To practice dharma, we must grasp the essence of all religions rather than merely be entertained by their fascinating stories. All the religions of the world have built castles of mythology. Preachers and priests recite myths and stories as part of their worship and claim that listening to them is the key to spiritual enhancement. Assimilating the morals of those stories, rather than merely reacting to them emotionally, is the source of spiritual benefit.
In order to practice true dharma, we must surrender our ego to the higher reality. We must transform our thinking process and purify our mind and heart. The purpose of dharma is to move closer to God by removing the wall of ego-born alienation. A follower of dharma strives to see truth, auspiciousness, and beauty in all living beings. That experience is called self-realization, enlightenment, or divine experience.
Today the shining gems of truth have been shrouded under superstition, blind faith, and dogma. Human beings today are afflicted with a terrible sense of insecurity, fear, and mistrust. The dharma of the sages can help resolve these psychological and spiritual disturbances. The dharma of the sages is simple but experiential—practice rather than mere intellectual knowledge is the way to wisdom. However, people not committed to practicing dharma and who lack living experience of its truths consider it to be mysterious. In fact, there is no mystery, no secrecy, in dharma. The mystery lies in our overly analytical mind, lost in complicated explanations, which fails to grasp dharma’s profound simplicity. The dharma of the sages gives us a higher view of life that is not confined to the physical body or worldly objects alone. According to this dharma, we must rise above the charms and temptations of the world to employ our resources in the realization of truth. This does not mean renouncing the world but rather learning to use the objects and resources of the world in a way that leads us toward experiencing the totality and perfection of human life.
Truth is more than the known and seen aspects of life. Truth exists in all times and places; it can be experienced within the depths of our being. We can penetrate the various layers within and become one with truth through a systematic practice. Belief in truth is certainly preferable to disbelief, but it is the practice of truth that can transform our belief into a creative and joyous experience. The sages who experienced and became one with the truth realized that all humanity is one family. According to the Upanishads, all of creation is a family. Spirituality enriched with humanitarian ethics is the inner breath of the Upanishads. Unfortunately, such high ideals are seldom practiced in any religion. In the future, if humanity ever tries to establish a universal religion, it will be based on the profound teachings of the Upanishads. I long for the day when humanity will adhere to the higher principles of dharma.
According to the Upanishads, there is only one truth, called brahman. It is omniscient and omnipresent. From a spiritual standpoint, the non-dualistic statement, “All this is brahman,” is not merely a philosophical doctrine; rather, it is a matter of experience. In addition, from an ethical standpoint, it provides a ground for cultivating an attitude of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. This statement helps us instill in our mind the feeling that this whole world is a family. This is “wholesome living.” By considering all humanity to be our own family, we rise above mutual differences. Then we truly learn to embrace all and exclude none.
So let us revisit what dharma actually is. Dharma is that which can be practiced by all and which can bring a qualitative change in individual and community life. Such a dharma is an eternal friend since it is always there in times of need. Such a dharma helps us attain the summum bonum of life both here and hereafter. It helps us become more creative and productive for ourselves and for others. It is the duty of mankind to practice and defend such a dharma rather than the sectarian beliefs which create bitterness among human beings.
You may ask: “What are the signs and symptoms of dharma?” The answer is: “That which has no room for narrow-mindedness, sectarianism, blind faith, and dogma is the true dharma. That which has direct experience as its source, but welcomes logic and reasoning, is true dharma. A spiritual path that does not promise heaven only after death, but that helps the aspirant create a heavenly atmosphere wherever he is, is true dharma.” We must not be afraid to follow such a dharma, or to absorb the higher qualities of universal dharma into our cultural or religious understanding.
Truth resides in those hearts where selfless love has found its way. True joy follows the center of love, and the purpose of life is to allow that love to flow throughout every aspect of life. When true love flows from the heart, we learn how to give and share without any expectation. Both the lover and the beloved are transformed through the force of love. In fact, selfless love and dharma are one and the same, since love is the inherent quality of the soul.
We become true followers of dharma when all of our activities are guided by truth and love.
Source: Spirituality: Transformation Within and Without by Swami Rama