There are several translations of the Sanskrit word “dharma,” a term that figures largely in yoga philosophy. Although it is commonly interpreted as “truth” or “life purpose,” let’s discuss the interpretation that means “law,” otherwise known as accountability.
Our collective dharma includes accountability—of ourselves, of each other, and of the governing bodies that oversee us all. You’ve heard that history repeats itself, right? Again and again, on karmic loops, we as individuals and as a collective make the same mistakes over and over.
On the news and in our history books, we see people divided over basic humanity. We witness terror and heartbreak echo throughout our collective societal experience. We watch the same struggle for power. History repeats itself. That is, until we are either held accountable or we learn from our past.
See also: What Is Karma, Really?
In Germany, a mandatory part of school curriculums is to teach children about the Nazi party and the Holocaust. In the United States, however, huge amounts of history—including egregious acts of racism and colonization—have been erased from school curriculums. By hiding past mistakes and avoiding dharma, the United States continues to struggle with deeply rooted social justice tensions and systems of oppression that are still operating. Neglecting past errors is dangerous for society. We cannot underestimate the toll this takes.
Dharma also affects us on a personal level. If you find yourself in an argument with someone and don’t resolve the issue, it can spiral into awkwardness or resentment. If you tell a lie to avoid repercussions and it ends up creating a larger web of deception, there is far more reparation needed than the original situation.
Once there is accountability, it is possible to move forward.
How to bring your accountability into your life
Although it is not possible for us to force accountability in situations beyond our control, it is possible to take actions that can have an effect beyond ourselves.
As a member of society
- Advocate in your community and with your representatives for any reparations that need to be made.
- Ask your representatives for investigations of politicians who need to be held accountable.
- Vote and help others register to vote and get to the polls.
- Vote for lawmakers who are in the work for the people and their country, not for themselves or for their party.
See also: Do Politics Belong in Yoga?
As an individual
- Mend mistakes, harm, or conflicts as soon as you can. Remember, the longer they fester, the harder they are to clean up. In addition, own up to any role you played in the mistake and figure out a way to prevent it from happening again.
- If it’s hard to look back objectively on past mistakes or to understand how to make a change, rely on a guide, such as a therapist, to help you along the way.
- Inevitably, you will repeat the same mistakes again (and possibly again). Be patient with yourself and others. Change takes time. Stay consistent with the work and do your best—that is what’s most important.
See also How to Teach Dharma