We’ve talked a lot lately about purpose, dharma, and destiny. This is what makes us who we are, what we’re designed for, and the sort of life we are meant to lead. In one post, Moses taught us how fear and self-doubt cripple our capacity to recognize our path in life. In the last post, Lord Krishna taught Prince Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita how duty, love, and selfless service–even in the face of great adversity–are the foundations of our lives.
In time we’ll visit other great heroes of religion and philosophy who overcame great trials and sacrifices to fulfill their purpose, dharma, and destiny. But last night I learned about this month’s topic from a new angle, and it came from an unexpected place:
Movie night with my wife and kids.
The first movie, Dolphin Tale, is about an 11-year-old boy who discovers and helps care for an injured dolphin. Through dedication, selfless love and compassion, he helps save the dolphin’s life with a prosthetic tale fin. Through his efforts, he inspired thousands of amputees.
All because he loved another creature, equally, selflessly and without any thought of reward.
“Those who possess this wisdom [that God or the Self is in all] have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcast, in an elephant, a cow, and a dog. Such people have mastered life.” Lord Krishna, the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5: 18-19
Lesson #1. We aren’t just built to show compassion, love, and selfless service to our own species, but to all life. What that boy and dolphin shared was a relationship between two sentient beings. This is why ecosystems exist, this is why symbiotic relationships thrive in nature.
“The highest religion is to rise to universal brotherhood, and to consider all creatures your equal.” –Guru Nanak
It’s why you feel okay talking to your favorite pet or even a tree. Life listens to itself–feels itself–because in reality, there’s no difference. Before we can chase the “big” purpose in our lives, our hopes and dreams, we have to get the basics right.
We have to understand our domestic dharma.
Think of your domestic dharama as the factory settings on your life. This is the basic platform upon which all customizations are made.
The second film, called Courageous, had a more Christian bent. Here we have the story of five fathers who make a public pledge to become the best fathers possible–the ones they feel God has called them to be via the Bible. Even though the acting and plot was really heavy on the religious side, it really hit a key point that many of us as parents are missing.
Our domestic dharma involves raising and being a loving, nurturing part of our families. Husbands, wives, sisters, sons, the uncle who lives upon the garage and won’t move out–all are part of what it means to live and be part of the human organism.
Scripture and writings from the faiths and philosophies of the world drip with this stuff. Here’s a sampling:
“He [God] established the law of marriage, made it as a fortress for well-being and salvation…” Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers
“O people, We [God] created you from a male and female, and We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” –al-Qur’an 49: 13
“Through compassion and devotion to other people, through universal love, life is filled with peace and joy.“–the Buddha
“A new command I give you: Love one another.“–Jesus, gospel of John 13:34
“Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you, for these are the gifts I offer to all my children.“–Charge of the Goddess (Wicca)
Time and again we are called to love one another, serve one another, show compassion for one another. But I think we’ve gotten it backwards in some ways, haven’t we? We’ve forgotten that our lives aren’t manifest for goals or dreams or that big promotion, but for one another.
We are not islands, so why are we living that way?
As I look back on everything I’ve done and everything I’m working on, I realize that if I reach my deathbed even having achieved my highest goal: inter-religious peace, it will be for nothing if I’ve put aside my family in the process. For what good is a world I build if I haven’t trained my children how to occupy and care for it?
It’s all about ego. We desperately chase our vision of purpose and destiny, but we fail to remember that our core purpose is right here at home. That’s where the magic happens. That’s where dreams are launched from.
Humanity–all sentient life–is designed or machined via evolution for relationships. We exist in an economy of intimate interaction, and love, compassion, and selfless service are the currencies.
What are you placing in front of your domestic dharma? Is your career great but your marriage or partnership failing? Perhaps you’re a single parent whose dating life is eclipsing time with your kids. Are your dreams drowning your duties?
There’s nothing wrong with discovering and manifesting our personal dharma, but as with all great things, we must ensure the foundation is well-constructed.