By George A. Boyd © 2006
Excerpted from Question and Answers with Swami
Q: I’m in a lot of conflict right now. It seems my Soul requires one thing of me—and my parents, friends, and church require another. What do I do?
A: To become your own person, to individualize and realize your authentic self, it sometimes becomes necessary to deviate from established norms that are placed upon you from the outside, so that you may remain true to that norm which is inside (Dharma). To remain true to Dharma means that you are living in integrity, you are in harmony with the law within your own heart. These types of violation of societal norms include:
- Deviation from cultural (ethnic group) norms – Going against custom, following a life path other than that which is expected
- Deviation from societal (legal) norms – Breaking the law, performing behavior that violates codifies statutes enacted by legislative bodies
- Deviation from ancestral (parental) norms – Going against requests of your parents, going against parental expectations of model behavior and lifestyle
- Deviation from peer (friendship) norms – Performing actions that violate the conscience of friends, going against peer expectations of model behavior and lifestyle
- Deviation from corporate (workplace) norms – Performing actions that violate company rules or policies, not performing work to required standards of excellence, efficiency, precision accuracy or professionalism
- Deviation from political (political party) norms – Voting or expressing political opinions that do not agree with the approved ideology of your political party
- Deviation from religious (religious group) norms – Performing actions that violate behavioral and belief standards established by the church (or other religious body) which the church believes are authorized by scripture and sanctioned by the Divine or the representative (Master, Savior, Prophet) of the Divine
- Deviation from personal conscience (Dharmic) norms – Violating an internalized standard or value believed to be true, right or good. Not living in integrity with one’s inner sense of truth (Dharma)
Even if you rebel from these outer norms, if you remain true to your inner sense of truth, you will have inner peace. But if you deviate from your Dharma to live up to the outer norms, to fulfill the expectations of your culture, your nation, your parents, your friends, your employer or your religion before your own inner sense of truth, then you will live in conflict. This conflict is a felt-sense that something is missing—a vague uneasiness or unidentified anxiety, a feeling that your own self is angry with you, is condemning you for your folly or a sense of emptiness or desolation within.
Dharma appears in different forms according to the Ray type of the individual:
First Ray – The Will of God, the Fiery Triangle
Second Ray – The Wheel of the Law, the Eightfold Path of Noble Truth
Third Ray – The Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the Divine Order behind the laws of the Physical and Astral Planes, the laws underlying the Creation of Heaven and Earth
Fourth Ray – The Law of Nature and Consciousness, the Way, the Tao
Fifth Ray – The Law of Truth, the Razor’s Edge, Perfection, Perfect Mastery
Sixth Ray – The Law of Love and Grace, living according to the Master or Savior’s commandments
Seventh Ray – The Tree of Life (Kabala) – the Laws of Karma, Manifestation, Wisdom and Spiritual Essence
On whatever Ray it manifests to you, this image, voice, or felt-sense of Dharma will become very clear to you at certain crucial points in your life.
- Sometimes your Dharma will require of you things that go against your desires, your plans, or what seems reasonable to you.
- Sometimes, when you have already started on a course of action, it will pull you back and start you down another path.
- Sometimes it will unexpectedly intervene when you wish to marry someone and indicate that this person is not right for you.
- Sometimes it will bid you to leave the security of your job and strike out on your own.
However Dharma manifests to you, when it confronts you, you have a choice. Do you follow this inner requirement of your Soul or do you follow the dictates of your desire, your preferences or your reason?
If you follow Dharma, it will sometimes create disruption in your life.
You may have to:
- Cancel plans
- Make awkward explanations to friends and family about your sudden “irrational” decision
- Go through unforeseen personal sacrifice and hardships
- Do things that feel terrifying or illogical to you
- Re-think where your life is going and what you will do with the rest of your life
- Experience antipathy and continual criticism from those who were your friends and colleagues
- Receive threats of violence or promises of revenge from those whose values and beliefs you have acted against through courageously acting upon your integrity
If you reflect upon it from the standpoint of your ego, the part of you that only wants to fulfill its own desires, live its dreams and be happy—it is madness; it is utter lunacy.
