Monday, June 20, 2011

Doing One's Dharma and Finding One's Path

There are innumerable paths to enlightenment - or, perhaps more accurately, the number of paths to enlightenment is precisely equal to those beings who consciously seek that goal - for each of us approaches the goal of liberation from where we are, by working out our karma, by following our own personal dharma, by walking lightly on the Earth and leaving small footprints.

Unlike traditional Indian society with its castes and classes, and with its four stages of life (the student, the householder, the spiritual aspirant, and the renunciate), modern society - East and West - no longer holds tightly to such rigid distinctions, and everyone must come to understand and work out their particular avenue through life and towards personal liberation.

"In his study of the Bhagavad Gita ("Paths to God"), iconic spiritual teacher Ram Dass notes that "(t)here are very few clear, cultural prescriptions that are deeply ingrained in our society to tell us what to do. So we're faced with having to figure out for ourselves what our dharma might be."
"We have to rely on ourselves," he points out, "we have to listen and hear how our individual differences will determine our appropriate duty moment by moment. All of our circumstances feed into that: If you have a certain type of intellect, of if you have certain economic circumstances, it defines certain paths. If you have a husband or a wife, that defines certain possibilities, and it also defines certain limiting conditions."

"Some people," he observes, "might say, "I can only do a job that is absolutely dharmic, and I would rather starve to death than earn money impurely." Others say, "Look - I'll do the best I can, given my circumstances." There's no judgment in either case; each of us has to hear what each of us has do to."

"If you are a sadhu, if you are single and a renunciate, then maybe you can afford to be more of a purist," he points out, "(as) no one is dependent on you. On the other hand," he points out, "if you are a householder and have a family, then you have certain responsibilities, and you've got to do the best you can. If you are a householder, but you are being such a purist that you don't get enough money to feed your baby, in the long run you will have done more adharma than dharma. If you're in that situation and you find that you have to take a job that doesn't feel entirely dharmic to you, do the best you can to bring as much consciousness as possible into the scene. That's all you can do. You work with what you are given."
"You do that with respect to each aspect of your life," Dass notes. "Whatever your part is," he says," you just play it, but you play it as consciously as you can. That's the most basic form of the concept of doing your dharma: to find your little square on the grid, and then to live it out perfectly."

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