The Dharma Manifesto by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya: Book Review

Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
The Dharma Manifesto: A New Vision for Global Transformation
Arkos Media, 2013

The Dharma Manifesto is a socio-political call for activists to push societies closer to the principles of Sanatana Dharma (usually called Hinduism, but also encompassing various other non-Abrahamic religious traditions such as European paganism, Native American religion, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism). Dharma is the Natural Law or Eternal Order, which is to say, the divine law.

Dharma and Traditionalism

A Dharmic society is about the same as a Traditional society (as defined by René Guénon, Julius Evola, et al.), and its characteristics include:

  • the centrality of work, education, and family;
  • monogamy;
  • cultivation of knowledge;
  • farming, medicine, and scientific breakthroughs;
  • aesthetic expression through art, literature, and architecture;
  • charity work; and
  • values of honor, respect, loyalty, and nobility.

The Dharma Manifesto AcharyaIn brief, Dharma Nationalism stands for quality over quantity, order over chaos, beauty over ugliness, social cooperation rather than conflict, orientation toward the Eternal, and the values of hierarchy.

Sri Acharyaji’s book instructs the reader on the differences between Dharma (Natural Law) and Abrahamism (comprising Judaism, Pauline Christianity, and Islam, as well as offshoots such as Marxism, Atheism, and Secular Materialism). He also takes the reader through the basics of political theory and a brief history of the world from its Golden Age Dharmic roots to the conflict society in the modern day Kali Yuga.

Will Dharma Nationalism Look Like the Tea Party?

Much of The Dharma Manifesto is devoted to describing the characteristics of a future Dharma Nation. It will be a society with spirituality and religion at its center that emphasizes individual character and accountability—ultimately, a meritocracy. Sri Acharyaji advocates a society ordered by hierarchy according to a caste system of priests, warriors, artisans, and farmers. The caste system will follow the original system in India, in that it will not be hereditary but based solely on merit. He speaks highly of the Tea Party, even suggesting the movement could help sway America back towards the path of being a Dharmic society. When I first read this book back in 2013, with minimal familiarity of the Tea Party and Patriot movements, I was skeptical of this claim; yet as we enter the 2016 election season it seems almost a prophetic statement.

In a Dharma Nation, capital punishment will be conducted swiftly for crimes like murder and rape, since it’s the government’s job to protect the good and innocent citizens from psychopathic asuras (demons). Inhumane practices like kosher and halal slaughter will be outlawed. Residents of the Dharma Nation (which will probably be America first) have the right to private property, gun ownership, self-defense, and a flat tax. Their money will not be stolen and given to people who don’t work or to fight foreign wars. Because a nation is properly defined as a group of people who share a common ethnicity and culture, immigration policies will be strict, and any new citizen will be required to be of some benefit to the Dharma Nation. There will be a large-scale decentralization of government authority, with as much as possible moved to the local level. Usury will be outlawed and the values of America’s Founding Fathers upheld. Life will be centered as much as possible on spirituality, cooperation, and beauty rather than on economics.

Many Answers, Yet Many Questions Raised about the Dharma Nation

The policies outlined in the book present a sound plan for the creation of a nation we could be proud to live in and inspired to defend; however, they bring up many questions as well. In a society with no public schools, how will the naturally gifted son of a poor farmer be raised to be a priest? And how will the children of the rich or educated not have unfair advantages? Sri Acharyaji states: “We demand the abolition of all incomes unearned by work. All incomes and wealth must be earned through personal creativity, hard work and positive ingenuity,” but the Dharma Nation will protect the right of inheritance. That being the case, will there be an undeserving leisure class who doesn’t work due to inheritance? At the founding stages of the new nation, will there be a confiscation and redistribution of wealth, or will citizens have to continue to buy land from the capitalists and investors who own most of it now? Will architecture and artistic standards be enforced, or will artists merely be encouraged to produce certain types of art? Why are some pagan civilizations categorized as Dharmic when they had unDharmic practices like animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, and slavery? Will there be a system of public healthcare, or will poor children, adults with severe illness, and the elderly be forced to rely solely on family and charity for support?

Dharma and Aleister Crowley

One big error in the book comes in the short section on Satanism that ends with the sentence: “Dharma Nationalism absolutely rejects Satanism in all its modern variants, as well as the worldview of Aleister Crowley, the innovator who gave rise to all modern Satanist ideology.” Assuming Crowley was a Satanist is a common misinterpretation (even Evola made the error). The truth, however, is that Crowley’s religious system is the exact opposite of “Satanic”—it is focused on bringing the aspirant closer to the Absolute Godhead. Thelema (the religious system founded by Crowley) and its spiritual practices would be better classified as Sanatana Dharma, given Thelema’s use of meditation, yoga, prayer, bhakti yoga, tantra, paganism, and its hierarchical and meritocractic worldview.

The Dharma Manifesto: Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya’s Bold Vision

Sri Acharyaji seems to be highly intelligent, with much integrity and spiritual knowledge. It’s refreshing to read a modern book by someone who interprets the Hindu texts accurately rather than through the lens of modernity, though I feel many of his policies need further clarification before I could support them. His potential allies could be not only Tea Party Patriots, radical traditionalists, and related groups as he suggests, but also the millions of people in the West who practice Eastern religions and New Age spirituality, since his message is outlined clearly enough to possibly see converts from those groups. The Dharma Manifesto is written in an easy-to-read style, explains any terms readers might be unfamiliar with, and is fairly short (I read it in two evenings). Even though Sri Acharyaji cites philosophers and thinkers as diverse as John Stuart Mill and Evola, non-academicians will be able to follow the straightforward message. Because its anti-egalitarian values are espoused by a “Hindu” teacher, it’s more likely they will be perceived as authentic and respectable by those inclined to disagree. I’m not a member of Sri Acharyaji’s International Sanatana Dharma Society, but I admire the nation he is striving to create and the boldness of his message as it aligns with Traditional values. He should be admired for advocating what the Vedic texts actually say, not merely what readers want them to say.

To learn more, visit www.dharmacentral.com and www.dharmanation.org. Sri Acharyaji’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/DharmaNation has a plethora of great videos. His 2015 book, Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way, is a great read for those looking for a spiritual explanation of Sanatana Dharma rather than political philosophy.