Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions and spiritual practices based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana. Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, their specific teachings and practices. Observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism and the cultivation of the Paramitas.
Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Nichiren Buddhism and Tiantai, is found throughout East Asia. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region and Kalmykia. Buddhism is an Indian religion attributed to the teachings of the Buddha born Siddhārtha Gautama, known as the Tathāgata and Sakyamuni. Early texts have his personal name as "Gautama" or "Gotama" without any mention of "Siddhārtha," which appears to have been a kind of honorific title when it does appear; the details of Buddha's life are mentioned in many Early Buddhist Texts but are inconsistent, his social background and life details are difficult to prove, the precise dates uncertain. The evidence of the early texts suggests that he was born as Siddhārtha Gautama in Lumbini and grew up in Kapilavasthu, a town in the plains region of the modern Nepal-India border, that he spent his life in what is now modern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Some hagiographic legends state that his father was a king named Suddhodana, his mother was Queen Maya, he was born in Lumbini gardens. However, scholars such as Richard Gombrich consider this a dubious claim because a combination of evidence suggests he was born in the Shakyas community – one that gave him the title Shakyamuni, the Shakya community was governed by a small oligarchy or republic-like council where there were no ranks but where seniority mattered instead; some of the stories about Buddha, his life, his teachings, claims about the society he grew up in may have been invented and interpolated at a time into the Buddhist texts. According to the Buddhist sutras, Gautama was moved by the innate suffering of humanity and its endless repetition due to rebirth, he set out on a quest to end this repeated suffering. Early Buddhist canonical texts and early biographies of Gautama state that Gautama first studied under Vedic teachers, namely Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, learning meditation and ancient philosophies the concept of "nothingness, emptiness" from the former, "what is neither seen nor unseen" from the latter.
Finding these teachings to be insufficient to attain his goal, he turned to the practice of asceticism. This too fell short of attaining his goal, he turned to the practice of dhyana, which he had discovered in his youth, he famously sat in meditation under a Ficus religiosa tree now called the Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya in the Gangetic plains region of South Asia. He gained insight into the workings of karma and his former lives, attained enlightenment, certainty about the Middle Way as the right path of spiritual practice to end suffering from rebirths in Saṃsāra; as a enlightened Buddha, he attracted followers and founded a Sangha. Now, as the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life teaching the Dharma he had discovered, died at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India. Buddha's teachings were propagated by his followers, which in the last centuries of the 1st millennium BCE became over 18 Buddhist sub-schools of thought, each with its own basket of texts containing different interpretations and authentic teachings of the Buddha.
The Four Truths express the basic orientation of Buddhism: we crave and cling to impermanent states and things, dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful. This keeps us caught in saṃsāra, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth and dying again, but there is a way to liberation from this endless cycle to the state of nirvana, namely following the Noble Eightfold Path. The truth of dukkha is the basic insight that life in this mundane world, with its clinging and craving to impermanent states and things is dukkha, unsatisfactory. Dukkha can be translated as "incapable of satisfying," "the unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena". Dukkha is most translated as "suffering," but this is inaccurate, since it refers not to episodic suffering, but to the intrinsically unsat
A bhikkhu is an ordained male monastic in Buddhism. Male and female monastics are members of the Buddhist community; the lives of all Buddhist monastics are governed by a set of rules called the prātimokṣa or pātimokkha. Their lifestyles are shaped to support their spiritual practice: to live a simple and meditative life and attain nirvana. A person under the age of 20 cannot be ordained as a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni but can be ordained as a śrāmaṇera or śrāmaṇērī. Bhikkhu means "beggar" or "one who lives by alms"; the historical Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, having abandoned a life of pleasure and status, lived as an alms mendicant as part of his śramaṇa lifestyle. Those of his more serious students who renounced their lives as householders and came to study full-time under his supervision adopted this lifestyle; these full-time student members of the sangha became the community of ordained monastics who wandered from town to city throughout the year, living off alms and stopping in one place only for the Vassa, the rainy months of the monsoon season.
