The 5 Dharma Types: Vedic Wisdom for Discovering Your Purpose and Destiny
by Simon Chokoisky
This article first appeared in Watkins Mind Body Spirit, issue 43.
Imagine if you woke up one day and didn’t know if you were male or female – a man or a woman. Imagine for a second how the smallest things you take for granted – like which bathroom to use, or how to fix your hair – suddenly became major decisions. In a way, we face the same crisis every day because we don’t know our dharma – our purpose in the world – or how to express it in our personal, professional and spiritual lives.
The seers of India long ago cognized three truths: One, everyone wants to be happy. Two, long-term happiness is achieved by living with, rather than against nature. They collectively termed the laws of nature, as well as the process of abiding by them dharma. Finally, they understood that dharma expresses differently for different people. To know yours, you must follow your dharma type.
Like the operating system inside a computer, your dharma type affects your expression regardless of the color, shape, or manufacture date of your hardware – your outside features. The dharma type informs every human being irrespective of race, sex, age or nationality. It is natural for humans to search for their identity in social groups, fashion trends or spiritual allegiances, but the dharma type points to a basic archetype within us that is as imminent as gravity, and just as difficult to quantify.
The word ‘archetype’ comes from the Greek ‘arche’ which means ‘ancient’ and ‘type’ which means ‘model’ or ‘mold’. Thus archetypes are the ancient molds into which Creation fashioned humankind. The seers of India found them supremely useful for helping people understand and link to their personal dharma . Let’s take a look at them below:
Educators are the wisdom keepers of society. Their dharma is to communicate and progress knowledge and understanding. Their weakness is lust. From Ben Franklin to Gandhi, Educators embody both an image of purity as well as a somewhat scandalous carnal desire. With one foot in the physical world and one foot in the world of ideas, they can find it hard to reconcile their philosophies with everyday reality, especially in their own lives.
Educators are also the Renaissance men and women of the world: they are knowledgeable about a great many things, and are the teachers of society. Whether their platform be politics, sport, academics, or religion, they are the people we trust to uphold the moral order of our civilization. In order to do that effectively, Educators must cultivate honesty, self-discipline, and the ability to practice what they preach.
Real-world example: Barack Obama. As an Educator, he is perceived by the American public as being ‘professorial’ and ‘out of touch’ with real people. His efforts to remain above the fray of petty politics and appeal to both sides of the table showcase the Educator’s diplomacy. His emphasis on pushing drone air strikes showcases the Educator’s affinity for the Air Element. He is also terrible at bowling – a sport closer to the earth and dearer to Laborers, a type Educators find most difficult to relate with!
Laborers are practical, handy, and deeply loyal. They have natural instincts for community and enjoy bringing people together. Food and family are central to their lives, and they believe it is easier to get to know someone over a meal or a drink than in hours of stuffy conversation. Laborers are also the most caring of the dharma types, and gravitate to industries and professions that succor, nourish, or otherwise tend to the needy. They make great social workers, nurses, or therapists and can often be found working ‘in the trenches’ with the people they serve.
Real-world example: Oprah Winfrey. This talk-show queen exemplifies the Laborer’s community-building spirit. Her affinity with the Earth Element sometimes makes it difficult to maintain the unrealistic physical “Hollywood” ideal, but also keeps her down to earth and in touch with the salt of the earth people of society.
Outsiders are the rebels and black sheep of the Dharma Type family. Their number one mantra is Freedom, which they value above all else. Try to take it from them, and you have a recipe for trouble! They often like to rock the boat, live outside the box, and consider themselves reformers and free spirits. Outsider types are unconventional, empathic, and socially conscious. They blend many influences and traditions into their personalities, and can see things from different angles.
Outsiders are also masters of deception. When properly channeled, this can make them great actors, magicians, or musicians… when poorly channeled, it makes them prone to self-deception, delusion, and lies.
