What is Dharma? It’s Full Definition and an Even Deeper Meaning

“Your dharma is to be perfectly available at every given moment to the impulses of cosmic intelligence that are driving the processes of evolution, and not to be rigidly attached.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

The term dharma, like many other Sanskrit words and phrases, is not well understood by many with an interest in Vedic wisdom. The definition of dharma is often simplified to the extent that it loses its true nature and meaning.

‘Purpose’ is perhaps the most common misinterpretation of the word.Many try to define dharma by narrowing their dharma down to a specific mission or purpose that they hope becomes a legacy for which they will be remembered. However, the meaning of dharma goes beyond this limited interpretation.

Dharma is much more interesting, more exciting even, than a singular mission or role in life. In a constantly changing ever-evolving universe, our dharma changes year by year, day by day, moment to moment .

So rather than defining our life, our dharma defines our moments.

In this episode of the podcast, Thom explains, as elegantly as always, that our dharma is to be vigilant, to become attuned to the needs of the times, and to be an agent for progressive change. It requires us to surrender to our role in the evolution of things.

And the key to living our dharma? Let’s just say our twice-daily practice of daily Vedic Meditation gives us a distinct advantage in understanding what dharma means.

Subscribe to Vedic Worldview

Apple Podcast logo
Stitcher Podcast logo
Spotify Podcast logo
Google Podcast logo

Episode Highlights


Dharma – Your Role in the Evolution of Things



Complex, Sophisticated and Elegant



A Constantly-Evolving Bio-Friendly Universe



What is Your Role in Evolution?



The Bliss of Being



Your Dharma—An Agent of Progressive Change



Mistaken Identity



Perfectly Available at Every Given Moment


Jai Guru Deva


What Is Dharma?

[00:43] Dharma – Your Role in the Evolution of Things

Today we are going to spend a few moments talking about dharma.  Dharma is spelled D-H-A-R-M-A, Dharma.  Dharma is yet another one of those words that has developed quite a wrong reputation in the Western stylization of the word your personal role in the evolution of things, dharma.  Dharma in the proper pure Vedic view means, your personal role in the evolution of things.  Everything is evolving.

Everything is evolving.  All forms and all phenomena exist to aid the process of evolution.  Evolution means the movement of everything, the storyline of the universe from a less-sophisticated state to a more-sophisticated state, from a less-elegant state to a more-elegant state.  Evolution.  Evolution means the acquisition of the ability to detect order at more and more complex levels of activity.

[02:00] Complex, Sophisticated and Elegant

But, when I look at my Swiss watch, which is here in my hand, it has hundreds of moving parts, all compactified into a tiny little disc which reflects where the sun happens to be in the sky at any given time.  It’s a mechanical sundial that we’ve created.  It gives me an idea where the sun is.  Is it high noon yet?   Are we moving into after noon?   Are we moving into evening where the sun has set?   At what time of the night can I expect… how much more time is going to pass before the sun rises?

So this intense complexity inside this tiny little device where all the moving parts are playing their role in the generation of a particular story.  The story is the story of “Where’s the sun?”

And so, complexity should not be mistaken for the other word which is ‘complicated’.  Complicated generally has elements of frustration associated with that as a word.  Complex, provided that there is integrated functioning, it is sophistication.  And so this little watch is a sophisticated example of complexity integrated into a highly-functional work of art that will tell me where the sun is.

Like that we have evolution moving all of the parts, the forms and the phenomena of the manifest relative world—by relative we mean, the world that is ever changing—in the direction of increasingly more sophisticated and elegant.

[03:48] A Constantly-Evolving Bio-Friendly Universe

One of the great teachers of this in modern times is an astrophysicist and quantum astrophysicist by the name of Paul Davies, whose writings I highly recommend to anyone who is more interested in these subjects.

Professor Davies has a concept which he has put into the words “bio-friendly,” that it is evident that the universe in which we exist is attempting through its behaviours to produce nervous systems that can eventually end up reflecting on their place in that universe and even make commentary on it, as we humans living on the planet earth are constantly doing.

