Dharma – Concept of natural state or conditioning

School of Yoga explains dharma and karma

  • When we receive a stimulus, we either like or dislike it.
  • If we like the stimulus we bring it close to us (raaga) but if we dislike the stimulus, we push the subject or person away from us (dwesha).
  • This action of moving close to or away from the object is called karma (action).
  • The basis for liking or disliking anything is personal. It happens because we evaluate the input against our personal standards or natural state, and this is called (dharma). 

Dharma or natural-state occurs at multiple levels. They are;

  • Generic natural-state or samanya-dharma:

Generic natural-state or samanya-dharma can be defined as those characteristics which are common to any family or genus of entities.

For example: Gold has specific characteristics which are different from lead or silver. However, all of them come under a common category of metals. All metals have a common natural state and this is called samanya-dharma.

Similarly, metals as a category, exhibit characteristics which are different from animals, trees, fishes or humans. This specific defining character which defines each category, family or genus is called samanya-dharma. 

  • Unique natural-state or vishesha-dharma

Unique natural-state or vishesha-dharma is the natural-state of individual entities within a category.

For example: Within metals, gold is different from copper, silver or iron.

In wood, teak is different from oak or rubber. The family of wood will conform to a generic or samanya-dharma. However, the unique natural-state (vishesha-dharma) of teak will be different from oak, elm or rosewood.

This logic can be expanded in multiple directions. For instance, the unique natural-state (vishesha-dharma) of a table will be different from that of a chair or sofa, even though they may both be made from the same tree. Thus, all tables will exhibit a unique natural-state, regardless of the material used to make them.

In fact, this concept is applicable to all entities. A heart has a unique natural-state, regardless of the body. It and cannot do the job of the stomach, even though both may be in the same body. 

  • Individual natural-state or conditioning (sva-dharma) 

Each of us behaves differently. This is on account of conditioning brought about by DNA, family, upbringing, societal norms, diet and habits. Consequently, this allows individuals to select information, analyse and process it in a unique manner and behave in the way they do.

This specific characteristics of capability at an individual level is called svadharma (sva = self + dharma = conditioning). Since this natural-state is unique to each of us, it becomes our conditioning.

  • Universal natural-state or sanatana-dharma 

Dharma covers all animate and inanimate entities, including planets, galaxies and nations. Everything can be classified under Generic, Unique or Personal natural-state. This concept is universal in its applicability, hence it is called universal natural-state or sanatana-dharma.

For example – the natural state of the earth is position, shape, atmosphere and ability to sustain life. In the case of a nation, its dharma can possibly be its constitution, flag, states, people etc.

School of Yoga explains dharma, karma and adharma

  • Whenever action conforms to the natural state of any entity, there is no agitation. Therefore, the natural state of dharma is a state of peace or harmony.
  • However, when action is performed counter to the natural state of any entity, there is disturbance and this is called adharma (chaos/ contrary to the natural state).
  • Consequently, when a cow is fed with meat, it is adharma (against its natural state) and the consequence to the cow falls sick with “mad cow disease”. 

Points to ponder on dharma;

Internal Tags Self Awareness or Asmita, Karma

External Tags: homeostasis

  • How do we recognise our natural state? 
  • How do we recognise the linkage between natural state and behaviour? 
  • Is giving up failure? What happens when we give up? 
  • What is fear of failure? 
  • Can God be linked to dharma or natural state? How? 
  • Is there any link between dharma and prayer? 
  • Can we really control events or are we mostly reacting to them? 
  • Is death a natural state? 
  • What is the linkage between dharma, stress and karma? 
  • Is it hard to admit that you are experiencing adharma? 
  • Is it possible to recognise a person who is in adharmic state?
Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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