Book Review #708

A short time ago I began reading a book, the “Dharma Manifesto,” and promised a review. This post is meant to take care of that.

The book, I bought online for something really cheap like $16-$17. The book itself is written in very easy to understand language. For no more pages than the book has (264 pages), it’s actually a very fast read. The chapters are hardly noticeable since the entire book is pretty much flows from one subchapter to another, which makes it compatible with stop-and-go reading schedules.

Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya is certainly very intelligent and knowledgeable in many important areas of modern life and culture. I believe he holds a Ph.D. and has actually held a number of very unique and history-making positions in his life thus far. His writing, in this book, is concise and very clear. As would be expected with any kind of “manifesto,” the ideas he puts forth in this book are meant to be revolutionary, which he defines as, “…proactive and constructive in nature, rather than merely utopian or reactionary.” Many folks might be turned off by that approach to change, but in this work the manner of presenting his views is actually quite balanced and intense, but neither idealistic nor emotional.

Throughout the book, Acharya-ji touches on a huge variety of topics, some of which I mentioned in my earlier post. On a number of things, I agree with him to one extent or another. My own views can tend to be somewhat strong, and in this way I found interest in Achrya-ji’s words. For example, I at least somewhat agree with him in relation to…

  1. The U.S.’s International Policy must change.
  2. The history and employment of Abrahamic Faiths. (Although, I disagree with his view on the nature of the Truth inherent in each.)
  3. What should be sought in, and expected from, any political leader.
  4. The political and cultural history of India.

Beyond these topics and possibly a few others, I should note that as the page numbers increased I found my alignment with Acharya-ji’s views to decrease. There were a number of areas, which I don’t care to list or go into here, where I disagree with him on.

One thing he wrote on, about which I’m still somewhat unsure how I feel, is the topic of gays. On one hand, his approach seemed level-headed: no persecution. If I recall correctly, and I may not, I think he says that gays are a natural part of the human spectrum. He never actually said there is anything inherently evil in gays. However, he was clear that, while people identifying as homosexual would be left unbothered to live their personal dharmas, in a Dharma Nation there would be no such thing as equality as is known (attempted?) today. There would be no pride events. No marriage afforded to gays. All gays would be expected to live “in the closet.” Acharya is very clear that marriage is an integral part of the structure of societies, without which society would fall. He’s also very clear that marriage is strictly defined as male-female.

Actually, I started the last paragraph saying I’m still unsure how I feel about this. I lied. I’m quite sure. I disagree about as much as a person can in this regard. I do appreciate his level-headed, mostly non-violent approach to gays, but beyond that his view on this goes against my better reasoning.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya religious leaning, I’ll let you know that he’s a strict Vaishnava leader. This isn’t for me, but it’s just fine. In fact, for a brief time, I considered converting to Vaishnavism, with Acharya-ji as my guru. The mantra of his lineage doesn’t mean much to me. Vaishnavism isn’t entirely appealing to me(this is not to imply there’s anything at all wrong with it!), but I was hopeful that this American, non-Indian guru could be the center of my religious home.

I plan to purchase and read one other of Acharya’s books, and will likely write my own review of it as well, but through the Dharma Manifesto I’ve learned much, and a few things have become clear to me.

  1. It’s very likely that Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya will never truly be a leader I look to for guidance.
  2. It’s very likely that I’ll never be a Vaishnav. (Again, this isn’t to knock Vaishnavism in any way. This is just to say that through the example set by this particular Vaishnav leader, as well as the general example set by most of ISKCON-which I think Acharya-ji has ties to anyway, Vaishnavism isn’t home for me. My sincerest kudos to those who are able to find peace by taking refuge within the many folds of Vaishnavism.)
  3. Although I was really excited to have found a politico-Hindu book (it’s still the only book of its kind that I’m aware of or possess), and greatly looked forward to finally having my own political compass, I can safely say that I will likely never call myself a Dharma Nationalist.

Om Shanti!


Dharma Nationalist?

Some time ago, in a manner which I now forget, I came to know of a guru/acharya from Nebraska. He’s known as Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya. As far as the Hindu Dharma is concerned, he’s unique and is really a record setter. Among other accomplishments, he was the first like his self to hold the positions he’s held and he’s certainly the first (since ancient times) to convey brahmana thread to a female. The reactions he’s received as the result of his actions have been enough to prove that he’s not afraid to make waves for humanity’s betterment. I can also vouche, based on personal communication with him, that he’s attentive, super intelligent, and possesses a kind of “shanti” you almost wouldn’t expect. I can’t say he’s a personal guru of mine, but I can say, at least at this point, he seems very worthy of the devotion. He wrote a book, among others, called The Dharma Manifesto. He is the founder of the Dharma Nation Movement, which is meant for “Instantiating Natural Law in Modern Government,” and which seems very interesting to me.

