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The Dharma Manifesto

A New Vision for Global Change

By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya

Review: Gwendolyn Taunton

Dharma ManifestoMany of the readers will be already aware of the fundamental concept of dharma. Dharma is a very widely used term, and is the modern equivalent of dharman, which formed a trinity with rta, dharman,and karman. Initially rta represented cosmological law whilst karman was the human orientated model, which either followed or disregarded that formerly decreed by rta. When rta was fulfilled in accordance with good dharman, it became positive karman – what we would call today ‘good karma’. If however, dharman did not accord fully with rta, a debt was owed and the cosmological order had to be rebalanced; the offender therefore attracts ‘bad karma’ until the wrong has been forgiven or negated. This is very similar to other mythological triads, in particular the Norns and the Moirai. However in the Norse and Greek Traditions, the concepts have been anthropomorphised. The Hindu triad stems from the Vedic era, where deities were less personalized and retained their levels of cosmic abstraction, rendering them more in line with pantheism than later derivatives.

In contemporary Hindu Traditions the importance of rta has receded somewhat, but dharma and especially karma are very much mainstream concepts still. Karma in particular has even become well known in the English vocabulary, though it is significantly more complex than it is assumed to be. Both of these two now suffer an impaired understanding due to their separation from the third component rta, with the human prescribed dharma now superseding the cosmological form or natural law.

Dharma is therefore now the human setting of laws, which are still prone to karma, and rendered all the more volatile by the absence of rta in the social or juridical process. Dharma is a cohesive principle across the Yugas; in the Golden Age or Satya Yuga dharma is intact, but as the comic cycle degrades and humanity is placed under the aegis of the Kali Yuga (not to be confused with the Goddess Kaalii, whose name is incorrectly described in a number of poor quality English works on Hinduism. The Goddess Kaalii is spelled with a long ‘a’ and a long ‘i’, whereas the demon Kali uses the short ‘a’ and ‘i’).

Accordingly, The Dharma Manifesto is an attempt to reconcile traditional Hindu ideas on law into a modern translation of dharma – the human translation of the divine or cosmic law. It is therefore both philosophical and legislative as well as religious. In the first section of the book, Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya provides definitions of a few core terms such as the State and the Nation. In this section, the ideal leader is defined as the philosopher-king, which is also cited by Plato as the ideal ruler, and is likewise found in the concept of the Cakravartin or ‘World Ruler’ coined by Kautilya (whom is also ubiquitously known as the ‘Indian Machiavelli).

The Dharma Manifesto is composed to help develop the wisdom to attain this ideal state, explaining a myriad of issues which are part of the hurdles in the process, such as overcoming maya and dealing with the ego. Later in this book the Vedic ideas are linked to changes in perspective that would permit a type of political reform based on spiritual values. This is examined from a perspective which is not based on American politics, but instead explains how such concepts had an impact on India’s history, via applied philosophy.

The third chapter explains the ideological distance between the Abrahamic Traditions and the Dharmic Traditions, which in essence belong to a different genus of religious evolution (to use Darwinian terminology). The differences in perspective of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are discussed and compared with the Dharmic Traditions. Interestingly enough, Marxism is inserted in this chapter too, despite it not being inherently religious or spiritual in any regard.

The book than proceeds further into the modern age and contemporary applications, offering explanations on a how a more spiritual life would benefit modern society. Here we begin to find the concept also being linked to forms of government. The manifesto also states that despite it adopting a nationalist perspective it;

“seeks to create a society that is purely meritocratic in nature. In such a society, the best-qualified person for any given profession should be provided the opportunity to serve in that capacity. […] Neither wealth, nor privilege, nor political favors, nor corruption should determine what one’s profession or station in life should be-but the merit of one’s inherent talent alone should reveal one’s natural profession.” [1]

The author also explicitly states that “any form of hereditary caste system based solely on a person’s genetic inheritance will be illegal.”[2] Continuing on with this theme, there is a whole section on the ‘deconstruction of the mercantile culture’ and problems associated with it.

The last section of the book details strategy on how to implement the system beyond the theoretical aspects. These guidelines are offered with the following maxim: “Only members of a noble movement can assure the creation of a noble civilization. Violence, unethical practices, immoral behavior, and illegal acts will never be advocated of tolerated in the name of Dharma Nationalism”[3] The code of conduct also advises that members must be drug free, avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, be of sound mind, be employed or studying, and avoid bad behavior.

The book makes for an interesting read for anyone interested in the concept of dharma, the only real flaw is the list of political affiliations listed in the final chapter which unfortunately has the potential to undermine the author’s theory in the rest of the book and overshadow it.

[1] Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya, The Dharma Manifesto: A New Vision for Global Transformation (Arktos, 2013), 104.
[2] Ibid., 105.
[3] Ibid., 155.

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