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What is dharma?

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Shri Yukteshwar, a yoga master from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, translates dharma as ‘mental virtue’. Others translate this Sanskrit word in other ways that can seem quite varied. A generalized definition used in Buddhism is “cosmic law and order” or “nature of being”. Dharma implies a cause and effect or lawful universe as is borne out in the laws of physics. All the definitions of ‘dharma’ contribute to the understanding of the ineffable quality of existence.

‘Mental virtue’ implies the subjective nature of dharma because no conception can occur at all without the personal subjective mind. What the Buddhists call ‘ordinary mind’ is dharma in essence. Nothing can be outside this point of view. To refine the point of view is the path of meditation or ‘mindfulness’ which is espoused in the ‘eight fold path’ of Buddhism.

The thinking mind processes concepts based on experience and original creative thought. It is a storehouse of values, attitudes and beliefs that are established in time. The contents of the mind to a large extent, determine choices, actions and reactions in our behavior. Meditation is the practice of stillness of the mind and body which produces intuitive insight to the nature of being itself.

Virtue of the mind implies honesty and truthful attitude. It also implies a lack of heaviness or a light hearted attitude. Cause and effect can be studied both in the mental and the physical realities of life. Letting go of values and attitudes that don’t conform to the honesty and truthfulness principle is the essence of refining the mental field. Establishing beneficial values and attitudes is expanding understanding of cause and effect in an intuitive way. Practice of mental virtue conforms to the universal dharma or nature of life in general.

Philosophy is the study and practice of wisdom. Dharma implies a beneficial and loving nature at the heart of the physical and mental universe that could be call ‘Spirit’ or the "Source of Existence".

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