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Is there any difference between Dharma and Religion?

The word dharma means “duty.” Although the word dharma is often translated as “religion” and religion is generally defined as a kind of faith, dharma is not in fact a kind of faith. Dharma means one’s actual constitutional duty. Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-praniam: no one actually knows what dharma is, and no one can manufacture dharma. Dharma is the order of the Supreme Being. No one can manufacture state laws; they are given by the government. The simplest definition of dharma is that dharma is the order of the Supreme Being. Since the Supreme Being, God, is one, His order must be one. How, then, can there he different dharmas? It is not possible. Different dharmas are created due to ignorance, which causes people to think in terms of Hindu dharma, Muslim dharma, Christian dharma, this dharma or that dharma. No. Gold is gold. If a Christian possesses some gold, does it become Christian gold? Gold is gold whether possessed by a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian. According to the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, dharma means surrendering unto that Supreme Being. It is one’s duty to know the needs of the soul, but unfortunately we have no information of the soul and are simply busy supplying the necessities for bodily comfort. Bodily comfort, however, is not enough. Suppose a man is very comfortably situated. Does it mean he will not die? Of course he will. We speak of a struggle for existence and survival of the fittest, but bodily comforts alone cannot enable anyone to exist or survive permanently. Therefore, taking care of the body only is called dharmasya glanih, or pollution of one’s duty. One must know the necessities of the body and also the necessities of the soul. The real necessity in life is to supply the comforts of the soul, and the soul cannot be comforted by material adjustments. Because the soul is a different identity, the soul must be given spiritual food, and that spiritual food is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. When one is diseased, he must be given the proper diet and the proper medicine. Both are required. If he is simply given medicine but not a proper diet, the treatment will not be very successful. Therefore the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is meant to give both the proper medicine and the proper diet for the soul. The diet is Kṛṣṇa-prasada, food that has first been offered to Kṛṣṇa, and the medicine is the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.

Religion consists of the laws of God. People who do not know this think that religion means faith. But although you may have faith in something and I may have faith in something, and although I may believe you and you may or may not believe me, that is not religion. There is even a supposedly religious mission that says, “You can manufacture your own way”. Yata mata tata patha: “Whatever you think is right, that is right”. This is their philosophy. But that is not science. Suppose I am a madman. Is whatever I think all right? How could this be? “Two plus two equals four” is science. If I believe that two plus two equals five or three, does it become true? No. So there are laws of God, and when there is dharmasya glanih, deviation from these laws, we suffer. Just as we might suffer by violating the laws of the state, as soon as we violate the laws of God we are subjected to so many tribulations.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2014 edition), “Teachings of Queen Kunti”, Page 121, 150
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2007 edition), “Teachings of Lord Kapila, The Son of Devahuti”, Page 6

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