What’s the Difference in Duty and Dharma? A Poet-Astrologer Weighs In

In the Media

Publication eShe
Date 19 November 2019

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What’s the Difference in Duty and Dharma? A Poet-Astrologer Weighs In

Poet and astrologer Abhijita Kulshrestha talks about channelling her spiritual journey in poetry, and the power of the stars in helping others.

Author: Abhijita Kulshrestha

Publisher: eShe


Astrologer, gemologist and spiritualist Abhijita Kulshrestha is the author of Ambrosia Sides, a compendium of poems about love and life from a feminine perspective. “Poems are expression of intense stream of consciousness focusing on an idea. They are like a river, even though the breadth may be narrow, the depth and intensity of current can be found only by diving into it,” says Abhijita, who is a former journalist and academician.

We speak to her about poetry, the relevance of astrology in the modern day, and how gemstones work.

In today’s mad race of life, it’s easy to get drowned in superficial pursuits and lose track of the deeper ‘rasa’ (flavour) of life – the art, the poetry, the silences. Are these still relevant to the digital generation?

The quest for rasa or the urge for creating are forces that cannot be contained. The shristi isn’t giving up srijan anytime soon. So it will always thrive, despite the distractions and eras.

I consciously want to avoid the trap of being judgmental about life today. Every decade, every year has thrown its own unique set of challenges for the individuals who have lived through them. Society has evolved to accommodate new ways, developments, thoughts, philosophies, arts and all kinds of trends that could be.

So for me, while the purist understanding and definition of what rasa is still stands and it is as delicious a taste and pursuit as could be, however, at the same time, I also try to look with childlike curiosity at what the younger people are creating and enjoying, or the myriad ways in which they are defining rasa in accordance with ethos of the times.

Art and paintings are being pursued in different ways than they were 20 years ago! Just because it is digital art does not make it any less creative. Rasa is what it is – larger, more powerful and immensely permeable through the fabric of history, time and space and it will find its expression.

It is like air for the individuals that need it to survive; they never stop seeking it. The pursuit of rasa is coded into a temperament, irrespective of generation – there are individuals who cannot live without it. This subtle nectar will find a way to dive into an enriching, nourishing cosmos to somehow find it.

Tell us about an epiphany you had – where you were at the time, what you were doing, and what truth you woke up to.

I had a conventional upbringing and attended a convent school where prayers and choir singing were part of morning ritual. For years, we sang by rote and because that was the way things were done. I sang several prayer songs without really bothering to know what they meant!

I remember going through a particularly difficult period in life where a lot of confusion existed alongside emotional exhaustion and this was creating great difficulty in making a choice. There are these moments in every person‘s life where choices aren’t easy. You wish someone could decide for you, because you don’t know which way your decisions will go and you definitely don’t want to take a fall for it! And that is the entire process of growing up – learning to take responsibility. Aligning with something!

And then in one of those moments, a prayer song came alive by itself – every line flowing into the consciousness, in the same mellifluous strain, but this time each word of it expressing itself very meaningfully – the choices were suddenly clear. It is as if the universe was communicating with me! It was the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi – “Make me a channel of your peace”.

It never ceases to amaze how one’s higher self or higher consciousness is capable of leading the way. One only has to quieten down and surrender in a way to allow this process to unfold.

How do you communicate your spiritual journey through your poetry?

It has never been a conscious decision to use poetry as a medium to communicate this particular aspect of my life. I generally write at night, when the flow of thoughts and the force of expression just take over – it is not a calculated process. It is an unstoppable thing that simply must happen.

So in a way when the spirit leads, you follow. Maybe that’s how it weaves itself. And that’s the truest expression of being spiritual – being true to the spirit!

How can astrology be used as a tool for spiritual growth, and what has been your experience in this?

Astrology is a brilliant tool for understanding human beings. (It’s a very misunderstood field of study because of flawed interpretations, or practising with half-baked knowledge.) When one has a birth chart in front, there is practically a map of an individual from “womb to tomb”. How I interpret it will lead to the outcomes. Either I can lean heavily towards predictions and remain shackled, or I have a chance at evolution – I can see where the strengths lie, what can be built up on! I can also see tendencies where a person tends to slip or make errors.

If I can work on the areas of challenge which, in a different way, can be categorized as “karmic lessons”, I am sure to move forward. With every victory over self, I invariably move forward. The spirit always leans towards the truth and when an individual evolves, the sense of separation from all else diminishes and there is little clamoring and discontent.

It all comes to a neutral observer space of what is, is.

Can gemstones help us through our difficult times? What is the underlying philosophy behind gemology?

Most certainly. Even one friend coming through when you need support the most can make a difference to your experience of a challenge.

Likewise, for every individual, it is the same nine planets playing the role of a teacher – some of the planets take on the mantle of being gentle supportive friends and the other planets become hard task masters, who will be relentless until you have learnt what you need to learn! (These vary in every individual’s birth chart.)

With human beings, it is not an easy journey as we are all a sum of habits, fears, past histories, family karma and so on. There may be a moment of realization, a glimpse of what is best – but the force of the above mentioned factors, especially habits, pull a person back into the orbit of old ways, making forward movement tough. At this juncture, one may require something larger, more powerful and incorruptible to facilitate the leap into a definite space of growth.

Gemstones are pure energy packets that can assist in providing just that nudge, the extra push into the right direction! So, wearing the gemstone of a planet who is a gentle supportive friend can make tremendous difference in overcoming hurdles or handling tough times.

Also, in good times, they can enhance the experience of positive events and help make quality of life better as well.

What’s the difference in duty and dharma?

One could get into nuances of definitions and semantics, losing way.  Men and women of much greater wisdom than I have spoken enough about these. In the simplest terms, as I understand my duty is to play the hand dealt to me with poise, dignity and sincerity. Duty may not have the element of choice to it and may be defined by rules and structures.

However, with dharma, the way I have understood it – there is no book detailing standard operating procedures for situations. It is different for different individuals. My dharma is what I can do best in a situation that unfolds before me, moment to moment. What may be my dharma could be a sin by another person’s code! If I am doing my dharma right, I should be able to lie down on my bed with a clear conscience.

Is it possible to make one’s passion also a successful profession? 

It may vary from individual to individual. A person should be able to separate oneself from the profession – the survival dance. Sometimes it is best to keep emotion away for making the best decisions. Objectivity is definitely an asset. I often tell people that they are so much more than their profession. Passion is best reserved for sacred dance, something that is done for the soul in private, an experience that is not in public domain for judgement or dissection.

What’s your favourite quote?

The Lord didn’t bring me this far to leave me now.

What books do you have on your bedside table?

Anam Cara and To Bless the Space between Us both by John O’Donohue, Educated by Tara Westover, and The Art of Good Life by Rolf Dobelli.

First published in eShe’s November 2019 issue


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