Universal dharma — That which gives order to the Universe and underlies the very structure of existence.
Individual dharma—How we act in the world and take personal responsibility for coming into alignment with the Universal.
Dharma is an immensely important and finely nuanced subject. It requires thorough consideration and contemplation to gain a deep understanding. Gaining increased perspective on dharma has the power to assist us in contextualizing how we choose to act and how we take our place in our individual lives, as part of – and in relationship to – the Universal. We can all think about this.
A key vantage point for approaching the subject of dharma can be found in examining the profoundly relational qualities of the world in which we live. We are in relationship on all levels of our being at all times. There is no end or beginning to the field of relationship. In the microcosm of our bodies we are intricately relating to ourselves at all times: cell to cell, fluids to membranes to fascia, glands and organs, time and space, movement and stillness, and all of the transformation and creativity that is continuously taking place. We are in relationship to the environment outside of our personal skin-membrane. We have our closest people, nature and the world around us. Our individual intelligence is wrapped and permeated with the Universal. Every breath we take, every thought and movement is happening within the field of relationship. From our tiniest essence to the Universal Everything, we are relationship.
How do we act in this field? How do we, as individual people, take responsibility for our place within this moving, breathing and undulating life? Are we actively involved? Have we committed to attending to this life with full participation and engagement? Or, do we perhaps unconsciously, abdicate our personal agency and simply submit to the influences around us? Are we in the game?
Questions like these underlie the inquiry into dharma. What is our place here? How do we choose to engage? How do we recognize our thoughts and actions to be wholesome and life supporting, or not? Do we really know the answer to that question? How does one discern one’s life’s direction?
Our perspective is important, and our perspective is yoga and its practice. Yoga is the process of discerning and clarifying what is real and lasting from what is constantly changing. Then, and importantly, we can open to the recognition of the actual unity and sameness of the changing and the non-changing. In Embodyoga® we value equally the changing and sustaining aspects of creation. We really are not that interested in valuing what is so called “Pure” (un-changing) and better, from what is “impure” (changing) and not quite as good. We are not at all interested in denying or overcoming our human experience. We are interested in experiencing all layers of our selves and our lives, from the most-subtle reality all the way through the most gross and messy aspects of personality. The weave is what interests us. How do we take our places within this weave of Awareness and form with grace and dignity? Can we do our best to witness the majesty of this life that we are given?
The fact that we are here on this planet shows that, to some degree, we have already said, “yes” to life. Questioning the meaning of saying yes to life can be one way of beginning a serious inquiry into dharma. What is our personal and Universal role in this? Sincerely asking these questions leads us the larger question: “What is the source of this…this life…this awareness?”
If we want to be effective at looking into the nature of who we are, we can’t just simply jump to a philosophical framework that we think we already know. Thinking that we already know something is a great hindrance to learning anything new. However, based on what we know from yoga philosophy in this case, we can proceed with our investigation and explore directly and personally what the sages and great teachers of all time have been pointing to.
First, we need to take responsibility for our personal perceptions. Then we can begin to investigate the possibility of having direct experience of the nature of life. Direct perception of the Vastness of Awareness and its universal flow becomes profound support for personal right action – dharma – in the world. Can we perceive a Universal Order and direction that is supporting and including all that we experience – neutral, pleasurable, or painful? Can we then put our personal ordinary-and-extraordinary lives into the perspective of a larger dharma – Universal dharma — the movement of all of life toward greater fulfillment and satisfaction?
Full engagement in life solves the problem of personal isolation and suffering. That is true. But, full engagement is deeper than we often think. Being fully engaged means more than simply inhabiting the manifest aspects of yourself and the world. Full engagement is engagement with life on all levels. That means that one is in active contact and relationship with the source of life as well as its manifestation. That means coming into direct relationship with the Vastness in such a way that it has a tangible presence in every waking, sleeping, dreaming, and transcendental moment. All the time.