But from the standpoint of the Soul, it is an absolute requirement: it is necessary to fulfill the Divine requirement.
Because of this, you will run into a conflict between the free will agency of the personality, which wants to have its own way and create the future it desires, versus the impulse of Destiny, the pressure of the spiritual life upon the human life, which is a Dharmic imperative.
If you run away from your Dharma, your decision haunts you. You have your freedom, but it is a hollow, tormented freedom. Things go wrong, you sabotage yourself, your plans fall through—it seems to you sometimes that the world is against you.
It passes through your mind that you are cursed or that you have sinned against some higher principle. You feel a sense of desperation. You may achieve your goals and find that they have no enjoyment for you, they seem empty and meaningless.
Outside the door, the Soul waits, until the karma that you have created by your own free will plays itself out. This may last from a number of days to several lifetimes. Then your Soul will appear before you, its Voice will whisper to you, you will feel its presence once again. Again you will be given the opportunity to follow, to fulfill your Dharma. What will you choose this time? Will you again choose your egoic freedom and abandon your Soul?
This process of choosing or abandoning your Soul is placed before you. Sometimes it can occur from moment to moment at certain periods. Sometimes it will appear only one time in your lifetime. It is put before you to live according to the requirements of your Dharma—or abandon it and reap the karmic consequences. This requirement is very definite: there are no gray areas here—it is yea or nay, and there is no middle ground.
Forced choice is used in ethnic groups, in society, by parents, friends, and employers, in political parties, and in religious conversion and preaching to require you to make a decision. It is very clear to you what the consequences will be if you do not choose what they want you to do.
On the other side is your Soul, which also places before you the forced choice of embracing or abandoning your Dharma. From the outside, these social forces that make powerful demands of you are pulling you one way. From the inside, your Soul is pulling you another.
Sometimes it must feel to you that you are being ripped apart. People sometimes do go insane and have nervous breakdowns because the pressure is too great. It stretches them beyond their limits and their capacity to endure. It breaks them apart, because they cannot have both what the world desires and what the Soul requires.
People who become mystics, saints, and sages tell us that they have not regretted choosing Dharma, but that it was a very difficult, arduous path they traveled as a result of the choice.
People who have embraced the dictates of their ego, who have followed the path of desires, obeyed the cultural requirements of their group, their society, their parents, peers, and employers and have faithfully followed their religion tell us that they have lived good, reasonable happy lives. They tell us that they have had no major confrontations with their conscience and they believe that their Soul is safe in the hands of their Savior, Master, or Prophet.
This is a very difficult choice that you must make, a life-wrenching choice. It seems cruel that Life has required this of you, and has spared others to be at peace with themselves and with the world.
Your Soul is calling you, making requirements of you that don’t make sense. You feel frightened and confused, and don’t know whom to trust. If you tell your friends and family, they will think that you have gone mad. If you go to a psychiatrist, he or she will certify that you are insane and give you medication to shut down your whirling thoughts and churning emotions.
If you go to your priest or minister, he or she will tell you that it is the Devil talking to you and to follow the teachings of the church. Where do you turn at a time like this?
It helps to pray and ask the Divine for guidance, to show you the outcome of both choices, to bless you to make the best decision for you. Then you must decide, you must choose a path. It may be the right way, it may be the wrong way, but you must choose and take the consequences.
When you realize that your choices do have consequences, you start to gain wisdom, you begin to be able to take responsibility for your life. This is a major challenge for every human being. This is an important step of growth for you.
It is not easy when you have to confront your Dharma, but it can be a great blessing to you if you can successfully navigate these troubled waters. We encourage you to be courageous, to rouse yourself, and rise to this challenge. Face it like a warrior. Be ready to make a firm and resolute decision. Be willing to cast your holy yea or nay. Be willing to have those who are not your true friends fall away, because those that truly love you will love you still, even if you follow a path that they do not approve of or understand.
Confrontation with Dharma can be a shattering, life-changing, revolutionary experience. But sometimes it is the greatest opportunity you will ever be presented.