What is My Purpose? Dharma Dissected
It’s wonderful to be back on the safe Sydney shores integrating the magic of my recent trip to Africa, a land of both stunning beauty and raw brutality that stirred in me a deeper passion for living in greater service to this world.
Along with that passion has also come feelings of overwhelm about how big and numerous the issues both there and around the world are, feeling small and doubting my ability to impact anything when I see mass poverty and the realities of poaching or habitat destruction.
But then I remember magical moments — laughing and dancing with orphaned children in Uganda; sitting lost in time with the gentle mountain gorillas; holding my breath as a wild bull elephant stood calm and curious only two meters from me; dancing with the Maasai; running after thousands of pink flamingos; or getting a trunk kiss from an orphaned baby elephant — and then all I feel is Love.
It’s this Love, that brings me so much joy and so many tears, that drives me to constantly ask ‘How should I be living in this world? What is my duty here, my bigger purpose?’
And when I feel that Love I don’t care how many problems there are or what size of an impact I can make, I just know the only thing that feels right is to try my best to live in a way that supports all these wonderful creatures and beautiful people.
Dharma – Right Way of Living
This personal philosophical question of duty and purpose has troubled people for millennia and is talked about in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts as Dharma.
There are many translations of Dharma dependent on context and religion, but in common parlance, dharma means ‘right way of living.’
In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most ancient and influential yogic texts, the hero of the epic grapples specifically with individual dharma. His teacher, Lord Krishna, refers to Dharma as individual duty, and places it of utmost importance in a person’s life.
Discovering Your Dharma
The catch is that this all important purpose and right way of living is not always easy to identify. In fact this is the crux of the entire Bhagavad Gita, Arjun the hero struggles with knowing what is the right way to act as he faces battling with respected elders.
Krishna answers his dilemma about Dharma by revealing to him the eternal nature of the soul and says that following our dharma is meant to assist the real goal of life: understanding the eternal soul and it’s relationship with the universal soul.
So when I think about right living and my purpose and the lessons from the Gita, I feel for what stirs my soul deeply. I listen to the messages that seem to come from the soul of the universe and speak directly to me, and they come in all those magical moments that are always a mix of elation and tears. That cause me to fall in love with the world around me and want to nurture it.
Discover your Dharma by asking what deeply stirs your soul. What feels right? What makes you feel connected to the universe?
Everyone’s Dharma is Different
Krishna famously says to Arjun, “One’s own dharma, performed imperfectly, is better than another’s dharma well performed. Destruction in one’s own dharma is better, for to perform anthers dharma leads to danger.” (Bg 3.35)
Everyone connects to the universal soul and theirs in different ways. Some people find infinite beauty in logarithms for webpages, others in an insect’s wing, some in music and others in words, some in surgery and others in organisation.
The point is you will know your dharma by the power of the passion behind it, because it feels right to you, and there’s no point in comparing your journey to another’s. Each person’s Dharma leads to the same place: connection to the universal eternal soul. Follow the thing you feel compelled to do maybe even almost compulsively, because any other way just doesn’t feel right.
Krishna concludes almost the whole epic by saying, “It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions.” (BG. 18.47)
What is your nature? What are you driven to do? What feels like the right way to live?
Are you Listening?
The problem I see is that we forget how to listen to what speaks to our soul and nature, or we get too busy and caught up in a societally prescribe way of being that we choose to ignore what speaks to us. And this is why we need to do yoga!
All the yogic practices help us get centred, slow down and have a clear mind enough to be guided by the subtle language of the universal soul that is always calling us to follow our dharma.
The practices have in common connecting us to the present moment and inward — from meditation and asana to chanting, dancing and pranayam — and this helps us listen to that subtle language.
What do you do on a regular basis that helps you slow down and listen inward? This is yoga.
Stop Doubting Your Dharma
Another problem I’ve personally experienced and see a lot is that we doubt what our soul’s calling is to the point of being too afraid to act on it.
Krista encourages Arjun in this regard by saying, “Even a very small amount of this dharma saves one from great danger, for there is no loss in such an endeavour and it knows no diminution.” (Bg. 2.40)
In other words, follow your personal dharma no matter how big or small it seems or different to any body else’s and no matter how many mistakes you make in the endeavour. Don’t judge it, just do it.
Personally I know I’d rather try my best to do what feels right and positively impact even just one life or small area than never try and never impact anyone. And I know that again and again the things that impact me so greatly are the small things. Dharma knows no diminution!
So stop doubting yourself and follow your soul’s calling!!! Share in the comments your experience with finding and following your dharma.
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