Finding and living your Dharma

Mammoth Cave National Park

As we walked down the narrow rocky corridor members of the tour group voiced fascination and excitement.

The walls of sandstone on either side were carved millennia ago by underground rivers. Striations in the rock covered the ceiling and walls. The narrow passageway dipped to the left, and then to the right. The hollow access widened and then narrowed. The underground labyrinth inspired our imagination and instilled a sense of adventure.

We were on the Grand Avenue Tour at Mammoth Cave, and the limestone walls gave way into a large underground chamber known as Frozen Niagara.  There we viewed the 75 foot high flowstone formation, along with other Stalactites (hangs from the ceiling) and Stalagmites (rises from the floor).  A bit later we ended up in the Rainbow Dome, and stood in awe at the spectacular display of calcium carbonate cave formations.

For me the best part of this job is watching the wonderful expressions of discovery on the faces of our visitors. If I can help to stir the imagination and inspire our children and adults, I consider this a good day. As a Park Ranger I’m dedicated to introducing our guests to the wonders of planet Earth.

I’ve had many jobs over the last fifty years. I started out delivering newspapers and then working as general labor it a knitting factory. We made sweaters, blouses and skirts. In the 1980’s I saw these textile jobs moved overseas and many of my friends were left without work. I went to night school and earned an associate’s degree in Accounting, mostly because there were plenty of promising jobs in that field.

I worked for many years as an Accountant but I was never truly happy. I did my job with honesty and diligence, but it was just a means to pay the bills. I know that some corporate accountants say one plus one is whatever management wants it to be, but for me it was always two.

It wasn’t until I retired a few years ago that I found my life’s calling. There was an opening for tour guides at Mammoth Cave. I lived in Edmonson County for most of my life and enjoyed fishing on the Green River. I had spare time on my hands and remembered how I loved walking the caverns.

Now as a Park Ranger I found the job of my dreams. I finally got my grove.

Steer a true course

In the Western World finding that niche in life, where you thrive and blossom is often called Living the Dream. In the East it’s called Living your Dharma.

But it’s more than just finding the right job, that perfect life partner, or having a comfortable lifestyle. It’s about discovering who you really are, and what actions in life are best suited to exercise and cultivate your natural born talents. Following such a course accelerates your personal growth and also contributes to the well being of the human race.

The need to live your Dharma is an important theme found in the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

It’s based on the observation that various Natural Laws seem to be operating in the Universe. These laws create, sustain and destroy (transition) all aspects of relative life – in order to keep the universe running in a smooth, progressive, orderly fashion.

On a personal level that means aligning your thoughts and actions to flow in accordance with Natural Law.

Proper choice and pursuit of job, family, religion, health, exercise, ethical behavior, duty, social responsibility, marriage, self development and meditation – lead to greater benevolence, justice, propriety, wisdom, and faith in life.

Some may call this “The Law Eternal” (Sanatana Dharma), the “Path of Righteousness” or the “Dharma Gate” (as in Taoism), but in all cases it refers to living your full potential.

Flow with the rhythm of creation, and just Be.

When you follow your own Dharma, it …

• Fulfills your destiny
• Gives you the feeling that everything in the World is just right
• Highlights your best qualities and abilities
• Improves you family, community, city, state, nation, and world
• Improves your health
• It challenges you to grow, evolve and succeed
• Make a difference in the World
• Makes you feel generous and significant
• Makes you feel that you know what you are supposed to be doing in this life
• Provides opportunities to express your values and knowledge
• Increases Self esteem
• Makes daily chores and tasks seem less like work
• Turns you into who you were meant to be
• Unfolds your passion and fascination for life
• Utilizes your unique creative energies, bringing a thrill and excitement to life
• Draws you closer to the people that you love
• Becomes more empowering
• Allows you to feel fulfilled and happy
• Develops self respect
• Ushers you into peace

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The Mahayana Buddhist tradition of the Three Dharma Seals refers to the three life attributes shared by all living beings.

They consist of the mysteries of existence, impermanence (anicca – non self), and nirvana.

Everyone must deal with these three Worldly traits. Following one’s Dharma offers the best hope for navigating safely through the maze of personal existence.

The first Dharma Seal is impermanence:

As time passes by nothing remains the same. Even a flowing river, from one moment to the next, contains different water. A new car turns into a pile of rust (3rd law of thermodynamics) over time. Children are born, become adults, and then perish in old age. Mountains come and go. The Seas rise, fall, and dry up. What was once fertile land becomes a desert. The Sun exhausts its hydrogen fuel and balloons outward to become a Red Giant Star, swallowing up the Earth and all the inner planets. One galaxy ends, and the next is born.

