Most people think both religion and dharma are the same, but it is a misconception. There is a huge difference between religion and dharma. As per western people, Hinduism is a ‘Religion’ but this is not the exact translation. In clear words, Hinduism represents Dharma in the best way possible.
The word ‘Religion’ means ‘something that leads an individual to God.’ Whereas, the word ‘Dharma’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Dhri’ which means upholding together and sustain. It shows that dharma has a broad meaning as compared to religion. This is just a basic understanding of religion and dharma. Now, let’s dive into the details:
Religion is something which is originated by someone. It can be found at a place where a number of people gather together to worship common God, symbol, spiritual text, or a common origin/originator. A religion involves an army of followers who followed a different faith earlier but are now following a specific faith that they completely believe in. More precisely:
- Religion is something that is created by someone.
- Religion is a mixture of varying belief systems.
- Religion includes laws of God.
- Religion was established by a religious movement.
- Religion has a specified period of initiation.
- Religion is a group of people who define several essential terms including God, nature, its creation, existence, the reason for creation, space and time, life and death, etc.
- Religion is always concerned with the strength of people related to it.
The word dharma stands for duty. It is a way of life or way of living that has been followed since beginning of civilization. Dharma is a kind of knowledge or education imparted to an individual to lead his/her life in a determined manner. Sometimes, it is also referred to as a continuous and complete education. Basically, dharma relies on the principle of truth. It is based on different stages that a person passes through in his/her lifespan, i.e., from birth to childhood to adolescence to old age to death. More clearly:
- Dharma is not man-made.
- Dharma means duty, responsibility, and commitment.
- Dharma involves the fundamentals of God, space and time, life, nature, its creation, existence, death, and more.
- Dharma is righteousness.
- Dharma is the truth, not preached.
- Dharma can be learned, practiced, and followed.
- Dharma is timeless.
- Anyone who follows dharma progresses in his path towards self-realization and understanding the ultimate reality of life.
- If karma is the righteous movement, dharma is the righteous decision.
A lot of people often translate dharma as religion (a kind of faith), but the reality is – dharma is not a religion. In fact, it is an ordering principle that is independent of what is understood by the word religion or an individual’s way of worship and faith. Dharma is an ancient term which is non-exclusive, non-conclusive, and non-divisive. It is a quest for understanding the consciousness order and cosmic order of this universe at a personal level.
Like religion, dharma never seeks to restrict people into denominations and categories. It encourages unity, tolerance, and self-realization among people and helps them to attain liberation in this life. On the other side, religion is restrictive in relating to parts of social conduct and parts of society. Hence, it is clear that the concept of religion is totally different from the concept of dharma.