I’ve observed that while dharma is often translated to mean purpose, it more precisely means ‘that which sustains‘ – those actions which sustain the world so we can grow and evolve through experiences. Otherwise, entropy sets in and it all dissolves.
I’ve also spoken of the 4 legs of the bull of dharma:
Tapas – warming
Saucha – purity
Daya – compassion
Satya – truth
During a low age, only the leg of truth remains as a clear path. As the age rises, dharma is supported more and more. Thus a smoother and more roundly successful life can unfold.
It turns out that each of us has flavours or qualities of expression of each of those 4 dharma’s.
For example, our dharma for truth may be writing poetry. Or it may be investigative reporting. Or simply be telling the truth.
The Yoga Sutra 2:36 tell us: “When truthfulness is established, activity and its fruit [consequence] are closely connected.”
In other words, results come quickly. They’re not hindered by a fog of untruth. Actions can complete easily and be resolved, avoiding a burden. We can move quickly to heal and complete our human journey.
On the dharma of Compassion, the Yoga Sutra 1:33 also tells us the mind is purified by compassion – also by friendliness, delight, and equanimity.
How do you express compassion? Helping your neighbour? Feeding the homeless? Caring for animals? Supporting friends?
On the dharma of Purity, “The means gather around sattva (purity).” The ability to get things done results from the support of nature. The higher laws respond to sattva.
There is also a close relationship between sattva and a clear intellect. The Yoga Sutra make several other references to the value of purity.
The dharma of Tapas is actions that warm the path, softening and smoothening it. While we may see tapas as more basic than compassion, it is key for refinement. The Yoga Sutra 2:43 tells us: “From the destruction of impurity through tapas, there is perfection of the body and senses.” This leg of dharma requires the highest age for full expression which is why you see less manifest perfection now.
Update: The perfections of the body are described as siddhis or abilities such as those listed in the second half of the Yoga Sutra. This includes mastery over the elements, being able to fly, the ability to make the body any size, the physical firmness of a diamond, and so on.
The flavours of these 4 legs are also illustrated in the iconography of Indian gods. They commonly have 4 arms, each holding symbols of their gifts.
For example, the goddess Saraswati (above) holds a mala, book (Vedas), water pot (not in this example), and vina. A mala is used to count tapas, the Vedas contain truth, water purifies, and a vina (stringed instrument) can sooth the soul, offering compassion.
It seems which hand holds which object is relevant but I’m not sure how much modern iconography recognizes this. The upper right hand has a strong association with truth. A lower left with compassion. I would suspect upper left with purity, leaving lower right for tapas. I’d have to test this over time for confirmation.
Further, I’ve been shown the legs of dharma are also a scale. As we become established in truth, we can more readily establish compassion, then purity, and warming. I would have thought warming leads to purity but it seems the deeper dharmic form of tapas requires purity and refinement to approach the Divine.
I would not get too much into figuring out what flavours you are or where on the scale you are. This process is one of openness and innocence. Consider this a broader perspective to see how everything is interconnected.
I’m sharing the observations to describe a pattern in our nature.