In order to truly follow dharma, four qualities need to be cultivated. They are Vistara, or the expansiveness of vision; Rasa, flow, to be saturated with blissful awareness and movement towards your eternal essence; Seva, service, and Tatsthiti, divine union, wholeness.
If you are to follow dharma, you need to have a vision of what your Source looks like. A meditation practice on the nature of divinity is essential for this. It assists you to expand your mind beyond your limitations and beliefs, to have a willingness to look afresh and move beyond all of the stale constructs that you have built.
If those constructs were true and promoted spiritual growth, then surely you would be enlightened by now. But the constructs in your mind, your beliefs and your opinions hold you back. They limit you by saying “I am this” or “I am that.” You confine yourself in a little box. “I am a teacher.” “I am a doctor.” “I have a certain prestige.” You confine and constrain yourself into very finite boxes. You box yourself in, so to speak. The call of your internal longing ever counters this tendency, saying to you “Look beyond the box,” “See outside the box.” “Think outside the box.” You are far more than the boxes you have made. Your truth comes from deep within, and its calling is dharma. Following this call is known as the way of dharma.
So, to follow the way of dharma, you first need a sense of expanded awareness known as vistara. This is a widening of your inner sense of vision that comes from deep meditation and contact with your Divine source. “Ahh, I have felt the bliss so sweet, have beheld the unity of all beings. I have watched the sunset and felt love wash over me. I have seen the trees and smelled the freshness of the forest, felt that I am one with the forest, am one with all its little creatures. And I am one with my brothers and sisters and all the people of the world.” This is the experience of vistara.
To follow dharma, you must not only have an expanded vision of the One, but also the passion to stay connected to essential being. This quality is called rasa. Rasa is the taste of a thing. It means to be saturated with awareness of Divine presence, to feel alive with the joy of Divine connection.
Dharma is not only your individual path to follow, but it is also a collective or universal path. It has enormous social implications.
A society may move towards dharma or away from dharma. For dharma to be expressed within a society there must be expanded awareness, vistara, as well as dynamic flow towards Divine love and truth, rasa. People need the opportunity to perceive the interconnected wholeness of life and the love underlying all things. Then they can make all and every effort to move towards that beatitude.
There is another quality that is also essential to the path of dharma and that is seva, actions in the world which reflect your expanded vision of the wholeness of life and your deeply felt connection to wholeness. Seva is service, but it is a special kind of service in which you serve all beings as manifestations of the One.
Seeing God in all, you offer service to God in the form of living beings. And, in the offering of service, you realize that it is in fact the power of the infinite that provides the service through your form. This is seva. Once seva is enacted, the three components of expansion, blissful connected experience of the whole and service to livings beings are all in play. The result is tatsthiti or Divine union, the fulfillment of dharma.
In spiritual life there are three important concepts that can further your spiritual development and make all the difference. The first concept is Dharma. Without Dharma, there is no spiritual life. Dharma is that movement towards the great, towards the divinity that underlies all existence. Without Dharma there is no spiritual life. So, Dharma is the movement towards the divinity.
You may involve yourself with things of the world, but unless you move towards that enlightened state, towards that awakened knowledge, there is no true movement in life. And that movement, that process of moving towards that awakened state, that enlightenment, is Dharma. Those things that support that movement, they are part of Dharma. And each person has the universal Dharma, for it is the Dharma of human beings--Bhagavad Dharma—to move towards the great. It is our natural inclination.
But every person also has their own personal Dharma, their Svadharma, their Dharma as a unique individual, their own personal way, their own personal journey. Each of you has this Dharma. So, when you align yourself both with the universal Dharma of human beings and with your own unique Dharma, and you move your life towards your divine goal, then that alignment with Dharma moves you from your ego-centered understanding of the world to the divine, cosmic existence. So, understanding and following Dharma is the first, very significant tool that you have for spiritual life.
The second tool you have for spiritual life is Sangha. Without Sangha, there is no—there is difficulty to follow the spiritual path for many people. Because you are often influenced by the forces around you, the people around you. And if those forces, those people do not support your following Dharma, it becomes very difficult to follow Dharma. So, some place in your life you need Sangha; you need the company of like-minded people who support you in your journey towards divinity. So, Dharma and Sangha are the first two great tools that you have for spiritual life.