And so to live in a bio-friendly universe means to live in a universe that can move from being simple matter into proteins and aminos and so on.  That ultimately can gain the propensity to reproduce.  That ultimately can build nervous systems that have the capacity to have thought, and then complex thought to consider the way one is thinking while one is thinking, to consider multiple layers of thinking and then to generate reflections on what it is that we exist for, what is our purpose in the universe.

And whether people are atheists, or they are theists—that is to say whether they believe in any kind of embedded intelligence in the universe, or they disregard that notion completely, or don’t like the idea—nonetheless, almost all scientists are fascinated with the idea of exobiology.

We’re rather convinced that there are mechanisms that go on in our universe that are going to create other forms in other environments, planets and so on, which might somehow be able to communicate with us.

We’re fascinated by the idea of living in a universe that, whether it happened at random—by the way, I’m not one of the ones who can buy that concept—or whether it happened by purpose, a universe which turns out to have been bio-friendly evolution.

[06:12] What is Your Role in Evolution?

What is your role in this evolution from less sophisticated to more sophisticated?   What difference will you have made at the end of a human lifetime?   What will have been your contribution to the increasing evolution, the increasing sophistication of the world around you?

Will your contribution have been one that is significant in terms that we can look at and make some kind of assessment about, or will the fact of your existence have been relatively insignificant?

[06:49] The Bliss of Being

The idea in the Vedic worldview, is that if you learn how to live life in attunement with the laws of nature by allowing your awareness twice daily to settle down into that least-excited state [through Vedic Meditation], by settling into that least-excited state, the mind steps beyond thinking into the bliss of Being.

Being is the human least-excited consciousness state.  Being happens to be the equivalent of the least-excited state of the whole of nature.  When we come out of the state of Being, we’re able to pick up those impulses of thought and behaviour that end up being in tune with the processes of evolution that the universe itself is motivating.

We end up becoming more and more, as we practice our Vedic Meditation technique twice every day, we end up becoming, more and more, agents of progressive change.

[07:52] Your Dharma—An Agent of Progressive Change

The closer we come to optimizing our role as an agent of progressive change, the more and more we are living our dharma.  “What is it that nature wants you to be doing right now?   What is the very best thing that you could be doing today or in the next one minute?”  And that very best thing might be a different thing every moment.

One of the mistakes that we make is, well, my contribution to the progressive change of the world, my dharma, is “I’m a carpenter,” or my dharma is “I’m an accountant,” my dharma is “I’m an activist,” my dharma is “I’m a musician, it’s my dharma.”  This is how the West has understood the word dharma.

The way properly to understand the word dharma is, “I am in any given moment whatever it is that nature needs me to be.  And I have zero rigid attachment to specific styles of behaviour, specific timings and specific outcomes because I live in a world of experience.”

We could call it trust, but it is in fact experience, that in the larger picture, my thinking and my actions spontaneously will emerge that will be my very best contribution to the collective effort of evolution, dharma.

[09:28] Mistaken Identity

Living your dharma is not a description of what you do for an income, your occupation as we say.  How do you occupy your time?

The idea that your career is your dharma is a faulty idea.  It may well be that you are the world’s most talented litigator and legal person.  Is that your dharma?   No, your dharma is to do that which is the most evolutionary thing possible in every given moment.  It may well be that your role as a litigator is your funding mechanism, but your funding mechanism must not be confused with being your dharma.

[10:14] Perfectly Available at Every Given Moment

Your dharma is to be perfectly available at every given moment to the impulses of cosmic intelligence that are driving the processes of evolution, and not to be rigidly attached.

But you might have a very good funding mechanism.  You’re a very good lawyer, fantastic.  What are you funding with that funding mechanism?   You should be funding your dharma.

Your dharma is that which could be funded by you washing dishes, being a carpenter, being a lawyer, being a musician, being an activist, being a diplomat.  But those things that you do for your funding mechanism are not your dharma.

Your dharma is to be the most useful frictionless tool possible for nature’s intelligence.

Jai Guru Dev

Read more