Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Dharma, The Tao, The Way

The terms Dharma, Tao and the Way are familiar spiritual descriptions, often tossed around which come from several spiritual traditions, both East and West. Yet as the well known Indian physician and author, Deepak Chopra writes in his book The Path To Love, what may seem as separate is really not so, through interbeing. He discusses these traditions as long living in the human world, that they are in his view, rather more unified, that they inter-be as one.

"Dharma" is also translated as "law" or "righteousness." In India, today someone who follows the family tradition of work, worship, and social behavior is said to be in his "dharma." Modern Western society is not dharmic in any of these ways, since our children feel free to choose very different occupations from their parents', along with new codes of behavior and new places to live. In both East and West the rootedness of a dharmic society has been undermined in this century.

However, Dharma is more than social convention; it is a living force that can bring you through the many threats and challenges of life. Your ego [western term, from the Latin meaning self or I] does not believe this for it cannot find dharma; ego is not guided by love, and dharma is intimately tied to love. In the West, the closest concept to dharma is grace [one, whole, universal], the loving presence of God that keeps humanity under divine protection. When Jesus spoke of God seeing the fall of a sparrow, he was referring to dharma. In China, the same concept emerged as Tao, the middle way, which was seen as an invisible but real power that organizes all life. Being in tune with the way is the same as living within dharma. The Christian term the Way is likewise. Jesus exhorted his disciples to "come follow me."

"Every spiritual tradition has taught that success in life depends upon finding the Way and ignoring the distractions of external things. Your Ego, however, insists that your survival depends upon paying total attention to the outer world. Its primary tactics--vigilance and defensiveness--are the very antithesis of surrender in the way. Your ego, a perception of which, causes you to believe that separation is necessary..." In reality separation is not ever necessary; it is something chosen or not.

Being in dharma however, "heals separation by making us [inter-being] a reality," not as a 'unit of two,' but as a whole, oneness, a universal spirit. Chopra explains further, "You are acting in dharma whenever you allow rather than oppose. Allowing results in statements such as these:

* Is there something you need?
* How can I help?
* I see what's going on with you.
* Go ahead.
* I understand what you mean.
* You're right.

"Unity makes another person's viewpoint completely clear; you understand someone who is outside yourself." What makes this possible is the realization of inter-being, that what you value, esteem, follow isn't something outside yourself, it may be only outside of your ego. Thus "following your dharma in the deepest sense means not only obeying the laws set down by society or adhering to rules of religious conduct--there is no fixed formula for finding the Way..." Set spiritual guideposts for yourself, thus making this newer, broader meaning of dharma essential.

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