And the third tool that you have for spiritual life that is most significant is awareness of that enlightened state, the enlightened one—that you might come to know that enlightened state by association with those that already have an experience of this, that you come in the contact of saints and sages, that you read the writings of saints and sages, that you hear talks, that you contemplate words of truth, understanding.
From this you can bring deeper understanding to the mind, that you understand your pathway, you understand what you are doing and where you are going. But more importantly, as the teachings sink into you, you begin to feel the way. You begin to know deep in your being the light of the inner truth. So, following and knowing the teachings is the third great gift you have in spiritual life.
The Dharma, the Sangha, and the way of the masters, the teachings of the masters, these three tools are your great gifts given to you on your spiritual path. And following them will greatly enhance your journey and bring you to the realms of truth, to the shores of love, to the light within you, the radiant existence that transcends your individuality, transcends your sense of self and other, so that in that light there is only the love, only the truth of the inner-born Self.
There is only the love which has always existed, will always exist. In that light, in that truth, you are not an individual. You are part of that radiant existence. When you surrender to that love, to that presence, that all-compassionate presence, the divine existence, it is something vast, intelligent, radiant beyond words that cannot be defined or confined by ideas in the human mind. Rather, the mind can let go, and the heart can feel, and in that feeling dissolve the sense of duality, the sense of separation into this wholeness of light, the wholeness of love, the wholeness of being, so that there exists not two, but one. One truth, one love, one essential being.
For most people, when the group goes one way, they go that way; they believe what the group believes. When the group goes another way, they go that way. Why? Because they have surrendered to the group psychology, as their instincts around power and submission tell them to do for their survival. Human beings are not so strong; have compassion for them. Just as the wolf has an instinctual response within its society or the deer with its herd, or the horses, or the birds, so human beings are equally bound in their reactions. People in general have a profound mental pride that they do not see their responses to their own societies. They do not see how they are giving away their ability to make personal choices to the groups they identify with.
Instinctual survival and group behaviors are in the genes but for the true yogi who has a personal association with God, in the process of meditation, as the higher layers of mind open, these genes lose their influence. As one grows toward an enlightened state, the genes that create these instincts and the survival needs that drive behaviors of dominance become less and less active and eventually turn off. Then love for the Supreme dominates.
The yogi who wants to know truth must step apart from this biology, from the dominance of the body and the way the body structures the mind. To do this, begin to witness your own existence. As higher layers of the mind become accessible, the calm witness, knowledge and detachment from the animal instincts grows. Instincts are driven by fear and all that happens as a result of them is based in fear. The closer you are to the Divine, the more the instincts of survival turn off and the fear that drives them dissolves.
All those who teach about this problem give the same advice: Avoid group identification. Feel that the whole universe is your home; all living beings your children, your family. Stand apart from any side and take actions of loving kindness and compassion. Seeing the pain and the shortcomings of all people in this world, have compassion for the humanity, the difficulty, the struggle, the pain. Bring healing to humanity; approach all with compassion and love.
If you want this change, follow Yama and Niyama, rather than the dynamics of power and look very closely at your own self. Find your own relationship with the eternal Self and with all beings. You can only do this as an individual. The sangha (spiritual community) can help to a degree but it is important to have your eyes open when relating to a group to bring your internal locus of surrender where you give your power freely to the God within. The true spiritual seeker turns within to the Divine and seeks guidance from that one and not any external force. Standards of morality need to come from your relationship to the Divine. Then there is a certain detachment from all groups and all group-isms.
To avoid group identity is much more difficult and involved than it appears but it is key to being able to follow Yama and Niyama. So have all the Masters taught. Essential morality does not lie within a group psychology. It lies within you as an individual and within your relationship to the God Self. And that relationship is personal and singular. The true Sadvipra (developed spiritual person) is a part of all groups and a part of none. Being a person who stands for dharma, he or she lives by ethics, for the love of the Divine. Actions are governed by personal experience and by what has been revealed from the innermost being.
