Definition - What does Adharma mean?

Adharma is a Sanskrit word which means “what goes against dharma” or, more literally, “not-dharma.” This has connotations of wrong, evil, immorality and vice. It can also be translated as chaos, disorder and disharmony. It is a complex term which has different shades of meaning depending on the context. It is used in yogic philosophy as well as other Indian religions.

Its opposite, dharma, etymologically means “what supports and sustains"; thus, adharma can represent all attempts to destroy or oppose this process of supporting or sustaining. It is often written as a pair in the scriptures of dharma-adharma. Whereas dharma leads to well-being, prosperity and spiritual enlightenment, adharma leads away from all of these.

Yogapedia explains Adharma

Adharma is considered to be the root of all trouble, fear and suffering. Another meaning of adharma is "unrighteousness." In practice, this is often taken to stand for unrighteous deeds, such as telling lies, cheating, stealing and committing crimes. It may also stand for acts of omission; for example, when a person does not perform their dharma or the duties they are entrusted with.

In yogic philosophy, adharma can be considered to be an imbalance of the three gunas of tamas, rajas and sattva. These can be rebalanced by the yogi through faith and devotion, as long as this devotion is in resonance with their spirit and is not blind faith.

In some spiritual texts, adharma is personified as a son of Brahma, who is married to violence and father to falsehood and deceit.

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