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The Food Dharma

The Food Dharma

Vandana Shiva

Dharma” is a unique Indian concept, a gift of Indian civilisation to humanity. It has provided the compass for right action and right livelihood. There is no equivalent word in Western languages. The concept of dharma is not limited to religion — as has often been erroneously done — dharma is a concept that runs through the many spiritual threads that together weave our culture. It is the “path of righteousness”.


The teaching of Dharma is indeed a gift from India, and India has an incredibly rich and diverse spiritual heritage. I would add, however, that among Native America tribes there is a similar construct known as “the beauty path” and it’s widely understood as that of council circles planning ahead 7 generations before embarking on any major course, plan of operation, or significant action.

This is important. So much that comes from Ms. Shiva is vital. In my view, she is one of the greatest teachers currently alive:

“Because dharma holds and sustains the Earth family and within it the entire human family, it embodies the principle of unity — of humans with the rest of nature and of humans across our diversities. Dharma arises from the interconnectedness of all life, and our duty to care for all humans and all species alike.”

Funny that Columbus’ navigations had him convinced he had come to India–thus naming the natives found on the American continent–Indians; and that BOTH “Indian” sects lived by a close connection to the land and through it, held a major respect for all species along with a fundamental understanding of the interconnectedness shared among all species within the complex, extraordinary webs of life.


Ms. Shiva never disappoints in connecting powerful dots:

“In spite of the deep civilisational heritage of dharma, the discourse and guidance of dharma has been displaced by an imposition of the toxic tools of war-based industrial agriculture. The imposition of GMOs at any cost violates the dharma of food on many levels. Scientific concerns are being silenced by financial muscle, and dharma is being excluded from any discussion and debate on food. Instead of an intelligent, responsible and ethical assessment of how particular tools of transformation of the seed and our food impact the fabric of life, other species, farmers, our societies and human health, a tool has been put beyond assessment and beyond dharma.”

Prior to this paragraph, when Ms. Shiva was explaining adharma, all I could think about was Monsanto. They violate ALL life-honoring codes and they certainly bring a military model to ALL that they do!

It’s interesting that, although perhaps coincidental (inasmuch as there is such a thing as a coincidence), within this word ad-HARM-a is planted the principle OF harm. Back in the time of early medicine’s practice, one key covenant was: “First: Do no harm.”

Those who traffic in the (Mars-ruled) ethos of the warrior-caste think that the laws of Spirit (and life) do not apply to them. Fortunately, hubris merits its own karmic blowback.


I credit you, Ms. Shiva with introducing the premise of Patriarchal Capitalism.

I would take the following statement much further to bring it into crisper alignment with the goals of that same patriarchal capitalism:

“Instead of seeing food as the creator, corporations and scientists developing GMOs are taking over the role of “creator” through “patents” on life.”

When one adds cloning to the mix, and also incorporates the forced interfacing of DNA strands as done via bio-tech engineering, it would seem that MEN want to take all that belongs to the FEMALE side of Creation–as life-giving source–entirely OUT of the equation (of life).

In the same way that men used their patriarchal religions to justify all of the following:

  1. Burning thousands if not millions of women as “witches” for daring to oppose the life-squelching rules imposed by the old church fathers
  2. Cutting out the clitoris of young West African and Arab girls so that the capacity for sexual pleasure could never “shame” or “dishonor” their family or clan
  3. Treating women like chattel denied property rights, voting rights, the right to go out without a chaperone, or choose their own marriage partners
  4. In Fundamentalist Muslim regions of the world cloaking women in heavy robes with virtual hoods over their faces
  5. Cheapening the female so much that poor families in Asia and developing nations SELL their young daughters into sex slavery

And so much else.

