It's around 4:44 in the afternoon on the 4th of November, 1985. Today I'd like to talk with you about dharma. Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means the way or the law. It has many other meanings. I interpret dharma in the universal sense and an individual sense.
The universal dharma is life; that is to say, the word implies existence as it is-the earth rotating at an exact speed, the seasons changing, each year in a proper succession, the sun rising in the east, setting in the west, molecules and atomic structures holding together by prescribed patterns. All of these actions: birth, growth, maturation, decay and death and rebirth, all of the patterns of life, not simply the patterns themselves, but that which holds them together, is dharma. The universal dharma is simply the way things are, but there's also a more precise dharma-for each individual, for each nation, for each world, for each dimensional plane. Dharma in this sense means filling the proper absence. A door fits perfectly into a doorway. When you shake hands with somebody, the two hands unite perfectly. So dharma is something, then, that exists for every situation and for every being. There's a dharma for your life, a way it should be lived. There's a dharma, an etiquette, you might say, for every situation that you're involved in. There's a dharma for meditation and people who meditate. There's a dharma for warriors and fighters. There's a dharma for poets, a dharma for accountants, a dharma for lovers, a dharma for the enlightened, a dharma for criminals. For everyone, there's a way to be. There's an ancient template, which few people are very much in touch with. When your life is in harmony with your individual dharma, or when the lives of those in a particular world, like our planet earth, are in harmony with their world, then life is very beautiful.
When harmony does not occur, that is to say, when the dharma is not lived properly, then life is in a state of imbalance, there is little or no happiness. So, finding the dharma is the quest, living the dharma is the challenge. What is your dharma?
Now, dharma and karma, of course, are interrelated. Sometimes you'll hear a person say, "Well, that's your karma," meaning that you were in a certain type of situation where something has occurred to you, which was unavoidable. Unavoidable because at a past time or in a past life you created a certain type of situation, or you generated some energy, you acted in a way, didn't act-you did or did not do something, either inwardly or outwardly, that created a series of causal events, a chain, which eventually comes back to you. Dharma's different than karma.
The universe is always changing. Our lives are like water. We flow, not knowing where we've come from, not knowing where we're going, only sure of that which we are.
Karma is the law of cause and effect. You could say the dharma of karma is action and the result of action, but you can follow your dharma or not. If you follow your dharma then you might say that you will generate good karma, and if you don't you'll generate bad karma. I personally think that's a sort of simplistic way to look at it. From my point of view, dharma and karma are not really bound by good and bad specifically. Oh, those are abstract concepts, concepts of good and bad that vary from person to person and culture to culture. I see these things in a much more analytic way.
So the dharma is doing the proper thing, thinking the proper thought, feeling the proper feeling. Naturally, if you're like me, you're going to ask at some point, "Well, who thought all this up? Who says there's a proper thought, a proper feeling, a proper action?" And I would think you might get kind of angry at the idea that if your life deviates from a certain course or form or etiquette that it's going to be exceedingly painful, and that when it's in that proper balance it'll be happy. Now I suppose logically, once you find the way to lead your life and it makes you happy, it only makes sense just to do it, but I don't know about you, I'm an American, and we Americans, we feel restricted sometimes, even by things that are right. Good karma, in other words, can bind you too. Doing what's right can be a real pain if you do it all the time, 'cause then you can get caught in the trap of thinking you're right and doing what's right, which is just really another ideation, another philosophical interpretation or way of seeing existence.
So I am very sympathetic with the individual who feels that they're bound by dharma, that it's frustrating, but let me give you a little piece of advice here. I better not say advice because that immediately makes people uptight and they want to do the opposite. Let me make a vague (Rama laughs) recommendation, and my vague recommendation is that whether you like it or not, dharma is there, and when you don't follow the dharma, it hurts like hell and life is miserable and nothing works out pleasantly, and when you do follow the dharma everything is perfection. Why the dharma is there, how it got to be that way, no one can really say.
Oh, there are theories, cosmological explanations, but they're just a lot of words. It just is, the same way a leaf is, a tree is, a person is. You can say, "Well, a leaf is, because it came from a tree and it grew a certain way." You can say, "A person is, well, they grew a certain way and they evolved," but you know that doesn't really explain anything, does it? It doesn't tell us why it really is. It just is a way of analyzing growth in time, and all these wonderful explanations only trap us into believing that that's all there is to it.