The Dharma Dynamics Online Programme
Karma and Dharma
Last month I had the pleasure of giving an ‘Advanced Dharma Diamond’ workshop at the Acorn Wellness Retreat in the beautiful Yorkshire dales. Here are excerpts from a discussion I had with Vicky, a successful entrepreneur, on the relationship between Dharma and Karma.
copyright Stephanie Krist @srpphoto / Unsplash
“I like the Dharma Diamond graphic. It’s easy to understand. It’s simple but not simplistic. The more I get to know it, the more I get out of it. I especially like how it gives context for understanding the different parts of my life, and how it highlights areas where I can improve things.”
“I hear that from a lot of people,” I said.
Vicky continued. “I get that Truth and Respect are big ideas that have a lot of meaning. I follow how they relate to each other, how Truth symbolises my personal truth and how Respect relates to or defines my relationships. I also understand that they mirror each other and how my truth connects with your respect and vice versa.”
“Exactly. You said you have a question?”
“Yes. My understanding is that Purity symbolises the values and ideals that inform my choices and directs my actions.”
“I have two questions actually. The first being, is my Purity a consequence of the quality of my Truth and Respect? In other words, how do these three principles relate to each other?”
“Your Purity – your values and ideals, is informed by your self-respect and your respect for others. It is the consequence of the quality of your self-expression and the quality of your relationships. Purity is the ethical coherence between your ideals and values and how you live your life. Your values define you, your relationships and your place in the world. Your experience of living your truth and what you learn in your relationships helps you improve your values, teaching you what helps and what doesn’t. These experiences then help you improve over time.”
“OK, I have a problem with this, because I am not living in a vacuum. What happens when I encounter bad actors in my life?” Vicky asked.
“The model seems to presuppose that the quality of my relationships is determined only by how I act and not how others act. This seems too idealistic for me.”
“Purity defines the standards you live by. We all want good relationships. Purity describes what that means. Things like give and take, respect, shared interests, good behaviour and so forth. Consequently, it also describes what we don’t want, such as abuse, disrespect and the bad behaviour meted out by bad actors. In defining the ideal, we also define the unacceptable. Purity isn’t two dimensional. Nor is it static. Like the other principles, Purity is a living expression of our living reality. Like the other principles it adapts, evolves and strengthens over time and with experience.
“Your answer relates to my other question, which is about karma. You’ve taught us that the principles of Dharma can help us live better lives and I’ve seen how that works. But I’ve also seen that there are some things that are out of my control, that no amount of principled living can change. What is the relationship between karma and Dharma?”
“Karma is a complex subject. I will explain it in a simple way.”
“OK. That works for me.”
“Dharma relates to actions we are taking now and in the future. Karma relates to actions we have taken in the past. Karma is based on the law of cause and effect. Karma is therefore the reaction or result of past action. If the quality of our past action is positive, then the reaction will be positive and vice versa.”
“We reap what we sow,” said Vicky.
“Dharma is based on the notion of a natural order of things, a sacred harmony if you will. When we align with that harmony, we do not create friction. You can think of karma as a friction that arises when our we act against the grain of that natural order.”
“Is there a relationship between Dharma and karma then?”
“Yes. Dharma guides us to act in a way that minimises adverse karma and increases positive karma.”
“Can the principles of Dharma lessen the adverse karmic effects of past actions?”
“That’s a good question. A deep question actually. Best if I answer it in a simple way.”
“The philosophy of karma is that our karmic reactions are lessons that help us evolve. From this perspective, we can think of obstacles or difficulties as opportunities to learn and grow.”
“When we have an open mind to learn from these lessons, when we take responsibility for our life and the consequences of our actions, then yes, following the principles of Dharma can, in some cases and over time, lessen adverse effects. At the very least, you can be sure that Dharma stops the creation of negative karma.”
“Is there more?”
“The principles of Dharma point us in the direction of the transcendent, what the sages of India call the atma, or soul. Our journey along the road of Dharma eventually takes us to that place, which is a state of blissful consciousness where we live in perfect harmony with the sacred order.”
“That seems very lofty to me.”
“It’s a real destination. It takes time, no doubt, but it’s a goal that people have aspired to for thousands of years. We are all at different points in our journey along the Dharma road. Wherever we are at on that road, is where we begin from today. As we get closer to the goal, our life and actions will work in greater harmony with the natural order. Every day is a chance to step toward that goal, which the Vedic sages say is the path of peace.”
Feel like sharing?
“Being well. Doing well.”
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