Decoding Dharma – Beyond Good and Bad


The Ottoman dream

First things first. This article is inspired by this video.

There is a classic stereotype: Democracy is good, while dictatorship isn’t!

However, hold on for a second. Let’s take two examples from the same country i.e. Turkey. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire post the world war I, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took over. He ruled in an autocratic, dictatorial fashion. Under his rule, Turkey became a progressive industrial nation. It became one of the richest countries in the world(per capita GDP).

Fast Forward 21st century. Erdogan is the elected leader in Turkey and enjoys popular support in the Republic of Turkey. However, he is taking the nation downhill.

Now, can you say democracy is good or dictatorship is bad? I am not professing dictatorship here. However, in a broader sense, the definition of Good and Bad varies with a lot of factors.

Also read : Series Review: Rise of the empires:Ottoman

In a way, the entire epic of Mahabharata revolves around this question. Is sticking to your word good or bad? If it’s good, then why Bheeshma ended on the bed of arrows?

Is ambition good or bad? If it’s good, why Duryodhana’s thigh was shattered?

Is it good or bad to follow rules? If it’s good, why Yudhishthira had to suffer all the ordeals?

Then what on earth is good and bad? Philosophically, it’s all about perception. Nothing is good or bad. It’s all about what’s desirable and what’s not.

From a practical standpoint though, is good and bad about the results produced by the action? Maybe?

But consider this. Chinese Communist Party used the most brutal ways to uplift a populace from poverty. However, recently the same CCP that has exported a pandemic and has border disputes with 22 countries.

Hence, wherein lies the answer? In Indian yore lies a word called ‘Dharma’!

Dharma; not religion

First things first. Dharma is grossly mistranslated as religion. Religion is one aspect of Dharma. However, it’s much more than that. Religion is a way of life while Dharma is understanding life itself. It is embracing life. It sustains life and makes it thrive.

Dharma goes beyond moral codes and rules. Not that morality and rules should be despised, but Dharma may ask you to transgress them.

It is the same Dharma that Lord Rama grasped when he had to abandon his wife for a society which was not broad-minded enough to understand her greatness.

It is the same Dharma that Lord Krishna embraced when he broke rules in the Kurukshetra war.

Dharma is that which brings balance.

Dharma is not merely a hope. Nor speculation. Nor rituals. Nothing which is inspired by anger, greed or fear… It is the will to shape oneself, men and situations, by rising above weaknesses.


  • In no way are we discouraging democracy. We vouch for it. It is still the best system of governance. However, it has its own weaknesses and exceptions.
  • Some parts of this essay are inspired by KM Munshi’s Krishnavatara III The Five Brothers and Amish Tripathi and Bhavana Roy’s book ‘Dharma’.
  • Lastly, do visit the product Krishnavatara III The Five Brothers.

P.C. Wikipedia 

Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.

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