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What is Dharma?

Embracing a meaningful vocation

In the yoga tradition, there is an idea of an inner possibility harbored within every human soul. Placed there at birth or even before, yogis insist that every single human being has a unique vocation. They call this dharma.


Dharma is a powerful Sanskrit word that is full on, rich with meaning. Dharma means "path", "teaching", or "law". It also means "vocation" or "sacred duty". In all cases, it means "truth". Yogis believe that we are most accountable in our lives to this inner possibility - our dharma - and they believe that every human being's duty is to utterly, fully and completely embody his own individual and quirky dharma. 

Not only did yogis name this hidden inner genius, but they created a detailed method for fulfilling it also. Quite so, the ancient story in which this method is spelled out is without question the one of the most important and loved scriptures in print.  It is the 2000-year-old Bhagavad Gita, or loosely translated, Song of God. The Gita, as it is often referred to as, is the world's greatest book on dharma. 

Briefly, it is the story of the warrior Arjuna and his divine mentor, Krishna. Arjuna is arguably known as the greatest warrior of his time, but in truth, he is shockingly common like we are: neurotic and full of doubt and fear at every turn. Yes, a true second guessing warrior. The story unfolds as Krishna teaches Arjuna (as unsettled as he is) to embrace his sacred vocation. To step into his power, if you will allow. As a side note, the Gita is the one book that Ghandi took with him to prison and one of the few Henry David Thoreau took with him to Walden Pond. 

The Gita is a brilliant teaching on the problems of doing rather than being. A powerful truth to meditate on when trying to unravel years of self doubt and egoic programming around finding your "right work". It seems Being rather than Doing is a bit of a meme these days. In the words of Teilhard de Chardin, "All that is worthwhile is action." 


Perhaps you like most have a mistaken or self limiting belief about the fulfillment of life as it pertains to what you do in the world? Fantasies about fulfillment centered around wealth, power, fame and leisure fuel many contradictions to the truth of beingness rather than doingness. Oddly, these fantasies are of a life in which we have attained so much we no longer need to work or continue to Do what it is we did to get to our fulfillment.


Then what? Does reaching our goal negate who we are? Who are we if we no longer Do what we did to Be who we have become?


Great questions of dharma are worthy of much introspection. For purposes of this article, we leave you with the thought that perhaps Being our most fulfilled selves is only had at the hand of meeting the challenge of our dharma in the world. The activity becomes a compelling activity for which we have a true calling. A purpose realized. In this, we are happy and fulfilled of a sacred doing that is of our Beingness. 


Image by Bekir Dönmez
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