Two hands reaching out of soft rainbow-colored clouds in service of their dharma

50 Dharma Quotes for Discovering Your Unique Purpose

Dharma quotes can be hard to find. This is because the word itself, dharma, has different definitions depending on who you talk to. Its meaning can vary from person to person depending on religious beliefs, personal spiritual practice, or which school of philosophy they follow or have studied.

Dharma is an important concept in Vedic philosophy (paid link) (the wisdom recorded in the Vedas, the most ancient of Hindu texts). However, many scholars and philosophers would argue as to its exact definition.

It has multiple meanings in Hinduism (also called Hindu Dharma or Sanatan Dharma), Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. Defining dharma is also difficult because of the word’s long history and the fact that it is open to personal and religious interpretation.

In the Western language, there is no single word equivalent to describe dharma.

Throughout the years, translators have come up with anywhere from seven to 60 different meanings for the word dharma. Some of these meanings include words like:

  • law
  • duty
  • quality
  • virtue
  • practice
  • good works

Based on the various translations, we can think of dharma as the moral and ethical duties, responsibilities, virtues, and the right way of living that each one of us should follow to maintain order and harmony in the world.

It’s like a guide for how to live in a way that is good and righteous, according to your role in society and personal capabilities.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches that dharma is, at its core, ethical behavior. Deepak Chopra describes it as the process by which you use purpose on this earth to give back and make the world a better place.

But no matter what words or phrases you use to define dharma, at its heart, the spirit of the word is the same.

What is Meant by Dharma?

Gold-framed image of people gathered at a river and giant hands reaching across the sky in compassion and giving, with a dharma quote by Tagore that reads "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold, service was joy."

As a certified meditation teacher and someone who has studied Vedic philosophy, I find it better to start by understanding the essence of dharma rather than pinpointing a word or phrase that best describes it.

Everyone possesses dharma, regardless of whether they consider themselves religious or have a spiritual life. I believe there are two factors that together form the principle of dharma: purpose and service.

Purpose

Purpose is what you are meant to do with your time on this earth, and it is unique to you. Your purpose is discoverable through the identification of your unique gifts. Identifying your unique gifts is easy if you pay attention and be resolute because while others may not understand or appreciate your gifts, they are specifically yours. You can use them to do wonderful things for the world.

Your unique gifts are the things you absolutely love to do. They’re the things you would do all day, every day if you could. Your unique gifts drive you.

They animate your spirit and make you lose track of time. They fill you with joy, excitement, passion, and wonder. Your unique gifts are the basis for your purpose in this world.

Service

The second aspect of dharma is service. We are all meant to serve humanity in one way or another. Serving others without expecting anything in return aligns with the concept of performing one’s duty selflessly, which is a central aspect of dharma.

It is through selfless service that we purify our hearts, reduce ego, and develop compassion and empathy towards others, which are essential qualities for spiritual growth and harmony in society.

By contributing to the welfare of others and the environment, we fulfill our moral obligations and duties and uphold the principles of dharma. This selfless service ultimately leads to personal and societal well-being, promoting peace, order, and goodness in the world.

Ultimate Dharma

It is through the combination of our unique gifts and service to others that we fulfill our personal dharma. When we use our unique gifts to be of service to others, we experience joy, satisfaction, and the elevation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of dharma.

We can view our dharma as our own unique path of true and virtuous purpose, helping us decide the right things for us to do to contribute positively to ourselves, our families, society, and the universe.

The dharma quotes below were gleaned from gurus, religious leaders, and inspirational thought leaders. They will help you get a better understanding of dharma by expanding on its meaning and providing some context. 

Please enjoy these dharma quotes and let me know in the comment section if you find a favorite!

Dharma Quotes by Frederick Lenz

An image of a path illuminated by sunrise, along a river and through a serene field, with a dharma quote by Frederick Lenz that reads "Start simply every day by asking yourself, 'What is the dharma today? What should I do? What is right? What does the universe want from me?"


Frederick Lenz was an American spiritual teacher and author well known for his efforts to integrate Eastern spirituality with Western culture. He wrote several books on spirituality, meditation, and personal growth, including *Snowboarding to Nirvana“>Snowboarding to Nirvana (*affiliate links). His insightful dharma quotes explore the intersection of ancient intuition and modern living.