In the Dhammapada commentary of Buddhaghoṣa, a bhikkhu is defined as "the person who sees danger". He therefore seeks ordination to obtain release from it; the Dhammapada states: He is not a monk just because he lives on others' alms. Not by adopting outward form does one become a true monk. Whoever here lives a holy life, transcending both merit and demerit, walks with understanding in this world — he is called a monk. For historical reasons, the full ordination of women has been unavailable to Theravada and Vajrayana practitioners, although the full ordination for women has been reintroduced to many areas. In English literature before the mid-20th century, Buddhist monks were referred to by the term bonze when describing monks from East Asia and French Indochina; this term is derived Portuguese and French from Japanese bonsō, meaning'priest, monk'. It is rare in modern literature. Buddhist monks were once called talapoy or talapoin from French talapoin, itself from Portuguese talapão from Mon tala pōi, meaning'our lord'.
The Talapoys cannot be engaged in any of the temporal concerns of life. Having no tie, which unites their interests with those of the people, they are ready, at all times, with spiritual arms, to enforce obedience to the will of the sovereign; the talapoin is a monkey named after Buddhist monks just as the capuchin monkey is named after the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Theravada monasticism is organized around the guidelines found within a division of the Pāli Canon called the Vinaya Pitaka. Laypeople undergo ordination as a novitiate in a rite known as the "going forth". Sāmaneras are subject to the Ten Precepts. From there full ordination may take place. Bhikkhus are subject to a much longer set of rules known as the Prātimokṣa. In the Mahayana monasticism is part of the system of "vows of individual liberation"; these vows are taken by monks and nuns from the ordinary sangha, in order to develop personal ethical discipline. In Mahayana and Vajrayana, the term "sangha" is, in principle understood to refer to the aryasangha, the "community of the noble ones who have reached the first bhūmi".
These, need not be monks and nuns. The vows of individual liberation are taken in four steps. A lay person may take the five upāsaka and upāsikā vows; the next step is to enter the pabbajja or monastic way of life, which includes wearing monk's or nun's robes. After that, one can become a samanera or samaneri "novice"; the last and final step is to take all the vows of a bhikkhu or bhukkhuni "fully ordained monastic". Monastics take their vows for life but can renounce them and return to non-monastic life and take the vows again later. A person can take them up to three times or seven times in one life, depending on the particular practices of each school of discipline. In this way, Buddhism keeps the vows "clean", it is possible to keep them or to leave this lifestyle, but it is considered negative to break these vows. In Tibet, the upāsaka, pravrajyā and bhikṣu ordinations are taken at ages six and twenty-one or older, respectively; the special dress of ordained people, referred to in English as robes, comes from the idea of wearing a simple durable form of protection for the body from weather and climate.
In each tradition there is uniformity in the style of dress. Colour is chosen due to the wider availability of certain pigments in a given geographical region. In Tibet and the Himalayan regions red is the preferred pigment used in the dying of robes. In Burma, reddish brown. In China, Korea and Vietnam grey or black is common. Monks make their own robes from cloth, donated to them; the robes of Tibetan novices and monks differ in various aspects in the application of "holes" in the dress of monks. Some monks tear their robes into pieces and mend these pieces together again. Upāsakas cannot wear the "chö-göö"
Brahmin is a varna in Hinduism specialising as priests and protectors of sacred learning across generations. The traditional occupation of Brahmins was that of priesthood at the Hindu temples or at socio-religious ceremonies and rite of passage rituals such as solemnising a wedding with hymns and prayers. Theoretically, the Brahmins were the highest ranking of the four social classes. In practice, Indian texts suggest that Brahmins were agriculturalists, warriors and have held a variety of other occupations in the Indian subcontinent; the earliest inferred reference to "Brahmin" as a possible social class is in the Rigveda, occurs once, the hymn is called Purusha Sukta. According to this hymn in Mandala 10, Brahmins are described as having emerged from the mouth of Purusha, being that part of the body from which words emerge; this Purusha Sukta varna verse is now considered to have been inserted at a date into the Vedic text as a charter myth. Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, a professor of Sanskrit and Religious studies, state, "there is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much-subdivided and overarching caste system", "the varna system seems to be embryonic in the Rigveda and, both and a social ideal rather than a social reality".
