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by Sally Kempton

In my late 20s, as a recovering existentialist in the midst of a life-crisis, I came across  he Bhagavad Gita, and read for the first time Krishna's wordson dharma. You probably remember the situation: the warrior-prince Arjuna, paralyzed by confusion at the prospect of having to kill his kinsmen in a war, begs his friend and teacher, Krishna, for help. Though Krishna's response touches on every essential aspect of the inner life, from how to meditate to what to expect when we die, the lines that struck me were these: "You are a warrior," Krishna tells his pupil, "your svadharma, your personal duty, is to fight. Therefore, stand up and do battle. Better your own dharma badly performed than the dharma of another done perfectly."

Is it possible to read that sentence without asking yourself the question "What is my dharma?" I felt that I'd suddenly found words for a question I'd been trying to formulate my whole life. I made my living as a writer””was that my dharma? I'd just begun serious spiritual practice””was that my dharma? I had a life-long aversion to the conventional rules of society””was that a sign that I was out of line with dharma, or simply that I followed a dharma that was uniquely mine? Was there really, as Krishna's words seemed to imply, a blueprint for right action, perhaps lodged in my DNA, that could provide my own personal path to truth? Was that the clue to the question that had confused me for most of my life, "What am I really supposed to be doing?"

Years of practice have convinced me that there is such a thing as personal dharma, and that unless we're in touch with it, we're out of touch with our real source of strength and guidance. When we are inside our dharma, spiritual growth seems to happen naturally. When we aren't, we feel stuck and stymied not just in our work and relationships, but in our inner life as well.

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13 Responses to “What is My Dharma?”

  1. Susan Moore-Jones

    Sally, I am always amazed afresh at how clearly you can explain the most complex of concepts. I have been discussing this very subject with a born again Christian friend for whom I have great respect despite our very different paths. Your article is just so helpful. As always, thank you for your great wisdom and generosity in sharing the fruits of your long practice in such a very “human” way.

  2. Hans Jecklin

    Dear Durgananda-Sally

    I still remember you from Ganeshpuri and especially the month-long course in upstate N.Y. And through my intense contact with Marc I am glad to have found you again!
    This article is beautifull and concise at the same time, and I will use it as a concentrated piece of wisdom for many of my clients.

    With warm regards and love,
    Hans

  3. Tony Beach

    Thank you so much for such a beautiful, heartfelt, and brilliant expression, which is filled with such a sense of awareness, humility, wisdom and thoughtfulness . . . and most likely, a lot experience. Very timely too. : )

    Thanks.

  4. Catherine Hedden

    Sally, I woke up this morning pondering my work as a Branding and Personal Development Consultant. Your article really added some “juice” to my thoughts.

    The Bhagavad Gita quote, “Better your own dharma badly performed than the dharma of another done perfectly” Is exactly the point of good branding. Do what YOU do best, don’t try to imitate others. Your uniqueness is what others will be drawn to because it is the true reason you are here.

    What are the Unique Gifts that you have to offer the world? This is your Brand and this is your Dharma.

    But, isn’t this the real burr in the saddle of most of our get-up-and-go career horses? Finding our dharma or clarifying our brand can seem impossible. How do we do this? Who can help us? Do we need a Swami or a Phd? Is our teacher a professor or a guru?

    It makes me giggle to consider this…..because I realize it is my dharma.

    Om and Prem and a big dose of gratitude,

    Catherine

  5. shira macklin

    i have read that quote from the bhagavad gita many times and it always made me weep. until i read your article, i could never figure out why i was so touched by it. thank you.

  6. Trish

    I would really like to print a personal copy of this essay, is it possible to do so without getting all the adcopy?
    Thanks!

  7. Virginia Pappas

    You might try highlighting the article, copying it, and pasting it into Word, or other software.

  8. chahat

    dearest Sally,

    Wonderfull piece of dharma, written in your clear, relaxed and humorous way…
    Used it in my retreat as a piece of wisdom….
    love, Chahat

  9. Joe Perez

    Sally, I’ve read many articles on the topic of “finding one’s purpose” and this is one of the finest. Thank you!

  10. Name

    Wow, so many expressions of appreciation, such gratitude. So much love. It is moving. Beautiful.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1.  Sally Kempton on finding one’s Dharma
  2.  Drama or Dharma? | Yogabuddhi.se
  3.  Inspiration + Illumination | Terra K.

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