Loving yourself is essential because it is by loving your own self that you become able to love others. When you learn to view your own faults and failings with understanding and compassion, you become able to accept and love others, even when you know their imperfections. When you see divinity in your own being you become able to see the divine in others. The attitudes and approaches you develop toward others begin with the feelings you have about your own self.
If you can love all parts of yourself and accept yourself fully, then you can have compassion for others. Love Divine does not discriminate, does not pick and choose. It is love unconditional. When love for your own self becomes unconditional, when you can forgive yourself for all the ways you have not lived up to how you think you should be, then you become able to touch Love Divine.
Your own personality as well as your body, mind and sense of self are all expressions of the one eternal Self. When you love yourself and all beings, you love the divine in manifest form. Within you are shadows and light, joys and pain. When you hold all parts of yourself equally with acceptance and love, you move into balance. From that balance comes the deep meditative harmony with divine Consciousness, divine Essence.
In that harmony, oneness exists. There, the love you have been seeking can be found. There, you find the wholeness that dissolves all suffering. Know that each and every person, including you, is unconditionally loved, unconditionally cared for.
That love is like a gently falling rain, a shower of grace. It is only when you are afraid, holding up the umbrella of ego, afraid to let it down, afraid to let love in that this love cannot be felt. When you let it down and let love in, the love that is there is vast and unconditioned. You are the dear child of the beloved One. When you feel that, you know you are never alone, and you will never again be alone, for the Divine is always with you.
You are always cherished. This guidance, this shower of grace, of unconditional love is always there, always. It is only when you are looking away and absorbed with all of the details of your life that the defensiveness of I and mine comes. Due to your distracted attention, divine love becomes invisible. It is always there, only you do not hear the sweet small voice within. You do not see the shower of grace. You become deaf; you become blind; all you see are separate forms that come and go.
When you awaken, then the eyes open. The true Guru is the one who applies the ointment of knowledge and removes the darkness from your eyes. By grace you may see, hear and know love, know truth. When you experience loneliness, take the shelter of your most Beloved and know that you are always loved, unconditionally. Feel that shower of grace surround you and know that you are not alone.
That loving consciousness, that infinite, caressing, caring intelligence permeates all that is. Everyone you have loved is an expression of that. You have seen the Beloved in the eyes of those you have loved, your children, your spouse, your lover. You have seen the Divine in their eyes. See that One in your own heart. Feel the grace around you. Let go of the encasement around your heart.
Let go of the duality of I and mine. Let go of your fear and your separation. Sink into the Beloved. Feel the grace. This is yours. It will always be yours. It never changes. The love of the Infinite is unconditional, always with you every moment of every day, with you when you came into this world, with you when you leave, with you in your hardest times, with you in your greatest joy. You are guided, protected and loved unconditionally.
Know this love. It is in your own heart-cave. This love belongs to you. This One is the Self of yourself, your source, your home. The aching in every human heart is to end the experience of duality and to be united with the whole of being again, to return home to the sea of love from which all have come. This is your birthright. It is your natural state, sahaj. This is true self-love.
Here are a few books we recommend
"The result of facing your own suffering and working with it is that you become able to accept the suffering of others."
When you live in appreciation of life and reverence for life, you become alive, vibrant in gratitude and joy then you move toward love and compassion. For the Divine is the source of compassion.
When you develop compassion, you put real love into practice. Seeing the pain and suffering of others, your heart goes out with compassion to help them. You are not thinking of what you can get out of the situation or even how it will impact you. Your concern is what is needed to help or heal and how you can make that happen.
Compassion involves empathy, an ability to relate to the pain of others, to feel it, to know it and to care that someone is experiencing it. Oftentimes, people who have been through a great deal of suffering themselves are the ones who develop this kind of empathy, an ability to really understand the suffering of others and truly care.
The result of facing your own suffering and working with it is that you become able to accept the suffering of others, understand their pain and care. This is compassion.
Compassion, as a practice, requires you to face your own pain and the pain and suffering that exists in this world without looking away. It requires you to be able to be with suffering, to see it and those who suffer with great love, great care.
Compassion is an attitude, a feeling, a reflection of all embracing, unconditional love. It holds nothing back and doesn’t run. The practice of compassion must start with yourself, with facing your own pain and having great kindness for the part of yourself that has suffered. Then you can take that same care and share your heart with all beings in the loving kindness of compassion.
