by Dora Kunz
at Indralaya, August 2, 1957
Tonight I thought I would throw open for discussion a really rather difficult subject - the subject of Dharma. I’m going to say a few words and throw at you a few ideas, then anyone can participate in this afterwards. Now what is Dharma? It is not, as it is so often translated, a person’s duty. You know, when the word was coined, many thousands of years ago in Indian philosophy, it didn't mean that. As you know, at that time there was a caste system - there is, to some extent, a caste system even today - and it meant that the person had to accept what his life held, that he had certain duties to his family - obligations would be a better word than duties - obligations towards his family, towards the caste he was born in, and also towards the country and society in general.
Now I think in our theosophical meaning we have added many meanings to it. And I would like to say something of what I think it means. I think first of all that the difference between duty and any of the other ideas is that, from the theosophical point of view, when we come into incarnation it isn't an outside fate which has brought us into this world, put us into a certain environment in which we meet people, it is our Soul. That is, we believe absolutely and finally that each one of us is a Soul and that therefore, that Soul knowing the past and seeing at least part of the future, had accepted, as it were, certain primary conditions of environment, of meeting people; and that therefore we are born into this world to work out what we think. And that is up to us finally, not only up to the Soul.
The Soul, I think, chooses certain of the main events - but we have to think out for ourselves what we think, and that is one of our primary conflicts today. We have to think for ourselves what is the right thing for us to do in this life in the environment we are born and in our family relations. Of course today I think very few people feel that they have a duty to society, and practically nobody feels that they have a relationship to this Soul, to this God. I think that is not very much left today. And I think Dharma includes all those ideas; and if we could see - and that is the most difficult for each individual to do - if we could see that it isn't either a good, or an evil thing which has put us in this particular condition, but that within us in this power of the Soul, in this world of the Self, we have had the choice. And because of that, if we realize that, we would also have the strength to do with it. Because I really don't believe that this choice in most cases is made beyond a person’s fundamental strength within the world of his Soul.
But the trouble of us is, of course, that we very rarely think of ourselves as having this background, and we very, very rarely consciously - or even unconsciously, I think we maybe more unconsciously than consciously - realize this immense power which is within the world of the Soul and the Spirit. We can draw upon it because, remember, within our constitution we have this with what we are dealing with. We have within us this physical world. We have within us this world of the emotions which I always call the psyche - that we are familiar with. Yet the strangest thing is that we are only partially familiar with that because we are not aware of the energies we release in that way. We are also not aware very often what motivates us in this world where we really have what I call a “short term of view”. We mostly in our every day life think what is most important is what happens now, don't you think that is true? - or let’s say, next week? But at least it is momentary. We very rarely get a glimpse very often in our lifetime of that world of the Spirit within us which would enable us to get what I call a “long distance point of view - or a point of view which is impersonal. I think sometime we all have this sensation that here we see ourselves squarely - am I allowed to use that word “squarely”? We really don't know what is the right choice. And as also in the world of the psyche we so very often have the illusion that if we don't make a choice, nothing will happen. But even our decision not to make a choice sets a chain of events around. I see so many people afraid to do something - to put it into action. There is no way, whatever you do, there is no way out of this dilemma of us constantly having to make choices. We make choices from the moment which we maybe don't think about - like crossing the street. And we also have to make choices in which we are involved with our family, with society, with the state. And very often these obligations conflict, because we very often have, I think, a yearning - how can I put it? - I think very often, and I think mainly that applies to theosophists, that we have a yearning for greater things, and all those obligations, all those things we are bound with, we consider as fetters. Don't you think that we are bound down there to the grind? I mean, I think a great many people think that. Now if - and that is the difficulty - if we can do two things. If, as much as we possibly can, we can try to go back to that world of the Spirit within us, I think sometimes we, for instance here at Orcas, for instance when were here among the trees, I think we do perceive within ourselves a sense of stillness. Not, I think, that sense of stillness which we sometimes get out here in this place that we are like the trees - that we have been bound down to earth. I mean they are bound down to earth - in one way they have to fulfill their destiny. I mean, they get cut down - they cannot run away can they? Even to be cut down? I think therefore - I always feel that in a place like this we all of us sometimes glimpse something of that stillness, which I think is a glimpse also we could take in relation to the eternal Spirit within us. Because if we could get into that habit when our conflict makes us feel that we have to do something right now - makes us confused about our obligations - I mean, if we could not identify ourselves. And that is one of the great difficulties which we don't realize - we don't realize that we identify ourselves with that restless world of the psyche, I mean that part of us that is driven by restlessness, by that sense of now even to reforming the world. It’s got to be done now, doesn't it?
