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Let Dharma Drive You
Tess: I have been thinking today – if I try to find my happiness in objects/experiences, etc. and I refrain from acting upon it, should I be happy regardless of external circumstances? Does it mean one should feel happy even if one is in a bad relationship, for example? I have a feeling it isn’t happiness which drives us, more like our dharma – to do what feels right for us, i.e. following our dharma?
Rory: Most of the time, the average human being is completely driven by what Vedanta calls their raga-dvesas, which means their personal likes and dislikes, or desires and aversions. It’s these likes and dislikes that generally determine what we seek, pursue, acquire and seek to hold onto or get rid of.
That’s not necessarily a problem, so long as those likes and dislikes are in harmony with dharma. But very often they aren’t, and a mind so driven then becomes capable of committing adharma – in other words, we break the “rules” just to get what we want, and in so doing, create suffering for ourselves and others. This explains a lot of the state of the world. Our culture is desire-based rather than dharma-driven.
Dharma should always come first. Dharma is called our “protector” because when we honour dharma we’re basically honouring Isvara, the natural order of Creation. We’re contributing to the Creation rather than obstructing it.
Dharma applies to everything, including relationships. The teaching about not deriving our happiness from objects doesn’t mean that we should just blindly accept whatever is there. If, Lord forbid, you’re sitting on a nail, there’s no point trying to smile and hide the tears – you gotta get off that nail!
Discrimination is always vital. Perhaps some relationships maybe just need a little work – better communication, honesty, etc. Other relationships may be irreparable or damaging, and the dharma in such an instance is to end that relationship and move on from it.
Suffering is usually a sign that dharma is being violated in some way – it might be that we’re with the wrong person or subjecting ourselves to situations or environments that aren’t conducive to our well-being.
So you’re right, it should be dharma that drives us. For many people it isn’t; we’re trained to always be pandering to our desires and whims. Owing to self-ignorance, we don’t realise that happiness and wholeness is our very nature, so we start chasing it outside of ourselves – and we can become quite willing to violate all kinds of dharma to do that, the sad predicament of the human race!
Tess: Another quick question: James’ self chart explains so much, and the way the sense organs deliver information to the mind to enable discrimination, etc. What about those who have some disability though – such as those who can’t see/hear or have no limbs?
Rory: The body is built from karma. We keep incarnating to exhaust the vasanas, basically. The vasanas are the “itch” that keeps the subtle body assuming new physical bodies in order to “scratch” its desires, compulsions and aversions.
For each lifetime we have what’s called prarabdha karma – which is the specific “allotment” of karma for that particular lifetime, the karma that’s been apportioned for us to enjoy/work through in this life. This determines the condition of both the physical body and the subtle body. So, any disabilities, health defects, can be considered one’s prarabdha.
There’s nothing one can do except accept such bodily/health defects, etc. with good grace. Basically, everything is set up in such a way that it provides opportunities for growth, to help us develop spiritually and come to realise who we are. With the proper attitude, what seems like bad karma can often be converted to good karma if we use it to learn, to inquire and to realise the self.