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Dharma in Ancient Indian Thought: Tracing the Continuity of Ideas from the Vedas to the Mahbhrata

ISBN: 9781843821854
Publisher: Hardinge Simpole Limited
Publication Date: 2007-12-19
Number of pages: 240
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"The fundamental importance of the concept of dharma for the Hindu tradition and any account of it is matched by the resistance of this concept to comprehensive definition and comprehensive monographic treatment.1 The term dharma has the widest scope of application covering all areas of human life. It is the concept the Hindus have used for centuries to articulate what is right, both true and proper, in every sphere to which they turned their minds - religious, philosophical, social, legal - the list is as endless as the propensity of the human mind to conceptualisation. Through the particular meaning it has in any given context dharma highlights the uniqueness of every moment of life, whereas through its operation across contexts it emphasizes the interconnectedness of life's particulars. The context sensitivity of dharma makes it necessary to contextualise any study of it. My treatment of it is not and cannot be comprehensive: the aim of the present work is to study the concept of dharma in its religio-philosophical dimension, tracing its development from the Vedas to the didactic passages of the Mahàbhàrata. I believe that studying dharma from the religio-philosophical perspective is a useful starting point: due to the pervasiveness of religious thought in the Hindu tradition the meanings dharma has in this sphere inform its use in other spheres. A competent examination of dharma in its religio-philosophical aspect can therefore chart the domain of dharma in broad outlines which can be subsequently filled in with more specific studies. In the religio-philosophical, as in any other of its semantic fields, the concept of dharma cannot be studied in isolation. As a master key to a large network of concepts and ideas, dharma opens a wide field of investigation. To account for the developments in the ideology of dharma one must look at all the significant religio-philosophical developments in the period under consideration. " - from the Introduction

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