Ancient texts describing community-oriented Vedic yajna rituals mention four to five priests: the hotar, the adhvaryu, the udgatar, the Brahmin and sometimes the ritvij. The functions associated with the priests were: The Hotri recites invocations and litanies drawn from the Rigveda; the Adhvaryu is the priest's assistant and is in charge of the physical details of the ritual like measuring the ground, building the altar explained in the Yajurveda. The adhvaryu offers oblations; the Udgatri is the chanter of hymns set to melodies and music drawn from the Samaveda. The udgatar, like the hotar, chants the introductory and benediction hymns; the Brahmin recites from the Atharvaveda. The Ritvij is the chief operating priest. According to Kulkarni, the Grhya-sutras state that Yajna, dana pratigraha are the "peculiar duties and privileges of brahmins"; the term Brahmin in Indian texts has signified someone, good and virtuous, not just someone of priestly class. Both Buddhist and Brahmanical literature, states Patrick Olivelle define "Brahmin" not in terms of family of birth, but in terms of personal qualities.
These virtues and characteristics mirror the values cherished in Hinduism during the Sannyasa stage of life, or the life of renunciation for spiritual pursuits. Brahmins, states Olivelle, were the social class; the Dharmasutras and Dharmasatras text of Hinduism describe the expectations and role of Brahmins. The rules and duties in these Dharma texts of Hinduism, are directed at Brahmins; the Gautama's Dharmasutra, the oldest of surviving Hindu Dharmasutras, for example, states in verse 9.54–9.55 that a Brahmin should not participate or perform a ritual unless he is invited to do so, but he may attend. Gautama outlines the following rules of conduct for a Brahmin, in Chapters 8 and 9: Be always truthful Teach his art only to virtuous men Follow rules of ritual purification Study Vedas with delight Never hurt any living creature Be gentle but steadfast Have self-control Be kind, liberal towards everyoneChapter 8 of the Dharmasutra, states Olivelle, asserts the functions of a Brahmin to be to learn the Vedas, the secular sciences, the Vedic supplements, the dialogues, the epics and the Puranas.
The text lists eight virtues that a Brahmin must inculcate: compassion, lack of envy, tranquility, auspicious disposition and lack of greed, asserts in verse 9.24–9.25, that it is more important to lead a virtuous life than perform rites and rituals, because virtue leads to achieving liberation. The Dharma texts of Hinduism such as Baudhayana Dharmasutra add charity, refraining from anger and never being arrogant as duties of a Brahmin; the Vasistha Dharmasutra in verse 6.23 lists discipline, self-control, truthfulness, Vedic learning, erudition and religious faith as characteristics of a Brahmin. In 13.55, the Vasistha text states that a Brahmin must not accept weapons, poison or liquor as gifts. The Dharmasastras such as Manusmriti, like Dharmsutras, are codes focussed on how a Brahmin must live his life, their relationship with a king and warrior class. Manusmriti dedicates 1,034 verses, the largest portion, on laws for and expected virtues of Brahmins, it asserts, for example, A well disciplined Brahmin, although he knows just the Savitri verse, is far better than an undisciplined one who eats all types of food and deals in all types of merchandise though he may know all three Vedas.
