By Swami Harshananda
Dharmaskandha literally means ‘branch of dharma’.
Dharmaskandha is an expression peculiar only to the Chāndogya Upaniṣad. ‘Skandha’ means a division. ‘Dharma’ means a way of life. The three ways or skandhas of life mentioned have been referred to in this work. According to this Upaniṣad, all of them go to puṇyalokas or heavenly regions attained by religious merits. These skandhas are:
- As a house-holder
- As a forest dweller
- As a Vedic Student
The householder is the primary dharmaskandha. He keeps and tends the Vedic fires and performs sacrifices. He also studies the Vedas to retain the knowledge he has already gained. Giving gifts to the needy is his another duty.
The forest-dweller and a mendicant is the second dharmaskandha. He is supposed to observe ‘tapas’ or austerity, because he leads an austere life.
The Vedic student entirely devoted to the study of the scriptures and service to the guru is the third dharmaskandha.
- Chāndogya Upaniṣad 2.23.1.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore