About Dharma

How can one know one’s dharma?

Swami Niranjanananda: According to the laws of dharma, there is no scope for either feeling or rationality. Dharma is purely an understanding of the natural interaction and the natural law that governs the individual, society, the world and the cosmos. Dharma is knowing the potential that exists in each and every dimension of this creation, and not only is it cognition of that potential, it is also living according to the appropriate conditions. In one word, dharma is appropriateness.

Some people say dharma is duty. Some say dharma is religion. Some say dharma is the natural law. However, dharma, in spirit, represents three main functions: appropriate action, appropriate behaviour and appropriate thinking. As long as one’s thoughts, behaviour and actions are appropriate to the situations and circumstances, one is on the right track. Dharma entails understanding. Dharma is not a reactive response to circumstance; it is the appropriate response which develops after one has understood and is in control of that particular situation, whether it be personal, social or global.

If there is proper understanding of the situation, then dharma is natural and spontaneous. If there is no understanding of the situation, then there is a headache trying to figure out what one’s dharma is. Asking, “Should I do this? Should I not do that?” is confusion. Therefore, natural and spontaneous expression is dharma. If one’s child falls down and is hurt, what would a mother’s response be? Would she think, “Shall I pick up my child or not?” or would she act spontaneously to help the child? If she acts spontaneously, believing in something, that will be dharma. If she acts according to some intellectual process, she will never find the answer to what dharma is and further confusion will be created.

Dharma cannot be rationalized. In order to live dharma one needs to act as one would to protect one’s child, with that awareness and clarity. If there is no understanding, there is no dharma. If the mind is clear, there is dharma.

How can one live one’s dharma?

Swami Niranjanananda: Dharma is the responsibility inherent in every interaction, the inherent commitment that an individual feels when relating to everything outside. This creative expression of dharma makes one free from mental and emotional strife. One has to observe the reactions, responses, interactions and communications and be aware of each and every word that one says before it is spoken. One has to cultivate this awareness, realize one’s interaction with the world, other people and society, and regulate this behaviour. Regulating one’s behaviour is following dharma. Irregular, eccentric behaviour is not dharma. When the expressions are regulated, whether through the senses, mind, emotions or intellect, they bring peace.

Published in Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Bhakti Yoga Book 4, In the Presence of the Divine