I was at a dinner last week with some very smart people. If we had just recorded the evening, it would have made an incredible book or movie. One of the things we got to talking about was what is it that leads to true fulfillment, to ultimate fulfillment, to a feeling that you’re living the life you came to lead, and doing what you came to do.

Of the course  this question, “Why are we here?” “What’s the meaning of life?” and “Who am I really?” have been parodied by Monty Python, Woody Allen and Saturday Night Live. It feels a bit clichéd to want to revisit them again. 

But clichéd or not, I would say these are the really important questions, the questions that shift your life from automatic pilot to conscious and deliberate co-creation.

There is no shortage of ready-made answers to these questions. Some people would say it is all about the money. Judging by American television, magazines, and best-selling books, it seems like a lot of people think it is all about the money. But have you met people who make a lot of money? I’m talking about a few hundred thousand a year. Do they seem happier? More at peace? More contented?

A very old friend of mine, named Oliver James, wrote a brilliant book called Affluenza. It is published in England, and really worth the read if you can get a copy. In the book he points out that well-being and money operate together on a bell curve, with the peak of the bell at about US$74,000. Prior to that point, making more money  actually contributes to greater well-being. James’s book refers to research about the other side of the curve. It seems that the more money you make over the $74K actually can be associated with more frustration, more discontent, and more greed. 

Okay, so it’s probably not about the money. Another very significant group of people would say that it is all about sex. Judging by the business done on dating sites, porn sites, and the semi-naked bodies used in advertising, sex seems to be a pretty attractive carrot on the end of a stick. But then we can ask the same questions. Do you know people who have lots of sex, perhaps with the same partner, or perhaps with multiple partners? Sex does not seem to be the kind of desire that leads to peace. Rather like alcohol or cigarettes, it seems to be an addiction that only leads to wanting more. 

There are many, many other formulas people have come up with for what it takes to be truly, deeply fulfilled, to be happy. Some would say perfect health, some would say compassion, some would say being powerful and in control. 

Age-old traditions tell us that the secret to true fulfillment is to be found within, in states of deep meditation, transcending the confusion and craving of the human condition. That was probably true for Buddha and Lao Tzu, and countless nameless monks sitting in caves or monasteries, chanting and hovering on the edge silence. 

Everything I have seen and heard and felt has led me to feel that this is not true for those of us born in the Western world. Maybe, just like me, you might know people who have been meditating, doing yoga, or going on retreat for decades. I get to take a peek at one in the bathroom mirror every time I brush my teeth. It is true that states of deep meditation may  lead to incredible fulfillment while you are meditating. But we can ask ourselves, in a sober and detached way, how much that really spills over into the rest of life? 

As you can probably tell, since you read this far, I do have my own answer to this question up my sleeve. From everything I have seen and heard and felt, from all the people I’ve met (including the guy in the bathroom mirror) I’d say there is something that leads to unshakable fulfillment, but I do not think we have the perfect word for that in the English language. I am going to use a word from Sanskrit spoken by a Krishna to another Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita at a time of great crisis. 

Dharma is a beautiful word. It is multidimensional: the word conjures up a different way of seeing things, more than just one concept or idea. We can approximate in English by saying “purpose” or “unique gift” or “mission” but they have been too colored by other things. Dharma means to do what you came here to do, to give the gift you were born to give, but in a way that is really devoid of personal will-power, it’s more of a surrendering to destiny. 

During more than 20 years of working with people as an awakening coach, I have come to feel that everybody has a Dharma. For some it may be written big and come to the attention of millions, like John Gray for example whose book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus initiated a shift in our collective understanding of gender. Or Eckhart Tolle, whose quiet and unassuming thoughts in The Power of Now brought millions and millions of people closer to a recognition of what it is to be awake in this moment. But everybody has their Dharma.  For many, it is not written in neon lights for all to see, but just as important, and just as fulfilling. Your Dharma could be to plant a vegetable garden, and treat it with such care that that part of the earth becomes a sacred place. Your Dharma could be to raise your children in such a way that in their adult years they feel gratitude looking back. Your Dharma could be to create a beautiful home, where people feel welcome and relaxed. 

It seems to me that everybody has their Dharma, but definitely not everybody gets to live it. When we are entangled in a mire  of should’s and shouldn’ts, of fear, regret and addiction, Dharma gets buried. Then we just meekly buy what we have been told to, and believe what we have been told to believe. 

It takes courage and commitment to live your Dharma, but when you do, everything else falls into place. 

I will be sharing a free tele-seminar about Dharma this Thursday, January 17th at 6pm Pacific Time, where I will give you some tried and tested tips to recognize and live your DharmaYou can register here. 

Now it is your turn to speak, tell me your thoughts in the comments area below.

P.S. Discovering a living your Dharma is the central theme of the Awakening Coaching Training. Come check it out here.

