Relationships and Dharma

One of the most compelling features of the Dharma model for me is the emphasis it places on relationships and the role they play in living a happy life.

Dharma is based on the notion that a beautiful life is built on deep respect for others. Dharma tells us that we are all pure spirit, that we are ‘spiritual beings having a material experience’ and that when we look at the world in this way, we have a better chance of getting along because we see each other as sacred and deserving of respect. If we practice seeing the world in this way — and it does take practice, we become more patient and tolerant of others.

This way of seeing applies to us too. Seeing ourselves as sacred and spiritual means we can be less self-critical and more self-accepting. So, by first reflecting on our own divine nature, we can then more easily see the same in others. This is nicely expressed in the Indian greeting, namaste, which means ‘the divine in me sees the divine in you.’

This way of seeing is based on ahimsa, or respect, the second principle of Dharma. The Sanskrit word ahimsa means non-violence. It is a prohibition against violence – not only against people, but also animals, birds, insects and the environment as a whole. Dharma is thus an ancient form of deep ecology. Within its notion of respect for all, lies the earliest example of the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Ahimsa asks us to take care to ‘do most good and do least harm’ in all our dealings. This is a winning formula for building good and lasting relationships.

‘Ahimsa’ in Sanskrit script, the language of ancient India

I think the beauty of Dharma and the principle of ahimsa, is that it works regardless of whether or not you buy into the notion that all creatures are innately spiritual. What matters most to me is that following the principle of ahimsa delivers beneficial practical outcomes. When we approach each other with the respect of ahimsa we set the tone and quality of our exchanges, which helps our relationships thrive, with each other, the animal kingdom and the natural world. A good example of this can be found in the culture and philosophy of the first peoples, who cultivated a deep respect approach to the world.

If you go a bit deeper into the idea of Dharma and ahimsa, you will ultimately find a whispering call to love – for everyone and everything. If that sounds too idealistic, think again, because in our hearts we all know that only love can heal the world.

 

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