On Dharma…

I’d like to explore a word that is commonly used, but at least in the West, not fully understood: Dharma.

And I do not profess to fully understand it either, though I do enjoy exploring as many facets of the concept of Dharma as I am currently able to, and I am happy to share these with you.

There is no one word translation for this expansive concept denoted by the word Dharma.

If you google a definition, you will find that Dharma is:

  • (in Indian religion) the eternal and inherent nature of reality, regarded in Hinduism as a cosmic law underlying right behavior and social order.
  • (in Buddhism) the nature of reality regarded as a universal truth taught by the Buddha; the teaching of Buddhism.

Dharma is both the teachings (of a spiritual master or Guru), and your role or place in the cosmic order of things.

Dharma also translates to: That which supports or sustains both the individual and the environment around them.

BOTH the individual AND the environment around them.

Inherently, living according to Dharma means that you recognize the relationship between your thoughts, words, deeds and actions, and everyone and everything around you.

See, when we hear that Yoga means “union,” it actually doesn’t. What it does mean, though, is that you understand that your own happiness is not separate from the happiness of all others.

Dharma can be taken to mean “life purpose,” though I hesitate to use that translation because it leads one to believe that there is something lofty to attain, and there isn’t necessarily.

Sometimes we wash the dishes. And that is the Dharma of the moment, with upmost importance. If the dishes are not done, eventually we run out of clean dishes, and we begin eating off of dirty plates. We have nothing to cook the food with. Our family suffers.

I also caution from the belief that there is something “more purposeful” or “more meaningful” “out there,” because first of all, even being able to explore this indicates a certain level of privilege. It means you likely have food on the table, a shelter, clothes. That you are searching for this also likely means you are dissatisfied with your work-life as it is, and wish for change. (Understand that you are quite privileged if you are able to explore making that change. Not that you shouldn’t! Just please understand that so many can not explore this.)

Desiring change, or being averse to current situation, is problematic because desire and aversion are two of the five Kleshas, or mental states that cause suffering. (More on that in future mailings!) It is OK to be dissatisfied or to desire something else. Recognize this mental state of desire or aversion, then be with what it is in the moment. And, use your power of discernment (Viveka) to determine Right Action in this moment.

Dharma then, can be taken to mean “Right Action.” And Right Action is in this moment only.

We’re getting closer to the point of yoga.

Sutra 1.1: Atha Yogunasasanam. [Yoga is NOW.]
Sutra 1.2: Yogesh Chitta Vritti Nirodhah. [Yoga — or NOW — is arrived out through the resolution of the problematic stuff (or states) of the mind.]

The practice of yoga — includes 10 ethical principles, the Yamas and Niyamas, which help guide us to discerning Right Action in each moment, through a resolving of the problematic states of the mind, so that we are able to BE BETTER in the world, through living according to the Cosmic Order, or Dharma.

Again, I arrive at my belief that living Yoga is not separable from Social Justice. Practicing Yoga means, over and over, KNOWING BETTER, then DOING BETTER. It means we learn to BE BETTER in the world.

Working with you in partnership, so that you can Live. Life. Better.
Indeed, you can THRIVE.

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Embodied Living with Kristen Boyle

Kristen Boyle is a Yoga Therapist and master yoga teacher, working with students, teachers and clients, all over the world. https://www.embodiedliving.academy