I am convinced that all people have a life’s purpose. We are ‘born’ with certain qualities and drives which are direct reflection of this purpose. The Hindu teachings call it dharma, and the epic scripture, The Bhagavad Gita, spends much time discussing it. It would be easy to dismiss this idea as spiritual mumbo jumbo, but by appreciating the timelessness of certain human struggles, and the similarities by which people have sought to overcome them, it will give you a greater awareness from whence these great works or philosophies have originated.
As I said, we are all born with a dharma. In its complete definition, Dharma is the universal order—it is the pure reality.
Verily, that which is Dharma is truth.
Therefore they say of a man who speaks truth, “He speaks the Dharma,”
or of a man who speaks the Dharma, “He speaks the Truth.”
Verily, both these things are the same.
~ Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad, 1.4.14
All aspects of the universe are determined by the Dharma—it is the law that runs the entire operation (and beyond); the harmony in which all things resonate.
What are the qualities that determine our dharma? Essentially they are our values, the inner drives which determine how we spend our time and on what we work toward. Each one of us is unique in the totality and hierarchy of our values, which are part and parcel with our dharma, not one the cause or result of the other.
My dharma is to teach and to heal—I know this within the depths of my soul. I have no uncertainty about it whatsoever. All my decisions are based on this duty I have to the universe, to existence and all its inhabitants. I take this duty seriously. It’s why I am here. The Bhagavad Gita is big on the notion of duty. Duty is the real underlying essence of both dharma and karma, the purpose and action of the yogic scriptural teachings.
Nothing takes precedence over my purpose, nothing. This does not mean that I do not attend to other aspects of my life—earning money, my children, my relationships, my health—or that I do not incorporate my dharmic aspects into those areas of my life. On the contrary, I connect all individual parts of my life to my purpose, which has been monumental for my decision-making processes. It keeps things very simple: If something does not fit into my dharma—and many things don’t—then I avoid it, period. I know if I am meant to experience something I will. I do not believe in mistakes or coincidences, but that we are always in the proper circumstances for each experience; to learn especially.
It is so easy to get caught up in the externals of life, and in this case, I mean external to our purpose (not dismissing the reality of the interconnectedness of all things). But here is something I discovered: When we are following our dharma—when we are doing what we love, what we are here to do—we do not need to focus on outer details. When we focus on externals, they simply become distractors to our true work, and thus our karmas. When we focus on purpose, without attachment to outcome, trusting in the universal Dharma, the outer details take care of themselves. As hard as this may be for some to believe, just consider your life an experiment on the principle of dharma, and act accordingly…If you focus on purpose and duty, you will soon see the truth of what I say.
Dharma, of course, has a deeper meaning than just purpose, which is a focal point of the Gita: our dharma, our life’s purpose, is simply a tool for us to understand ourselves on a deeper level, and in that regard, as a matter of indistinguishability, for us to understand God.
This is where I have surely lost the atheist or materialist. But if you can simply appreciate that we all have a life’s purpose: something that allows us to do what we love while learning, struggling and growing; something from which to base our decisions, and something that gives meaning to our lives. Your’s need not be grand or lofty. Being the loving caretaker of a beautiful garden or loving pets is equally valuable as striving to end human suffering. Our purpose—our dharma—is what drives us. You can simplify your life and feel the greatest fulfillment by basing your decisions on your dharma; not by focusing on the results of what you do, but on the work itself. As a result, you will come to know yourself more deeply, and thus you will come to know God (sorry atheists).
*For anyone who would love to uncover his or her dharma, I am available for consultations: firstname.lastname@example.org