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An introduction to dharma
Over the festive break, one of the books I was dipping into was Think
Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. One chapter on ‘Purpose’ was of
particular interest. In this chapter, Shetty introduced the concept of dharma.
His closest approximation to a translation is that it is combining (i) your
passion & skill with (ii) what the world needs and serving others. “When you
spend your time and energy living in your dharma, you have the satisfaction of
using your best abilities and doing something that matters to the world.” In
this regard it reminds me of the Japanese concept of Ikigai which I’ve written
about before (read here).
This can clearly be applied to your career. There are two signs
that you might not be living out your dharma. Firstly, do you only get excited
when people say nice things about your work? This could be a sign that you’re
not passionate about it. Secondly, are you indulging your interests and skills
but nobody is responding? This could mean that you’re living your passion but
Finding your dharma
Shetty shares a couple of useful exercises for how you can find
your dharma. The first is to ask yourself a series of questions which I’ll
replicate here so you can have a go:
Separately, he then goes on to share four personality types
(varnas) which identify your true nature and competence. The four varnas are:
the Guide, the Leader, the Creator and the Maker. In brief, the Guide is
compelled to learn and share knowledge, the Leader likes to influence and
provide, the Creator likes to make things happen and the Maker likes to see
things tangibly being built. No one varna is better than the other and all four
varnas are needed in the world to work side by side.
Whilst the book has a questionnaire to help you identify your
Varna and fuller description of all four Varnas, you may already have an idea
of which varna reflects your true nature and inclinations.
Living your dharma
When you are living your dharma you will feel alive, positive,
comfortable and consistent. You will experience feelings of flow. It comes from
the heart but frequently the head can get in the way (I’m too old to change, I
can’t afford to do this, I don’t have time, it won’t work for me).
My favourite point that Shetty makes about the dharma is that it’s your responsibility. Don’t wait for your manager to
recognise your dharma or to take time out to ask you if you’re truly fulfilled.
You need to step into it: “When you safeguard your dharma, you constantly
strive to be in a place where you thrive. When you thrive, people notice and
you reap rewards that help you stay in your dharma.”
As you may be able to tell, I enjoyed learning about dharma. It
gives us another lens through which to examine what gives us meaning and
purpose. I am looking forward to incorporating this into my coaching and
digging deeper into this area. I would recommend the book as a good read with
some good concepts, ancient wisdom and philosophy.
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