• dharma •
dahr-mê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. [Hinduism & Buddhism] The divine principles of the universe. 2. [Hinduism] Consciousness of being a part of the universe and the fulfillment of the moral and social duties of your station in life. 3. [Buddhism] The body of teachings expounded by Buddha.
Notes: Today's word was lifted whole from Sanskrit and incorporated into English where it begat one derivative: an adjective dharmic. Dharma is related to another word you are probably familiar with: karma "fate". According to the teachings of Hinduism, if you carry out your dharmic duties, you will receive good karma, perhaps even reach nirvana, the ultimate state of peace and wisdom.
In Play: You may remember Jack Kerouac's second novel, the Dharma Bums, about a young man, probably Kerouac himself, seeking dharma, as in his first novel, On the Road. When you have a day that you feel good about, you are probably aligned with dharma. Then, of course, there was the US television series, Dharma and Greg, about the daughter of hippies who, no doubt, read Kerouac. But I am sure we have all had days like this: "Everything has gone wrong today; I seem out of key with dharma."
Word History: Today's Good Word is Sanskrit dharmah "law, way", an Eastern Indo-European descendant of ancient dher- "to hold firmly, support". This word is akin to dharna, a Hindu form of fasting on the doorstep of someone who owes you money in order to pressure them to pay up. The same root came to Latin in the form of both firmus "firm, strong" and fortis "strong", roots that appear in our words firm, firmament, affirm, fort, among others. In Russian it emerged as derzhat' "to hold" and in Greek it became thronos "seat, throne" from which we borrowed (Surprise!) throne.
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