Begin by treating others as you would be treated, with kindness. Do not covet what they have. Make efforts to care for their needs in a kind and compassionate way. This does not mean that you need to bow to the wishes of every person who wants something from you. This is not compassion.
Compassion is to be kind and to care about the needs of every living being. When in an attitude of compassion, all that you do is for the welfare of living beings. It is a kindness that you express in your daily life. If you live in this kindness you will find that there is a significant effect on other people and on yourself.
When you learn to see everything as the manifestation of God and treat all people and all life with utmost respect, the world around you becomes the very expression of divinity. As you develop your awareness with the practice of Yama and Niyama, you begin to acquire positive qualities and characteristics within yourself, and the compassionate nature of the infinite
Here is a book on Compassion that you might also like.
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As we begin this year, we face some significant issues in the world and in the United States.
There is a polarization of people, dire predictions about the soon to come impact of global warming, about immigration, the migration of people from areas in the world impacted by violence and/or global warming, and a variety of other very significant issues.
There are those who want to bring change and compassionately try to ease the situation and those who want to keep going with fossil fuels usage and profit based decisions that have worked for them in the past.
In this backdrop of rising global struggles and polarities, how do we relate as spiritual beings? How can we help without getting caught up in hatred and ill will? What is each of our roles in life at this time in the world? The below intuitive new years message from my spiritual guide gives insight into the situation this year.
"Nothing is won in human life without struggle. The babe when first born struggles to breathe in order to survive, the child struggles to learn, to grow, to understand the world around them. Struggle is a part and parcel of human life.
Today there are struggles between the forces that bring the world towards peace and harmony, support the welfare of all human beings, and bring humanity in alignment with the planet on which we live, and the forces dominated by the personal greed of individuals and their desires for power and prestige. These forces would move the planet in a different direction. They would place money and personal gain above the welfare of living beings; above the welfare of the planet.
These two forces are in battle at this time. This is a natural struggle that comes when there is movement in the human society. Today there is movement towards the light, towards the unification of society, towards the building of one unified planet.
"Today the light of a new dawn grows brighter. It is the light of a new beginning in the world, one in which there is harmony between human beings and all the other living beings of the world. This light of human awareness and consciousness arises out of the ashes of ignorance, greed, and self-centeredness that have come to dominate many spheres of human life.
Today's world is changing. It is not a time when you can sit on the sidelines and enjoy the bliss of ignorance and complacency. It is a time when the struggle for the very existence on this planet will demand your attention. It is a time to stand up for dharma. A time to stand for the rights of human beings and all living beings on this planet - to live with harmony for the collective good of all.
There is no time now to ignore this struggle. The time for complacency has come to an end. This is a struggle that will require each and every person to apply themselves in their own way, to their own capacity, to bring the light of a new dawn into this world.
That light rises. It grows bright. It is a new beginning which cannot be stopped, cannot be changed. The forces for change and the development of light in this world grow stronger. There is no diminishing of this movement. But as it grows, struggle comes - the struggle of the light to emerge from the darkness. The struggle to bring conscious awareness to living beings - that they might live in harmony with each other and with the natural world.
This world is like a ship - a contained ecosystem. All who live aboard this spaceship earth are together in their destiny. The welfare of one cannot be separated from the welfare of another. This is an integrated system. The journey is one that all who live here make together. It cannot be made alone. It cannot be made single handedly.
And when some try to exploit others, the results and the consequences of that will become more evident much faster than in the past. It is not that there are darker forces in the world today than have existed previously, but it is that there is a brighter light in the world today and that light illumines the darkness. Where there is a bright light, darker shadows are cast.
And so there is in the world today, a struggle. A struggle of those forces which would cling to their personal welfare and greed, and those forces which recognize that this planet is an integrated whole and that everyone--all creatures who live on it and the planet itself—are one life, one essence, one interwoven whole. From this whole, comes the welfare of all.
It is the duty of each and every one to work for that welfare of all beings in whatever capacity, in whatever manner you have to express this dharma.
