Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An it harm none
Do as ye will.
Sanskrit can sum up the Rede in two words: ahimsa and dharma.
Ahimsa means harm none. People try to carry it out in various ways, from not murdering their annoying neighbor to eating a vegetarian diet.
Dharma is translated in various ways, including law, religion, and righteousness.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjun looks out onto the battlefield and tells Krishna that he’s changed his mind and doesn’t want to fight. This launches an 18 chapter philosophical discussion in which Krishna tells him that we each need to do our own dharma — not someone else’s. For a monk in meditation, not fighting is dharmic. For the soldier on the battlefield, deciding not to fight isn’t dharma, it’s cowardice.
Dharma essentially means that when we each do what we were meant to do, the universe runs smoothly. Sugar’s dharma is to be sweet. Lemons do not have the same dharma as sugar: if you squirt lemon juice into a recipe, it’s not because you want to sweeten it.
The idea is that we each have our own purpose in this world and trying to fulfill someone else’s purpose rather than your own will not only never make you happy, it will mess up the universe. Trees stand firmly rooted. It’s what they do. If a shark tried to be more like a tree and stopped swimming to calmly hold still, the shark would die. Sharks do not have the same dharma as trees and it would be deadly for them to try to fulfill a dharma that isn’t theirs.
Krishna tells Arjun that even if he claims he won’t fight, his own nature will compel him. Arjun hasn’t spent the last 14 years of the story sitting in calm meditation — he’s spent it accumulating weapons and practicing the arts of combat and waiting for his chance to fight. He isn’t prepared inside to sit this one out; he’s spent a lifetime preparing to kick ass.
Dharma is what our own nature will compel us toward. Dharma, like the Rede, doesn’t say to just sorta do what you feel like in the moment. It says to make your will strong and then carry it out.
As I will, so mote it be.
Not, I kinda want this, no wait — I want that instead.
I’ve struggled for years with indecisiveness. I start projects and don’t finish them. I change my mind constantly. I’m always working but never accomplishing anything because I keep doing one thing and then another.
Lately I’ve been feeling a real need to strengthen my will. To focus on something and see it through. To fulfill my dharma even though it scares me (because for me indecisiveness is the roadblock of perfectionism: if I really went after what I want the most, I might turn out to be mediocre).
Krishna, my patron god (ishta devata) has some harsh words for the indecisive:
They can never be happy in this world or any other. (Bhagavad Gita 4:40)
I need to do what he tells Arjun in the next verses:
Cut through this doubt in your own heart with the sword of spiritual wisdom. Arise, take up your path!
In other words, get off my butt and fulfill my dharma. Sometimes people sum up the Rede as “harm none” but they’ll missing out on an important aspect. Do as ye will.