Truth be told, I’m about as familiar with any form of politics as I am with variations of the Chinese language. That is to say, not very. I ordered a copy of The Dharma Manifesto for two main reasons: I enjoy having unique books in my personal library, especially ones pertaining to my own Dharma (this book is currently the first and only “hindu” book I own on politics), and I’m hoping this book will serve as a nice inexpensive investment in my political education. It’s ordered/shipped by Lulu and I was glad to see it arrive actually quite soon after ordering. The Manifesto seems pretty comprehensive, with chapters/subchapters like,

  • Dharma Nationalism and Electoral Politics
  • Usury
  • Flat Tax
  • Ownership Society
  • Class Cooperation… not Class War
  • Neither Capitalism, Nor Socialism
  • Economics
  • Sanskrit: The Universal Language
  • United Nations
  • Russia Policy/E.U. Policy/Isreal Policy/India Policy/Pakistan Policy/China Policy
  • Population Planning and Balance
  • Same Sex Marriage/LGBT Issues
  • Environmental Sustainability and Protection
  • Immigration
  • Strong National Defense
  • Energy Policy/Health Policy
  • Abortion
  • Judiaism/Pauline Christianity/Islam
  • Marxism/Atheism/Satanism

Those listed above are actually mostly subchapters, but should still offer a taste of what the Manifesto will cover.

According to the Dharma Nation website, “Our goal is to establish a government in which the eternal principles of Natural Law are institutionally instantiated, and to create a world of peace, justice, spirituality, reason, and joy.”

I feel like pointing out that Acharya-ji is a sure Vaishnav- which is not a bad thing in the least. The book’s dedications go to two people, one of which is the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement.

I’ve read most of the introduction so far, and have decided to start over, highlighter in hand. (Note: Highlighting in books is typically not my preference, but since I’m generally so clueless about anything political, I’m making an exception on the basis of “quick reference”) If anyone reading this has this book, or is planning to have it, and has any interest in doing an informal kind of book club or otherwise discuss anything they’re read in it, I’d be thrilled.

Om Shanti

That Church


I recently finished a very basic composition class. The focus has required writing research papers, which, formally speaking, I mostly loathe. I enjoy sounding academic. I enjoy citing sources of my knowledge. I like challenging myself -especially at things I do often, like writing, and am likely to slack on.

I do not like research papers.

My topic was vegertarianism, which you may recall me mentioning a few posts ago. In a class prior to this one, I’d written briefly about exercise and diet, that was also a research paper, and for this class I was concerned that choosing vegetarianism would be too much of the same. Gladly, I took this paper in a different direction. I decided to speak a little (and only a little) about the cultural, environmental, and religious implications of vegetarianism. The limit on word count really hampered how much I was able to touch on anything.

You may also recall mention of the very Christian (a minister) member of my university’s faculty who was/is teaching this class. Truly, this man mostly awed me. I love everything that has anything to do with languages. In fact, one of my favorite websites is for omniglots. I go there often to study con-scripts and study foreign alphabets as well as hear pronunciation examples. Any time I encounter someone who can pick apart a language, I love them. I think I can’t help it. Truly, a person’s language and religious background influence the course of their life and shape how they see the world more than anything else. You can imagine the bliss I’ve experienced throughout the duration of this class and the last-both of which were taught by this same person. It might be noted that I was about the only student who grew goosebumps and  swooned when, as an aside, sentence diagramming was demonstrated on the dry erase board. <dreamy sigh> That stuff is art, for me.

So… I struggled with this paper, simple as it was. Between word limit and references being limited and kind of wanting to slant my writing in a way that would appeal the most to my Christian teacher (yes, I’m manipulative), I was almost stuck. With a paper I’d written before now, he confided to me in his feedback that he’d been so impressed with the paper’s content and structure that it not only kept him awake at midnight while he graded it, but that he later shared it with his family at the dinner table. I’m thinking this paper didn’t sit the same with him. Here’s why.

Although I tried, somewhat, to appeal to his Christian senses, I’m thinking this may well have backfired on me.

My paper’s introduction actually wasn’t too bad, and I feel it pulled at some Christian strings in the ways I had hoped, while remaining professional/academic. The rest of the body of the paper I pretty much just stayed on topic and got through it, with the exception of when I spoke on the religious/moral aspects of vegetarianism. I only mentioned Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity-focusing almost entirely on Hindu and Christian views. I cited the Qur’an, a youtube video by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya and quoted a few Christian sources, including the King James Version of the Bible. To say the least, as with the rest of my points of discussion, I was unable to dive as deeply as I wanted. My conclusion was rather weak, but did the job I think.

The problem? I should have known better. With the exception of some Jews, most of those adhering to the Abrahamic Faiths think they are experts at their own dharmas. Either not realizing, or choosing to ignore, the convoluted histories of these paths, they ascribe a number of fancies to their religions … which basically amounts to serious cases of denial.

What kills me, is that this highlights a terrible tendency among Christians (in particular). Picking and choosing, in addition to selective interpreting when it comes to their own holy writings. If you realize and accept the notion of deeper, perhaps more abstract truths, then even if your starting place is in taking the words literally you still recognize there’s more than the black and white of the page. If you limit your own religion, however, you end up relying on the black and white of the page, only, and through the ages spend more time arguing over where periods and commas go than what the Truth conveyed might be.

