Conscious Dharma

This is an excerpt from Conscious Men, written by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh.

Contemporary man faces an interesting and unprecedented dilemma, one that our male ancestors have never faced before in this same way. If we go just back just a few generations, all over the world, it was very clear what you were going to do with your life. In almost every case, you would do what your father had done before you. If your father was a carpenter, you would become a carpenter. If you were the son of a writer, you became a writer. If you were the son of the king, you would in turn become the king. There was not much of a decision to be made. Even if you did not follow exactly in your father’s footsteps, the circumstances of your birth would determine a very narrow scope of what was available to you. Today, a man has a much greater opportunity than ever before to do what he wants: become a lawyer or a doctor or a musician or a writer or even the president of a country.
This is a great blessing because it gives us all greater freedom and opportunity. But it also presents a new dilemma that previous generations have never faced before. It is the huge and sometimes burdensome question of “What should I do with my life? What is my purpose?” Today, there are all kinds of workshops, seminars, and books dedicated to supporting people to find their purpose. This is a strictly modern preoccupation. It is not something for which we have much precedent in the past. It can easily create a sense of panic in modern man, a fear that if he does not get it right, something terrible will happen. 
In India, there was a word for this sense of your inherited place in society. It was called your “dharma.” Another Arjuna, 5000 years ago, was faced with a terrifying predicament in the Kurushetra Battle: whether to fight, which would involve killing his own family members, or whether to back away, which would be seen as an ignobility worse than death. Because he was in the warrior class, there was really no choice but to do his duty, the one he was born into.
Men today dance between two opposing forces. On the one hand is the momentum of the hyper-masculine trance: do your duty — fight the war — whether you believe in it or not. Do what you are told. Don’t ask questions. The alternative appears to be breaking free of what is expected of you and being sensitive to what feels good instead. A man can ask himself, “What gives me pleasure?” “What would I really like to do?” This kind of sensitivity puts him more into his feminine side, which can easily cause him to feel ungrounded, uncentered, and then lost and confused. 
Many men today are discovering a way to transcend and integrate this dilemma: we call it “Conscious Dharma.” It means not just to do what your father did or what is expected of you by other people, but not to get lost in fleeting feelings that come and go. Conscious Dharma means to drop much deeper into yourself to a place where you know the Right Thing To Do. This means the actions and disposition that work best not only for you but for everybody else involved as well. Sometimes discovering Conscious Dharma might mean that you take care of your family, your immediate environment, and perhaps also a few other people in your close vicinity. For others, finding your Conscious Dharma might mean slipping into a role that fulfills the needs of millions of people: if you discover that your destiny happens to be writing a best-selling book or being world-class musician. The scope of your influence, or the conventional measures of worldly success, do not matter nearly as much as finding your right place. 
Everybody John Gray and I interviewed for Conscious Men has discovered this sense of Conscious Dharma, and they described it in almost identical ways. It feels like you have been taken over by a force bigger than your own mind and emotions. One man said, “It is how the Great Spirit expresses itself through you in a way that it could not express itself through anyone else. It’s a unique flavor, a song that only you can sing when you relax and allow yourself to completely be yourself. Because of its uniqueness, there is actually a duty, an obligation to show up. If you flake out, no one else can steward this particular gift for you.”

From Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh. You can order a paperback copy or Kindle edition on Amazon hereVisit to learn more.

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