Yet, if we could only go back to that other part within ourselves and say: that restless part is part of me - I think we have to accept that we are that - but with that restless part of me there is that other part . . . if you constantly keep in mind that, and in that part there is what I call “an impersonal point of view” in which we can sometimes watch ourselves full of these conflicts and yet we don't know quite sometimes how to get out of it.
Now, the matter of choices - I mean Dharma through life is a matter of choices - we all of us have to choose. We have to make hundreds and even thousands of choices in a lifetime. And some of them we make - WHAM! Isn't that true? We are driven by something and WHAM! Even if that choice is made with the most basic good motives I often wonder if that is the right thing to it - it isn't that we shouldn't make instant decisions, but I think if we sometimes wonder . . . or have I made that decision because my emotions have driven me - you know our emotions can drive us to good foolishly. A lot of good motives with our thought can do us incredible harm - can do incredible harm to our family, it can do even a lot of incredible harm in an environment. Because it is that other thing which is really wanted - that sense of obligation.
We are all driven to run away - as human beings - I mean the desire to run away is part of the human nature, don't you think that is true? If something gets hard, if something is difficult, we can run away from the thing altogether, but we can also run away to greener pastures. We always think that the next thing that we are not doing is the ideal thing for us. Don't you think that that is a way of running away too? I mean that’s just as much. But if you don't run away - that is what takes stamina - that is what takes the power of the Soul.
I am absolutely certain of one thing and I am going to talk about that again and show you. If you don't run away - if you accept - you know I’m diverting for a moment, but I talked last time about spiritual healing and yesterday I by accident opened the book which I’ve got and it described some of the cures in Lourdes. These are all medical reports and testified reports. What struck me very strangely when I read, that half of those cases - they had given up, they hadn't expected to live and some of them didn't even know that they were going on the train to Lourdes. In other words they weren't the people with the passionate attachment to the physical body to get well - am I making myself clear? And yet those people, there were four cases described in detail, they got cured completely and absolutely within two hours - And when I read that I was suddenly struck about that - and I want to end up by that - what we don't realize is how we identify ourselves. We identify ourselves with what we are doing, and so many of our feelings for instance are constantly being hurt because in this world nobody is going to think like we do, nobody is going to like what you and I like - there is variety. But how often do we get our feelings hurt because somebody dislikes what we like. Isn't that so? Because with that we feel it isn't again the projecting an idea - we feel we ourselves are rejected by that. Is that clear? And one of the great trials, one of the great difficulties which we go through life is this powerful sense of identification which we have often. My heavens on earth! It is the most foolish thing in the world! Because they do not matter one thing. And yet, let anybody criticize it, let anybody reject it, we say I am rejected! I mean, don't you think that is one of the most common causes of just plain hurt feelings in our every day life, that we feel that part? Well, when you come to think of it, you are not really attached to a silly little thing.
I was talking about it the other day - those pernicious habit-patterns, really. We build those pernicious habit patterns and we become so absolutely the slave of these habit patterns and we become therefore identified with that pattern even if it is the most foolish pattern in the world. And that is often why psychologists say: “People do not want to get well, they are comfortable in an uncomfortable pattern.” Because to venture into the unknown, in other words, to break that pattern, is to venture even if it might seem nicer, is still unknown - and your very uncomfortable pattern is still your very uncomfortable pattern - isn't it so? Those things are true. I mean you have probably not my experience in that, but I see of course some of these people and I sometimes tear my hair about it. Because they don't realize that they like their uncomfortable pattern and to make them see about breaking through it is quite a tough thing.
