Tag Archives: dharma

Arjuna’s Doubt


Doubt is a big part of all of our lives. This can be especially so in regards to our spiritual lives. The scriptures abound with stories of our most revered saints doubting their path. The Bhagavad Gita can be said to be a story of how Arjuna overcomes his doubt.

These doubts of Arjuna are not the doubts of someone just coming to yoga like most of us here in the west as something separate from our culture. Arjuna had been trained and lived with the highest masters of yoga his whole life. He was a follower of dharma; an exemplar of moral living. Compared to most of us he’d be a god. When he had to face his family and kinsmen in war; when he had to face some decisive action of magnitude like we all do a various times of our life — you know, those times when we have to make a choice between two (or more) unfavourable action – he cracked; this god of man lost his composure. He doubted everything he knew and felt inside. He doubted his dharma, the whole tide of his life that had brought him to that moment was questioned in every way. He became like a child again. Fearful of making a choice. His mind wavered incessantly. He tried to cling to universal rules instead of following his individual path for dealing with the difficult situation in which he found himself.

He was born a warrior king and knew deep inside what he had to do. As readers, we all knew what had to be done. It’s hard to imagine the kind of disappointment reader would have felt if Arjuna would have dropped his bow and refused to fight. His brothers would most certainly have killed him without ceremony or remorse. The lesson of the Gita would have then perhaps been to follow the rules and do as your told; don’t think for yourself even if you’re faced with tyranny. But Arjuna rose above even the most sacred of the universal laws that states we should not kill our own family and gave us the lesson of looking within and following our own path; that each and every moment and choice is unique and cannot be legislated universally as one set of laws for all times. We cannot discount universal law altogether, but we must know that as individuals, each of us gods unto ourselves, are capable of rising above the universal. I’n fact, it’s our duty to do so.

Arjuna was in a unique position in that he had a god as a chariot driver and counsellor. It would have been easy for Krishna to just give him a smack and tell him to snap out of it and fight, but he never does this because he knows that it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves. Krishna merely answers his questions and tells him to choose. Like the sun, he illuminates the way but he does not force anything upon him.

Arjuna is free to choose, just as we are all free to choose. Of course fate and circumstance and our own inner fires often makes choices for us leaving us with but one path to follow; but it’s still up to us to choose that path and often times struggle with the choice even if fate has already decried what is to happen. Unfortunately we cannot stop time as Arjuna and Krishna seem to do in order to make our choices, but the pain of indecision can most certainly be lessened by having faith that our inner chariot driver knows the way.

Dharshan: seeing, not that which is seen.

Have you seen this? Have you seen that? People always ask about my travels. But what am I going to see? What is seeing this or that going to give me?

One of my unique blessings in this life is to have so much time like this to just sit back and try to figure it all out. It’s a different vision from here. Not just a different perspective, but a different vision. I’m amazed how little my eyes see or my ears hear. These things are not important compared with the subtler vibrations that can be felt going about town.

It’s often been said that what you look for is what you will find. If you want to confirm misery in this world you will find it everywhere. If you want the world to confirm your joy, that too will be everywhere around you. Likewise, if you want to feel as one in this world, that too is possible merely be searching it out. This of course is not the end of the road, because there is still no truth in any of these experiences; they fluctuate with the tides of the mind. This is where many new age philosophies conclude. But vision has to come from a place not connected with the minds eye. We have to truly see things for what they really are.

Many philosophies suggest that everything that is not the absolute truth is illusion. I don’t agree with this. Ignorance and illusion are not the same thing. All this suffering in the world is real enough. I’ve suffered, and the last thing I was willing to accept is that my suffering was not real. The meaning behind our suffering I cannot tell you, but just like everything else in this world it can be used very effectively for spiritual advancement. It is, after all, the number one reason for people to turn to spirituality; though these days, people are just as likely to turn to pharmaceuticals.

Many people are trying to figure out the meaning not just of their lives in general, but also of specific events. What does it mean, what is the lesson? The events of our lives are often without meaning; the meaning and the lesson are “as we like.” The importance of the events of our lives is that they allow us an opportunity to see more deeply the interrelationships we share with all else. If we can see how intertwined we are with everything, other people, the elements, nature, even time, then we can begin to accept our karmas; which is the same as accepting our lives, our actions and the events of our lives.

Every action and event in our lives is simultaneously the unfolding of a previous karma and the creation of new ones. The more we can understand this process the more open and accepting of the process we can become. We also see how our own personal karmas create a weave with everyone else’s karmas and the collective karmas to create the tapestry of existence.

Dharma is different from karma in that it relates more to your personality than your actions. The scriptures speak of the four castes (or personalities) as well as a fifth caste that is a mysterious of the other four. These are archetypical classifications into which most people will fit (though it’s said that in the current age we are living, most people fit best with the fifth, unspecified caste). From within the framework of these archetypes your choices will be made. Whether or not it’s your karma to have a brick fall on your head has nothing to do with your dharma. Dharma relates more with your courage, intelligence, creativity and personality.

Following your dharma means that you follow your own personal values, the values that flow from your personality. As we age we begin to get a clearer picture of what we value. This picture arises from our experience, from the actions we make. So how does a person know what their dharma is? They look at their previous choices, the ones they actually made, and from this we come to now our dharma; our values.

Accept your karma and live up to your dharma. No ones dharma is any higher than another person’s dharma. Dharmas are as plentiful and necessary in this world as the leaves of the trees. The interconnectedness is so complete and perfect that you can’t even imagine.