John Bussanich states that the ethical precepts set for Brahmins, in ancient Indian texts, are similar to Greek virtue-ethics, that "Manu's dharmic Brahmin can be compared to Aristotle's man of practical wisdom", that "the virtuous Brahmin is not unlike the Platonic-Aristotelian philosopher" with the difference that the latter was not sacerdotal. According to Abraham Eraly, "Brahmin as a varna hardly had any presence in historical records before the Gupta Empire era", when Buddhism dominated the land. "No Brahmin, no sacrifice, no ritualistic act of any kind even once, is referred to" in any Indian texts between third century BCE and
Ahimsa means'not to injure' and'compassion' and refers to a key virtue in Indian religions. The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hiṃs – to strike. Ahimsa is referred to as nonviolence, it applies to all living beings—including all animals—in ancient Indian religions. Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and an important tenet of Jainism and Buddhism. Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy. Ahimsa has been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Most popularly, Mahatma Gandhi believed in the principle of ahimsa. Ahimsa's precept of'cause no injury' includes one's deeds and thoughts. Classical literature of Hinduism such as Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as modern scholars debate principles of Ahimsa when one is faced with war and situations requiring self-defence.
The historic literature from India and modern discussions have contributed to theories of Just War, theories of appropriate self-defence. The word Ahimsa—sometimes spelled as Ahinsa—is derived from the Sanskrit root hiṃs – to strike. Nonviolence or Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and an important tenet of Jainism and Buddhism, it is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy. It has been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Parsvanatha, the twenty-third tirthankara of Jainism, advocated for and preached the concept of nonviolence in around eighth-century BC. Mahavira, the twenty-fourth and the last tirthankara further strengthened the idea in sixth-century BC. Ahimsa as an ethical concept evolved in Vedic texts.
The oldest scripts indirectly do not emphasise it. Over time, the Hindu scripts revise ritual practices and the concept of Ahimsa is refined and emphasised Ahimsa becomes the highest virtue by the late Vedic era. For example, hymn 10.22.25 in the Rig Veda uses the words Satya and Ahimsa in a prayer to deity Indra. The term Ahimsa appears in the text Taittiriya Shakha of the Yajurveda, where it refers to non-injury to the sacrificer himself, it occurs several times in the Shatapatha Brahmana in the sense of "non-injury". The Ahimsa doctrine is a late Vedic era development in Brahmanical culture; the earliest reference to the idea of non-violence to animals in a moral sense, is in the Kapisthala Katha Samhita of the Yajurveda, which may have been written in about the 8th century BCE. Bowker states the word is uncommon in the principal Upanishads. Kaneda gives examples of the word Ahimsa in these Upanishads. Other scholars suggest Ahimsa as an ethical concept that started evolving in the Vedas, becoming an central concept in Upanishads.
The Chāndogya Upaniṣad, dated to the 8th or 7th century BCE, one of the oldest Upanishads, has the earliest evidence for the Vedic era use of the word Ahimsa in the sense familiar in Hinduism. It bars violence against "all creatures" and the practitioner of Ahimsa is said to escape from the cycle of rebirths; some scholars state that this 8th or 7th-century BCE mention may have been an influence of Jainism on Vedic Hinduism. Others scholar state that this relationship is speculative, though Jainism is an ancient tradition the oldest traceable texts of Jainism tradition are from many centuries after the Vedic era ended. Chāndogya Upaniṣad names Ahimsa, along with Satyavacanam, Danam, Tapo, as one of five essential virtues; the Sandilya Upanishad lists ten forbearances: Ahimsa, Asteya, Daya, Kshama, Dhriti and Saucha. According to Kaneda, the term Ahimsa is an important spiritual doctrine shared by Hinduism and Jainism, it means'non-injury' and'non-killing'. It implies the total avoidance of harming of any kind of living creatures not only by deeds, but by words and in thoughts.
