“It should be told to Him to act quickly, for my life will only remain as long as the period of one year is not yet complete. This is the tenth month, and only two remain, O monkey, in the time allotted to me by the cruel Ravana.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.7-8)
sa vācyaḥ samtvarasva iti yāvat eva na pūryate |
ayam samvatsaraḥ kālaḥ tāvadt hi mama jīvitam ||
vartate daśamo māso dvau tu śeṣau plavamgama |
rāvaṇena nṛśaṃsena samayo yaḥ kṛto mama ||
There are many ways to define the Sanskrit word adharma. At its root it is a negation. Dharma is the base word. In the most common context, dharma refers to religion. Religion is what brings duty, honor, codes of morality, and so forth. Basically, the supposed right way to do something is religion or religious.
Dharma has a more clear definition, as the element of faith is removed. Dharma is also righteousness. It is religiosity. At the finest level, dharma is the essential characteristic. It is what makes an object that object. For instance, heat and light are the dharma of fire. The ability to transport, carrying one or many passengers, is the dharma of an automobile.
With an understanding of the big picture, it is seen that the various definitions of dharma are actually one. The essential characteristic of the individual is service, which is evident even outside of the human species. Dharma as righteousness helps to extract that characteristic to the purest form. Dharma as religion is the culture to follow that brings service out and keeps it targeted at the proper objective.
In this light honesty, compassion, cleanliness, and austerity are on the side of dharma. They help every person. Even if the goal is not known, if a person is still in the dark as to their true nature of spirit soul, part and parcel of the complete Spirit, these characteristics are beneficial. Dharma is thus easily understood as the right way to do things. It is piety.
Adharma is the negation. Selfishness. Dishonesty. Lack of cleanliness. Cruelty, which is mentioned in the verses quoted above from the Ramayana. The thief doesn’t like it if others steal from them. The murderer wouldn’t prefer it if someone else attacked them with lethal force, without warning. The selfish person benefits from the compassion of others.
From the Ramayana we get many more ways to recognize adharma. This is courtesy of the real-life villain named Ravana. Here Sita Devi is speaking to Shri Hanuman. Sita is in Lanka against her will. Ravana has threatened her with death for not giving in to his advances, despite the fact that Sita is happily married and devoted to her husband, Shri Rama.
The order from Ravana is twelve months. Sita is in the tenth month, and so only two are left. By the way, the ten months thus far have been no picnic. Ravana ordered his female attendants to harass Sita day and night. It is like being in the longest torture test, where it looks like no way out.
Only through adharma is an innocent person put in jail. Sita had done nothing wrong. She followed dharma as her life, and this was the reward? She asks Hanuman to tell Rama to act quickly. There is no time to waste. The sinful have been winning for too long.
The future would provide another lesson. Adharma has visible signs, but one that may not be noticed immediately is the delivery of consequences. The rewards are as ghastly as the original sins, and the timing is appropriate, like when the flowers blossom on trees. Ravana would get his, and dharma would win out in the end, like it always does.
Maybe not consequence now to see,
But take lesson from the tree.
Where flowers in proper season,
For pain and suffering a reason.
The sinful deeds to Ravana catching,
Who from adharma sinless snatching.
Like the innocent in jail placing,
Stiffest punishment soon facing.