The most direct and powerful form of dharma within the material world is the beginning stage of Bhakti yoga called Sadhana Bhakti.
Understanding the meaning of dharma within the material world is possible by first realizing the spiritual meaning of dharma or what it refers to in the spiritual dimension.
Every living being is eternal by nature and has eternal characteristics and qualities that never change or separate from that eternal existence. Dharma is one of these integral qualities described as the eternal occupation or religion of the living being.
This eternal occupation of the eternal living being is rendering unbroken loving service to the Supreme Person. The pure quality to serve selflessly is never lost or taken away from the living being, just as wetness is always a quality of water. It is the only occupation that fulfills the eternal living being in full Ananda or spiritual happiness/bliss.
If the eternal living being chooses to no longer serve the Supreme Person in the spiritual dimension, the living being takes birth in the material dimension. Covered by ignorance and illusion and forgetting his spiritual form and occupation, the living being begins existing in the material dimension embodied within a material form.
In this embodied form, the eternal occupation of the living being becomes perverted and service is still performed but for something in return. The quality of selfless service has become selfish.
The object of service has changed from serving the Supreme Loving Person to serving His illusory energy for material gain. This material gain results through contact of the senses and mind with their objects and in relation with other embodied living beings.
The occupation of the embodied living being has become “I am the lord and master,what will make me happy?” In this consciousness, the living being accepts by force, countless bodies in countless species in the unending cycle of birth and death within the material universe. From the lowest planet to the highest, the search for happiness continues with miniscule success which is simply relief from the suffering conditions and miseries of material existence.
The decision to not serve the Supreme Being transforms into enviousness and malice towards Him, becoming the desire to be the supreme controller and dominator of the material energy and other living beings.
Assuming the false ego “I am the material body and the lord and master of everything I see”, the embodied living entity lives in this illusion as material nature inflicts upon him the results of his good and bad actions through the law of karma.
These results keep one caught in the material web of ignorance, illusion, and desires, and keep the wheel of birth and death turning and crushing the living being life after life.
After countless lifetimes of tasting the mirage of material happiness, the embodied being, if fortunate, realizes “this is not my real home”.
The Supreme Lord desires the embodied living being to return home to the spiritual dimension because His love is eternal and unconditional. He creates the system of service within the material dimension for the living being to gradually come to his senses and reawaken his eternal dharma. This system is varnashram dharma.
The varnashram dharma system divides society into occupational and social orders according to propensities and abilities with corresponding duties and responsibilities to elevate one to God realization and eternal dharma.
The essence and goal of worldly dharma or religion is to satisfy the Supreme Lord in the service of one’s life and work. By pleasing the Lord by working with determination and sincerity and always offering that work to Him, the living being obtains elevation towards God realization and the position of sanatana-dharma or eternal dharma.
The most direct and powerful form of dharma within the material world is the beginning stage of Bhakti yoga called Sadhana Bhakti. The activities of Pure Bhakti are within the realm of eternal dharma and therefore are in relation to the Supreme Lord. These service activities include:
1. Hearing the names, pastimes, qualities, etc. of the Lord
2. Singing or repeating the names, pastimes, qualities, etc. of the Lord
3. Remembering the Supreme Lord
4. Praying to Him
5. Obeying Him
6. Serving Him
7. Becoming His friend
8. Surrendering to Him
9. Worshipping Him
In the present state of the conditioned being, these same eternal and transcendental activities are practiced under the guidance of the pure servant of the Supreme Lord. By practice, these methods purify the life and consciousness of the sincere person because they contact the Supreme Pure Person who is all purifying.
What is meant by pure or purifying?
The living being falls into the material dimension from his eternal and perfect existence of loving service to the Supreme Lord, becoming covered by ignorance, material desires, envy, false ego, and a host of other effects of illusion. Millions of lifetimes harden these into an unbreakable covering which only transcendental energy can dissolve or purify.
This purification means dissolving of the material consciousness of false ego and uncovering the identity and eternal dharma of the living being, who then returns to the spiritual world in his original spiritual form, consciousness, and relationship, with the Supreme Loving Friend and Lord.
After reinstatement in the eternal loving service of the Supreme Lord, one will never again choose not to serve and return to the material world. The true function of the material world as a place of rehabilitation has been successful.