Author –  Nicholas Sutton, Hemal Randerwala (Hanuman Dass) 
Published – Daya Press, 2013
Pages – 123
Readability – Easy

Hinduism is often referred to as Sanatana Dharma. Although Dharma is well known word among Hindus, it is not often well understood. Is Dharma the set of rules by which a Hindu is expected to live? Is it righteousness? If so, who decides who is right or wrong? Dr. Nicholas Sutton (Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies) and Hemal Randerwala offers a clear layout of what Dharma is and how if understood properly, Dharma can be a universal philosophy to live by, not just rulebook for Hindus.

Almost all religions have a view of how life ought to be lived. Some have codified this as a rulebook. Some religions are very particular about how their rulebook are followed, and some are more flexible about it. Hinduism, being a diverse system of philosophical and spiritual schools of thoughts offers many different perspectives on how to live, and what the goal of life is. Many saints, teachers and texts place an emphasis on Dharma – that one needs to live by Dharma. It is often defined as rules, duties, virtues etc. The challenge of deciding what is right and wrong was well acknowledged by early Hindu thinkers and a clear understanding of what Dharma actually refers to is key to understanding Hinduism’s unique take on morality.

No text in Hinduism has dealt with the complexities of Dharma more than the Mahabharatha. Anyone who has thought about this knows the innate challenge of doing the right thing. Even if we know what the right thing is, we have faced the challenge of sticking to it. For e.g. we might believe being truthful is something we should live by. After contemplating on the nature of violence against animals, one might conclude that a vegetarian diet is the ethical way to live. But there are challenges in practice. Does this mean that we do not have it in us to be righteous? Are we by nature evil?

The Power of Dharma explores these questions and offers a definition of Dharma which is not bound by dogma or a list of Do’s and Dont’s. In this way, it clears a lot of confusion regarding what we think Dharma is and offers a way of deciding for ourselves what its meaning is in our own context. It establishes that Dharma as a concept is subtle and a set of ideals that transcends religion because it can be universally applied. Dr. Nicholas Sutton and Hemal Randerwala also offer a set of ideas to think about some of the key issues we face today, in the light of this understanding of Dharma.

The book is short and concise, and makes for an easy read. However if one desires more discussion on the topic of Dharma, I would suggest Gurcharan Das’s ‘The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma’ as a next read. It explores the complexities of Dharma at length against the backdrop of Mahabharatha.