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In Sanskrit most words can be derived from smaller words called roots. These are called dhātus in Sanskrit. Even without training in Sanskrit grammar one can learn to spot the dhātu within a word. For example, the dhātu of the common word karma is kri. Kri means ‘to do’ and karma means action, so one can easily see the relationship between kri and karma. Another common word is deva which means a god. The dhātu of deva is div which means ‘to shine’. A deva is a shinning one. A devī is a female shining one, a goddess. Even the English word divine is derived from the Sanskrit dhātu div. So literally something which is divine is shining. Another common word is rājā, a king, which is derived from the dhātu, rāj which also means ‘to shine’. A maharaj is a great king. Maha means big or great in Sanskrit. Therefore with a little knowledge of dhātus one can get an insight into the inner meaning of words. It’s actually fun to try and guess
the dhātu of a word and then learn its meaning! In Hinduism, of course, the big word is dharma. So what is the dhātu of dharma? Dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root dhri meaning to hold up, to carry, to bear, or to sustain. Human society, for example, is sustained and upheld by the dharma performed by its members. Parents protecting and maintaining children and children being obedient to parents are dharmas. Therefore one of the dharmas of parents is properly raise and look after children. One of the dharmas of children is to show respect and obeisance to parents and elders etc. On many police cars in United States it says “to protect and serve”. This is actually a statement of the dharma of the police. The head of state protecting the country is the dharma of kings, presidents and prime ministers. In these contexts dharma has the meaning of duty. Performance of duty upholds and sustains society. Dharma also employs the meaning of law, religion, virtue, and ethics. These things also uphold and sustain the proper the functioning of human society. And something even more interesting is the use of the word dharma in Indian philosophy. Here dharma refers to the defining quality of an object. Four instance, liquidity is one of the essential dharmas of water; coldness is a dharma of ice, and heat is a dharma of fire. In this case we can think that the existence of an object is sustained and defined by its essential attributes, dharmas. Dharma is indeed an important word!


Shukavak Dasa

(Guest Blogger at Go Dharmic)

Palm Springs, California

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