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Book: Exploring Hindu Philosophy

Chapter: Multiple Modes of Morality

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42879


A leitmotif running through roughly two millennia of Hindu philosophy is that an integral dimension of human flourishing is the cultivation of the discipline of seeing oneself as another. The fundamental concept is dharma, which is a polyvalent term encompassing connotations such as order, basis, stability, essential nature, duty, and proper way of living. If fire naturally rises upwards and unsupported stones naturally fall downwards, such movements are encoded in their dharma, and if human beings should cultivate self-control, truthfulness, benevolence, and altruism, such self-cultivation is a constitutive element of their dharma in the world. Across the multiple tapestries of Hindu cosmologies, the exhortations to enact a world-structuring dharma exist in a somewhat uneasy tension with the quest of a world-transcending overcoming of finitude. The milieus of dharma, which give structure to worldly living, are immersed in impermanence while the spiritual self (ātman) is the unshakeable citadel of bliss.

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