From a western point of view, in attempting to understand and embrace the qualities and traditions of worth from other cultures, there are certain limitations. If we are to be sincere in our motivation and respectful in our application of any traditions of other cultures we must also be accurate in our understanding of their meaning.
Western students of Yoga are at present happily embracing much of the philosophies and ideologies attributed to Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Many are enriched by their extended knowledge and understanding that will help them in striving for excellence in their lives, their actions and their behaviour.
The general decline in western attention to these core values and even a resistance to them, allows others who wish for better, to be excused for their eager appetite to improve our own behavior that alongside others, is seen to be boorish and crude. Habits can be very different. For instance …In western countries is the warm handshake by which we demonstrate our trust and measure the sincerity of the other. The eastern person, in adapting to this custom of the west finds the physical contact breaks his own code that calls for him to place his hands together, to show sincerity, and by a subtle head gesture to demonstrate his respect. Continuing with this example, there are some westerners who are comfortable in following the traditional Yoga greeting, as some businessmen in contact with the west will adjust to the handshake. We are only called upon to be sincere in our social habits.
In the meantime, our interest to understand the terms that are new to us and inevitably focus as we pursue our study of Yoga, we will seek to comprehend the importance of the term Dharma. Scholars will understand that there are differences of interpretation attributed to Hindu and Buddhist systems but generally it is the first that is associated with classical yoga teachings.
The word is simply ‘Dharma’ but it takes many words to explain the complexity that lies within it. Firstly we consider righteousness, moral integrity, self discipline, dutiful responsibility to others, and following natural law. Within it, Dharma also represents a lifestyle with its keynote being a life of goodness, constructive work, compassion and brotherhood. It is also representative of a prescribed pattern that is like a blueprint within us, an outline or ultimate divine plan and purpose traced out for us to complete through our own efforts in this life in fulfilling our own highest capacity and potential and in working to become that person… our spiritual self-image. Dharma implies that we accept our fate and destiny. As we become conscious of this ‘blueprint’, then inspired by it, we willingly construct our lives accordingly.