Dharma and Kama

Dharma means that which is to be held fast or kept-law, usage, custom, religion, piety, right, equity duty, good works, and morality. It is, in short, the eternal and immutable (sanatana) principles which hold together the universe in its parts and in its whole whether organic or inorganic matter.

“That which supports and holds together the peoples (of the universe) is dharma.” “It was declared for well-being and bringeth well-being. It upholds and preserves. Because it supports and holds together, it is called Dharma. By Dharma are the people upheld.” It is, in short, not an artificial rule, but the principle of right living. The mark of dharma and of the good is acara (good conduct), from which dharma is born and fair fame is acquired here and hereafter.

1 The sages embraced acara as the root of all tapas.
2 Dharma is not only the principle of right living, but also its application.

That course of meritorious action by which man fits himself for this world, heaven, and liberation. Dharma is also the result of good action that is, the merit acquired thereby. The basis of the sanataria-dharma is revelation (sruti) as presented in the various Sastras-Smrti, Purana, and Tantra. In the Devi-Bhagavata (1) it is said that in the Kaliyuga Visnu in the form of Vyasa divides the one Veda into many parts, with the desire to benefit men, and with the knowledge that they are short-lived and of small intelli¬gence, and hence unable to master the whole. This dharma is the first of the four leading aims (caturvarga) of all being.


Kama is desire, such as that for wealth, success, family, position, or other forms of happiness for self or others. It also involves the notion of the necessity for the possession of great and noble aims, desires and ambitions, for such possession is the characteristic of greatness of soul. Desire, whether of the higher or lower kinds, must however, be lawful, for man is subject to dharma, which regulates it.

1. Mahabharata, S’anti-Parva (CIC. 88). Anusasana-Parva, CIV.