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What Exactly is Dharma?
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As a devoted student of Asian philosophy, I often come across the word Dharma. Each faith system believes their perspective, their holy text, their teacher's words, to be the one true Universal Dharma. Unfortunately each sect then proceeds to translate Dharma with still another English variation of law or rule or way or universal truth... until one wonders "What exactly are we talking about here?"

Eventually you have to pick a favorite.

Here is what I consider a very elegant introduction into a 'dharma-like' state of mind. By a very qualified author and teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, from his text "Light on Pranayama The Yogic Art of Breathing" Chapter I titled 'What is Yoga?'

"Nobody knows the timeless, primeval absolute One, nor when the world came into existence. God and nature existed before man appeared, but as man developed he cultivated himself and began to realize his own potential. Through this came civilization. Words were evolved with this, concepts of God (Purusa) and nature (prakrti), religion (dharma) and Yoga developed.

Since it is so difficult to define these concepts, each man has to interpret them according to his understanding. When man was caught in the web of worldly joys, he found himself separated from God and nature. He became a prey to the polarities of pleasure and pain, good and evil, love and hatred, the permanent and the transient.
Caught in these opposites, man felt the need of a personal divinity (Purusa), who was supreme, unaffected by afflictions, untouched by actions and reactions, and free from the experiences of joy and sorrow.

This lead man to seek the highest ideal embodied in the perfect Purusa or God. Thus the Eternal Being, whom he called Isvara, the Lord, the guru of all gurus, became the focus of his attention, and his concentration and meditation. In this fundamental quest of reaching Him, man devised a code of conduct whereby he could live in peace and harmony with nature, his fellow beings and himself.

He learnt to distinguish between good and evil, virtue and vice, and what was moral and immoral. Then arose a comprehensive concept of right action (dharma) or the science of duty. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan wrote that 'it is Dharma which upholds, sustains, supports' and guides mankind to live a higher life irrespective of race, caste, class or faith." - B.K.S. Iyengar in "Light on Pranayama, The Yogic Art of Breathing" published 1987 by Crossroad, NYC.

Here the writer translates Dharma first as 'religion.' But as he works to clarify the greater implications of this, he translates dharma as 'a comprehensive concept of right action or the science of duty.' Finally he quotes Dr. S Radhakrishnan with 'it is Dharma which upholds, sustains, supports' and guides mankind to live a higher life.

So that's Dharma. At least until you start to analyze the good teacher's references to God, a dharma principal some Buddhists sects would take issue with. But that's what makes Dharma Deli so deliciously fun. Such a wide selection to choose from. Take a taste, samples are free.

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About the author Robert L. Seltman

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The backdrop image is a family photo representing three generations,
mother, daughter and grandchildren. The wheel of Dharma turning.