May 2016 Subject of the Month ~ Dharma

“Practicing Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness. Happiness is a state of mind, so the real source of happiness must lie within the mind, not in external conditions.”  Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso



Dharma has been translated as a sense of purpose, duty, protection, a kind of individual spiritual guide that connects us to divine law. These are all useful definitions that point toward the meaning, but do not give much explanation as to how to practice dharma consistently to improve our quality of our life.

What would it look like if all of our thoughts, actions and words were aligned with our dharma? How would it feel? Being aligned with or practicing dharma is considered to be making choices in each situation that reflect our highest possible level of attunement to service, growth, wisdom and joy. We feel natural, resolute, strong and effortless in our actions and decisions when we practice dharma. We are receptive, open and relaxed.

The Bhagavad Gita describes the practice of dharma in exquisite verse, teaching that it is better to perform your own dharma as best as you can, or even poorly, rather than perform someone else’s well. And that no effort you make toward fulfilling this is ever wasted on your path to spiritual growth. In modern terms, drop the continual struggle, and relax into the richness of your life.

We can see that not every step on the path of dharma feels easy, on the contrary, practicing our dharma includes meeting fully all of the difficulties as well as the joys in life. The practice is being wholly responsible for what is ours in life to handle with as much skill, diligence and acceptance of the result as we can muster once we’ve given it our best.  It means letting go of the things in life that are not ours to handle or that we cannot control. It means approaching both our struggles and our successes with a true appreciation and willingness to understand how all the pieces came together or fell apart in this part of our life’s journey. It means not getting overly invested in our own desired result at the expense of the well-being of others. And it means living every moment of our life attuning to the underlying joyousness and wisdom that defines human existence as we continually remind ourselves that we are part of a huge cosmic dance that includes us and supports us, but is not defined by us.

Remember the exploration of harmony from last month? The practice of dharma is a natural extension of this- taking those fleeting moments of harmony and wholeness and connecting them like dots in a child’s puzzle with effort and diligence to gradually reveal a life filled with more peacefulness and service toward our own and everyone’s greatest good than we ever thought possible!

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