The meaning of Dharma can best be realized in the story of the yogi and the scorpion. As the story goes, a yogi was one day taking a bath in the river, while his followers waited for him on the shore. In the midst of his daily routine of bathing in the river, the yogi noticed a fallen scorpion struggling to get out of the water. Without hesitation, the yogi immediately scooped out the scorpion, and withstanding the intense pain of the scorpion sting racing through his veins, the great yogi waded through the water towards the shore, to rescue the scorpion.
His followers observed as the yogi, withstanding multiple stings from the scorpion, continued to hold onto the scorpion, and make his way towards the shore. Seeing the yogi in pain, the followers started shouting at the yogi to drop the scorpion, but the yogi continued to head towards the shore, being careful not to drop the scorpion back into the water, with each step the pain becoming unbearable. Finally the yogi collapsed in pain as he reached the shore, only then letting the scorpion rush out of his palm.
The confused followers of the great yogi, rushed to his side, confused to see a smile of content on the yogi’s face. One of them asked him how he can still smile after almost being killed by the very scorpion he rescued. To which the yogi responded, that the scorpion was only following its dharma, its nature, which is to sting; while he was following the dharma of a yogi, which was to save the life of the scorpion. To the yogi everything was natural, the way it was supposed to be, followers of dharma, performing their dharma, which was the reason for his content.
Dharma is not something forced, or instilled, it is something that one is born to do, a natural instinct in all of us that stimulates us to act at a subconscious level, without thought. It is the essential function or nature of a thing.