Three Types of Dharma
There are three types of dharma.
Everything in the mithya world is always changing, therefore dharma is always changing. Dharma is a very difficult topic, and it is impossible for one person to tell another what their personal dharma is or what is right for them in any situation.
What is right for you will not be right for me. Generally, when you feel happy and at peace with what you are doing, you are following your svadharma.
When there is a nagging, unhappy or guilty voice in your head, you are most likely contravening dharma, either by what you are doing or not doing.
Ultimately, the highest dharma is to commit to self-inquiry into your true nature using the scripture as your means of knowledge, which you apply to everything in your life.
What is the use of self-knowledge if it does not translate into the life of the person?
Vedanta is a valid means of knowledge which dispels ignorance in every situation, if it is properly taught, assimilated and applied.
The universal laws, or dharmas, are built into the nature of the Field of Existence and cannot be avoided or contravened without consequence.
Dharma can be understood in three ways.
1: Samanya dharma, or universal values, are twofold: (a) the moral laws governing the Field of Existence that apply to everyone personally, like non-injury, honesty, fairness, etc., (b) the macrocosmic laws of physics, like gravity, electricity and thermodynamics, etc. These laws behave the way they behave whether you are aware of them or not and cannot be changed, only understood. Universal laws work the same way for everybody and cannot be contravened without consequence.
2. Visesa dharma is how the individual interprets universal laws and applies them to their lives in the apparent reality with regards to everything: lifestyle, diet, money, work, family, sex, marriage, how one relates to people and the environment one lives in, technology, etc. Visesa dharma will vary for everyone depending on their life circumstances and svadharma.
3. Svadharma with a small “s” is an individual’s conditioning. This is the nature and the predisposition with which each person is born. To be happy the individual needs to act in accordance with his or her inborn nature or he or she will not be following dharma.
For instance, if it is an individual’s nature to be a businessperson, it will not serve them to be in the healing professions or vice versa.
Svadharma is different for everyone. All dharmas are based on common sense and logic. Our personal svadharma includes our conditioning, or vasana load, which will be governing how we see and act on all levels. The binding vasanas must be seen and dissolved for peace of mind to be experienced. We all have a given nature that we need to be in harmony with, and unless one understands what it is, we can make decisions that cause great agitation, suffering and discomfort to the mind and body.
It is possible that on the personal level, to be true to our svadharma, we must sometimes take actions that cause agitation and distress to ourselves or “others.”
There is no fixed rule when it comes to “right and wrong” actions.
There is just the law of karma – cause and effect – appropriate action, and that we are never in control of the outcome of any action.
If we do decide to go against our nature for good reason, then we do so with a clear mind and heart, without complaint and with the karma yoga attitude. Sometimes doing the right thing for us involves tough decisions.
But if we do not live in accordance with the rules of life and the nature Isvara gives us, we will not be happy or have peace of mind.
Our lives must conform to the truth, not the other way around. When it does, following the truth will always work out for the best even though it may turn our life upside down.
If on the other hand, if we are duty-bound and cannot change our circumstance, then we must accept that this is prarabdha karma playing out and we attend to it as best we can, as always, with the karma yoga attitude.
You know the beautiful prayer: “Lord give me the courage to change what needs to be changed, the strength to accept what cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.”
It never matters what you do from the self’s point of view, because for the self, nothing ever happens or changes.
But for the jiva who lives in the apparent reality, it matters what you do, assuming you want peace of mind and freedom from limitation.
Moksa is only for the jiva because the self is ever-free.
There are three main types of doer renunciation:
(1) karma yoga – surrendering the results of action to Isvara,
(2) karma sannyas – renouncing GRATUITOUS actions and
(3) karma jnana sannyas, the knowledge that you may act but you are not the doer.