharma protected itself?" 

India is a country with lot of cultures but centred towards Sanaatana Dharma.

Many Indians (majority) grieve much on Invasions from Mughals, Mongols & East India Attorney rulers in the recent history. There were huge human/herd losses in those days in fights. But, now country India has no fights.

But all invading countries of past are at big wars though they were all allies during invasion on India. They were unable to raise their children peacefully like Hindus/Sanaatanis do.

Hence it is said that Dharma Chakra has to complete one circular revolution to make evident to humanity that DHARMA protects itself by KARMA & ATMASAMYOGA (Itself).

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