Saturday, January 16, 2010

Indian Epic Storybooks: Dharma

Dharma is often translated in English as "justice" but also as "truth" or what is "right." It refers to the moral wholesomeness of the world, to integrity and order. In the Hindu world view, the Dharma of the world is constantly diminishing as over time things get worse and worse. With each action, though, you have the choice to either add to the Dharma of the world or else to diminish the Dharma. As a result, every single story poses a question of Dharma: are the characters in the story positively supporting Dharma or are they acting against Dharma? For a Dharma Storybook, you can include any story because in every choice they make people are building up Dharma or tearing it down; your challenge is thus to find the four stories that best illustrate the aspects of Dharma that you want your readers to understand.

To get some ideas about how students have approached this topic in the past, take a look at these Storybooks about Dharma. You might also want to read the Dharma article at Wikipedia, and also the Dharma in Hinduism article at About.com. In addition to being of great importance in Hinduism, Dharma is also a central concept in Buddhism, and the Dharmachakra, "The Wheel of Dharma," is one of the most important symbols in Buddhist iconography.

The image below is a Dharmachakra from the Sun Temple in Orissa, India:


This type of chakra, or "wheel," can also be seen in the flag of India:


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