Are You Walking the Path of Karma or the Path of Dharma?


How to graduate from the painful path of learning to the gratifying path of love.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico photo by author

Life Lessons

You may have heard that life is about lessons. Life throws you a painful challenge so that you can learn from it. Is this true? Is life about learning lessons?

Many people who consider themselves spiritual believe this. When something goes wrong in their lives, they ask themselves, “What am I to learn from this?” They try to learn from their experiences. But is there another way?

There is nothing wrong with this approach to life. It is undoubtedly better than cursing God, life, and the people in it for bringing you misfortune. And if you are sincere and diligent, you may learn from an experience so as not to repeat it. But, more times than not, life throws you a similar curve ball. You repeat the same pattern. One failed relationship leads to another, for example, both failing for similar reasons.

The Path of Learning

Trying to learn lessons from life is called the path of learning. It can be slow and painful. On the path of learning, the same life lessons come up over and over again. Hopefully, you eventually learn not to repeat the same pattern. Life goes on. You do well for a while. And then, life throws you another issue. This time it may be a little different than the previous pattern, but it is still a pattern that requires you to learn how to undo it.

The Path of Growth

There is another way. It is called the path of growth. The growth path is different because you are not learning how to deal with your life issues. You are growing in self through the issues. As opposed to learning, growth means you fundamentally change in self. The self that you are grows larger. As you become bigger, you are more capable of handling whatever life throws your way.

The Path of Learning versus the Path of Growth

Learning gives you ways to deal with life. You learn what to do and what not to do. It can be a long, painful process of learning the lessons. Growth is different than learning in that when you grow, you become more empowered to handle life. You become larger than life’s problems. Growth is not about knowing what to do and what not to do. It is about transforming the self into someone more formidable.

The Path of Learning is Motivated by Pain

On the path of learning, you are motivated by pain. Life’s lessons can be painful. To avoid the pain, you learn not to repeat them. In contrast, you are motivated by love on the path of growth.

The Path of Growth is Motivated by Love

On the path of growth, you change from being motivated by pain to being motivated by love. Instead of avoiding pain, you move towards more love.

Moving from pain as motivation to love as motivation can be a challenging transition. Making this transition requires self-love. When you authentically love yourself, you care for yourself. You nurture yourself. You naturally desire to grow the love and extend it to others. You cherish yourself, your life, and the people in it. You see beauty everywhere. You appreciate all creation has to offer. You realize that the more you grow, the more your ability to love increases. Love not only motivates you but gives you the ability to discern and choose the course of action in life that is best for your growth.

The Path of Karma versus the Path of Dharma

At some point on your spiritual path, you transition from a path of learning to a path of growth. Another way of saying this is you move from the path of karma to the path of dharma.

Karma is Collective

The traditional way of looking at karma is cause and effect. You do something wrong, and in turn, something terrible happens to you. Karma is much more than this limited view. Karma is collective memory. It exists and is shared by all of humanity. Even the genetic memory of your ancestors carries the energy of karma. When you come into body, you take on a piece of humanity’s karma and a chunk of your family lineage karma. The karma you take on becomes yours.

Dharma is Your Purpose

Dharma is your life purpose. It is your ultimate nature. It is the reason why you came into body.

Sadhguru explains this beautifully:

There are two aspects — dharma and karma. To perform the right kind of karma, you need dharma. Otherwise, every day, every moment, your actions will be a series of confusion. Dharma establishes how you perform your karma so that you create your life in the direction that you want to go. Creating your life is not about choosing your house, car, husband, or wife. These things are secondary. The most important thing is what kind of being you will be.

On the path of karma, you are constantly trying to deal with life situations created by the energy of that karma. Because this is painful, you try to learn how to avoid it happening again.

On the path of dharma, you have a strong sense of purpose. You value your existence. You appreciate how life brings you opportunities to grow and fulfill your purpose. You love who you are and are grateful for the life you have. On the path of dharma, you are motivated by purpose and love.

On the path of growth or dharma, your progress speeds up because you live on purpose. You know the direction and actions to take to get where you wish to be.

On the path of karma, you are exclusive. You try to avoid what life brings you because it might be painful. On the path of dharma, you are inclusive. You welcome the gifts life brings you to help you grow. As you evolve spiritually, you come to know that the higher the vibration, the more inclusive things are. Spirituality is about being inclusive, not exclusive.

The path of karma is about doing. You are more focused on what actions to take to avoid the outcome you don’t want.

The path of dharma is about being. As Sadhguru states in the quote above, “The most important thing is what kind of being you will be.”

The path of dharma is about growing into the self you are meant to be. You are meant to be an open, powerful being full of love and light. Everyone has their particular hue of that light. That is your purpose, your dharma.

Read: Are You One of the Lucky Ones Whose Oversoul Whispers In Their Ear?

How to Move from a Path of Learning(Karma) to a Path of Growth(Dharma)

Consciously choose to move from a path of learning to a path of growth. Instead of focusing on how you can avoid what life brings you, focus on how you can transform yourself into someone who attracts love and positive experiences into your life. Instead of doing things differently, first, be different. When you are the person you want to be, you will naturally do what such a person would.

As you transition from the path of karma to the path of dharma, not only will you see your progress speed up, you will find life to be much more enjoyable. You realize that the Universe provides you everything you need. You wake up each day anticipating the wonderful gifts life will bring you.

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Carl Gerber (aka Kristopher Raphael)

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