Our space/time/causal world is in constant motion. By living your Dharma you take advantage of the opportunity to change, advance, grow, and rise to bliss consciousness. Going with the flow, rather than against the current of time, maximizes bliss and mental peace.

Everything continues to exist, only its form changes over time. A leaf falls from the tree and returns back to the soil. Elderly people die and their bodies return back to the Earth.

Holding on and not accepting inevitable change is a source of suffering.

It has been said that in the present moment the past and future also reside simultaneously. To us on this hard physical plane of existence, past/present/future appear distinct and separate. We seem to live the present, remember the past, and dream about the future.

But on the higher planes of existence as we move from the physical, to etheric, and then to the mental sphere of activity (our thinking level) that solid distinction begins to dissolve. The past becomes almost as real as the present. All too often the past haunts our present lives with resentment and the sting of unfulfilled wishes.

How we behave in the present is governed in large part by our past actions. Who we are on an individual level is the sum total of what we have gone through in the past. It has been said that 40% of what we do every day is by habit. Mental impressions (samskaras) and personal biases based on religion and societal norms all too often dictate how we act. We want to be free, but we can’t escape their clutch.

On the Buddhic level which is experienced in Enlightenment, the influence of time, although still acting on our bodies, has no other influence.

An essential reason of why time exists is because the speed of light is not infinite. It takes time for light to travel. It does not move instantaneously.

In fact, light traveling through various dense media actually slows down. Some current physics experiments have virtually slowed light down to a crawl.

It takes time for information to travel from one place in the universe to another.

When we look at a sunrise we see the Sun as it was 8 minutes ago. That’s because it takes 8 minutes for the light to reach us from the sun.

Speed of light Average mean distance of the Earth to the Sun Light travel time
300,000   kilometers/second 149,597,871 – kilometers 8.317 light minutes
186,000   miles/second 92,955,807 – miles 8.317 light minutes

As we look out into space we are viewing farther and farther back into the past.

Look at:

Jupiter, and see it as it was – 45 minutes ago
Saturn, and see it as it was – 75 minutes ago
Pluto, and see it as it was – 5.5 hours ago
The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, and see it as it was – 4.3 years ago
The center of our Milky Way Galaxy, and see it as it was – 30,000 years ago
The Andromeda Galaxy, and see it as it was – 2.6 million years ago

Now as a thought experiment, imaging that your awareness is everywhere at once. You can see what is happening right now in front of you, and also what is happening right now at the farthest edge of the Universe. All now, all here.

Well then …
when your awareness is at the outskirts of Jupiter, you are watching what will been seen by an observer on the planet Earth 45 minutes from now. So from that perspective, you are currently watching the future.

Not so for the person on the Earth, if their awareness is limited to where they are at that moment in time/space. But for one with unbounded cosmic awareness (Atma), the past/present/future all reside at once, in the eternal now.

The concept and perception of past/present/future only has relevance to one with limited conscious perspective.

The second Dharma Seal is non-self:

This is the observation that the individual self is not permanent. There is no eternal individual soul or individual self.

Many religious and philosophical systems suggest that after death the human soul continuous on, either in another world (heaven or hell) or through the process of rebirth comes back to Earth.

The prospect of living eternally either in heaven or hell is not supported by this doctrine. But a temporary stay based upon the fruits of karma is.

Destiny and karma act on an individual life and collectively influence the course of events in society. The Enlightened person is still the recipient of their karma, but it is no longer binding.

Just as a wave rises upon the ocean’s surface to reach for the sky, exists for a short time and then merges back into the sea, so to the realized individual/human soul returns to the eternal source of being.

All phenomena acting on the body and mind of a person are non-self influences.

In Buddhist teaching this lesson is sometimes taught in terms of the “five aggregates,” which are:

1. Form – as perceived by sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
2. Sensation – as pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent.
3. Perception – as objective experience of the phenomenal world.
4. Mental formation – as memories, thoughts, and imaginations.
5. Consciousness – as cognitive and noncognitive.

These constitute the basics of personal existence.

The third Dharma Seal is nirvana:

Nirvana is a state where craving, hatred, suffering, and all forms of ignorance come to an end.

The delusion of the ego/self has been extinguished. When the small self dissolves into the large Self, all doubt and hardship suddenly evaporate. Death and the influence of time are transcended.

Nirvana is eternal peace and contentment.

Through the principal of transcending the relative world (via meditation) enlightenment is realized.

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Finding and living ones Dharma is essential for every individual being. The Park Ranger at Mammoth Cave found his purpose through walking, teaching, and silence.

You should take an inventory of your life to help determine what set of activities and goals you are best suited for.

Search you heart to find your Dharma. Live it fully, in tune with nature, to ride the crested wave of life.

Peace be with you.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at 2:36 pm and is filed under Principles for better living. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

 

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