Example Of Essay On Dharma And Filial Piety
The concepts grounded in most Eastern religions have a great similarity to each other. Since Hinduism originated much before most other Eastern religions, the Vedic thought has a very strong influence on other Eastern religions, including Buddhism and Confucianism. Consequently, while the religions may have certain things in common, they are markedly different in their concepts and beliefs. This essay will compare the ideals of the Hindu concept of Dharma and the Confucian concept of Filial Piety.
The word ‘Dharma’ in Hinduism has many meanings depending on the context in which the term is used. Dharma is broadly used to indicate matters of natural law, welfare, ethics, and direction of activities that lead towards transcendental realization. In the case of law, Dharma becomes the factor that is responsible for the moral order in the world and is also a determining factor in the various Yugas (ages or epochs). In the first Yuga, the moral order was at its highest and everyone strove to uphold Dharma with a relative decay of Dharma in each passing Yuga. The present age, of Kaliyuga, is the worst of all these Yugas since this is the era when Dharma is neither upheld nor respected by people. As stressed in the Mahabharata by Lord Krishna, when lawlessness prevails and Dharma is completely destroyed Vishnu reincarnates on earth to protect the followers of Dharma and uphold law and order on earth. Each of these ages culminates in a cycle of destruction and recreation with the first yuga starting all over again in a sign that Dharma has been preserved and upheld. However, this phenomena takes a very long time (several hundred thousand years for each yuga). Thus, the concept of Dharma is a pivotal belief in the Hindu school of law and ethics with most of the Puranas and the Epics (Mahabharat and Ramayana) focusing on this concept. Most people, even today, follow this law in day to day life to as much extent possible.
In some cases, however, Dharma also indicates religion and also includes duties that one must perform during one’s life. (Fisher 71) The rules of Dharma also require a Hindu to perform certain rituals related to the five main entities – Gods, the Seers (the sages who heard or wrote down the Vedas in a decipherable form), People (especially one’s elders), Ancestors and Animals. The Vedas prescribe elaborate, yet meaningful, rituals that one can perform based on the reason for performing the same. The performance of these rituals and other religious duties, in Hinduism, also fall under the ambit of Dharma. Such duties could also include following in one’s ancestral profession, reverence of elderly people in one’s family and the performance of certain rituals that venerate one’s ancestors. Thus, one can understand that the term Dharma is not confined to just one aspect of Hinduism, but is rather a central aspect of the religion.
The essay would now consider the concept of Filial Piety in Confucianism. The heart of moral refinement is filial piety to one’s parents. According to the Confucian thought, there are three grades of filial piety – this begins with supporting one’s parents (at the lower level), the second is not to bring humiliation to one’s parents and ancestors (at the intermediate level), and the highest is to glorify them. (Fisher 210) In doing so, Confucius also explicitly recommends that a married couple has a duty towards both their own parents as well as their mutual in-laws. The principle dictates that neither of these sets of parents be ignored by the preceding generation. Further, the concept of ancestor veneration (Li) is also a virtue as per Confucius with the principle dictating that one makes sacrifices with devotion and sincerity. (210)
If one compares Dharma to filial piety, one sees that there are marked differences as well as similarities. This essay will first examine the similarities and then proceed to study the differences. Both Dharma and filial piety recommend a sense of duty towards one’s elders as well as a spirit of veneration and performance of sacrifices towards one’s ancestors. As a consequence, both regard this concept as a virtue. While Dharma is not explicit in its definition of the manner in which to respect elders, it agrees with the principles of Confucianism with regard to the three grades of filial piety. This principle is mentioned in various Puranas as well as the Epics within Hinduism. Therefore, a person who possesses these qualities is said to be a virtuous person, both within the ambit of Dharma as well as in the principles of Confucianism.
The difference, however, is that the concept of Filial Piety is a sub-aspect of Dharma within Hinduism. This means that a follower of Hinduism is called upon to follow these principles, but the concept of filial piety to one’s parents and ancestors is not the central theme of moral rectification. As opposed to this, Confucianism has filial piety at the heart of moral rectification. Therefore, a Hindu who may not follow these principles could possibly be in violation of Dharma, but a follower of Confucianism would be regarded as a serious moral defaulter if he chose to ignore this central principle. Further, Hinduism is also not specific about the nature of filial piety to elders other than one’s parents. The concept of Dharma demands that one pays respects to one’s elders, but does not state explicitly (like Confucianism) the particular aspects of the same. In that sense, Confucius is more detailed on this idea since it forms a very essential backbone of Confucianism.
In conclusion, one can understand that the concept of Filial Piety is a central concept of Confucianism, but is a sub-aspect of Dharma within Hinduism. Both the religions believe in the concept of veneration of elders and ancestors, but, in a sense, Confucianism defines filial piety sharply, while Hinduism considers the concept as a Dharmic one but does not give specific guidelines to followers.
Fisher, Mary P. Living Religions. London, England: Laurence King Publishing, 2014. Print