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20 Responses to “Dharma”

  1. Kate January 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm // Reply

    Arjuna, Your message here speaks so clearly of what I am going through lately of having moved into living my Dharma. I fall asleep with a smile on my face and I wake up with one. It’s as if each breath I take as I not only act according to my Dharma, but BE it as well, is breathed for me. It’s the most Divine union I could conceive of. I feel like the richest person on the planet. But I live in the same environment that used to drive me nuts. In fact, I live with my parents on a dead end street, in a monochrome season where grey is the prominent color and stepping outside for longer than ten minutes is a great battle against the elements! I used to have sunlamps, vitamins, counseling sessions, self help and meditation mp3’s up the wazoo. Now I have let that all go. I no longer need it because I have surrendered. Through trial and error I have learned that following my head and what my head thinks of as “goals” leads me to dissatisfaction. I still have things I want to accomplish in my life, but as I connect with the effortless Source that animates me, the path is laid out one step at a time. And I become more ME with each step I take. I need only be HERE NOW to connect with where I am going and I know that where I have been led me here. HERE NOW connects me to my future and HERE NOW leads me to security and HERE NOW lets me understand that nothing can ever be taken from me so I need not fear anything. AND THAT MAKES ME SMILE! EVERY DAY! With much love and appreciation for you for describing something so clearly and lovingly that I have come to experience, Kate


  2. Bob January 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm // Reply

    Once again – a hugely insightful piece/blog. When I read it -what came up for me was who decides what is your dharma – one way that may have been expressed in the blog is that is comes from outside somehow, as if written in the sand, your destiny. My take on it is when you can stand in your own authority – 100% responsible for yourself – then Dharma becomes what you decide for yourself.

    For me is living from a paralogical (aka Tim Freke) place where I am both infinite presence (Divine – or whatever other words you want to use for the Source) and at the same time – living as this mortal Man. I was born a male – so I am going to live my life as the highest expression of what it means to me to be a Man.


  3. Rudolf Plagemann January 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm // Reply

    Yes, thank you … that is near to what I think and want 🙂 🙂 …
    It is not the money (good to have enough, I am thankful, it’s very helpful, but not more), it is not the sex (just went through this addiction – or still do a little bit), it is not the wonderful partner (what I miss at this time, but when think about it, I know it is especially for the moments you are together, not for the whole time) … etc. …

    It is to be on “your special unique” way, what sometimes to find is not that easy – the heart shows the way.

    It is your mission (dharma) you have on this world, what “for me” has to do with singing. I am on my way there to, and the nearer I come there while singing, the deeper I feel I am getting one with all what is around – because I feel so good with and in what I am doing, it is so fulfilling.

    Love and lots of blessings to all


  4. Kathryn January 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm // Reply

    Hello – I had the pleasure of meeting you in Clearwater FL at a Deeksha blessing so it is extra special to have met the author! I found this to be insightful and an enriching reminder of living purposefully and to be guided by the soul. Living consciously and presently have provided peace when situations could be viewed as chaos. This second while this is being read is the only moment. Thanks for your loving message.


  5. Marianna January 15, 2013 at 7:36 pm // Reply

    Thnak you for this article.
    I think it is the Dharma that make us feel free and happy. Our dharma. But I think it is not enough to remember the dharma. To live it truly we shoeld learn to live in now. It is for me for example the most difficult.
    Thank you.


  6. Ronja Venus Andersson | Orgasmitude.com January 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm // Reply

    So true, Arjuna. Being a gift and living my dharma – along with giving and receiving love and enjoying intimacy – is definitely the only sustainable way to happiness.


    This sense of direction and purpose is often described as a masculine quality. But for me, as a woman, it doesn’t feel so much like setting a direction and following it (masculine) but more like surrendering to an inner pull of the purpose that is already there for me (feminine).

    As a mostly feminine being I love being taken, and living in a state of surrender as a part of pleasurable business creation is an amazing ride.

    Thanks for a great post!



  7. Uli January 15, 2013 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    Oh, yes, everybody has a dharma – I am convinced of that. In German I call it Berufung which is vocation in English, I guess. It’s the red thread in one’s life. I gained a deeper understanding of this red thread by reading Robert Schwartz’ book “Your Soul’s Plan”. Very inspiring. Thank you for bringing up this sooooo important issue, Arjuna! Have a WONDERFUL tele-seminar! 🙂 🙂


  8. Mariana January 15, 2013 at 9:31 pm // Reply

    Interesting Arjuna I have been enjoying a book by Stephen Cope about “The Great Work of your Life”, then realised he had only been researching and highlighting famous people, ie. Jane Goodhall, Walt Whitman et al. I believe for many of us, especially mothers, our dharma is just as you said, to raise our children first and foremost, and as I have been doing since that, discovering other gifts to bring forth, that is also my dharma. Perhaps our dharma changes as we evolve and find undiscovered passions, or innate talent. and as you say, many never live out their dharma because of fear, addictions or regret. a great topic to start discussion in 2013!


  9. dana surita January 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm // Reply

    Hi, what a pleasure! And you remind me of a short text saying that each human being has to find his-her own unique sound and add it to the cosmos to make it whole… Beautiful image.
    Thank you!


