The Bhagavad Gita

Dharma Term Analysis

A central concept in Hindu philosophy, and arguably the central concept in the Bhagavad Gita, dharma is a moral code of behavior that follows from one’s sacred duty to the gods, other people, and the universe. Over the course of the text, Arjuna learns to follow his dharma as a warrior, despite his initial worry that his dharma as a member of the Bharata family should prevent him from killing his cousins, the Kauravas. Following one’s dharma, or acting ethically, means performing in accord with one’s position in the world and coming closer to the divine; this is generally a function of one’s caste position. Vishnu often enters the material world (here, in the form of Krishna) to restore dharma in the universe.

Dharma Quotes in The Bhagavad Gita

The The Bhagavad Gita quotes below are all either spoken by Dharma or refer to Dharma. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Bhagavad Gita published in 2008.
Discourse 1 Quotes

The dharma of caste,
and the eternal dharma
of family,
are uprooted
by these wrongful acts
of family-destroyers,
since they create
a blending of caste.

Related Characters: Arjuna (speaker), Krishna
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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Discourse 18 Quotes

One who learns
and recites
this conversation of ours
so filled with dharma
would sacrifice to me
with the sacrifice of knowledge.

Related Characters: Krishna (speaker), Arjuna
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dharma Term Timeline in The Bhagavad Gita

The timeline below shows where the term Dharma appears in The Bhagavad Gita. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Discourse 1
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
...happened when his sons (the Kauravas) met their cousins (the Pandavas) “in the field of dharma” to battle for the kingdom that both sides claim. Sanjaya recounts Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava... (full context)
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
...would take no joy in this evil battle, which would destroy his family and its dharma forever, defiling their women, corrupting the caste system, and leading their ancestors to fall into... (full context)
Discourse 2
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
...of pity, sense of moral wrongness, and anticipation of endless grief cloud his knowledge of dharma, so he asks Krishna for guidance. (full context)
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
The kshatriya warrior’s dharma, Krishna continues, lies precisely in battle, so Arjuna will harm his dharma by refusing to... (full context)
Discourse 3
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...people should not succumb to their power. Ultimately, it is better to follow one’s own dharma, even unsuccessfully, than the dharma of another. (full context)
Discourse 4
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...he has had many births, bringing himself into being through his own “creative force” whenever dharma is lacking. He strives to fix dharma, saving the good and punishing the evil—when souls... (full context)
Discourse 7
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...yoga practitioners. He is the “ancient seed of all beings,” and beings’ desire to follow dharma. While Krishna is not in the gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas, they are all... (full context)
Discourse 9
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...together, can purify him. This “kingly” secret encourages him to take pleasure in performing his dharma, which is necessary to supersede rebirth. (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
...god Indra’s heaven and lose their merit, they return to the “mortal realm” and, following dharma, participate in the world of desire and things. Krishna brings yoga’s “secure peace” to those... (full context)
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...on the right path and started to become good. This evildoer can quickly progress through dharma to “eternal peace.” No devotee of Krishna’s can be lost, and even women, vaishyas, and... (full context)
Discourse 11
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
...sees his endless light completely and proclaims him the highest, “the great refuge of all,” dharma’s ancient and eternal protector, with the endless power of infinite limbs and a light that... (full context)
Discourse 14
Krishna, the Absolute, and Human Knowledge Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
...and dishonor. Of course, one must also devotedly serve Krishna, who supports immortal Brahman, everlasting dharma, and the “unique joy” that they bring. (full context)
Discourse 18
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
...discern these distinctions, and tamasic action inverts them, leading people to perform the opposite of dharma. Steadiness in yoga, actions, and breath are sattvic; steadiness in wealth, desire, and dharma for... (full context)
Detachment and Dharma Theme Icon
Reincarnation and the Self Theme Icon
Forms of Worship Theme Icon
It is always better to perform one’s own dharma than another’s, even if one does not perform it perfectly—after all, first tries are usually... (full context)