“Dharma is knowledge prominently directed to the achievement of desired happiness here (i.e. in this life) and hereafter by means of appropriate actions”. (Khan, Benjamin. The Concept of Dharma in Valmiki) Rama and Krishna have been set as perfect exemplars of Dharma in the texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata respectively. They are considered to be the reincarnations of God Visnu, a Supreme Being, and supposedly lived their lives according to the Dharmic (or right) way of life. However, the stories of Rama and Krishna in the texts include some of their actions, which are questionable to the act of Dharma. This may lead one to question Ram and Krishna as true exemplars of Dharma.
To understand and fully analyze if the roles of Rama and Krishna are in accordance with Dharma, one must understand Dharma first. In Khan’s book, The Concept of Dharma in Valmiki, he finds it hard to find a proper definition for the word, Dharma. Khan believes there is much more to Dharma than one specific definition that can encompass the whole meaning. Khan says, “Dharma is created for the well being of all the creation. All that is free from doing harm to any created being is certainly, Dharma for indeed Dharma is created to keep all creation free from harm”. So Khan is basically saying that Dharma is created so that all beings have a correct path to follow in their lives. He implies that anyone who follows the Dharmic way of life will not cause anyone harm, and hence lead a moral and rational way of life. Khan further expands on the purpose of Dharma by saying, “To order life in human society we are always confronted with certain problems, and we have to settle these within the framework of society otherwise life becomes impossible.” Khan views Dharma as a means to create a framework within a society to deal with the chaos and conflict that humans arise due to different reasons. He says that there must be a framework within a society, which is mutually agreed upon by the existing society. Dharma is embedded in that comprehensive framework which is to be followed by the society without asking any questions.
“It has already been mentioned that wherever conscious living beings congregate some classes are bound to take place, and the first and the most obvious way of preventing conflicts of interest in a community is for all its members to have the same aims, same interests, same desires, hopes and fears, in fact the same dispositions…Thus primitive ethics is deontological, a matter of rigid duties, taboos, customs, and commandment, the fixed and unalterable.”
Khan then expresses that Dharma unites the various castes in a society. He starts off with the fact that castes will always be formed within any society. He says that these different castes will have huge differences within the society but Dharma will unite these castes. He says that Dharma provides everyone with the same aims, desires, hopes and fears but also allows the different castes to have different roles...