  10. MonarchMama January 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm // Reply

    My question has always been the same: Just what IS my dharma, my calling…just what is it REALLY that I am here to do, fulfill, be?
    BE is often what I come to. But it seems I need a more definitive answer.


  11. Marija January 16, 2013 at 9:45 am // Reply

    I don’t know what to say exactly; cause it is so simple and at the same time so complicated issue.
    You found the word “Dharma”, like “Karma”; only the first one is that, we are acting through our lives, like we want to; but the other one is giving to us by somebody “up there”
    For me is the most important thing to learn how to be happy in any situations we can find ourselves, in our lives;
    because, as I figured it out; the most of the people on the earth, doesn’t know that;
    I think, you would be a great teacher for those lessons;
    I wish you all the best


  12. Yusuf January 16, 2013 at 10:31 am // Reply

    The word ‘Dharma’ is used in Bengali Language too. The closest English meaning of the word is perhaps ‘properties’. Example can be, physical or chemical properties of gold or oxygen or anything. Gold can’t act like copper though they may share some similar ‘dharmas’, they both are solid or metal etc etc… but they are really really different. When problem arises? When gold is used for electrical wiring. Gold know that it can do the job, but it is really a waste being used in that way. Hard working copper doesn’t want to be ornaments either. Perhaps everything wants the right place for itself.


  13. Sil January 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm // Reply

    It is a delight to hear from you again …
    The subjects you talk about in this article the ones that seem to be the most dominant in the world today money sex are real issues that are not
    Approached or looked at in a lovely way as a exploit but rather as exploitation maybe the main cause would be the fact that we as humans are not working with our DHARMA …
    In the midst of all this it leaves me without chance but just in the chaos of miscommunication misconception in the day of life a walk beside my shoes bare feet on the road less travelled buried without regrets but only
    In the COLD HOMELESS Under standing of the insanity of greed judgements always gambling with the shaking dices of obstacles


  14. Brian January 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm // Reply

    some say it is an individual thing – to bring yourself into alignment, then it is my belief that together we can ask the world to change, groups of like minded people can input more energy than single people, what you wish to call these things, I don’t think matters much. we all have to do our bit.


  15. Klaus Heinze January 16, 2013 at 10:29 pm // Reply

    Thanks Arjuna,another great essay.So I’m living my purpose for the last 12 1/2 years but didn’t know it until you explained what a gift looks like.It felt like my spirit was fed and I could do without food & sleep.The start of all that was a thought, which was not mine. The sender didn’t leave a name. I got hit hard in my emotional centre and got ignited, ending up as a volunteer.


  16. duygu January 17, 2013 at 2:33 am // Reply

    ..soo greatfuL and thankfuL for this moment… what a great timing to share my Dharma… today my childhood friend passed away and feLt so sorry and asked ‘WHATS the purpose of Life’… what am I.. what do I want reaLLy,, what makes me happy,, whats happiness means… and asked myseLf, when the body is gone..,, whats left….whats the Truth here…my thoughts, my speaks, my behaves…my actions..what I am creating now… I choose Love..
    Thank you Arjuna, you make my heart fuLL.
    Thanks for aLL friends comments..


  17. Christa January 17, 2013 at 6:19 am // Reply

    Well I knew that lots of money and sex weren’t “it” although they are both nice. But I guess I thought that meditation was it….you means it’s not???!! Gee….I probably should have known that. I’ve been meditating since the Beatles and still have moments of less than bliss. So…”dharma” sounds good. I’ll be listening to your talk on Thursday and I hope you clarify what exactly constitutes one’s dharma. Is it just a question of “right livelihood” or is it a quality of consciousness that one brings to any activity, work or not….I’m eager to hear more from your very brilliant mind!


  18. kate January 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm // Reply

    This is very true, we do indeed have a purpose, our Dhama. After many years of searching i found something that allows me to be very clear/cognizant and aware in my own experience every minute of the day.
    Check out http://www.balancedview.org to really live an exulted life on a moment to moment basis not just when meditating and discover your true gifts strengths and talent and therefore your Dhama. ♥ I only speak from personal experience of what has worked for me. ♥


  19. Harnadh January 21, 2013 at 10:06 am // Reply

    sat nam, the article was too long before it got to dharma. to live one’s dharma takes enormous courage to do the inner work of acceptance and flow. may all being be empowered. aum.


  20. Karen October 7, 2013 at 1:23 am // Reply

    As mentioned, not all need influence the masses – each has there own ‘Dharma’ and can feel fulfillment, purpose, find meaning,connection and love by being who they truly are and following where their heart leads. When you really see each person as yourself there is no judgment and compassion and love flow effortlessly. To know all that occurs ultimately brings benefit, raises awareness, consciousness, brings ‘soul growth’ or dropping of the layers that veil our true selves – there is no need to experience things or people as bad, or to suffer. There is a type of happiness that is peace and contentment that can develop as a constant state of being. For me the shifting occurred with confronting my mortality, with one swift realization of not fearing death, all the veils dropped and my world was forever changed.


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