The universe defines our responsibilities at a given moment in our life, which are, in turn, dictated by factors such as our circumstances, location, intellect, and possessions. For the purpose of our everyday life as an individual with finite resources, the universe scales down to our neighborhood. These expectations of the universe or society from its each member are collectively called Dharma in Vedic thought. The dharma or duty, as explained in the Gita, is different for each individual and differs according to the level of responsibility one is given. For an individual soul, dharma is more perception-dependent, but on the universal level, it becomes absolute. For one of us, dharma may only mean fulfilling our routine duties honestly, say taking care of our family or engaging in our profession whole-heartedly. On the other hand, in the Gita, when Krishna says that he incarnates to uphold dharma, he is referring to the establishment of universal righteousness and discipline that is to be followed by all beings.
Excerpted from Devotional Hinduism by M.S. Goel (2008), p. 4.