66 Fordham L. Rev. 1185 (1997-1998)
Practitioners of Hindu Law: Ancient and Modern

handle is hein.journals/flr66 and id is 1203 raw text is: PRACTITIONERS OF HINDU LAW: ANCIENT
K.L. Seshagiri Rao*
Practice Dharma, not adharma
speak the truth, not untruth,
Look far ahead, not near
Look at what is the highest, not what is not highest.
Vasista Dharma Sfitras, X 30
T HE practice of law is the pursuit of truth and justice in interper-
sonal relationships. Practitioners of law have a great responsibil-
ity to make sure that the laws are just and that they are administered
fairly. In what follows, this theme is briefly addressed from the an-
cient Hindu perspective, and then it is compared with the modem sit-
uation in India. By looking to how ancient Hindu religious concepts
helped form a dynamic and effective legal system, perhaps we will
conclude that the inclusion of religious ideas can inform and improve
the legal systems of today.
A fundamental feature of the Hindu tradition is that there is no
dividing line between the sacred and the secular. No contradiction is
perceived between temporal ends and the eternal goal. There is no
area of life, accordingly, which is alien to spiritual influence. In fact,
according to the Hindu principle of dharma, secular and sacred con-
cerns are inextricably interwoven; dharma espouses an integrated
view of life and world. Dharma is the ordered behavior of human
beings; it gives coherence to the different activities of life; it gives di-
rection to the harmony of the whole person, helping him find the right
way to adhere to the just law of living. A human being is a composite
personality expressing physical, vital, mental, and spiritual dimensions
of life. The harmonization of these aspects of life is the primary do-
main of dharma. One's duty to one's family, group, society, humanity,
and to God are all part of dharma.
The word dharma is derived from the root dhr, which means to up-
hold, sustain, and nourish. Dharma is a comprehensive term, that
encompasses notions of duty, morality, ritual, law, order, and justice.
* Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia; Chief Editor, Encyclopedia of


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