This year’s Inner Renewal Retreat theme is Embrace Your Dharma—Your Path to Liberation. We’re delighted to announce that for the first time we will be streaming all of the classes free of charge. Over 2,000 people have already registered. We hope that you too will join us.

Throughout the week, Devi and I will be exploring the profound and multifaceted concept of dharma, which has various shades of meaning:

  • It is the eternal and inherent nature of reality.
  • It is the cosmic law underpinning order in the universe and in human society.
  • It is the right duties and behavior for each individual according to his role and station in life.

Swami Kriyananda often captured the essence of Sanaatan Dharma in this way: “We were created by God as an extension of His consciousness. And it is our destiny to return to Him.”

When people ask, “What is my dharma?” they generally mean, what is good for me personally. What choices should I make regarding career, marriage, and parenthood? Should I move to this place or that? While these are significant life decisions, we shouldn’t start here.

It is helpful to recognize that we have two dharmas: the timeless dharma of the soul aiming to reunite with God, and the dharma of our current life. Happiness and success will follow only if we align the actions of this life with the eternal dharma of our soul.

As we experience the progressive development of successive lives, our dharma shifts. Spiritual awareness, or “specific gravity,” advances from being “heavy”—dull and indifferent—to “ego-active”—self-absorbed and reward oriented—to finally becoming “light”—spontaneously drawn to higher truth and unselfishness.

Although most readers of this blog fall into the “light” stage, we occasionally face lapses in judgment when our energy drops. It is then that we stray from our higher dharma and make choices that get us in trouble. We could save ourselves endless trouble and heartache if, before any important choice, we would ask, “Will this help my spiritual evolution?”


There is a larger issue also. When we act dharmically, we bring light into the world. As Yogananda put it, “The ills attributed to an anthropomorphic abstraction called ‘society’ may be laid more realistically at the door of Everyman. Utopia must spring in the private bosom before it can flower in civic virtue. Man is a soul, not an institution; his inner reforms alone can lend permanence to outer ones.”

To act dharmically, consider these three practical steps:

Get Centered Before You Decide: Meditate deeply before making important decisions. A calm mind and heart activates our inborn intuition. For life-defining choices it is helpful to get away from our daily routines and spend time in a calm, spiritually uplifted environment. For everyday decisions, a few deep breaths to center yourself can make a big difference.

Seek Guidance: Pray to God and Gurus for direction. Their guidance is there when we listen sensitively. It also helps to consult with trusted spiritual guides and friends. Ask with openness and trust. Paramhansa Yogananda has a beautiful affirmation: “I go forth in perfect faith in the power of omnipresent Good to bring me what I need, when I need it.”

Adjust as Necessary: After arriving at a decision, it is important to reevaluate your course from time to time and make adjustments as needed. I’m reminded of a cartoon of a man and woman in a car that has stopped in front of an iceberg with a polar bear on it. The caption reads, “When they told us to turn north, maybe we should have asked them how far.”

Finally, remember that as long as we try to act dharmically, we can’t really go too far astray. After all, we are extensions of God, and it is our destiny to return to Him. Let’s relax and fill the journey with joy and delight.

In the light of dharma,

Nayaswami Jyotish