Dharma, rta, satya

K S Arjunwadkar arjunwadkar at MCMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 28 07:10:03 UTC 1999

Date sent:              Sun, 27 Jun 1999 18:15:53 -0700
Send reply to:          Indology <INDOLOGY at LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK>
From:                   "B. Reusch" <reusch at UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU>
Subject:                Dharma, rta, satya
To:                     INDOLOGY at LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK

>  Artur Karp wrote:
> >
> >one more
> >version of the core conflict of the Mbh.: that between the law and the truth
> >(dharma vs. satya.)
> It would appear that those scholars who read Rta in the Rg veda as "cosmic
> order" would tend to see equivalences between vedic Rta and epic dharma. On
> the other hand, those scholars who read rta in the RV as "truth"see
> themselves as the opposing camp -- truth vs cosmic order.
> Would satya in the MBh, for the Rta = truth advocates, be some kind of an
> epic equivalent of vedic Rta?
> Beatrice Reusch
> University of California, Berkeley

The difference between rta and satya on the one hand and dharma
on the other can be best illustrated by that between 'constitution'
and 'rules and regulations' of an organisation. Keeping the
constitution intact, rules are changed from time to time. Ancient
authors including those of the Mahabharata are aware of this
difference as can be judged from the following quotes:
(1)  zrutir vibhinnA smRtayash ca bhinnA
        naiko munir yasya vacaH pramANam /
        dharmasya tattvaM nihitaM guhAyAM
        mahAjano yena gataH sa panthAH // (Mahabharata)
(2)  anye kRtayuge dharmAs tretAyAM dvApare 'pare /
        anye kaliyuge nRNAM yugahrAsAnurUpataH //
To use modern terminology, rta /satya is nature while dharma is
culture which is man-made. It is an erroneous identification of the
two that has led human groups to devastating conflicts as history
(including the current one) amply testifies.

KSA <arjunwadkar at mcmail.com>

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