Dharma – Duties

What are Duties (Dharma) and how can they be recognized?

The word "Dharma" is from the root "Dhar" which means to adopt or to sustain. The principle which sustains the entire universe and keeps it in equilibrium is Dharma. Some say that earth is resting on the horns of a bull; others say that it is balanced on the head of a snake. 

Guru Nanak in Jap Ji has explained that all the universe is sustained by Dharma, which springs out of mercy and is kept in harmony by contentment.

Dharma born of mercy, keeps it in equilibrium with contentment.

Jap Ji, 3-12

Religious scriptures (Shastras) have enumerated ten organs of Dharma:

Forgiveness, non-violence, mercy, sweetness, truth speaking, austerities and charities, character, purity and contentment, know them to be the ten organs of Dharma.


All creeds have their own principles but these are common to all. Those who are fond of Name, to them Name is Dharma.

Dharma is the treasure of all comforts and benefits all. That Name sustains all. The Name sustains all the regions and universes.

Gauri M5, 284-12

The followers of Name are conscious co-workers and understand the will of the Lord. They in a way get connected with Dharma. All these acts are within its sphere and they are the embodiment of Dharma.

Mind is united to Dharma.

Jap Ji, 3-9

Hindu Shastras mention four feet of Dharma.

Manu Ji says, "Dharma has four feet." In Vishnu Puran the four feet are stated to be

  1. Truth

  2. Sacrifice (charity, etc.)

  3. Worship (right conduct, etc.) and

  4. Remembrance (Sirnran).

Ravidas says to the same effect.

In Satyug Truth, in Treta Yajna sacrifices, and in Dwapar Worship and Piety reigned supreme. After the three Yugas they fell into abuse and in Kali Yuga one's only mainstay is the Name.

Ravidas, Gauri, 346-10

Bhai Gurdas also mentions four feet of Dharma. The four feet of Dharma are four varnas but all have become one.

War, 6-23

In the Sanskrit dictionary known as Shabd Kosh Chintamani, the four feet of Dharma are described as follows: The first foot of Dharma is truth. This is so said in Vedas. The second foot is purity, the third foot is mercy and the fourth foot is charity. The Puranas say to the same effect.

Bhai Mani Singh has described Name, charity, bathing and knowledge as four feet of Dharma.

Its chief principles are:

  1. Name: (see chapter on Name)

  2. Charity: mercy and sacrifice are included in it. To wish well of all with the heart, to forgive all, to consider all wealth as belonging to the Lord and to enjoy it by sharing it with all, is real charity.

  3. Bathing: it includes worship, right conduct, purification, etc. Cleanliness of body also falls within it. Cleanliness is next to godliness. To rid the mind of evil tendencies (falsehood, killing; deceit, etc.), the intellect of evil thoughts, and reason of doubts, and to still the mind is real purification.

  4. Knowledge: to procure real good. For details see the chapter on Truth and Knowledge in Part I. Guru Ram Das says that when the mind gets fixed, all the four feet are achieved by the seeker.

In the Sat Yuga all were embodiments of contentment. The Dharma (Religion) then rested upon all fours.

Asa M4, 445-5

The comprehensive name for the above virtues is humanity. This is the appearance of the virtues of the eternal One and His knowledge in the mind, intellect, reason, action and speech in some pure-hearted person who wishes well of everybody. He, out of Grace and compassion, does not mind the faults of the people, lightens their burden of hardships and sufferings and strengthens their souls. Dharma comprises those deeds, by knowing and rightly performing which, peace in the world and union with the Lord is obtained. Those actions which benefit either the doers or others are included in Dharma, but not if they lead to sufferings. The true criterion for recognizing Dharma is also the same. If suffering results from observing Dharma, there is some mistake in understanding it. In Mahabharat, when Karan destroyed the army of Yudhishter, there was great panic. He sent for Arjun and reprimanded him and spoke ill of his bow. Arjun placed his hand on his bow. Lord Krishna, who was with him, understood the move. He asked, "Arjun, what are you going to do?" He said, "I will kill Yudhishter. He has spoken ill of my bow and I have vowed to kill anyone who does so. Dharma has to be followed." Arjun said further, "It is the Dharma of a Kashtriya to fulfil his word. I will kill him." Lord Krishna asked, "Would you be happy by killing him?" He said, "No." The Lord said, "Dharma leads to happiness. It is clear that what you are about to do is not Dharma, but the reverse of it. Do not do it."

For worldly progress our duty consists in so performing the actions that we remain within the bounds of laws of the caste and society and sustain each other so that society may not split asunder. The rules of this path include bodily, family, social, national and political rules. Similarly, the path of spiritual progress and emancipation has its laws. It comprises pure detachment.

Sant Mat gives true guidance, both in worldly and spiritual matters, and while strengthening the human virtues, turns his thoughts to his Lord and takes him to Him.