Dharma may be defined as the highest good. Its idea is not limited to sense perception, and requires a proper teacher to explain it. It arises from action, which is the law of life. Success arises from action; and action cannot be renounced. There is action even when we do not see it, which is both eternal and universal. However, there is a difference between natural and deliberate action; and the subject matter of the Vedas is action.
The idea of dharma does not arise from sense-perception, because the latter is limited to what is present, while the idea of dharma goes beyond the present. As it is conceived to be the highest good. Which is a valid means of acquiring knowledge, and does not require the authority of a Badarayana to prove it. (Badarayana is the name of the celebrated author of the Vedanta Sutras).
Some people say that dharma arises from action, and prove their point by referring to the actual facts of life. And so believe that the idea of dharma is not permanent.
Dharma is indeed linked with action, for we often say that a person does his dharma, and that implies action. Action is part of our nature, as all of us are engaged in some kind of action or the other at the same time, and we see it in prakrti (or nature) in all its modifications. We also see that success in action is often the result of a number of persons acting together. At the same time we find that there are some who believe that we should be indifferent to all that is in the world. But, even he who is said to be indifferent acts. He might appear to be inactive, but is not really so. And we believe that he has not acted, because he has not succeeded in achieving his object (or objective). We have to go beyond the commencement of an action to understand all this. As the sun may appear to be inactive, but it is in fact acting all the time; and so are all the creatures on this world acting accordingly.
There is an immutable law of action at work within all forms of life, according to which all must act. For instance, we see things growing in size, but without apparent action; yet there is sound, motion and vibration within them which is unperceived.
Action is eternal, because it is meant to be performed for the sake of something else; and also because we see it all the time everywhere. The number of creatures engaged in action is so large, that it cannot be counted; and it is not necessary to refer to the same creature again, because all are acting at the same time. We say so because we know the manner in which action takes place; and if we take necessary evidence or observe the working of prakrti or nature, we shall find that it is so.
It may be argued that action, performed in the ordinary course of nature, is of little importance as it does not serve any special purpose; and those who believe that all action should be of this kind would naturally argue in this fashion. But we see that when people have a purpose or aim in action, it is the result of deliberate intention or precise thinking.
According to some, the Vedas deal with the problem of the soul as their principal subject matter. However, this is not correct, as we find that they deal with the world of prakrti or nature, which is not permanent. This has been stated to be their subject matter; and that is how they are taught and explained. Further, all Vedic literature is of the same kind, as they deal with the problem of action. They tell us what actions to perform and how to perform them. We find that man is always engaged in action; and this should enable us to acquire definite knowledge in regard to the law of action. Any contradiction of the fact that there is action everywhere should be disregarded; for we know that it is impossible.
But every action is not dharma. We cannot say that an action of the body, performed by a healthy man in the ordinary course of nature is dharma. The sacred books have their won idea of dharma, and are based on certain principles, admitted by all to be true. There is no inconsistency or contradiction in the sacred books. And if there is any inconsistency anywhere, we should take it to be in our own thought or interpretation rather than in them. We should therefore, accept what is contained in these books.
The action of a healthy body, performed spontaneously or in the ordinary course of nature, is obviously the result of impulse. This is not the idea of dharma as given in the sacred books. It would be an incorrect application of the rules laid down by them to think that it is so. Their statement regarding dharma is definite and complete, and leaves no gaps to be filled. Further, we can verify this for ourselves by making an experiment and a careful study of the sacred books. If we do so, we shall find that there is only one inescapable conclusion. That there is action everywhere, and all things are subject to it. This is proved by the fact that we can find nothing in the world that is eternal.
Action means that there is a material contact of an object with a place. This however, does not limit the idea of action to make it local; for the same object can be at different places at different times. Just as when we say that a person belongs to Mathura, we do not confine him to that place. The law of action or of the doer of deed,- for both are the same. This may be illustrated by the action of a person who is devoted to something for a while; and this is not inconsistent with the law of universal action described in the sacred books. Since, they speak of continuous action, we have to understand the sense in which the term is used, or otherwise we might commit a mistake. We can understand the real meaning, if we make a special effort; and our inability to do so arises from the fact that we take only the form of words, and neglect their real meaning.
The entire meaning of the text would be changed by changing the form of a word in a particular place; and this can be done because there is no fixed rule regarding the combination of words or their parts. But if we adopt a single meaning, we cannot distinguish between things; and that will render the whole idea worthless. It is possible to look at the text in different ways, but the best meaning is that which refers to action. There are some who believe that there is no reference to action; that there is no possibility of any other meaning than the common one and that the words refer to one particular object only. All that we can say is that the meaning does refer to action, and there is no break in the continuity of its idea.