It is this vast displacement and distancing from THE FEMALE and FEMININE SIDE of Creation/Source that is a wound to the whole of humanity. Unable, unwilling, and uninterested in allotting to females their natural role as co-partners in the Creation of Life, patriarchal controls deployed through capitalist constructs–the global corporation representing the acme of this model–now have taken control of DNA itself. The goal is to expunge the feminine, counterbalance… and it is THAT counterbalance that is based in love, caring, nurturance, and a natural intuitive sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

In lieu of this Feminine component, the proponents of Patriarchal Capitalism promote sterile seeds, denuded ecosystems, region after region scarred by toxic chemicals, entire marine systems rendered dead zones, and so much dissolution of the natural world.

As Yogananda–one of India’s finest minds–explained, it is chiefly organized acts of aggression that disrupt the ethers and these disruptions cause the uptick in earthquakes, droughts, floods, volcanoes, and violent storms.

The manmade models promoted by the martial muscle of patriarchal capitalism are to sentient life what Jim Jones was to his small colony of subject-followers.

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A truly wonderful article. People truly OF the land know all of this. Somewheres deep inside of them there this knowledge. It is not taught or learned, They feel or grasp it by other means that are not explained by science. Generally the people that know this have some measure of humility something sadly lacking in the cult of the individual where the “i” rules over all.

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I want to take a small issue with one thing while completely agreeing with the sense of what you said. Your comment put me in mind of the song This Land Is Mine, by the incredible Australian indigenous folk singer/songwriter, Kev Carmody. The song is in the form of alternating verses and refrains by two people, one a “settler” and the other indigenous. The settler sings “This land is mine” (because he bought it), whereas the native sings “This land is me.” It’s an amazing song - almost impossible to hear without feeling some pretty strong emotions.

My small point of disagreement is that I don’t think I was born with the sensibility to appreciate the beauty of such a song, or of the land, or of life itself. I think it was teachers like Kev Carmody, Vandana Shiva, Wendell Berry and a hundred others who molded me. I was raised on a farm and I hated it, and as soon as I was old enough for college I was outa there! The process of learning to appreciate the things that were good took years, and lots of teaching.

You are so right about that measure of humility. I associate it with the element of farming that I don’t recall from my upbringing, but that is stressed in the writings of Wendell Berry, Sir Albert Howard and Dr. Shiva: husbandry. By emphasizing the fact that, if we are to have food we must care for the land, with all the responsibilities - and constraints - that implies, these sages show us that we are of the land and not its owners.

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Good point. Another of our sages, Dr. bell hooks, uses a similar model: White Supremacist, Capitalist, Patriarchy. She says that resolving all the elements of this complex is needed for true liberation, and that the force that drives the struggle to accomplish that resolution is love.

I don’t recall her mentioning “dharma,” but it sounds like she’s on to it…

It a hard call. Europeans have been seperated from the land for a longer time than those Indigenous people yet I still feel the European can feel that attachment no matter if it their homeland or not.

It hard to explain but I had a connection to the land on the farm I grew up on that can not be explained by what I learned from others. I just remember as a child immersing myself in it. I still return there every summer holiday and just go there and sit, listening. I wonder if it to do with some sort of racial memory given my grandparents came from East Europe on both sides and both came from farming backgrounds over there? I really do not know.

I am not too big on those organized religions but I always thought that the very act of dropping to ones knees to pray does ones “soul” if you would some good. It an acknowledgement that there something greater then the self when one gets too wrapped up in the self. It does not have to be some “spirit in the sky”. It can very well be little more than the very essence of the life that is around us which in fact , is much more grand than it is little.


The article says, "In Buddhism dharma means “cosmic law and order”.
As a Buddhist I would prefer to call it “natural law”, “the way things are by nature”.


Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Not always so good at getting the words right…

One of my memories of the time before hard labor set in was of spending long chunks of time lying on my back on the ground, watching the clouds. (My siblings will probably tell you my head is still there.)

Right. It is we who are little, and there is good learning in apprehending and appreciating that.

Hi Sifu - look at the Wikipedia article on dharma. This author simply copied it. She probably wrote that section of the Wikipedia article…Amituofo

“its meaning is “that which holds”, “that which sustains” — the universe and all creation, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, from the tiniest microbe to the largest mammal”

Is dharma = The Force?