The Mahabharata, one of the epics of Hinduism, has multiple mentions of the phrase Ahimsa Paramo Dharma, which means: non-violence is the highest moral virtue. For example, Mahaprasthanika Parva has the verse: The above passage from Mahabharata emphasises the cardinal importance of Ahimsa in Hinduism, means: Some other examples where the phrase Ahimsa Paramo Dharma are discussed include Adi Parva, Vana Parva and Anushasana Parva; the Bhagavad Gita, among other things, discusses the doubts and questions about appropriate response when one faces systematic violence or war. These verses develop the concepts of lawful violence in self-defence and the theories of
Om written as Aum, is the most sacred syllable, symbol or mantra in Hinduism. The syllable is chanted either independently or before a mantra; the Om sound is called the Shabda-Brahman. Om is part of the iconography found in ancient and medieval era manuscripts, temples and spiritual retreats in Hinduism and Jainism; the symbol has a spiritual meaning in all Indian dharmas, but the meaning and connotations of Om vary between the diverse schools within and across the various traditions. In Hinduism, Om is one of the most important spiritual sounds, it refers to Brahman. The syllable is found at the beginning and the end of chapters in the Vedas, the Upanishads, other Hindu texts, it is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during the recitation of spiritual texts, during puja and private prayers, in ceremonies of rites of passages such as weddings, sometimes during meditative and spiritual activities such as Yoga. It is used in other Dharmic religions, such as Buddhism and Sikhism; the syllable Om is referred to as onkara and pranava.
The syllable Om is referred to as praṇava. Other used terms are ekākṣara and omkāra. Udgitha, a word found in Sama Veda and bhasya based on it, is used as a name of the syllable; the word has three phonemes: "a-u-m", though it is described as trisyllabic despite this being either archaic or the result of translation. The syllable Om is first mentioned in the Upanishads, the mystical texts associated with the Vedanta philosophy, it has variously been associated with concepts of "cosmic sound" or "mystical syllable" or "affirmation to something divine", or as symbolism for abstract spiritual concepts in the Upanishads. In the Aranyaka and the Brahmana layers of Vedic texts, the syllable is so widespread and linked to knowledge, that it stands for the "whole of Veda"; the etymological foundations of Om are discussed in the oldest layers of the Vedantic texts. The Aitareya Brahmana of Rig Veda, in section 5.32, for example suggests that the three phonetic components of Om correspond to the three stages of cosmic creation, when it is read or said, it celebrates the creative powers of the universe.
The Brahmana layer of Vedic texts equate Om with Bhur-bhuvah-Svah, the latter symbolizing "the whole Veda". They offer various shades of meaning to Om, such as it being "the universe beyond the sun", or that, "mysterious and inexhaustible", or "the infinite language, the infinite knowledge", or "essence of breath, everything that exists", or that "with which one is liberated"; the Sama Veda, the poetical Veda, orthographically maps Om to the audible, the musical truths in its numerous variations and attempts to extract musical meters from it. The syllable Om evolves to mean many abstract ideas in the earliest Upanishads. Max Müller and other scholars state that these philosophical texts recommend Om as a "tool for meditation", explain various meanings that the syllable may be in the mind of one meditating, ranging from "artificial and senseless" to "highest concepts such as the cause of the Universe, essence of life, Brahman and Self-knowledge". Phonologically, the syllable ओम् represents /aum/, monophthongised to in Sanskrit phonology.
When occurring within spoken Sanskrit, the syllable is subject to the normal rules of sandhi in Sanskrit grammar, however with the additional peculiarity that after preceding a or ā, the au of aum does not form vriddhi but guna per Pāṇini 6.1.95. It is sometimes written ओ३म्, notably by Arya Samaj, where ३ is pluta, indicating a length of three morae — an overlong nasalised close-mid back rounded vowel; the Om symbol is a ligature in Devanagari, combining chandrabindu. In Unicode, the symbol is encoded at U+0950 ॐ DEVANAGARI OM and at U+1F549 OM SYMBOL; the Om or Aum symbol is found in regional scripts. In Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura era coins are embossed with Aum along with other symbols. Nagari or Devanagari representations are found epigraphically on medieval sculpture, such as the dancing Shiva; the Om symbol, with epigraphical variations, is found in many Southeast Asian countries. For example, it is called Unalom or Aum in Thailand and has been a part of various flags and official emblems such as in the Thong Chom Klao of King Rama IV.
