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Dharma – Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Dharma: Its Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative

Alf Hiltebeitel


From a verbal root meaning “to hold” or “uphold,” dharma is taken to have been the main term by which Buddhism and Hinduism came, over about five centuries, to describe their distinctive visions of the good and well‐rewarded life. From about 300 BCE to about 200 CE, Buddhist and Brahmanical authors used it to clarify and classify their mutual and contending values in relation to dramatically changing historical conditions. Before this, the term had no such centrality, and after it, each tradition came to define normative dharma separately as the term's interreligious dimension lost interest. T ... More

Keywords: dharma, Sanskrit epics, Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇā, Buddhacarita, Manu, The Laws of Manu, Aśoka Maurya, itihāsa, yuga, kalpa, royal dharma, rājadharma, women's dharma, strīdharma

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2011 Print ISBN-13: 9780195394238
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394238.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Alf Hiltebeitel, author
Department of Religion, The George Washington University
Author Webpage