Dharma Defined

Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj describes how to ascertain one’s duty.

vidvadbhiḥ sevitaḥ sadbhir nityam adveṣa-rāgibhiḥ
hṛdayenābhyanujñāto yo dharmas taṁ nibodhata
(Manu-saṁhitā: 2.1)

Vidvadbhiḥ means Vedavidbhiḥ, those who are well-versed in the Vedic knowledge, vidvān, scholars. Sevitaḥ means what they accept in their life as practicable, what they themselves are practising, that is dharma. Sadbhir: dharma is not only practised by the scholars but also by the sādhus, those who have not only mere intellectual realisation and understanding but who have clear affinity and attraction for the guidance of the revealed truth (śābde pare cha niṣṇātaṁ). Nityam adveṣa-rāgibhiḥ: they are indifferent to any gain and loss of this world. They are perfect spiritualists; they have no faith in mundane loss and gain. No dveṣa and no rāga: neither preference for nor the spirit of rejection towards mundane things or wealth. The fourth sign is hṛdayenābhyanujñāto: one must get one’s heart’s approval, internal approval. One’s heart will say, “Yes. It is this. I am satisfied.” These four signs must be present in the conception of one’s duty (dharma): approval by the Vedas, approval by the realised souls, no affinity for the loss and gain of the mundane world, and the approval by one’s own conscience, one’s inner feeling. These four signs should be found in one‘s duty.

In Bhāgavat (11.2.42) we hear: bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktir anyatra. Vidvadbhiḥ sevitaḥ sadbhir means Pareśānubhavo. Adveṣa-rāgibhiḥ means viraktir anyatra. And bhaktiḥ means approval from the heart (hṛdayenābhyanujñāto).

Who will be a bona fide preacher? Swāmī Mahārāj said, “Everyone who sincerely came to me and appreciated my cause, my truth, is a bona fide agent to distribute, to extend, my call to the public.” But one must be indifferent to the loss and gain of this mundane world, one must be true to one’s own principle and the principle of Swāmī Mahārāj, and one will have to have some sort of knowledge of the scripture: Nāma-bhajan and other things. Also, of course, the heart’s approval must be with them. They must be sincere; they must feel some urge within, “This is the wealth of my Guru Mahārāj. I should distribute it all around and dispel the darkness of the people at large. This is the blessing of the Lord.”


Spoken 24 November 1981.


vidvadbhiḥ sevitaḥ sadbhir nityam adveṣa-rāgibhiḥ
hṛdayenābhyanujñāto yo dharmas taṁ nibodhata
(Manu-saṁhitā: 2.1)

nibodhata–Know dharmaḥ–dharma [to be] tam–that yaḥ–which [is] abhyanujñātaḥ–approved hṛdayena–by the heart [and] sevitaḥ–practised vidvadbhiḥ–by the knowledgeable sadbhiḥ–sādhus (those who are adherent to truth) [who are] nityam–always adveṣa–free from aversion [and] rāgibhiḥ–attachment.

Know dharma to be that which is approved by the heart and practised by the sādhus who are versed in the Vedas and always free from attachment and aversion (to the mundane).”

bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktir
anyatra chaiṣa trika eka-kālaḥ
prapadyamānasya yathāśnataḥ syus
tuṣṭiḥ puṣṭiḥ kṣud-apāyo ’nughāsam
(Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: 11.2.42)

As one who eats feels satisfaction, nourishment, and relief from hunger with each mouthful, so a surrendered soul simultaneously develops devotion (bhaktiḥ), realisation of the Supreme Lord (Pareśānubhavaḥ), and detachment from all else (viraktiḥ anyatra).”