Individual Dharma - laws set for yourself to reach the ultimate
Common Dharma - Laws that set order (for the community, society, family)
The concept of Dharma both individual and common is explored in great depth in the great Sanskrit text the Bhagavad Gita. The central figure of this tale Arjuna is torn between his duty to fight a war and his reluctance to harm his opponents who are his cousins, teachers and friends. The story unfolds on the battlefield as Arjuna discusses his dilemma with Lord Krishna.
The external battle setting of the Bhagavad Gita is a metaphor for the battle that exists in the minds of all human beings. Arjuna represents our small ego self and Krishna represents our wise inner guide, that voice that encourages us to face the challenges of life as a spiritual warrior.
The courage needed to be a warrior means that we need to look beyond our small selves and to contribute to the greater good of our community. To some this may sound like self-sacrifice however it is how we create greater confidence in our abilities and brings us a deep sense of purpose and fulfillment. When our actions collectively contribute to something that benefits others, we become aware of our inner power and the universe supports our efforts.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reminds Arjuna that his individual Dharma is to be a warrior and that his duty is not to fight for the sake of fighting but to serve for what is right and just. We all have a personal Dharma which consists of our unique qualities, gifts, talents and abilities. These traits help us to find our life path no matter how small or lofty, and to follow it with the best of our ability, and only then can we be truly fulfilled. When we ignore our individual Dharma or when we are led astray from it by outside influences, we are left feeling that life is pointless. Ignoring our Dharma can lead to physical, emotion and spiritual unease. Krishna reminds Arjuna to remember his own strength and not to allow himself to be discouraged by outside factors.
No one else can tell us what our Dharma is, it comes from within. As yogis we learn to quieten the mind in meditation so that we can hear our inner guide. The Bhagavad Gita warns us against seeking external validation or being led by our minds or our emotions. Once we are clear on what our Dharma is, we need to trust that we will find the right conditions to support us on our path.
“Peace prevails when everyone follows their own Dharma. War erupts when common Dharma is broken”