The Cambodian official seal has incorporated the Aum symbol. In traditional Chinese characters, it is written as 唵, as 嗡 in simplified Chinese characters. There have been proposals that the Om syllable may have had written representations in Brahmi script, dating to before the Common Era. A proposal by Deb held that the swastika is "a monogrammatic representa
Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions like Hinduism, Jainism and others. There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages. In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible, includes duties, laws, virtues and "right way of living". In Buddhism, dharma means "cosmic law and order", is applied to the teachings of Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is the term for "phenomena". Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of proper religious practice; the word dharma was in use in the historical Vedic religion, its meaning and conceptual scope has evolved over several millennia. The ancient Tamil moral text of Tirukkural is based on aṟam, the Tamil term for dharma; the antonym of dharma is adharma. The Classical Sanskrit noun dharma or the Prakrit Dhaṃma are a derivation from the root dhṛ, which means "to hold, keep", takes the meaning of "what is established or firm", hence "law".
It is derived from an older Vedic Sanskrit n-stem dharman-, with a literal meaning of "bearer, supporter", in a religious sense conceived as an aspect of Rta. In the Rigveda, the word appears as an n-stem, dhárman-, with a range of meanings encompassing "something established or firm". Figuratively, it means "sustainer" and "supporter", it is semantically similar to the Greek Themis. In Classical Sanskrit, the noun becomes thematic: dharma-; the word dharma derives from Proto-Indo-European root *dʰer-, which in Sanskrit is reflected as class-1 root dhṛ. Etymologically it is related to Avestan dar-, Latin firmus, Lithuanian derė́ti, Lithuanian dermė and darna and Old Church Slavonic drъžati. Classical Sanskrit word dharmas would formally match with Latin o-stem firmus from Proto-Indo-European dʰer-mo-s "holding", were it not for its historical development from earlier Rigvedic n-stem. In Classical Sanskrit, in the Vedic Sanskrit of the Atharvaveda, the stem is thematic: dhárma-. In Prakrit and Pāli, it is rendered dhamma.
In some contemporary Indian languages and dialects it alternatively occurs as dharm. Ancient translationsWhen the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka wanted in the 3rd century BCE to translate the word "Dharma" into Greek and Aramaic, he used the Greek word Eusebeia in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription and the Kandahar Greek Edicts, the Aramaic word Qsyt in the Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription. Dharma is a concept of central importance in Indian religion, it has multiple meanings in Hinduism and Jainism. It is difficult to provide a single concise definition for dharma, as the word has a long and varied history and straddles a complex set of meanings and interpretations. There is no equivalent single-word synonym for dharma in western languages. There have been numerous, conflicting attempts to translate ancient Sanskrit literature with the word dharma into German and French; the concept, claims Paul Horsch, has caused exceptional difficulties for modern commentators and translators. For example, while Grassmann's translation of Rig-veda identifies seven different meanings of dharma, Karl Friedrich Geldner in his translation of the Rig-veda employs 20 different translations for dharma, including meanings such as "law", "order", "duty", "custom", "quality", "model", among others.
However, the word dharma has become a accepted loanword in English, is included in all modern unabridged English dictionaries. The root of the word dharma is "dhri", which means "to support, hold, or bear", it is the thing that regulates the course of change by not participating in change, but that principle which remains constant. Monier-Williams, the cited resource for definitions and explanation of Sanskrit words and concepts of Hinduism, offers numerous definitions of the word dharma, such as that, established or firm, steadfast decree, law, custom, right, virtue, ethics, religious merit, good works, character, property. Yet, each of these definitions is incomplete, while the combination of these translations does not convey the total sense of the word. In common parlance, dharma means "right way of living" and "path of rightness"; the meaning of the word dharma depends on the context, its meaning has evolved as ideas of Hinduism have developed through history. In the earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, dharma meant cosmic law, the rules that created the universe from chaos, as well as rituals.
In certain contexts, dharma designates human behaviours considered necessary for order of things in the universe, principles that prevent chaos and action necessary to all life in nature, family as well as at the individual level. Dharma encompasses ideas such as duty, character, religion and all behaviour considered appropriate, correct or morally upright; the antonym of dharma is adharma, meaning that, "not dharma"