The alarm is set to wake up at 4 am. You want to join the illustrious club of early morning risers who are more cheerful and productive during the day. It so happens that the alarm did ring at 4 am but you had kept the phone on silent in your last meeting. You wake up only at 7.30 am which will have a spiral effect on your morning work meetings. You are annoyed with yourself because you did not uphold the dharma of mastery and punctuality.
Rushing past the morning chores, you just about make it to the work meeting. After settling into the swiveling chair, with your coffee, you are feeling upbeat about the likely approval of the project. Instead, the team leader is dismissive. With a wave of hand he asks you to rework the project without giving you enough time to explain in front of everyone. You are upset at the leader because he did not uphold the Dharma of fairness and respect.
As you drag yourself out of the meeting, your colleague sees the fallen expression and cheers you up with some inane jokes, also offering a piece of cake that he has brought from the party night’s leftovers. Your mood brightens up because your colleague upheld the Dharma of care for you.
As you start to rework the project, you are feeling saturated with ideas of the project. You decide to check out Instagram and as you find posts that are funny and entertaining your mood lightens up. You scroll some more and before you know it, 30 minutes have passed. You glance at the time and are irritated with yourself because you did not abide by the Dharma of focus in your role as a professional. To justify the time on social media, you rattle off names of others at work who also keep checking out social media updates. All this in your head, of course.
You get back to the project. You remember about being an instrument of Dharmajust like Bhagavan Krishna teaches Arjuna – nimittamatram bhava. Softly whistling the tune of the shloka, you start typing away with focus. Your eyes are tired and as you glance at the time, two hours have passed, and you did n’t even realise it. Excited with the reworked possibilities of the project, you send the email to the team leader. Within minutes she replies, ‘Brilliant. Approved in principle. Fine tune it’ .Gratified by her appreciation, you are also happy because you upheld the Dharma of hard work and contribution.
Calling it a day, as you travel back home you mull over how to make it up to your partner. Yes, you were way out of line when you called her mother, selfish and manipulative, in a fit of anger. Invariably your partner also left no stone unturned in using equally powerful words for your family. Both of you did not uphold Dharma of Ahimsa and respect towards each other. You are sorry for hurting her and you say so, in so many words and share your resolve in never ever bringing in the mother in your fights. The partner is having none of your apology. Wanting to punish you for hurting her, she continues her tirade to heap more unpleasant words on your family members. In your mind, you are getting upset, you try to practice akrodha, reduction in anger by seeing that her words are coming from a place of deep hurt. You try to uphold dhriti, fortitude in sticking to your resolve to not be provoked. You repeat your apology and also share that you are feeling hurt by what she is saying. ‘Let’s not hurt each other any more.’ She softens. You extend your arms and express your gratitude to her for still loving and accepting you despite seeing the worst version of you. She says Ditto. You are in harmony with her as you uphold the Dharma of ahimsa and santosha, contentment as well as your dharma as a partner.
Just then you receive a phone call from your sister who shares the news of her being detected with breast cancer first stage. As you fight back your tears you assure her of the entire family being there for her, give her hope citing all the people in their circle, who have managed well with radiation and chemotherapy. You tell her that we will take care of all the visible factors. Thank God, it was detected at this stage where a lot could be done. We will seek refuge in Ishvara and pray for blessings and guidance. At one level you are sad for her because you believe the Dharma of fairness has not been upheld especially given her young age. At another level, there is relief because you are upholding the Dharma of Ishvarapranidhana, a surrender and seeking refuge in Ishvara.
Your seven year old son is trying to build Hogwartz express with his Lego blocks. After sometime he gets frustrated and just kicks it in anger. The half done Hog of Hogwartz express falls apart. You too get angry but try to practice akrodha, reduction in anger and see the reason behind his anger and tell your son – You are frustrated because it is not turning out the way you wanted. Let’s try again. He sulks and plonks himself on the sofa. Sitting cross legged, you start putting the Lego blocks together and encourage him – See I am putting the engine together. Do you think it should have a chimney? Where are the pieces? Watching from the corner of his eye, the son now joins and you say – We are men of steel. We don’t give up. Giving a high five, you are pleased that you are slowly but surely cultivating the Dharma of dhriti, fortitude in your son.
The partner’s phone pings. She looks at it. It is a message from the maid who will not come the next day because she has to take her mother to the doctor. You just don’t like doing the dishes but the partner probably dislikes it even more. Looks like you will have to do the dishes in the night itself You brace yourself for titiksha, the capacity to put up with unpleasant situations reminding yourself that it is making you a better Vedanta student.
Ready to crash after a long day, you switch on Netflix and see what is trending. The trailer of the new series comes on. Ah..so gripping. You know yourself well enough – if you start watching it will be a late night again. Mustering up all the will power, you remind yourself about the next day being a work day and hence reschedule binge watching for the weekend. To reward yourself for indriyanigraha, mastery of sense organs, you slip out of the covers to get up to have a piece of chocolate and drag yourself to the bathroom to rinse your mouth. Surely, tiny pleasures are allowed.
As you lie in bed, images of the day float by. A lot happened. You share your reflections on your reactions in the many situations across the roles as a partner, father, work professional, brother, employer and so on. A few years ago, your blood pressure would have shot up with the stresses and strains of living. But now you can smile at your younger self with much compassion. You have tried to practice shaucham, especially internal cleanliness in that you don’t hold grudges, you are more alert and deliberate in your behaviour and have reduced your mechanical ways of reacting. You see the similarity between you and your son. If he is upset while playing, it just lasts for a few minutes. The son does not build a narrative around the upset, saying – You know I was so upset four days ago..and I always get upset …why am I like this etc. You too are not building stories around all the slights and deprivations that you have experienced. Trying to bring kaushalam, competence into challenging situations, you have managed to assert yourself with the Dharma of Aarjavam, straightforwardness. You are no longer fearful of how you will be perceived and show Abhayam, a reduction in fear at the possibility of being disliked.As you smile with santosha, contentment, she says – You are doing well. Now go to sleep.
You turn over trying to sleep and recall how you poured yourself into Vedanta classes initially thinking that once you knew that you are the limitless, everything would fall into place. You would be fine in all situations. Smiling at your impatience of back then, you now see that Dharma cannot be bypassed or ignored. Situations of life are not to be resisted. Dharma is Sanatana which flows through my life. I am sanaatana, the limitless reality that flows through Dharma. Hope this becomes more clear to me. Dharma then is the framework for all our interactions whether a person is wise or otherwise. You see how upholding Dharma builds adhikaritvam, a preparedness for Vedanta.
After a restful sleep, next day on your way to work, you click on the podcast – Vedanta the river of wisdom and what do you hear? Swamini B ‘s words ring in your ears –
Our feelings have more to do with Dharma (than you think). Dharma is not an external religious mandate imposed upon you but your inner voice which is a manifestation of Ishvara.
Bhagavan Sri Rama tells Vali who is dying, Dharma is subtle and difficult to understand.
Established in the hearts of all living beings the mind knows Shubha, good and auspicious and all that is ashubham, not good and inauspicious.
Dharma much like earth offers us stability and support and shows us the ground we must walk on.
Dharma much like the flow of water makes us fluid and dynamic in responding to the needs of different situations.
Dharma much like the warmth of fire, creates a warm glow in our hearts when we experience acts of kindness, contribution.
Dharma much like the air gives us the strength and courage to soar like the wind beneath our wings
Dharma much like space, makes our heart vast to accommodate all situations and people.
Offer your worship to Ishvara through the flowers of your karma.
As her voice slips into the background, you smile with happiness in your heart.
Dharma makes you and all of us happy.