But to come back to the Dharma. This business of our relation, our choices is something which we have to face over and over again. I think this is a very basic doctrine in a very basic frame of reference on how you are going to run your life. Going to run your life, not necessarily peacefully, I mean that is the ideal, but if you could run your life with a sense that we each have done our best - and that is all that we can do as human beings. We can’t be required more than to do our best. And I think it is when we feel that we have done it, and then withdrew - If we have done something, if we say: This is the end of it. And then withdraw that identification which a lot of people have because that becomes “stewing” doesn't it? I mean, if you have done something and you go back over and over again, that is stewing in my English language. When we have done what we have, let it be out of our aura, in other words. If we possibly can, drop that sense of attachment to the thing we have done, and say “I have finished”. If we could learn that, I think we would have gone a long way towards knowing something about the laws of Dharma. Now I’m going to throw it open for discussion - has anybody to say something? Does nobody to disagree or agree with me?
Question: Can we change our Dharma by our thought?
What do you mean by that?
Question: Well, I mean by that, if you make up your mind to consciously, say, think constructively - you make that an aim, you aim to do that on purpose to correct a situation, does it affect the Dharma?
Dora: You are talking really in terms of Karma, aren’t you? And not in terms of Dharma. Karma and Dharma are quite different. Karma is what you might say your inevitable fate and relation to it, isn't that so? Dharma is how you yourself feel in relation to all these environments. Your Dharma is how to accept what faces you in your relationship, your thinking about what Fate has put in front of you - don't you think that that is true? Karma is what requirement you are born with - Dharma is how you relate to it.
Question: Then when you say it’s just Dharma to do something, what does that mean then?
I don't think anybody can say that from the outside.
Question: But I heard you say this - I’ve heard you say about some individual that it’s his Dharma to do a certain thing.
Well, I remember I sometimes feel - if in a certain instance one is born into
a certain environment - I’m thinking of a specific case - if a person
is born in a certain environment with a tremendous heap of responsibilities
likely to be brought on him, even when he was a child, these opportunities,
as it were, were given to him at birth. Now his Dharma you would think would
be to use those opportunities. But he may very well not do so.
Question: But aren’t the opportunities his Karma?
Well, they are both. But whether he takes them or not, they'are his Dharma.
Whether he takes them or not, an opportunity is given to a person - let’s
take it that a person is born with an opportunity and yet they wont have anything
to do with it.
Question: As an example, a man is born with the capacity to be a great musician and then doesn't do it - then would you say he was not fulfilling his Dharma?
Question: This does not mean that one cannot decide to change the course of one’s life and go into something else.
Dora: Of course not! I mean, sometimes the person is given two or three opportunities, isn't that so? And finally, it is a progressive thing. Dharma isn't a set thing, it is a dynamic thing, a constantly changing thing, don't you think? As a person is changing, as a person is growing - I mean, take some persons for instance, when they grow, they are given more and more responsibilities, don't you think that is true? And other people wont take any! One of the sicknesses of our modern civilization is that people will not take any responsibility. That is about the basic sickness of today that people are terrified of responsibility. I mean, there isn't a business man you can pick up who isn't practically scared on that subject, and they say that if you can get somebody who will take responsibility, they are worth their weight in gold. Any business man will feel that. One of the terrible tragedies of today is that people are so terrified of assuming responsibility. I think this is partly because they have no sense of that center within them. I really feel this - not that you have a soul, but that you are a soul is a very basic, a very fundamental concept because if you have it you can get from that an immense amount of strength. I really believe that’s a very basic concept. Are there any other ideas to be thrown into discussion?
Question: Will you relate Dharma and duty?
Dora: Duty is a very narrow word, don't you think so? It has so many bad emotional connotations to it. I would either way say opportunities - I would say more “obligations” than “duty”. Duty is a word with very bad odor to it. It really isn't big enough because it relates to so many spheres besides the individual and his family, it relates to bigger things.
Question: Well does it make any difference whether one does good out of a sense of duty, or whether he does it out of a sense of obligation?
Dora: No, I’m not saying that. I’m only saying that in one parlance, duty is a word which I don't like.
Question: Well, isn't that just another way of expressing Dharma?
Dora: Yes, sure. I can’t see any difference in that.
Question: Dora, is there any difference between Dharma and Dhamma?
One is the Path really, the Path of Buddha.
Question: Dhamma is not the same as Dharma?
Dora: One is a term in Buddhism.
Question: What are the best techniques in arriving at this impersonal point of view so that you can see these responsibilities and choose between them?
