Rta (Rita): The Concept of Cosmic Order and Harmony in Hinduism

Rta, or Rta(m), (Sanskrit, «fixed order, rule») in Hinduism is the sense of fundamental order and balance that exists in the universe and must be observed and sustained through appropriate sacrifices, rituals, and behaviors.

The word rta is related to rtu, the seasons, which recur regularly outside of the control of man; and, for the matter, the gods also. Mitra and Varuna are invoked in the Vedas as guardians of rta, but they are never regarded or described as its creator or controller. Rta is deeper and more fundamental than the gods, and anticipates the impersonal law of karma, and the pervasive rule of dharmaA.G.H.

Rta, often spelled as Rita, is a fundamental concept in Hinduism that represents the sense of cosmic order, balance, and truth inherent in the universe. It is a concept deeply rooted in the Vedic tradition and serves as a foundational principle guiding human behavior, rituals, and sacrifices. Rta is considered one of the key pillars upon which the ethical and moral framework of Hinduism rests.

 

Key Aspects of Rta

 

  • Fundamental Order: Rta encompasses the idea of a fixed and unchanging cosmic order that governs the universe. It represents the natural laws and principles that underlie the regularity and harmony observed in the world.
  • Balance and Harmony: Rta emphasizes the need for maintaining balance and harmony in the cosmos. It reflects the interconnectedness of all things and the necessity of preserving this equilibrium.
  • Observance and Sacrifice: To uphold Rta, individuals must adhere to appropriate rituals, sacrifices, and ethical behaviors. These actions help maintain the cosmic order and align human conduct with the universal principles of truth and righteousness.

 

Relation to Seasons and Deities:

The term «rta» is etymologically related to «rtu,» which signifies the changing seasons. These seasons, which occur regularly and independently of human or divine influence, are seen as manifestations of the cosmic order. However, it’s essential to note that while deities like Mitra and Varuna are invoked in the Vedas as protectors of Rta, they are not considered its creators or controllers. Rta is perceived as a deeper and more fundamental concept than the gods themselves. It precedes the impersonal law of karma and the pervasive rule of dharma in the Hindu belief system.

 

Implications 

The concept of Rta has several significant implications in Hinduism:

  • Ethical and Moral Guidelines: Rta serves as the moral and ethical foundation of Hindu philosophy, guiding individuals in making righteous choices and actions.
  • Natural Law: It underscores the belief in a natural and cosmic law that governs the universe, influencing both human and divine realms.
  • Connection to Dharma and Karma: Rta is interconnected with the principles of dharma (righteous duty) and karma (the law of cause and effect). Adherence to dharma and the consequences of karma are seen as expressions of Rta in daily life.
  • Harmony with Nature: Hindus are encouraged to live in harmony with the natural world, respecting the cycles of seasons and the balance within the universe.

 


Source:

Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 825-826