Better one’s own dharma done poorly than another’s done well.
BHAGAVAD GITA, CHAPTER 3, VERSES 33-35
Everyone, even the Wise, acts according to their own dharma. All beings follow their own nature. What will suppression accomplish?
“The Wise” Those enlightened as to the truth of the teachings Lord Krishna has given to Arjuna.
“One’s own dharma” One’s natural characteristics and tendencies.
Lord Krishna has previously indicated that Arjuna’s natural path, the path that suits him, is Karma Yoga (the Yoga of Action). There are different kinds of Karma Yoga, but the path that Arjuna is to take is the path naturally suited to one with the ability to succeed in sun-moon union (hatha yoga).
“What will suppression accomplish?” Nothing. So why would we try to make ourselves into something we are not, when it is not going to work anyway?
When a new student comes to me, I usually will ask them what they want. They are often confused by this question because they expect that a teacher of Eastern spiritual disciplines will insist on their giving up desires. But it is an important question if I am to take them where the want to go, so I need to know where that is. Not surprisingly, most do not know.
It is important to take a path that does not conflict with one’s own dharma, but rather than telling someone what to do based on age and caste, I would much rather let students come to it on their own.
A person’s natural dharma usually shows up in what they truly want. This is not a matter of chasing desires, but of using knowledge of a person’s desires to help that person get to the bottom of them, which is where their true calling will lie. This will then suggest the best path for him. Once on their natural path, they will be lead to the elimination of the compulsion to chase desires, and desires will die a natural death over time.
There are two types paths: one of intention (pravritti), and one of surrender (nivritti). Some wants, or desires, will lead in one direction, and some in the other. So a person must know what they want lest they find themself engaged in practices that take them in a direction that conflicts with their dharma.
One may have wants that a teacher will identify as being a path of knowledge, action, or devotion, and associated with that of a student or scholar, a householder, a hermit, or a renunciate, which generally show up at different ages, though there are some exceptions.
Once the teacher knows what the student truly wants, he can then be guided in a way consistent with his dharma. When a student doesn’t really know what he wants, the teacher may give the student the means of determining this, or may proceed with instructions based on (1) personal tendencies and age, or (2) what the student thinks he wants.
In the second case, the teacher will watch to see if instructions need to be adjusted until his true calling asserts itself. This is certainly more work for the teacher than the first, but I find that when a person gets to the bottom of the endless desires pulling him in one direction after another, his dharma and what he wants will match.
Attraction and aversion have their source in the senses coming into contact with their objects. One should not come under the control of these two—they are truly one’s two adversaries
This was discussed at length in earlier verses. In short, what a person wants, he wants because he likes it. What he likes and doesn’t like—’attractions and aversions’—is determined by his experiences with what is picked up by his senses. What goes into the mind gets there through the senses, and what the mind holds it tends to either like or dislike. Hence the term ‘desires of the mind’.
These desires confuse nearly everyone about what they want in life. Earlier in life, one may know what they want, but it is not long before this is forgotten due to wanting ‘this’ in order to get ‘that’, and the original want, which was closer to the truth, is lost due to massive pile-ups of these subsidiary wants. Hence the necessity to get to the bottom of things.
Everyone has two life purposes:
One is unique to the individual, the other is the same for everyone.
Then there is the problem of the control these desires exert over one’s life by creating actions and behaviors, and even more desires, that have little or nothing to do with the person. In the end, this becomes “who I am”, which is of course, completely illusory. Indeed one does get ‘lost’. So considering ‘attachment and aversion’ your ‘enemies’ is very much to the point, and a wise thing to do, because…..
It is better to perform one’s own dharma poorly than to perform another’s well, even if death comes in the process, for performing the dharma of another invites extreme danger.
Lying beneath all our likes and dislikes, all of which are opposites, we will find our true dharma, or life-purpose, and the spiritual path that will support it. Anything less just leads to disaster and wastes time, and life itself.
Self-reference: To get to the bottom of things, ask yourself what you want, why you want it, what is so desirable about it, and see what you get. Then ask these same questions about the answer you get. Repeat this with every answer (which will be some kind of mentally based desire) until you get as far as you can go. This may or may not be the ‘bottom’, but it is a start.
Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
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