I sat cross-legged on the floor, my eyes closed, and listened to my guru explaining: “Dharma is the path of righteousness,” she said. “It is doing the right thing. Not the good thing. Not the nice thing. The right thing.”
As I sat in a comfortable chair in the Magic Johnson Theatre in Harlem with my sweet husband, watching Hollywood’s telling of Jackie Robinson’s story unfold on the screen before me, I heard my guru’s voice again, reminding me…
There is a scene in the movie when Branch Rickey, the President of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, explains why he felt compelled to integrate baseball. He recounted how as a young man in college he had stood by silently as a talented fellow player, whose skin happened to be black, was blocked from attaining his potential by prejudice. He confessed how he felt he could have done something, and how the memory of his endorsement by silence of the prevailing perceptions had tainted his love of the game, especially because he’d enjoyed such success in following his dream. He concluded that by desegregating baseball, he was restoring a measure of respect to himself, to the game and the institution of baseball. It was the right thing to do. Dharma. Yes, there was self-interest in Mr. Rickey’s decision; there was also Self-interest.
From the little I know about Jackie Robinson beyond the legend and the movie, he chose the path of dharma over and over again, doing the right thing, often at great personal cost to himself. Although he left the Army with an honorable discharge, he cut a successful career short by standing up against discrimination and was court martialed for his troubles. He withstood taunts and insults, that would have felled more experienced men, with grace and fortitude. After he left baseball, Mr. Robinson continued choosing a conscious and dharmic path by unlocking the doors of prejudice in the business world, becoming the first black man to head a major corporation. More importantly, he was a devoted husband and father, an active and contributing member of the community in which he lived, and a true friend. His actions spoke, and continue to speak, far louder than any words he ever uttered.
Jackie Robinson at the beginning of his life did not set out to be the Jackie Robinson he was at the end of his life. He simply lived his life, choosing to do the right thing, moment to moment, every day, until he took his last breath in the human experience that became Jackie Robinson.
Each one of us has the opportunity to choose to do the right thing, each and every moment of our human experience. Whether anyone notices or not. Whether it makes a big bang or not. Each one of us has the opportunity to choose the path of dharma. How have you practiced dharma today?
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