Today in America, we observe a national holiday: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
For some folks, it’s the end of a three-day weekend. For others, it’s a day of jealousy because they do not get a three-day weekend. For others still, it’s just another day with the same problems, same chores–the same life without purpose or meaning.
But for a few, it’s a celebration of how one man embraced his purpose, dharma, and destiny.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a charismatic and passionate leader of the American civil rights movement during the ’50’s and ’60’s of the 19th century, a time when people of color did not enjoy the same freedoms of their Caucasian brethren. He was an ordained Baptist minister who preached in Georgia and took his cause across the nation. Considered by many to be one of America’s greatest philosophers, his sermons and speeches (along with other movement leaders) rocked the American political and moral foundation by fighting for equality and brotherhood between all races.
Indeed, King had gleaned a “color blind” world and thus challenged us to judge ourselves not upon one’s appearance, but the “strength of their character.”
Here is perhaps his most famous speech, called “I Have a Dream,” which he delivered during the 1963 March on Washington.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our greatest mentors on purpose, dharma, and destiny. He took hold of his purpose with unshakable faith, and with the guidance of his own mentors (including Gandhi, Jesus, and Thoreau), faced his dharma and destiny. As it happens with many of humanity’s heroes, King was assassinated in 1968 for his civil rights and anti-war position.
Friends of King warned him of possible harm only one day before his death. This was his reply, given in the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
“And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.“
Purpose and destiny give us the fortitude to face our dharma head-on without succumbing to fear. I’ve often wondered about the private moments in the lives of humanity’s prophets when they realized that their mission might just cost their lives. Had they known the difficulties–the ultimate cost–would they have continued?
Well, they did anyway.
Gandhi, Jesus, Muhammad, Zarathushtra, the Sikhi Gurus, countless Pagans, Jewish prophets and rabbis, Joseph Smith, The Bab, all the saints and martyrs of every faith and philosophy who came forth willing to die to bring their message to humanity.
Some say those folks were bat-shit crazy. “I’ve got a family,” one might say, or a career. I’m comfortable right where I’m at. Don’t ask me to die for something.
On the contrary. I’ll bet that if you asked any of those I listed if they died for their purpose, they would answer “No, I lived for my destiny. But they killed me for it.”
When you discover your purpose, when you finally enter your personal field of dharma, that is the point in which you take the first true breath of life. In that moment of enlightenment, there is nothing else. Your heart beats for your purpose, your muscles push you toward your destiny, and your will stares down any opponent–even your own doubt–on the field of dharma.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is a shining light for civil rights and morality, but he is also a champion of destiny and purpose. What can you learn from him today as you face your own field of dharma? What excuses are you making to avoid your purpose? Will today be the day you shun cowardice and embrace your destiny no matter the cost?
I dare you.