Reflecting on the relationship between Svadharma and Dharma

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

“Once I am very clear about what is to be known – Svadharma,
then I can be clear about what is universal Dharma.”

Reflecting on this quote  from TKV Desikachar posted on February 15th 2014 on the relationship between Svadharma and DharmaI feel we first need to understand our personal place within our inner world, only from there can we understand our universal place within our outer world.

This is a concept that can appear to be contrary to the more usual expectations within the Yoga world whereby we are often given a set of universal standardised principles which we are told to constantly aspire to and strive towards realising.

A concept, by its very nature, prone to triggering additional factors such personalised self esteem issues, both overly positive as well as overly negative, let alone ‘New Age Guilt’, as the bar that we are told we must realise is set extremely high.

How we start to look at the Vinyāsa Krama of living the concept of Yama from a personal starting point, rather than universal aspiration point, will be explored in more detail within posts on Aṣṭāṅga Yoga

Krishnamacharya also talked about the difficulty of Yama and felt that many were not possible in this day and age. This view will be the subject of another post.

Plus the issues of  judgement from others formed from inherent expectations based on a personalised perception of how near and especially how far, we are to some internalised judgement of a universal ‘goal’.

Rather than one based on an understanding of the ‘others’ situation in terms of how far they have moved from their starting point relative to their inherent Karma, early life patterns and social upbringing.

This shift of reference point of view was commented on by Desikachar in a post on October 30th 2015:

“Progress must be seen as the distance from the starting point,
rather than the more usual reference of the distance from the finishing point.”
– Notes from my first seminar with TKV Desikachar in Cambridge August 1976

The viewpoint of Patañjali also reflects this view in that he suggests a preliminary Personal Svadharma Sādhana in terms of the three Niyama introduced in the Kriyā Yoga section in the Sādhana Pādaḥ, ere to the much more complex Universal Dharma Sādhana in terms of Yama within the Aṣṭāṅga Yoga section that comes later in the Sādhana Pādaḥ of the Yoga Sūtra.

Therefore we start by looking at ourselves in terms of our Personal Svadharma via Kriyā Yoga, from there we can be clearer about what is our place within the Universal Dharma via Aṣṭāṅga Yoga.

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