Dharma and the Purpose Of Life

This fall I had the honor of speaking at TEDxSaskatoon, on what Dharma means to me, here is a video and summary of my talk.

A few years ago, a close friend of mine gave me a book by Deepak Chopra called The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success. It’s a beautiful concise little book filled with value life lessons, but one chapter in particular has had a major influence on my life, and that’s the chapter on Dharma.

So what is Dharma? Well, Dharma is the sanskrit word which means the purpose of life. And the Law Of Dharma states that everyone has a unique talent, and it’s your purpose in life, to discover that talent, and use it to help others.

One, you are unique, no one has your genetics, your education and your life experiences.

Two, you have something special to offer, that no one else has.

Three, you need to discover what that unique talent is.

And four, it’s your purpose to use that special gift to help others.

Woodrow Wilson said, “you are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.”

Now, I don’t believe this talent is just one specific thing, but rather a collection of broader skills. For example you may have a passion for music and a love for children. Or maybe you have lost a loved one, which can allow you to better understand and help others cope through their difficult time.

There are two people that have really inspired me, because I believe they not only understood this principle of Dharma, but truly embraced it in their lives.

Kip Keino is considered to be one of greatest Olympic athletes, and also a national hero in Kenya, all for good reason. In the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, Kip was leading the 10,000 metre race, with two laps remaining collapsed on the track from an acute gall bladder infection. He was helped to his feet which disqualified him, but he went on to cross the finish line. Now doctors told him he was far too ill to run any of the following races. But going against their request, a few days later he not only raced in the 5,000 metre but he placed silver. Now on the day of the 1,500 metre, again he was told he was far too ill, but he decided he owned it to his country to at least run. So Kip hopped into a taxi and headed to the Olympic stadium, only to get stuck in a traffic jam. He thought, he’s not gonna sit in this taxi and miss his opportunity to run for his country. So he hopped out of the taxi and ran the rest of the way to the stadium, and to the start line. He not only won that race, but set an Olympic record in the process.

Now it’s a truly remarkable story, but I think what he did after that, is the really remarkable part. Unlike most of today’s professional athletes, Kip understood he needed to use his talent to help other people. He went back to his small village of Eldoret in Kenya and opened the Kazi Mingi farm, an orphanage for children. That farm has now expanded to a running camp, which has inspired and trained an entirely new generation of African runners, who are not only winning medals, but following in Kip’s footsteps and giving back to their community.

Now, the next person you may not have heard of. In fact, you probably would only know her if you grew up in my small town in southern Saskatchewan. Her name was Linda Froshaug, and she was my high school English teacher. Linda loved three things; English literature, teaching and horses. And everything that Linda did revolved around the love of those three things. You know, it was quite common to have conversations run long after class about T.S. Elliot. Or for Linda to take the entire grade on a wagon ride in the hills south of Glentworth.

Now Linda wasn’t a wealthy person, but I believe she was successful and happy, because she was sharing her passion with other people. Unfortunately Linda passed away in 2003 with cancer but I still think of her. And she taught me a very valuable lesson, that you don’t have to be famous to help others and to do great things with your life.

TEDx is all about people sharing their passions, so my final question to you is, what is your Dharma?