Dharma, Principles and Rules
Dharma is a principle. The human ability to out grow the animal instinct born out of the fear of survival, manifesting as domination and territoriality. Dharma is a human concept. Animals and plants belong to nature, where no one has choices. Might is the only criterion that prevails. Humans have the unique ability to make choices and hence reject what is ‘in their nature’ – from this space comes the idea of dharma, which is beautifully illustrated in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Dharma is a principle, not a rule, which is why in Ramayana rules are upheld and in Mahabharata rules are broken. Beneath the actions of Ram and Krishna is dharma – which may result in rule making or rule breaking, depending on the context.
While empathy towards others is Dharma, the exploitation of the weak for self-gain is Adharma. Dharma is universal and context sensitive. It’s a principle and not a code of conduct.
A Principle is a general statement, with wide spread support, which is intended to support truth, fairness and acts as a guide to action.
A rule is a means of establishing an unambiguous decision-making method. Rules are context specific and hence there should be no doubt about when and how it is to be applied. Rules represent specific instructions. It will always be a matter of judgment whether following the rules will actually achieve conformity to the principle.
Principles cannot be replaced by mechanical rules. A principle internally motivates you to
do the things that seem good and right. People develop principles by living with people with principles and seeing the real benefits of such a life.
It is true for every organization, small or big, things change. Rules get rigid as time passes, and then rebels appear who demand freedom.
Principles guide you, rules restrain you. What is right is usually decided by people in power and rejected by those who are oppressed by it. So it is, was and will be.