If you’ve heard the term “dharma” or “dharmic life” while exploring Kriya Yoga or other methods of spiritual practice, you may be wondering what it really means. What does dharma mean? And what does it really mean to live a dharmic life? Let us discuss everything that you need to know.
Dharma Is a Part of the Four Principal Goals for Living a Dharmic Life
First and foremost, it’s important to define dharma, as well as its position among the four Vedic principles of living a dharmic life. From these four principles, dharma is usually considered the most important and foundational aim of life.
Dharma – It is difficult to translate the word “dharma” directly into English, much like other Sanskrit words. Essentially, the term itself refers to the spiritual nature of reality – and accepting that nature. The goal of dharma is to find your life purpose and to live a spiritually-conscious, fulfilled life. By doing so, you can satisfy the mind, body, and soul, and reach a state of enlightenment and self-realization.
Artha – Artha means wealth, means, or prosperity. However, it does not have a connotation of greed – rather, it is the process of learning how to meet your needs in life and acquire what you need to fulfill your purpose.
Kama – Kama means pleasure. More specifically, it’s a principle that states that a fulfilled life is a life that is enjoyed to its fullest – feelings of joy, happiness, and of pleasure help point us toward our full aliveness, and are powerful expressions of our soul.
Moksha – Moksha is usually translated as the “liberation of consciousness.” It follows naturally from practicing dharma, artha, and kama – it’s the freedom that arrives from the self-realization of living a dharmic life.
Dharma itself is only one of these principles – but to live a dharmic life, it’s necessary to understand and live out all four of these ancient Vedic principles.
Understanding the Two-Fold Nature of Dharma – Personal vs. Universal
One of the reasons that dharma is so hard to translate into English directly is that it has multiple meanings, and is generally understood as having a dual nature. It is used to refer to the nature of reality – but its literal meaning is “what holds together.”
In other words, it can also refer to something which is yours to do – that which holds together your life’s purpose and provides meaning to your life. This is essential for understanding the dual meaning of dharma. First, there is the overarching dharma, which is common to all – the drive to understand the natural order of things, and awaken and fulfill your natural and spiritual purpose. However, there is also more personal dharma – a path that is specifically yours to follow and express.
These two concepts are not contradictory. To live a truly dharmic life, you must follow them both – as following your personal dharmic is also to follow the universal, overarching dharma – and vice versa.
To Live a Dharmic Life Is To Live In Harmony with the Fundamental Order of the Universe
At its most basic, the idea of living a dharmic life is to live a life that is not ordinary – to learn how to cooperate with the power of the universe, understand its true nature, and accept it, leading to self-realization and intentional, purposeful life.
If you’re interested in learning more about dharmic and living a dharmic life, Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian is here to help.