The Two Faces of Dharma

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  

Mary Oliver

Is there a person who hasn’t asked herself, “What is the purpose of my life?” Or, “Why am I here?”
    In seeking to know my own purpose, or why I am here, what I shall do with my “… one wild and precious life…”, I’ve gone down many avenues. In one avenue, I was a domestic violence counselor. One of my clients’ husband, while begging her to come back to him, threatened to commit suicide. Even though his threat was a ploy to cause her guilt, the threat indicated he didn’t understand how precious life is.  Charles Fillmore, in Dynamics for Living, wrote, “God, or Primal Cause of all things, is the only safe basis on which to predicate an argument that deals with life in all its sinuous windings…”.  When we begin to understand that God is :..the only safe basis…”. we begin to live, fully, joyfully and expectantly. 
    To the question, “Why am I here?”, Charles Fillmore wrote, “God answers: Spiritually you are My idea of Myself as I see Myself in the ideal; physically you are the law of My mind executing that idea.” We are God manifest and we are here to live out the idea of God that It has for Itself.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Mary Oliver

When we ask ourselves, “What is my purpose?”, we usually mean, what am I to do, with my life; what is my vocation? There is a deeper meaning to the word ‘vocation’. The Latin root, vocatis, which means a call or summons, is similar to the word voice, vocem, its Latin root. Vocation in this sense means finding your voice. When you ask, “What is my purpose,” meaning your vocation, you are also asking, “What is my voice? How am I being heard in the world?”

Thomas Merton, American Catholic writer, mystic and Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, wrote, “Every man has a vocation to be someone; but he must understand that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.” I can only be myself, no matter what I do, what occupation I pursue.
If I can only be myself, who or what is that self? What is my vocation? How do I know? “What is it [I] plan to do with [my] one wild and precious life?”  I have always thought that my purpose in life was to do something; my purpose is defined by what I do “in the world.”  Reading the Bhagavad Gita and Charles Fillmore, however, I discover something quite different. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reveals to Arjuna that purpose – dharma, in the Gita – is not what Arjuna is or does. Arjuna, born into a caste system, is a warrior and faced with leading his troops into war against an army which is comprised of many of his kinsmen. He cannot bear this responsibility and is frightened and full of doubt. Krishna reminds him it is his duty, his dharma, to lead and to fight.
Krishna explains to Arjuna that all humans must work while in this physical world, but when we realize we are expressions of the Divine, that we are God-incarnate, we work for the joy of expressing God, no matter what we do.

Charles Fillmore echoed Krishna’s exclamation that our purpose is to express the Divine in all we do when he wrote, “The great and most important issue before the people today is the development of man’s spiritual mind and through it unity with God.” Like Arjuna, I struggle with my dharma – what is my purpose? Why am I here? Charles Fillmore declares, “You are here to discover your unity with God.” I’m here to discover that I am the image of God and was born into the perfection of God.

If my purpose is not what I do, but Who I am, then it doesn’t’ matter what I do…or does it? How important is it that I “…live squarely in the center of [my] dharma?” (Stephan Cope, 2012).
What I do in this physical life and body are my way of honoring the Divine. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas asserts: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you; if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” If you bring forth what is within you… What is within me that needs to come forth? What is it that wants to be expressed?

We live in a time when people have many options, many occupations from which to choose. Twenty years ago I worked as a career counselor. It was my job to guide people to find work. My philosophy was that every person should be able to work at something they loved. Mary Oliver wrote, “Whoever you are…the world offers itself to your imagination…”. (Mary Oliver, 1992). We can choose from many fascinating occupations, but “…if [we] do not bring forth what is in [us], what [we] do not bring forth will destroy [us].” If I do not bring forth what is within me, if I do not let my voice be heard, what is within me will destroy me. If I do not honor my true nature, it will destroy me.

Psychologists are beginning to understand the mind/body connection. Many diseases are thought to be a result of stress (Gale Stewart, 2014). Is it possible that refusing to acknowledge our dharma, or even being ignorant of it, can be the number one factor in many diseases? Stephan Cope, in his book, The Great Work of Your Life, tells story after story of people who have turned their back on their dharma and the illnesses, mental and physical, that have beset them. He also tells about people who lived their dharma, no matter the cost, and how they were fulfilled. “If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you.” It may not be important to the world that I am living my dharma, but it is important to my soul.

