November 23, 2009

Being a Dharma Bum.

A few weeks ago, I found myself at a job interview with a person who obviously viewed life very differently than me. Within five minutes, it was clear that judgments had been made about me and apparently my resume held more meaning than I did as a person. It was quite surreal.

For the record, I have no problem with the concept of having a resume and its importance in a job search but what gets me is the fact that people give more value to what is written as opposed to reading in between the lines.

This experience caused me to look back at my life from an objective viewpoint and recognize what has been the driving force with each decision that I have made.

To sum it up simply, I would have to say that I have lived my life based on my view of dharma. I have traveled the world, done all kinds of jobs based on a desire to experience and discover the purpose of life. I knew that life was more than what I was taught. I just felt that pieces of the puzzle were missing and I wanted to find those missing pieces desperately.

I have searched for meaning in all kinds of places. Each decision I have made was based on what I knew to be true and to be the best at that particular moment. Basically, I took my Buddhist studies to heart and truly tried to live up to every concept. I guess you could say that I have been a dharma bum.

Dharma is a term that is used in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The English translation for the word Dharma means the law. People are expected to uphold and follow the law, meaning spiritual law. If you follow Dharma, you get closer to attaining libration. Dharma also refers to the teachings of the Buddha.

When I lived in India, one spiritual guru I know used to say,

“Following the Dharma is good for your Karma”

So to put it very simply, dharma means following the laws of how to be in this world.

Prior to embarking on a spiritual path, my view of life was pretty normal. Go out, get a career and just do my best. I used to be an ambitious person, driven to succeed—a text book definition of a Type A personality.

I was also an extremely miserable person.

When spirituality entered my life, life took on a different meaning. What mattered more to me was the experiences rather than the goals. I started to realize that what made a good life was how I lived not where I lived and how much money was in my bank account.

As a result of years of intense spiritual studies and traveling the world, I found some sense of inner peace. My aggressive nature totally disappeared. Yes, I still have goals but the reasons behind those goals are based more on a sense of service rather than on glorifying my ego.

Herein lies the dilemma.

We live in a world that does its best to tell us that we need to feel good about ourselves based on what we earn and win. No mention is ever made about who we are as people.

It is this kind of thinking that has truly messed up the world. Whether it be food or the environment or the stock market. To earn at all costs without any regard to who is involved and what is destroyed as a result is not very healthy and it is definitely not in line with the Dharma.

The best example of this is food.

Food is no longer food. It is quite tragic that the majority of food that is on the shelves in an average American supermarket is a collection of chemicals. Isn’t bread just supposed to be made from flour, salt, yeast and water? Since when did high fructose corn syrup become part of bread?

It is also sad that many American families cannot afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. How messed up are we? When profit becomes the law, society pays and we are paying for this in ways that are quite scary.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with money or wanting to be financially secure. I long for those things too but those things can be attained while following spiritual laws. To be moral and to be compassionate are not weak attributes. They are indications of true strength.

It is hard to be loving in a world that is full of anger and sadness. Look at the Dalai Lama; this is a man who says that his religion is kindness and yet he gets turned down by world leaders due to the threat that he represents. Pretty amazing how a man whose live is rooted in non-violence makes world leaders nervous. That is pretty powerful.

The reality of life is that eventually this journey will end. When you pass on, what will be said about you by those you leave behind will be how you lived your life, not what you owned. No one ever gives a eulogy mentioning the deceased’s 401K plan or what car they drove. They talk about the quality of their heart and soul.

Please go out into the world and do as Gandhi said,

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

Speak and be your truth. You have nothing to lose.

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