  • “Dharma is an ancient word for truth.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Not to follow the dharma leads to disaster. Life will be unhappy.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Dharma is a Sanskrit word. It simply means that which is right, that which is correct, that which is the divine law.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Dharma doesn’t necessarily mean following a mundane and boring life. It means a life of high adventure, not a life of endless, boring repetition.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Have your life properly aligned with dharma. The technicalities of the movement of the kundalini are easy to master. Dharma is much more complex.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Start simply every day by asking yourself, “What is the dharma today? What should I do? What is right? What does the universe want from me?” Frederick Lenz
  • “When you understand dharma, when you see its perfect perfection, shining both in and beyond all things, you will be freed from all misunderstandings.” Frederick Lenz
  • “When you are following dharma, you will be happy, at peace, still inside. There will be a sense of purpose to your life. Difficulties will not seem unconquerable.” Frederick Lenz

More Inspired Dharma Quotes by Frederick Lenz

  • “Following dharma puts you in a proper field of attention. In a proper field of attention, regardless of what your outer circumstances are, happiness will flow.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Very often, in order to bring about stillness, we have to be tirelessly active in the outer world. You might suppose this would agitate the mind. It will not, if it is the dharma.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Human beings are not so in harmony with the Dharma. That is why they suffer so much. But you as an individual can reach a plane of attention and can become attention itself.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Souls have different journeys. The best thing to know is not what everybody else does but what you do. Self-discovery essentially is finding your own dharma, your own rhythm.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Feel the wind. This wind blows from world to world and from life to death. This is the wind of dharma. Be in love with the wind. It is an intimate lover. It enraptures you. It blows you through eternity.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Happiness does not come from external objects. It comes from peace of mind. You can be famous; you can be a king, a queen, anything. It does not necessarily bring happiness or peace of mind. It comes about through following dharma.” Frederick Lenz
  • “Naturally, to follow dharma, we have to find out what it is. You have to struggle with it. The answer will not come easily. You will be swayed by your desires, conditioning, and those around you who have ideas about what you should do, what is proper, what is improper.” Frederick Lenz

Dharma Quotes by Tenzin Palmo

Framed image of two souls dancing on the wind in a yellow field of flowers, with a dharma quote by Tenzin Palmo that reads "The purpose of dharma is to help your mind to expand, to grow, to clarify. It should uphold us and create an inner sense of peace, joy, and clarity."

Tenzin Palmo is a beacon of spiritual insight and empowerment within the Buddhist tradition. Her dharma quotes inspire deep thought for the pursuit of enlightenment.

  • “The Dharma is here. And the Dharma is in your heart. Where else would it be?” Tenzin Palmo
  • “If you’re meeting with the Dharma, you have probably been a human being before.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “The Dharma is a very, very special and precious thing. The more you practice it, the more you will realize this.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “We have to transform those ordinary actions of our day into dharma practice because otherwise, nothing is going to move.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “The purpose of dharma is to help your mind to expand, to grow, to clarify. It should uphold us and create an inner sense of peace, joy, and clarity.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “Obviously, the Dharma is every breath we take, every thought we think, every word we speak, if we do it with awareness and an open, caring heart.” Tenzin Palmo

More Tenzin Palmo Quotes to Ponder

  • “Just entering into the Dharma and taking refuge and bodhisattva vows is a tremendous amount of merit, but we need more and more and more.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “We have met with the Dharma. Many of us have met with teachers. We do have some idea of what to do and how to practice. And we should not be lazy.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “If you lose interest in the Dharma, then you might be reborn in a place where you are unlikely to meet with the Dharma. And then you’re completely off the path.” Tenzin Palmo 
  • “Why are we sitting? Why are we practicing? Why are we doing anything? It’s not so I can be happy. It’s so I can embody the Dharma in order to benefit other beings.” Tenzin Palmo
  • “Every country that meets Buddhism molds it into their own indigenous religion, as America will. A very clear example of this is Japan, which threw out almost all the Dharma and just kept that essence, which spoke to them.” Tenzin Palmo

Illuminating Dharma Quotes on the Intersection of Spiritual Life and Human Life

AI-generated image of a woman looking up at a purple, blue, and black swirling sky full of stars and hearts, with two giant hands holding an illuminated heart with a quote that reads "Our ultimate dharma is self-realization. Thoughts and actions that support our spiritual evolution are real dharma."

Living spiritually in the modern world can be challenging at times. However, when you follow your dharma, you find the divine qualities that make it easy to attain an enlightened soul that lives and practices in the present.