Dora: I think if he could be first at one moment at rest - and that’s a very difficult thing to do - I mean, if he could be genuinely at rest physically and emotionally for one moment doing nothing - I mean to be very comfortable for one minute in doing nothing - and then try to feel this peace and strength within yourself, and relate yourself to what is your problem, and become aware -and that’s the trouble -and become aware of what makes you have this drive toward doing certain things, and see these drives in relation to your family, your society, whatever it is. In other words looking at it objectively from yourself and relating it - would be the best way I can say that. And I don't say that’s easy. That is a very hard thing to do.
Question: How can you go about sorting out these responsibilities - one can burden oneself with all sorts of things we think are obligations and responsibilities which are not so at all - this requires discrimination or insight or something. Is there a way of looking at these things and see what is true about it? See what I mean?
I’m just thinking - I would say this. Very often we take on responsibilities
just out of mere habit - I don't mean that we should shirk taking on
responsibilities - I mean like responsibilities in this camp. I mean we all
work together and we have all taken so much, responsibility has paid off, don't
you think? I mean it has done so much besides being just for ourselves. I think
it has done so much for an immense amount of people. Lots of people might think
that we are crazy, don't you think that is true? But I think that it has paid
off in a wonderful way assuming the responsibility of working together and working
really impersonally in this group spirit. Now, sometimes we also often assume
responsibilities because of some drive - We don't want to do the things which
are our opportunity - for instance take your case of the piano,
a person like that might take all sorts of responsibilities because of
the drive, the torture of doing something - ? - and striving in that way is
harder work than taking up a hundred responsibilities that are on the surface.
Question: We avoid the other by taking responsibilities -
Dora: And don't you think we often take responsibilities therefore which are on the surface and of course we sometimes take responsibilities - well I’ve got to say it - we sometimes assume too much responsibility. I think we should help one another, but sometimes we interfere too much in other people’s lives and in that way we often stifle the other person. We have got to learn wisdom. We have got to learn that part of all this is not to take over the responsibilities of the other person - one of the hardest things in life to learn, particularly with the people you love is: you must not make their choices for them! And that is difficult, isn't it. Because we want to save some suffering et cetera et cetera. I don't believe that you can save anybody any suffering. On the whole it brings about resentment. The thing is, you have to help another person choose. That’s an awful, awful, awful something to learn - don't you think it is?
Question: Don't you think it is because we have to take responsibilities for our children when they are little, and then we get into the habit of taking their responsibilities - we can’t break the habit, isn't that it?
Dora: Of course that is quite right - you have to do that, you have to take care of babies, you can’t abandon them. What I feel about children is this; you’ve got to in the physical world particularly - when they are little and all that, you’ve got to make their choices for them, of diet and heaven knows what. You’ve got to get the body started, isn't that so? Then they have even to get started on the right relationship with other people, but very early in life encourage them in emotional areas to choose. Then slowly bit by bit they learn to choose, and when they grow up they aren’t so afraid of choosing. Because we havegot to choose. There is no way out of it. Maybe that is what we’re in the world for - we have got to make choices - well, even if you drink tomato juice it is a choice, isn't it? not particularly an important choice -but a choice.
Question: Isn't the fact that a parent does make choices for his child mean his desire to have power over the child, and if he continues to make choices it is part of his desire to have power over some thing or some body?
I said it was a particularly hard thing to learn and it is particularly a hard
thing for parents because first I think it becomes protective and then it gets
into the habit pattern that they know what is best.
Question: Isn't it a sort of rationalization? They think they are protecting the child but instead of its being a protection it is really to have a certain power over another individual, and the child is the easiest one to have it over.
Dora: Well, I don't think it is always that. What I think about human being is: Boy, we are so mixed! I don't think that people are dominated by the power instinct except maybe a few. All these things get completely mixed up. I really think the trouble with all of us is all these mixtures we have and they become harder to sort out, don't you think so? If we weren't mixtures I think things would be easier.
Question: Don't you think that there’s some value in “stewing over things” afterwards? That if you haven't had the wisdom or foresight, well you may learn something from the hindsight.
Yes, I think that is so if you can learn something about it from thinking
about it, but I suppose I’m so used to dealing with sick people I’ve
got to say that they carry it on to such an extreme state, you see what I mean.
If they can say I have learned this lesson which I have done wrong, is nothing
wrong about it, but you have no idea how many people stew for hours and
days about something like that - and don't change besides the next time
they act. I mean if you can say: I’ve been a fool. I mean if you can say
that, it’s such a nasty feeling knowing that I have been such a fool.