Dharma is the essential quality that makes an individual unique; the true nature and divine order of a person; a personality fingerprint. Dharma is written into our souls; just as DNA forms our bodies, our souls are formed by our dharma. Each of us has a unique dharma, that which is within and must be expressed. Dharma in this sense is that which we were born to do. If we ignore our dharma, “…what is within us…”, it will destroy us.
The world today isn’t an easy place to live our dharma. Arjuna was born in a time and a system where every person knew his role, his duty. Today, many of us flounder, or slip into a role we don’t want, because of the expectations of our family, or because we’re convinced we can’t, either because we don’t have the talent, or what we want to do, what we’re born to do, won’t pay the bills.

We watch our ‘…one wild and precious life…” slip by. Our true voice goes unheard.

Life is precious. It, along with our dharma, our vocation, is a gift from the Universe, from God, to discover our divinity and to live from that divinity. Not understanding this, we sometimes settle for a life of mediocrity. Not understanding that “…the world offers itself to [our] imagination…”, that we were born with a gift that needs to be expressed, we squander it chasing after material things.

Krishna calls us to a higher way of being. When we ponder, “What is my purpose; why am I here?”, Krishna and Charles Fillmore remind us, we are here to express the Divine, to live as the Divine and to live our gift. Dharma has two faces: our essential Self – the Divine – and our talents. Dharma calls us to express our Divine Self by way of our talents. Anything we do, whether it’s writing a book or painting a wall, waiting on customers at the neighborhood market, leading a country or a parent-teachers’ meeting, giving a spiritual message or raising a child – everything we do is our vocation, our call from the Divine, just to live, to experience life as the Divine.

“Tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?” As for me, no matter what I do, I live to express God, to know that God and I are one.


The Law of Attraction Revisited

I just counted 170 websites about the Law of Attraction.   One hundred and seventy people writing about how to use the Law of Attraction to make your life better, and some that denounce the Law.

Long before The Secret was wildly popular, the founders of New Thought, a late 19th, early 20th century philosophy, taught how to use the Law of Attraction.  One of those, Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science, in his seminal book, The Science of Mind, devoted one chapter to the subject.

Before New Thought, many think the Law of Attraction was taught by Hermes, an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology. Hermes is a god of transitions and boundaries, according to Wikipedia. He is also thought to be a divine source of wisdom and credited with tens of thousands of writings. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes is considered to be an essential and core source for the teachings of the Law of Attraction.

Why the emphasis on the Law of Attraction? Because it is written about and talked about and used by so many people to have the life they want. Some are successful, some are not.

If you’re not successful (and sometimes I’m not) at “creating the life you want” by using the Law of Attraction, you might be inclined to scoff and say, “See, I knew it didn’t work!” And that’s exactly when it is working!
The Law works all the time, 24/7, according to our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. “What!”, you say, “How is that possible?” Most of us don’t realize that our doubts and beliefs, positive or negative, direct the Law.

Whatever we believe, we see. Quantum physics bears this out. I know, there are those who roll their eyes whenever I start talking about quantum physics… “there she goes again!”, but I pore over the literature, and it always comes back to this: we see what we believe.

Our beliefs are so ingrained that it takes effort to retrain our belief system. It takes so much work that you have to want to very much. It’s so much easier to just roll over and play dead. To go on muddling through life, thinking this is all there is.

One of my favorite movies is about a woman who saved every penny. She kept an album that she called Possibilities, in which she glued pictures of things she wanted, places she wanted to go, the husband she wanted. She even kept pictures of food that she cooked (her hobby was gourmet cooking; she wanted to own a restaurant one day). She never ate the food she cooked; she gave it away and ate diet tv dinners. One day, through a fluke, she was diagnosed with a rare disease and told she only had two, maybe three weeks to live. In shock, knowing she had scrimped and saved and never really lived, she cashed in her life’s savings and traveled to a place where a chef she admired worked. She bought beautiful designer clothing, did “crazy” things she wouldn’t ordinarily do, for example, bungee jumping off a high cliff, and had the time of her life. People, attracted to her because of her living large, coveted her company. She made new friends, especially the chef whom she admired.

The moral, besides not putting life on hold, is that like attracts like. She did the things she wanted to do, she lived the life she wanted, and attracted more like it.

Don’t take anyone’s word for it…life is a grand adventure and experiment. You can play with this…try it out. You and I can read every document on the internet about the Law of Attraction, but we’ll never know if it really works or not unless we try it for ourselves. And suspend judgment.

Oh, the woman in the movie…she discovered the diagnosis was wrong…she didn’t have the rare disease after all. But she began to live, really live. And had a wonderful life!

I’m not advocating we cash in our savings and spend them all on expensive resorts and clothes. I am advocating that we live our precious lives, every moment.