Word in the yoga community is that you can experience what you can’t imagine. But to do this we have to see beyond the eyes, beyond the mind and far beyond the sense of self that seeks even for its own self.

One in a while, thru effort of luck we get to experience deeper states of satisfaction, but sooner or later our luck will change. Everything changes. We can’t hold that satisfaction, sooner or later an new desire will arise and we will once again be seeking it’s satisfaction rather than experiencing it. We must then find satisfaction in the seeking.

I’ve heard how Tantric courses all over the world are teaching men how to retain their erection. They cannot seem to see that this is a metaphor for experiencing satisfaction thru the process rather than thru the accomplishment. The attention of our actions should be on the actions themselves rather than on the fruits of the action.

In todays information age there are likely millions of techniques that can be used to gain this focus on the present moment, which is the moment our actions take place and the moment in which we want to feel satisfaction. But of course people get impatient and want to try a different technique and a different one and again some different one all the time getting more and more sophisticated. These techniques range from being very simple to being greatly complicated. For those who believe that some technique will work for them, the plethora of techniques serve only as a distraction. We must practice a single technique until we forget about achieving any fruit from it, only then will we realize that the technique itself is the fruit. On the other hand, it’s also suggested that fruit comes only from luck. Even the efforts we make for this or that comes from luck. So what are we to do?

Free will, Fate, and Astrology

Many westerners reject astrology in principle. They may read their own horoscope daily in the news-paper but when it comes down to it they cling to their illusion of free will and believe that the essence of astrology regects this very will. But astrology does not reject free will, quite the contrary, astrology can point us in the directions in which we can excersise our free will most effectively.

You could say that astrology assigns a probability to certain events or actions. They have a familiar name for these actions in general: karma is commonly translated as action. As karmas ‘ripen’ the events of our lives unfold. Many people have a vague idea of karmas role in cause and effect, but few stop to consider how vast a role karma has in our lives.

There are three kinds of karma: fixed, changeable, and both. Generally speaking, we can easily recognize many things in our lives that we are helpless to change. The place and time and culture and social standing under which we are born will shape our lives immensely. There is nothing we can do about this. But there are many other things that may have a high probability, but will not necessary happen to everyone; like getting married or having children. Although cultural expectation or even biology will lead us in these direction we are still free to accept or decline. Many other things it seems we’re absolutely free to accept or reject: like job offers, or turns on the freeway. Life is mix of fate and free will.

Before I continue, I should clarify that there are two main schools of astrology. Most of my readers in the west are familiar with western astrology that deals with generalities and tendencies without going into predictive forecasts or remedial measures. Western astrology has an emphasis on the sun and seasons. Vedic astrology on the other hand has a system of planetary periods that is unique for each persons birth time that allows the astrologer to see how and when your karma’s will unfold. Regarding this point my astrology teacher asks, “What is the point of astrology if people don’t believe in remedial measures.”

And this is where I don’t understand westerners. They demand their free will, but when an astrologer offers them an opportunity to exercise their will to alter they fate, they don’t believe in that either. This whole universe is an interplay of vibration. The simplest way to change something is to change the vibrations that something is subjected to; to tinker with the wave length. This is essentially what a microwave oven does; it’s also the essence behind different colours of light.

Astrological remedies were created to tinker with the subtler energies around us. By subjecting ourselves to certain vibratory energies we can influence some of the more stubbornly negative karmas to unfold less harmfully, or perhaps have our good karma’s unfold more resplendently. Wearing precious and semi-precious stones along with certain mantras are the most common remedies, but everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear can be adjusted in a remedial way. In many ways it’s just all those little things in our lives that make up a lifestyle that determine the vibrations to which we are subjected.

When we are born, we are born on a particular path with a particular personality. As the path unfolds, the personality will exert itself in various ways causing us to make certain choices over others. What we gain thru learning and experience will also influence both the path and the personality. There is no doubt that the possibilities in this world are unlimited, but each person is limited both by their location in the world and by their own minds. There may be many options, but we can only choose from the ones that come to mind.

There’s really no clear separation between free will and fate; it’s as though they simultaneously spring forth from each other as time passes. But this is also the way of karma: as time passes we burn one karma and create another, each of the simultaneous weaving and burning of our individual karmas while layer upon layer of collective karmas likewise go into the flames and come out again whole.

If free will could be depended upon more people would choose happiness, or choose to quit smoking, or choose to chase their dreams. Many times it’s nothing more than fate that leads us one way or another. We all have our burdens to carry that remain upon our back despite our strong intention to shake them off. Luck, whether good or bad is often the deciding factor regarding the ultimate direction of our lives.

I was reading one book by an astrologer who is making a living from cancer. He says he will screen your chart for cancer and prescribe certain remedial measures if it looks probable. He claims to have abut a 60% success rate. We can never really know if one thing or another has changed our fate or if we are merely on the natural course set by the stars. I do know that in the west, if the medical establishment claimed to have a test to see if you might get cancer in the future many people would be quite curious; if they said that they had a pill you could take to reduce your chance of cancer if it seemed likely, many people would take it, despite severe side effects.

My question now is: do people contract cancer thru free will, or is it fate that decrees it? In many ways the whole discussion of whether or not we have free will is just a distraction from the essence of Astrology and eastern thought in general. Free will is essentially the will of the ego, it is the framework under which selfish people seek to fullfill selfish desires. “The whole world revolves around me.”

Eastern thought generally follows a principle of all is one. Nothing acts in a vacuum, everything and everyone are in relationship. When we begin to see these relationships more clearly, we can then begin to really make choices that can alter our destiny.