I am about to give a few ideas that may seem unrelated. Hang with me and I will tie them together.
Sanskrit is to Yoga what Latin is to Catholicism. It is useful to convey ancient but universally relevant ideas across cultures and languages. I’m a linguist. I have a BA and MA in linguistics. I can’t help it. Words are powerful because they represent ideas. As a human being, to understand, refine and share ideas it has to be done in language and this translation of ideas to language fascinates me… so humor me. I have this native idea in my mind that somehow transmitting and transferring ideas makes the world a better place.
dharma= “the way something is in reality”
When we talk about “what is your dharma?” it is a question of “what is your true purpose” or “your life’s mission”. What is the thing that you do, or wish you could do, that is natural to you? You are good at it without working hard at it. You enjoy it and could do it for hours without noticing time pass. You are at your best as you do it. Dharma is the thing (most have more than one thing) that you do that helps everything and everyone around you just by doing what comes naturally. It is your God-given talent(s). It is part of your true nature.
In the “10 Commandmandments” of Yoga (Yamas and Nyamas), there is a term “Svadhyaya” which “means self-study and the study of sacred texts”. As crazy as it may seem to people, “self-study and study of sacred texts” is a big dharma for me. Ask my kids. They have all suffered through daily scripture study and, from their point of view, a long-winded explanation of the ideas in the scriptures, for their whole lives. Every. Day. (a tear for the Webster children please)
As a Christian (specifically LDS) my sacred text includes The Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price and General Conference talks. For non-LDS Christians, that might seem like a lot to include, but I LOVE that I have been taught that truth can be found in many places and that we should embrace truth wherever we can find it.
Truth is defined in two scriptures as “things as they are really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13) and it is “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.” (DC 93:24).
Related is the way to tell “good from evil” in Moroni 7:
16 For behold, the aSpirit of Christ is given to every bman, that he may cknow good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
By the way, the whole chapter of Moroni 7 is a sutra.
“**Sutra” (as in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, Veda Sutras etc.) means a string or a thread or stitch. (Think suture, like when a doctor stitches up a wound.) It is a collection of ideas stitched together. Any one of the ideas alone is easy to understand but is dependent on the other ideas it is stitched with to get a profound meaning out of it.
So here I am, doing my “thing”, my “dharma”. I’m taking the sacred text (scriptures) and connecting them to another sacred text from another culture and language and finding where they cross over. I sense that part of my life’s dharma is to make a bridge between the scriptures and doctrines that I consider sacred and true to the concepts and ideas of yoga that I believe contain truth as well. As I have studied the Yoga Sutras it has enlightened my understanding of the truths taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ.
It is my belief that God will give as much light and truth to ANYONE that wants it—to anyone that seeks it–as they are willing to accept. That God (or “the Universe” or “Source”) reveals truth to our souls in the language and culture that makes sense to us. Yoga traditions preceded the birth of Jesus. Here’s the deal for my non-LDS friends: we believe that Jesus (and all of us) existed long before we were born on this earth. We believe that we will continue to exist after we die. We believe that there is a part of us that is eternal. That part of us, what might be called our essence or intelligence, cannot be destroyed nor was it created. (DC 93:29,33; DC 131:7) A word I have heard in yoga used to describe that part of us is our “bliss”.
We believe that the Old Testament “Jehovah” was Jesus in his pre-mortal state. We believe that under the direction of God the Father (Elohim), Jehovah created this world and is the God of this world.
We believe that Elohim is the literal father of our personal spirits. That he took of the eternal elements and clothed them in Spirit in a literal creative way. We believe that Jehovah was the first of those spirits thus he is our “elder brother”. (DC 93:21) We believe that ALL of the humans that have ever lived on earth, that live on earth today or ever will live on earth are ALL God’s children in this way.
Here comes the stitching together of these ideas.
I believe that God inspired the Yoga Sutras and other sacred writings in all cultures and languages to the degree that those writings teach “good from evil”. We are instructed to “seek diligently” and to “seek out of the best books words of wisdom” and “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (DC 88:118) so I have no hesitation to seek truth wherever it might be.
My yoga friends know little (perhaps nothing) about the sacred text of my native culture and religion. My Christian friends know little (perhaps nothing) about Yoga and its true nature.
I have felt for some time that part of my calling (dharma) is to document where these truths overlap. To that end, I will write an on-going series of posts called “Sutras and Scriptures”.
Parting thought: I loved a yoga class with my teacher Kim when I was first learning from her. It was me and Nikki alone in the “class” when she said, “I think Jesus was a Yogi”. That thought made me so happy. Yes! As Jehovah and with the help of the Holy Ghost, did He not inspire seeking people toward ideas that led them to greater light and truth? Why would he not inspire people like Patanjali, for example, who wrote down the oral traditions of his fathers, and named this the “Yoga Sutras”.
Of course, people use words and images that made sense to them within their culture to propagate these ideas. Millennia later, those images and languages may be unfamiliar, but the ideas are priceless when we take time to explore them.
I, for one, am SO grateful for people of all ages and cultures that have used (and currently use) their dharmas to make the world a better place and leave a legacy of truth for us to build on!
I’m counting on you to find and act on your dharma as I act on mine. We are all connected and need each other. Let’s do it!