  • “The Dharma is the truth that all natures are pure.” Bodhidharma
  • “By the Dharma is meant the heart, for there is no Dharma apart from the heart.” Huangbo Xiyun 
  • “Hindu Dharma is like a boundless ocean teeming with priceless gems. The deeper you dive, the more treasures you find.” Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Our ultimate dharma is self-realization. Thoughts and actions that support our spiritual evolution are real dharma.” Mata Amritanandamayi
  • “Dharma is that which is enjoined by the holy books, followed by the sages, interpreted by the learned, and which appeals to the heart.” Mahatma Gandhi
  • “The higher nature in man always seeks for something which transcends itself and yet is its deepest truth; which claims all its sacrifice, yet makes this sacrifice its own recompense.” — Rabindranath Tagore
  • “Dharma is in your mind, not in the forest. Don’t believe others; just listen to your mind. You don’t have to go anywhere else. Wisdom is in yourself, just like a sweet ripe mango is already in a young green one.” — Ajahn Chah

Dharma Quotes from Gautama Buddha

A golden Buddha sitting in meditaiton in a serene forest with pink lotus flowers and a dharma quote that reads "Dharma is not upheld by talking about it. Dharma is upheld by living in harmony with it."
Image: DuckaHouse from Pixabay

Dharma, as taught by the Buddha, is not just a set of doctrines but a practical guide for living in a way that prioritizes morality, mindfulness, and acumen.

The Buddha encouraged his followers to follow their dharma through direct experience and personal insight, maintaining it would lead them to inner peace and ultimate freedom.

  • “A great gift – a gift of dharma conquers all gifts.” Gautama Buddha
  • “Dharma is not upheld by talking about it. Dharma is upheld by living in harmony with it.” Gautama Buddha
  • “I manifested in a dreamlike way to dreamlike beings and gave a dreamlike dharma, but in reality, I never taught and never actually came.” Gautama Buddha
  • “If you determine your course with force or speed, you miss the way of the Dharma. Quietly consider what is right and what is wrong. Receiving all opinions equally, without haste, wisely, observe the Dharma.” Gautama Buddha
  • “Better than a hundred hollow lines is one line of the Dharma, bringing peace. It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” Gautama Buddha
  • “Hold fast to the Dharma as a refuge. Resort to no other refuge. Whosoever, either now or after I am gone, shall be islands unto themselves, shall seek no eternal refuge; it is they, among my disciples, who shall reach the very topmost height! But they must be keen to progress.” Gautama Buddha
  • “They are not following dharma who resort to violence to achieve their purpose. But those who lead others through nonviolent means, knowing right and wrong, may be called guardians of the Dharma. Those who really seek the path to Enlightenment dictate terms to their mind. Then they proceed with strong determination.” Gautama Buddha 

Quotes on Spiritual Practice and Practising Dharma

Aligning with our dharma helps us release egoistic desires and contribute selflessly to the betterment of humanity. Through meditation and introspection, we expand our consciousness and gain deeper connections to ourselves and the universe.

  • “Everyone has a dharma or purpose in life.” Deepak Chopra
  • “The heart wants to go on; that is its dharma. For unless it moves, it dies.” — Rabindranath Tagore
  • “Practicing dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life.” Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
  • “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold, service was joy.” — Rabindranath Tagore
  • “It is the duty of all to support and side with dharma. All must fight and support dharma regardless of their personality, background, status.” Swami Vivekananda
  • “No true Dharma Master behaves with rage, hate, ranting, self-importance. These are signs of mental instability, a character flaw. Never follow such a one as that.” Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo
  • “Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to dharma see no dharma in everyday actions. They have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of dharma.” Dogen
  • “If we see pride among people who have no idea about dharma, it is understandable. However, if afflictive emotions and haughtiness are present among dharma practitioners, it is a great disgrace to practice.” — Dalai Lama
  • “To see nothing is to perceive the Way, and to understand nothing is to know the Dharma, because seeing is neither seeing nor not seeing, and because understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding.” Bodhidharma
  • “When we shout at the oak tree, the oak tree is not offended. When we praise the oak tree, it doesn’t raise its nose. We can learn the Dharma from the oak tree; therefore, the oak tree is part of our Dharmakaya. We can learn from everything that is around, that is in us.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Dharma Awakens Us to Ultimate Reality

A firgure sitting in a yoga pose with a lotus flower behind it. The image is all pinks and purples with planets floating in the sky.


The meaning of dharma has evolved with the ideas of Hinduism (Hindu Dharma) and Buddhism over the years. In the earliest texts and ancient myths of Hinduism, it meant cosmic law, the thing that literally kept the universe from spinning out of control and made things like the sunshine, grass grow, and waves roll at sea.

Today it has a wider interpretation, but the foundational elements of purpose, contribution, and moral virtue still anchor it. We can think of dharma as the unseen force that gives us the opportunity to live morally and act virtuously, but in a way that makes us feel exuberant and entirely fulfilled.

As we have learned from the profound wisdom found in this list of dharma quotes, finding your spiritual dharma—or purpose—is more about introspection and self-discovery than about following the same path as others.

What does dharma mean to you?

Let us know if you have any other favorite dharma quotes you would like to share! 

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