I WANT MY DHARMA
AND I WANT IT NOW!
I’m scheduled to give a talk on dharma at You and the Mat in Oakland on December 10 from 4:00 to 5:30. This isn’t, I must admit, a subject I’m well informed on, so I decided to do some research. You know that little Russian doll that when you screw off its upper half, there’s another smaller one inside? And when you screw off its upper half there’s a yet smaller one inside of that? And so on for about three or four more un-screwings? This is kind of a metaphor for what happened when I started un-screwing dharma. Inside I found karma, and inside of that I found reincarnation, and inside of that ... well, you get the picture.
I got to wondering what I’d find if I Googled, What is my dharma? So I did, and presto! In three-quarters of second I was presented with ... maybe inundated is a better word ... just over 40 MILLION hits. Forty million! If I opened one website every 10 seconds, and did nothing else at all–not eat or sleep or read a book, just every 10 seconds, click, click, click–it would take me almost 13 years to look at them all, that’s assuming no new ones are added while I was doing my search and that I didn’t die of starvation or lack of sleep. What’s going on here? Was this number really as big as it seemed? I figured for comparison I’d Google, What is yoga? Surely the response to this question would swamp dharma’s, put it in some kind of perspective, compared to yoga websites, 40 million would be a drop in the bucket. Well, it turned out that it was an awful big drop and a really teeny bucket, because my yoga search turned up “only” slightly more than 40 million hits. Yikes, there are a LOT of souls out there hungering for a dharma.
We have to wonder why. The belief seems to be that each of us is born with a heavenly-mandated propensity to do something special, and if we could only discover what that is, our lives would be complete and rewarding beyond our wildest imaginings. I wasn’t able to check all 40 million websites–I had things to do later that day–but the ones I did open often presented some simple strategy for discovering your dharma. Most of them seemed pretty convinced that whatever it is you like doing best is a very strong hint that your dharma lay in that direction. I was naturally a bit suspicious about this, if you just focus on what you like, which is necessarily what’s inside the realm of your experience, then what’ll happen if your true dharma is on the outside looking in? My goodness, how did anybody ever find their dharma?
Well, of course back in the day in India, where this dharma thing originated, you never chose your dharma. You were born into a certain caste, and each caste had its own dharma, and like it or not, you were stuck with it for the rest of your life. No matter what natural abilities you had
inside yourself yearning to be free–you might be an Indian Einstein or a Shakespeare or a Mickey Mantle (he was a switch archer) –if you were born to the servant caste, servant-ing would be your dharma. You might think, try something different, just to prove you could succeed at math, play-writing, or scaring the bejesus out of pitchers. Sorry, it didn’t work that way. People were encouraged to stay within the lines–even if you do your own dharma poorly, they were instructed, it’s better than doing someone else’s better. You couldn’t ascend social ladder no matter how well you servant-ed, but you also couldn’t be demoted a few rungs even if you were a warrior who called in sick before every battle.
Still want to know what your dharma is? What? You still do? Here’s my fool-proof strategy ... Get five slips of paper and on each one write one of your five most desirable dharmas, don’t hold back, dare to dream, then fold ‘em up and put ‘em in a hat, shake up the hat and pull one out. That’s not it. Pick another. Nope, try again, and again, and again. Found your dharma yet? Course not, but now you’re ready to take the first step: recognize how futile it is to try to choose your own dharma. Make up your mind to be as receptive as possible to whatever comes your way in life, as my favorite Korean poet Sun Yung Shin writes, the opposite of what is familiar is infinite possibilities of startling encounters, and Consider all doors. Yes, allow your dharma to find you. Or as my guru Svami Duhkhananda likes to say: You’re alive, what more do you want ... or need? More on the 10th.
Oh, speaking of You and the Mat talks, there’s one coming up on November 5th from 4:00 to 5:30 that I just know you’re not going to miss, even if the relatives are in town or the dog is sick. My dear friend Mary Paffard is making the trek down from Northern Cal to share with us her treasure trove of wisdom. Seriously (for only one moment), I’ve known Mary for well over 30 year, we’re both Iyengar survivors, and she is without the least shred of doubt, one of the most sincere, creative, and heart-warming teachers I know ... and I know a lot of them. See you then.