Karma Yoga (Part 2): Dharma. Part I

The word dharma can be interpreted to mean many things. In this chapter, dharma means those actions which are in accordance with one’s mental and physical makeup. It implies those actions which come naturally to an individual and which lead to harmony within the whole framework of the world. It can be roughly, though very inadequately, translated as ‘duty’. Dharma is not a subject that can be discussed in depth in a general sense, for the dharma for each individual is different. All we can do here is to give you a very basic guideline to help you recognize and tune in to your own dharma.

Find and accept your dharma and do it. When you are working think of nothing else but the work and if possible not the fruits. Merely do the work in hand to the best of your ability. Do it as worship if you are devotionally inclined. It is by doing one’s dharma that one begins to harmonize both with the environment and the inner self. And it is by doing one’s dharma in conjunction with karma yoga that one can experience higher states of awareness.

Remember that in fact all work is the same; there is really no such thing as higher or lower work. Whether one uses the body or the mind, it is still merely work; none is really any better or worse than the other. It is society that has said that certain types of work are either good or bad, of high status or low status. Work is work. What is the difference whether one builds a house, cleans a toilet, or rules a country? Work is the tool of karma yoga, the aim is to become the perfect instrument. This is the way to perfection and higher awareness.

The Bhagavad Gita lays down very sensible rules regarding one’s dharma. It says: “A man always acts in accordance with his individual nature, even the realized man. All creatures follow their nature; what therefore can one accomplish by suppression of one’s natural impulses or actions?” (3:33)

Elsewhere it is written: “The perfect individual, like everyone else, acts according to his specific physiological constitution, for he knows that all actions are performed by nature. His true nature, the Self, is not the doer.” (18:29)

“Taking delight in his own individual actions (dharma) a man can attain perfection.” (18:45)

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