Layers of Dharma in Yoga

Meditation at the beach

The primary objective of almost every yogi is to determine, follow and then eventually live their Dharma. Doing the right thing all the time is the essence of Dharma. The right thing in this instance will depend on your life purpose, privileges, societal duties, talents and personal obligations.

Practising your Dharma will involve the constant strive to align your social life, values, dietary habits and work along with other decisions to support a healthy lifestyle. Though the Dharma sounds simple, this yogic concept comprises a surprising and complex depth that is best appreciated in a meditation and yoga retreat.

Here, you can chart your path using the layers of Dharma under the guidance of an expert yogi and thus harness all the benefits dharma has to offer. Here are the four layers of Dharma.

Rita-Dharma

This is the largest dharma layer. It encompasses the laws of physics, the universe’s divine order, forces of nature and the movement of the galaxies. Ancient yogis believed that the universe cycles through four yugas, each spanning 432,000 years.

The current yuga is the kali yuga, a period of ignorance and darkness. Ayurveda will seek to prescribe the healthy lifestyles, diets and herbs based on the energies being transmitted through this specific yuga. Jyotisha, Vedic astrology, on the other hand, will register the relations between the movement of the stars and planets to influence your beliefs, personality and choices for the yuga.

Varna-Dharma

This layer of Dharma includes your responsibilities and roles towards your family, relationships, community and culture. While grasping the aspects of Varna-dharma, you will appreciate the variance between your obligations, societal duties and privileges, and your inner narrative story.

This Dharma will encourage yogis to live in harmony with others, respects laws and be ethical. Over time, yogis have come up with niyamas and yamas; a code of conduct on how to do the right thing.

Ashrama-Dharma

With advancing age, you will appreciate how the stages in your life will guide and influence your choices. Your age strongly affects your relationship with the world, and your mind, body, and personality. There are specific procedures on the depth and type of yoga practice that will best suit your stage in life.

Most yogis will shift to a meditative and internal yoga practice for the ashrama-Dharma from a physical one.

Swa-Dharma

Meditation at home

This marks the last yet most intimate dharma layer. It involves your life’s unique layer or individual path influenced by your karma, samskaras, ego and mind. The swa-dharma is not essentially a talent you will be born with or something you excel at doing.

It is rather your calling or yearning to become a better and greater person than you currently are. Most yoga practices at this time will focus on the creation of purity of thought and state of mind so you can clearly see the swa-dharma.

The larger dharma layers will govern the small ones. It is thus best to discover your Dharma using the top-down approach starting with the Varna-dharma. Each dharma layer is individually refined, contemplated, and followed to generate guidance and clarity that will enable you to find your life’s purpose and live the same.

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