Dharma, the way of the higher Truths, exists at the core of an array of Indian philosophies, beliefs, and practices including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Ayyavazhi.  Despite or perhaps because of its spiritual significance, dharma is a rather difficult concept to define.  On the one hand, the word translates roughly to “law” or “way” but “life,” “justice,” or “religion” also serve as one-word definitions.

The respected spiritual text, Wikipedia tells us that Dharma derives from the verbal root dhri, which simply means “manner of being.”  At its essence, this term references “a conformity to a divine or creative principle at work in an individual and in nature.”  Basically, Dharma describes an individual’s internal law, to which obedience must be given if that individual life is to be lived in accordance with Divine Will.

The philosopher Rene Guenon explains Dharma to be “the essential nature of a being, comprising the sum of its particular qualities or characteristics, and determining, by virtue of the tendencies or dispositions it implies, the manner in which this being will conduct itself, either in a general way or in relation to each particular circumstance.”

Birding is not a religion by modern standards.  Our cathedral is the vaulted arch of the sky, our holy places sites of miraculous biodiversity.  Our tithes, such as they are, go to Audubon, RSPB, and Swarovski. This doesn’t detract from the subtle spirituality inherent in avian observation.  Birding meditations involve looking without rather than gazing within.  What we often seek is that Dharma, that essential nature of a being that Guenon describes.  It just so happens that the being in question is usually a bird!

Our essential nature periodically drives us to celebrate wild birds and birding, particularly when such activity is chronicled in a joyous fashion by blogging birders from around the world.  This organized collectivity is what I and the Bird is all about.  How suitable then, how sublime it is that we’re led today by the delightful Dharma Bums.  Rexroth’s Daughter and Dread Pirate Roberts have orchestrated an all-star jam for I and the Bird #16 that will blow you away.  Hey, if it’s in your essential nature to rock, you’ve gotta rock!

Enjoy the brillliance of Birdstock. Just watch out for the brown acid.

Does your Dharma include observing wild birds and blogging about it?  I can’t guarantee that participation in I and the Bird will render you worthy to gain bliss both here and hereafter, but it can hardly hurt. Send your best bird-themed posts with a brief summary to me or our next wonderful host, Amy of WildBird on the Fly. The 17th edition of IATB is scheduled for Thursday, February 16, so be sure to show your love by Valentine’s Day, February 14.

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Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.