Through the ages, virtually since their Scriptures were first written and then compiled, Christians have engaged in selective interpretation in order to achieve their personal wills, at the expense not only of the divine Will, but many many human lives. Depending on who they’re trying to conquer or convert, certain Scriptures hold more or less weight than others. Whether it’s burning “witches,” keeping blacks as slaves, women as property, or gays from marrying, Christians are notorious for manipulating their own Scriptures according to what they want to accomplish or prevent.

The same actually applies to vegetarianism. 1500 years ago Christian kings would put their clergy to “taste tests” that involved eating meats. The fear was that Manacheaenism had infiltrate the clergy and corrupted them. Any Christian priest or minister who refused or was even reluctant to eat meat was severly punished. Hatred for vegetarianism was a major player in beginning the Inquisition as well.

The funny thing? Of all the things that are “literally” spelled out in the Bible, few things are clearer than the mandate for human vegetarianism. There are lots of instances mentioned in the Bible about animal sacrifice or meals that were had, unclean versus clean and all that jazz. The New Testament tells us that what we put into our bodies doesn’t corrupt our soul (Gospel of Mark). However, if we’re to take the Bible as literally as Christians have historically insisted, Genesis should be no different. (I realize that, increasingly, some Christian denominations are recognizing a more broad was of viewing Scripture, but historically and even today this is not the norm. The same is to be said of Islam.) I understand that a reason often cited for why certain portions of the Old Testament are ignored, is that Jesus came to put an end to the Law. And that’s fine, but for two loopholes: Vegetarianism was mandated before The Law applied and is the way things ought to be- it was spoken directly by G/god to humans instead of to humans through another human, and vegetarianism isn’t a part of The Law at all.   

According to some, there are two creation accounts in Genesis. The first, is the one most are familiar with and this is the one I’ll be referring to the most. In this account of the beginning of life, God apparently tells the first humans, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (verse 29). A verse or so later, the very same is said about what animals are to eat.

(As an interesting aside, two chapters later documents the apparent fall of mankind. This represents the beginning of the flawed world as we know it. The Devil assumed the form of a snake. The snake tricked the first woman and the first woman got the first man to disobey along with her. God finds out, and punishes all of creation. During this episode, while the Almighty is flexing his moody muscles, he tells the snake, the woman, and the man exactly what their respective punishments are to be. It’s because of this part of the story that I’m inclined to go out on a limb and say that even arguing that vegetarianism no longer applies because we live in a fallen world is a weak arguement. It’s in chapter 3 that Adam’s punishment is made clear to him, and that punishment affirms the continuation of vegetarian sustenance. Gensis 3: 17-19, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” One can see here that nowhere does God punish Adam by saying, “You’ve messed up and now you have to kill animals and eat them.” I think the text suggests that He still meant for humans to be sustained on plants, and this is clear not only by G/god cursing the ground and telling Adam that he’ll eat from it in sorrow, but also by the introduction of thorns and repetition (from earlier Genesis) that herbs are to be eaten. What the heck kind of punishment would the introduction of thorns and cursing of the ground be, if we’re not concerned with plants?)

I’m not a Bible scholar in any way. Admitted. I’ll never claim to be, and truthfully, at this point in my life I’m thankful that I’ll never be. Never mind that, though, because that’s not the point. The point is that if the Christian Word of God is supposed to be taken literally, then let’s take all of it literally. Agreed? In that context, nearly all Christians are disobeying their own God, and for those Christians who are familiar with their own scriptures, they should be afraid because not much deeper into their holy writings it is made abundantly clear that their God is a jealous God and is also vindictive and fond of severe punishments, often exceeding what is warranted by any specific offense.

Beyond this, there are only two alternatives: Don’t take the Word of God literally, or, as happens mostly, conveniently pick and choose what you want to literally apply and what you don’t. If we’re not to take the Word literally then slavery should never have happened, nor half the wars ever fought between humans, and gays would already be afford the same rights as heteros. If we’re to opt for the pick-n-choose-as-is-convenient method, we soon find ourselves in the predicament we know today. Regardless of which route we choose, it’s obvious that things have only worsened along the way – but that’s a whole other post altogether.

Backing up eight crazy paragraphs, we return to the topic of my paper and how my approach to it may end up biting me in the butt. Precisely because of the convoluted and twisted nature of Christianity, today and through out most of it’s very young lifespan, I suspect that my minister-professor will likely be unimpressed or feel somehow challenged, if not outright offended, and that it may show in my grade. Truly, I’ll be very surprised if the oppossite occurs. As I’ve composed this post, it’s come to my mind that (knowing the exact content of my paper) my paper wasn’t written as slanted as I had originally hoped. In fact, it couldn’t have been because I didn’t have the space to go deep enough to slant much at all, let alone in a manner that would appeal to my target. <sigh> Who knows? My grade still isn’t posted and I’m sure by the time it is, I won’t have the time or energy or care to argue it.

Om Shanti.