For movement towards unity and welfare of all beings is movement towards the Divinity which is the core and essence of life. That divine love, divine compassion, divine essence is at the core of all existence.
When human life flows in harmony with the intention of the Divine that there should be kindness and care for all beings; when love for the Supreme and love for all beings dominates the human psyche, then there is a harmony here on earth with humans, with animals, with plants, with the rocks, with the sea. This harmony seeks to be acknowledged, seeks to be expressed.
As the light of a new dawn grows on this planet, this harmony arises as the central focus of human life. Without it, human beings cannot survive. And the challenges that face humanity today are the result of a lack of this harmony.
But now, as the light of a new dawn grows brighter, the potential for this harmony becomes greater and greater. It arises and it will not be stopped. But it brings with it the challenges that we face today; the struggle to bring light into the world and to dissolve ignorance. It brings the struggle to all human beings to learn to work together and to recognize that our welfare is interwoven and interconnected with each other, with the animals, with the plants, with the earth, with the oceans. Harm to one brings harm to all.
So it is time to rise up. It is time to meet the new dawn and to be a force of light and love in this world; to incorporate it in yourself and stand for dharma, stand for truth, stand for light, stand for the unity of life and the wholeness of being. Make your voice heard in the world. Make your intentions firm and clear. Do not be daunted. Do not be discouraged.
The force of light, the force of grace and love is the strongest force, and it is rising in the world today. The welfare of all living beings today requires that all join together in a universal humanity, in a universal life, and stand for truth, stand for love, stand for the welfare of all beings.
Darkness cannot hide this light. It will shine brighter and brighter and the deeper the struggle the greater the light will shine. So do not be afraid of struggle. Do not be afraid to let your light shine in the world. Do not be daunted by any resistances you feel. Go forward. Be bright. Shine bright."
" Let the light of truth, love, and Divine grace shine through you. Be courageous. It is time to stand in your light and let it shine. The world needs you now."
"Gratitude is not only in what you do
but how you approach what you do."
There are some whose lives are filled with great blessings but still feel that they have nothing. And there are those who are truly poor, yet given even the slightest crumb will feel they are most fortunate. One may be as wealthy as a prince or princess and still feel impoverished or as poor as the poorest beggar and feel wealthy.
The feeling in the mind is not dictated by the external circumstances or environment but by the mental approach taken by the individual. When you want to be happy, to make the best of your life, it is best to take the approach of the person who feels that whatever they have, be it great or be it ever so humble is the blessing of God. It is better to feel that you are fortunate than to feel you are deprived. Either feeling might be there, be you rich or be you poor, be you overflowing with opportunities or be you lacking in direction.
The practice of gratitude can take many forms. You may begin with simple exercises such as beginning and ending each day by remembering or even writing down all the things you are grateful for. They can be large or small, from a new job you are excited about to a flower you saw blooming by the side of the road, a beautiful sunset or a person who smiled at you warmly in a store. Part of the practice of gratitude is simply beginning to notice all the good things that go on around you each and every day. Sometimes we get conditioned only to notice what is wrong with the world and our lives and we overlook what is right.
Gratitude is turning that process around. Another helpful practice is to remember all the kind deeds done toward you by others. Think of someone you know and appreciate and express your gratitude. Write him a letter or email or even better tell him in person how much you appreciate him. Notice what others do well and express your appreciation. And don’t forget your animal friends grace of the Divine that is opening another direction that will lead you where you really need to go. For the Divine looks at your heart and seeing your heart will help you go where you must go to become all that you can be. So do not be unhappy with your life; do not be sad with your existence for your future is bright and the Divine looks after you with great love and affection.
If you take the view that whatever is given to you in life is a blessing, you will find that your life is filled with blessings throughout. You will find that you have much potential within that will evolve forward as time goes on. Never be disheartened; never allow yourself to be discouraged; know that you are guided. The same force that guides the stars guides you also. That which is in the depths of your heart is what you really need to find your way home to the ocean of love. The Source will come to you and guide you, for grace surrounds you. So live in gratitude. Live in reverence for life and transform your life in joyous appreciation.
“Forgiveness is the scent released by a violet
Maetreyii Ma: a teacher of yogic wisdom & practices