The key to the Outsider’s liberation is telling the truth to themselves about themselves. Responsibility and Self-Respect go a long way to keeping Outsiders healthy and free… so that they can free the world in turn…
Real-world examples: David Beckham and Princess Diana. Outsiders are often misunderstood, and will either seek to completely blend with others or radically decorate themselves in ways that separate them from the herd. From their hairstyle and dress to tattoos and piercings (the skin is an Outsider organ) they seek to set themselves apart as a form of true self-expression and rebellion. When integrated, they bring a breath of fresh air and positive change to society.
Merchants are the most memorable people in popular culture. But their charisma and easy social nature hide a core emptiness that makes them feel insecure and never good enough. As a result, they may fill up on company, food, drugs, and entertainment to relieve their loneliness… however their answer lies not in these things, but in Charity. Charity does for the soul what diet does for the body. By ridding themselves of excess and giving of their abundant charm and talents to others, Merchants are freed from loneliness, and given in return a source of nourishment that no material thing can match… gratitude.
Merchants are also volatile and temperamental, and have to learn to manage their emotions to sustain good health. They are the most likely to resort to short cuts, such as surgery and drugs, to get to their goals, though this is not always the best solution for them.
Real-world examples: Ammachi and Elvis Presley. Merchants are social creatures. Like the Water Element they are able to grease the gears of society. At their best, they are the most charitable people in the world. At their worst, they drown in their own indulgence.
At heart, Warriors are basically heroes and need to feel like they are giving their lives for a worthy cause. They can accomplish the impossible when they have something to fight for, a noble goal to strive after. But Warriors can become cynical and self-destructive when they lack a Just Cause. They can fall to anger and pride, or succumb to the ugliness of the world and become self-serving, or ridden with vices like alcoholism and gambling. Key to staying healthy for Warriors is cultivating knowledge and wisdom, and harnessing some of their abundant energy to protect others and promote good causes.
Real-World examples: Angelina Jolie and Robert Redford. Fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves has given these Warriors a social mission, and like the Fire Element that characterizes them, they can be dangerous when obstacles get in their way!
How do I use them?
There are many ways to customize your life once you know your dharma type. There is a Diet, Exercise, Yoga and Spiritual Practice, Profession, Sport, and Relationship Style specific to your type, and even Countries, Movies, and Music Styles can be associated with the dharma types, which can make it easier to pick a place to live more in line with your values.
It is impossible to list these all here, but let us note three crucial points about these archetypes. Firstly, the dharma type is non-heritable. Just because your parents were Educators doesn’t mean you must be one too. We carry the genetic influence of many generations, and in the current age we have the potential to be any type. (For more on this, please see The Five Dharma Types: Vedic Wisdom for Discovering Your Purpose and Destiny).
Secondly, the dharma types are not hierarchical. That is, no one type is better than another. While some societies (like those of Polynesia or India) have tried to stratify and put one type above another, the spirit of these archetypes is that everyone has a unique and valuable contribution to society.
Thirdly, your dharma type is non-transferable. We have great freedom to express who we are within the context of our type, but that type never changes. We do go through periods or life cycles however, during which how we express our type is modified. Think of it as your birth citizenship – though you may travel or even live in a foreign country and enjoy its sights and sounds, your British core remains ever with you, quite difficult to shake!
To find your dharma type, you can take the simple test at spirittype.com, or the more complete test in the book.
Meet the author: Simon Chokoisky teaches Sanskrit and Medical Astrology at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He also runs a private consulting business based on his trainings in Vedic life mapping and Vedic astrology. He is a regular contributor to Yoga Magazine UK and other publications and has two popular DVD series Sanskrit without Stress and Decoding Your Life Map with Vedic Astrology, available from www.ayurveda.com.
The Dharma Types: Vedic Wisdom for Discovering Your Purpose and Destiny
£14.99, available from Watkins Books
Dharma Types, issue 43, Simon Chokoisky