Webster’s dictionary defines dharma as "a. an individual's duty fulfilled by observance of custom or law; b. the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence or the divine law; and c. conformity to one's duty and nature."
It is the last aspect of dharma, which is the most difficult to interpret. What constitutes the duty of an individual? There are no easy answers. In the Hindu context, this duty is defined by several variables: the individual’s place in society and family, their stop in the cosmic hierarchy, their chosen life path, and even the time, situation, season, and place in which they find themselves. A.K. Ramanujan calls this the “context-sensitive nature of dharma,” in “Is There an Indian Way of Thinking?”
Perhaps the best way to fix the meaning of dharma is by approaching it from the vantage point of the end goal, which in Indic religions is salvation, moksha, or nirvana. Dharma is that conduct which takes you closer to salvation: often this conduct is...
(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1690 words.)