But alright, I’ll try not to be one next time - don't you think that is
a sensible attitude?
Question: Yes I do. And let the thing go!
Well, if you acknowledge that you have been that, and then accept it,
and make up your mind that you’ve got the lesson from it, the next time
when the same situation comes up, try at least not to repeat it. So many people
who stew about it repeat the same mistake the next time.
Question: Well, do you think that stewing about it makes a deeper impression, and makes it more likely that the same thing will happen the next time?
Dora: I agree with you completely. Well, has this been of any value?
Question: Dora, now in achieving the impersonal point of view, Karl Rogers of Non-Directive Therapy wrote this little Pamphlet - (Dora - I read it) well, it certainly seemed that a lot of his patients did achieve the impersonal point of view and came up with a concept of self that was very - ? - and so it seems that psychic-therapy seems to be one of the best ways to achieve that awareness of the power of the psyche over us.
Dora: I think that it is a help without any doubt -any other questions?
Question: Do you think that a good sense of Dharma would save us from all these psychic ills?
Question: I’m interested in this question of making choices which Dora said we had to make umpteen thousand of. Of course here we don't have to make too much choice because at the breakfast table it’s all just on the table and there it is, you see. Take it or leave it. But I wonder about more fundamental choices, whether we don't often create our own dilemmas. There’s really only one thing to do if we’d just stop, stand still, and be quiet. There really isn't a choice if we’d quit stewing about it and have a good look at it. I wonder if this isn't so?
Oh yes, I think you are absolutely right. Because some of our Dharma, without
even any karma or reincarnation or anything, even in this life, are of
our making, isn't that so? And I think you are very right that if we could
see it that way we would be choosing the right choice for us.
Question: There wouldn'tbe any choice - there’s just the thing to do!
Question: Austie, may I ask you to elaborate a little on what you mean because there are choices! You can’t say -
Reply: I’m not saying that there aren’t choices, but the kind of choices that seem to create the greatest problem which are usually emotional things and so on, we think that there are two things to do. And it seems to me, from what I’ve seen in myself, that most of the time - I can’t say all of the time because I don't see it clearly enough - but most of the time I create this dilemma myself; that there really is no choice to be made, that if I can be quiet and look at the situation as clearly as I’m capable of doing, there isn't any choice - there’s just one thing to do! There it is, right in front of my nose!
Dora: If you get the insight within yourself, then only one choice appears to you (Austie). Then wouldn't you say that there’s only one thing - choice implies two or more things to select from, but I say that there isn't that! What I’m suggesting is that this is a true process, that this is what goes on with most of us - then the idea of having to choose is an illusion, really - if we have enough insight to see into it deeply.
Dora: But if we didn't have enough insight, what then?
Austie: You’re caught in something that isn't so - if this is true and one thinks about this, then you'd stop and quit trying to make a choice, because you'd know that it’s a false thing you’re trying to do. That’s what I’m trying to say. Do I make any sense?
Dora: you mean that if you could be quiet, if you could gain a sort of insight into your problem, there is only one solution.
Austie: In other words - do like you say! Don't decide you have to do it right now. Right this minute. Let go of the thing for awhile, forget about it even, if that’s possible unless you’re right up against the gun in some way. If you can do that, it seems as though out of that there comes the thing to do, and there isn't the choice there - you’re not caught on the horns of this.
Dora: I think you’re right. If you gain this insight, this rapport in other words with this insight, there are no choices because then we do the thing which is in line with that insight.
Austie: You’re not divided
Dora: That’s right
Dora: I think you’re absolutely right.
Question: But that prevents you from making a mistake.
Reply: Not necessarily. I don't think. But you’re less likely to make a mistake.
Dora: About making mistakes - you’ve got to do something whether you make a mistake or not! There are mistakes on so many levels. I mean a mistake isn't only on one level. If it is a real mistake it includes other things. It includes other people and affairs and all that sort of thing. If you have followed what, as you say, is your true insight I don't think - I don't say that you might not make temporary mistakes, but maybe you would do an action which was a right action in a long term point of view - am I making that clear?
Question: Are there any mistakes?
Dora: Well, that is a philosophical question.
Question: You never do very much if you never make a mistake.
Dora: I think that a person should sometimes realize that they have been a fool - that is a very healthy thing sometimes to feel - don't you think that is true?
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