Storytelling is both a gift, and a very old custom. Stories teach, entertain, and transform. They’re an act of creation, a way of connecting to a source - a conduit for energy in the form of words, spoken, sung, and now, more often, written and read.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of writing Dharma – not writing merely as a meditation practice, which it most definitely is; but writing as direct act of grace, a channel to the source of infinite energy and potential.
In many cultures sacred texts – like the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the Tulsida, for example – provide the link between devotional worship and the infinite source of the divine . But it’s the act of sharing a text – reading, singing, praying - that empowers and connects us to the multiple dimensions of the seen and unseen worlds.
As a writer I’ve spent countless hours immersed into my imagination – visiting characters and experiencing the depth of connection with the vast potential of the creative source. Sometimes I emerge from that place, and a whole day has passed. Sometimes I don’t emerge at all until I’ve followed the journey of the plot to a temporary or final resolution. I can understand how some writers succumb to the depths of this world through substance abuse – both as a quick entry point and an escape route.
In weaving my spiritual path together with my writing I’ve learned the importance of faith and trust – of believing that you can enter that creative doorway, guided by good thoughts and practice. Many times, it’s impossible to see too far into that fog of divine grace. Having faith in the creative journey, knowing that it will take you exactly where you need to go, sometimes requires a complete surrender. Something that can be very difficult to do when you’ve already mapped out your whole plot from beginning to end…
So this is how I see writing fitting into the Ten Meritorious Acts of Dharma. As writers we can begin to acknowledge the inherent spiritual dimensions of our writing – even if you don’t write spiritually centered works. Writing is not merely a mediation practice, it is a modern expression of our ancient and divine connectedness. The ten merits of writing Dharma are:
1) Generosity: we’re not simply giving something – writing puts us into the state of the “giving mind.” Our manuscripts and stories give knowledge and joy to readers. Among the many other wonderful things, they are also gifts to us, the writers, from the divine source.
2) Morality: sitting for hours working on a manuscript disciplines one’s body – it’s hard work. We also learn how to choose our words very carefully with an intent to not harm anyone. Writing also teaches us, the writer, how to be good to ourselves – how to enter and exit the world of creative source in a good way. Many times our characters will teach us many interesting and important lessons – or provide an avenue for us to process important events and lessons happening to us.
3) Meditation: writing acts as a gateway into higher dimensions of reality. Like meditation, our insights only come after long practice, and when we least expect them! Writing teaches us patience, and the effort required to train our mind to see into the creative source.
4) Reverence or respect: As writers we learn, sometimes the hard way-through countless rejections and tough reviews, to respect our editors, agents, and readers. We learn to value their knowledge and act with compassion to their comments and contributions.
5) Rendering services : writing can be a deliciously selfish act – breeding latent narcissistic tendencies and anti-social behavior. Coming out of our writing to share consciously our time and energy with those in need makes the writing process that much richer and provides the balance required to live in harmony with the inner and outer worlds.
6) Sharing merit: Rendering service provides us with the many opportunities to share our learning, and teachings. As much as writing is a personal act, sharing our stories brings get well-being and happiness – especially when we sign those big contracts with publishing houses! The beauty of sharing is that the writer has no control on how the many different ways a story will touch the souls of its readers. Like a spark, sharing has so much potential!
7) Rejoicing in others’ good deed : Sometimes it’s hard to share in a writer’s success when your manuscript keeps on getting rejection letters! As writers, we learn to be authentically joyful in others success. Knowing that one day we too will be celebrated for our unique contributions.
8) Giving dharma talk : Many writers will do readings and interviews to market their new releases. We’re also now using the internet to reach out and share our stories and teachings as writers (like this blog). One of the greatest merits of writing is the inherent fact that we are sharing knowledge that will last for a very long time. Every story has the potential to change a person’s life for the better. As writers, we can never know how that will happen. But knowing that it is possible, reminds us of the great responsibility of our transformative power.
9) Listening to the dharmadesana : One way we learn to grow as writers is by listening to other writers. Taking courses, and participating in workshops with “the learned sages” of the writing and publishing world will ensure that we continue to cultivate our mind for betterment in life and for our craft.
10) Right view : Trying to make it as a writer is challenging. We come up against many obstacles along our journey. We doubt in our abilities; we face criticism and rejection; and we face our darkest selves in the deep well of the creative source. Cultivating a positive attitude to these challenges ensures we have good thoughts. This in turn, helps us to build a good character and live a good life.
Inspired by the 10 Principles of Dharma enunciated in the Ancient Hindi Manu Smriti, See Dr Raj Pandit Sharma, Hindu Council UK, http://hinduvoice.net/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi/archive/NL/newest/