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"The easiest way to define dharma is to look at the verbal root, which really means 'to make firm,' 'to establish,' or 'to create structure,'" Brooks explains. "It's about that which gives life order—about stepping up to your own responsibilities, about working within the structure to serve yourself and society."

There is a universal dharma, known as sanatana dharma, which is thought to underlie the very structure of existence. It is the source of the fundamental ideas of right and wrong that are deeply embedded in human consciousness. But along with that universal order, we each have our own unique, individual dharma, or svadharma, the result of our birth circumstances, karma, and talents, and the choices we make in life as it unfolds for us.

"Dharma [refers to] the actions that you are engaged in, in this life, and there are many different levels," says Gary Kraftsow, Viniyoga founder and the author of the book Yoga for Transformation. 'As a father, my dharma is to raise up my son. As a yoga teacher, my dharma is to show up to class, to give interviews, and to transmit these teachings. As an American, part of my dharma is to pay my taxes. Whatever you are doing, your dharma is to do it well, to serve yourself and serve life in the present moment, to keep moving forward toward a sense of personal fulfillment."

For some, our dharmas reflect a clear calling: farmer, teacher, activist, parent, poet, president. For others, not so much. But you don't need to have a calling to have dharma, Kraftsow says. Dharma means sustaining your life, meeting your family obligations, participating in society—and sometimes even a low-level McJob can enable you to do all that. "Ifyou hate your job so much that it's sucking the life out ofyou, it may not be dharmic for you," he says. "But realizing your dharma sometimes means accepting where you are."

Still, dharma can be a moving target, especially here in the West, where—in our ideal world, at least—we're not bound by caste, family, gender, or racial roles (those, too, are forms ofdharma). "Dharma is a relative concept," says Anusara Yoga founder John Friend. "It's tricky—ask a Tantric philosopher whether a specific action is dharmic, and the answer is always 'Well, it depends.' I like to think of it this way: Given all of the variables, what is it that best serves both you and the greater good? Dharma is ultimately about enhancing life."

And it generally involves honoring your ethics — doing right by yourself, your family, your community, the world. "For Westerners, dharma is the ethical basis on which you live your life," Kempton says. "It's your bottom line. I like to translate it as 'the path of the good.'"

Your dharma should govern your every action and decision in life, Kempton says. To understand your own dharma, and to measure how well you're living up to your ideal, she suggests that you ask yourself a few key questions:

> What is my role in the world?

> What are my obligations? Which ones feel right?

> When I am serving the highest good, what am I doing?

> How can I best serve the world around me?

> What would Martin Luther King do? (This is Kempton's personal favorite-though you could substitute your grandmother, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or anyone else you consider a paragon of dharmic living.)

2) ARTHA I prosperity

For the purposes of this article, it makes sense to define the word dharma first—in some ways, all of the other purusharthas should be viewed through the lens of dharma. Certainly, this is true of artha, which is defined as "material prosperity," "wealth," "abundance," and "success." Artha is the material comfort you need to live in the world with ease. Moreover, artha is the stuff—the capital, the computer, the business suit—you need to get your dharma done. Artha is, simply put, that which supports your life's mission.

Many philosophers would put artha first on their list of purusharthas, for a simple reason: "If you don't have enough food to eat, you don't have a place to eat, or you don't feel safe, forget the other three," Friend says. "Artha sets a basic level of material comfort and resources so that you can facilitate all of your intentions in life."

Artha refers to things —your apartment, your car, your pots and pans. For a writer, the essential artha is pen and paper; for a yoga practitioner, artha is time and space for uninterrupted practice. It can also mean the knowledge, understanding, or education you need to get along in the world— something you certainly need to pursue the dharma of a doctor, for instance. It also means good health. And, of course, it means money

Like dharma, artha can be a moving target—especially here in the West, where lifestyles vary from ascetic to excessive. "When I used to teach the purusharthas, artha meant food, clothing, and shelter," Kraftsow says. "Now it means food, clothing, shelter, a cell phone, and Internet access."

That's a little joke, of course, but it also points to a fundamental truth: What you need depends on who you are. "What ar-tha means for a beggar is the begging bowl; what it means for a business executive in Los Angeles is driving a Lexus," Kraftsow explains. "Ifyou're doing a business deal, it means looking the part—you might need a nice suit or a good watch to look professional. The yoga community shouldn't get the message that you can't have a nice car or a watch. You might need those things to play your role."

Just don't get carried away by the notion that artha is everything, or that more is always better—easy traps to fall into in a culture like ours, which tends to measure success in terms of material gain only. Brooks says that a perceptual shift may be needed to deal skillfully with artha. "Wealth is not a bad thing— and there is no zero-sum game," he says. "What artha asks us to do is learn to live skillfully in a world of material objects that exist for our benefit. It's not about rejecting the world, but about figuring out how to be content with the things you own, borrow, or steward. And it requires that you ask yourself: What do I see as truly valuable?"

Brooks asserts that we are not human without artha; Kempton agrees. "Artha is the skills we develop to live a successful worldly life," she says. "I've found that if human beings don't get artha together in one way or another, they feel bad about themselves. Artha is one of the basic human dignities—to have enough money to live on, to care for your family."

To learn to work skillfully with artha in your own life, try asking yourself the following questions:

> Knowing my dharma, what do I need to play my role in the world?

> Where do I place value?

> Are my things making me happy, or are they stealing my joy?

> Am I afraid of having more? Am I afraid of not having more?

> What does wealth mean to me besides money?

3) KAMA I pleasure

According to Rod Stryker, kama, or the desire for pleasure, is what makes the world go 'round. "Desire for pleasure is what drives all human behavior," he says. "Kama relates to pleasure, and that can be sensuality," he says. "But it's also art, beauty, intimacy, fellowship, and kindness — it's what brings a sense of delight to our lives. And there can be pleasure even in sacrifice."

Kama gets some bad press, Stryker notes, possibly because it's the purush-artha most likely to run amok. Excessive kama can lead to overindulgence, addiction, sloth, greed, and a whole host of other "deadly sins." But it is good, and indeed necessary, when it exists to support dharma. "Ifwe set kama in the context of dharma, we understand it to be a part of the richness of life," Stryker says. "Every accomplishment has been sought for the pleasure that it provides. We live in service to a higher purpose, but along that path there is the pleasure we take from family and friends, art, love, and harmony in the world around us." Brooks agrees, saying

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