There are hundreds of self help books and teachings that promise to help us discover our life purpose, find our passion, do what we love and realize our dream. Naturally, we are drawn to these possibilities, as we are all motivated by our unique nature and intrinsically inclined to do certain things and to avoid others. So what does Yogic philosophy have to say about finding our Life Purpose and passion?
The closest Sanskrit term for Life Purpose is Dharma, and it is also the key to understanding yogic teachings. Like all yogic concepts, Dharma is a very complex and profound word that defies any concise English translation.
The word itself comes from the Sanskrit root “dhri,” which means “to sustain or uphold”. It is often translated to mean righteousness or that which upholds and sustains the positive order of things. Dharma is also the word for duty, responsibility and obligation. Furthermore, it also means our unique self expression and that which comes to us effortlessly (both good and bad). As such, each human being has their unique Dharma of the soul in every incarnation. All living and non living entities also have their Dharma – just as the Dharma of fire is to produce heat the Dharma of ice is to cool. Finally, Dharma is also the umbrella word for religion as well justice or law.
You are getting the picture – life purpose in Yoga is
Yoga philosophy describes many different kinds of Dharma that we have to consider for a purpose filled life.
A life filled with purpose and justice is called a Dharmic life, it is honorable as well as sensitive to time, circumstances, age, and the community to which we belong. What most people think of in the west as “Life Purpose” is our obligation to express our unique nature called Sva Dharma (Self-Dharma). This is our tendencies, personality, desires, and experiences resulting from our accumulated karmas in past lives. Let us look at some of the other different Dharmic laws we have to follow along the way:
- Sanathana Dharma (Another name for Hinduism) – eternal and universal Dharma of spiritual laws that regulate the forces of nature.
- Samanya Dharma – Eternal and universal Dharma to live by, such as compassion, patience, truthfulness etc.
- Varna Dharma– Dharma of our unique trade/vocation and profession
- Ashram Dharma – Dharma appropriate for each age group
- Kula Dharma – Dharma toward our family
- Manava Dharma– Dharma of a human birth
- Purusha Dharma– Dharma of the male gender
- Stri Dharma– Dharma of the female gender
- Raja Dharma – Dharma of the leader
- Praja Dharma- Dharma of a citizen
- Yuga Dharma- Dharma appropriate for each epoch of the earth (Kali Yuga etc.)
- Pravritti Dharma – Dharma of worldly life
- Nivritti Dharma– Dharma of spiritual life
finally my favorite…
- Apad Dharma – Exceptional/abnormal situational Dharma
The list is endless because life is a complex web of Dharmas we have to engage in on the earth. Living our Life Purpose is a monumental task of balancing our worldly and spiritual obligations along with being able to express our unique abilities and talents.
Simply put, a purpose filled life is one where we have the clarity to do the right thing at the right time in the right situation, without interference from the ego – this is Dharma.