What is Dharma?
Once upon a time, deep in a mystical forest, there lived a revered sage named Kaushika. He was known far and wide as one of the most respected and wise sages in the entire land of Bharatvarsha. Kaushika held an unwavering belief that truth was the essence of Dharma, the righteous path in life. He considered the pursuit of truth to be his key to attaining heaven.
One fateful day, a group of frightened villagers sought refuge in the forest, fleeing from a band of ruthless dacoits. As they concealed themselves among the thick foliage and towering trees, Kaushika noticed their presence. Soon after, the dacoits appeared, scouring the forest in search of their prey. They approached the sage, demanding to know the whereabouts of the villagers.
Kaushika, bound by his commitment to truth, found himself facing a moral dilemma. He knew that revealing the truth would lead to the villagers’ capture and inevitable demise. Yet, the weight of his years of spiritual practice and devotion to truthfulness pressed heavily upon him. With a heavy heart, he uttered the truth, divulging the location of the villagers. Tragically, the dacoits found the villagers and mercilessly put an end to their lives.
Years passed, and Kaushika’s mortal journey came to an end. As he reached the gates of heaven, expecting to be welcomed with open arms, he was instead redirected to the depths of hell. The consequence of his lie, the lie that could have saved innocent lives, had led him astray from the path of righteousness.
The question comes.
Truth is Dharma but Dharma is not only the truth, so what is Dharma?
A profound revelation came much later during the great war of Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna.
धारणात् धर्म इत्याहुः धर्मों धारयति प्रजाः ।
यः स्यात् धारणसंयुक्तः स धर्म इति निश्चयः ।।
That which holds together unites and removes separation that is called dharma.
Dharma, in its true essence, is not solely limited to the concept of truth. Rather, it is a comprehensive principle that upholds and protects the welfare of individuals and society as a whole.
The story is from the book Mahabharat Unravelled by Ami Ganatara