Sanatana Dharma - सनातन धर्म
Currently the topic of Sanatana Dharma is being aggressively discussed in many parts of the country and I thought it appropriate to express my views on the subject. सनातना धर्मा is how the anglicized Indians would pronounce the words, and I don’t blame them because they have not been educated in the richness of the Sanskrit language and its various Indian language branches. If we write the word सनातन in English, ideally it would be SANATAN. The letter ‘A’ is added at the end because in Sanskrit or Marathi, we pronounce न् as half न or हलन्त (halant) as in अन् (pronounced un) which is different from अननस (ananasa), where न is pronounced fully.
That is one reason why Marathi accent is laughed at by non-Maharashtrian people. Anyway, the subject is not about pronunciation but the ignorance about our culture and heritage. I am choosing to write in English because, unfortunately, our own people have distanced themselves from their roots – language being one such dissociation.
So, what is Sanatan? Literally it means ETERNAL, which in turn means without a beginning or an end of existence, which means TIMELESS. Is Sanatan Dharma the same as Hinduism? While there is no shortage of historical scholars, sages, and teachers in Hinduism, there is no historical founder of the religion as a whole, no figure comparable to Jesus, the Buddha, Abraham, or Muhammad. As a consequence, there is no firm date of origin for Hinduism, either. If we go by the definition of Hinduism as a way of life practised by the people of the Hind region, then Hinduism is the practice of a geographic region. That brings us to the question “Is Hinduism a religion?” We have a typical answer that Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion. So what IS a religion? By consensus, a religion is a belief of usually 5 elements, namely
- There is a supreme entity called deity or God or any other name)
- The deity should be worshipped
- Religious “practices” will cultivate virtue
- Repent or penance for doing something “wrong”
- Get rewarded or punished for doing things in this life-form or next.
And what are these “practices”? They are a system of activities that unite a group of people.
What is “wrong”? Anything that goes against the beliefs, systems and practices of that particular group is “wrong”.
So, by the above definition of religion, it is not sustainable because it is localized to groups of people and can therefore vary from geographic location to location and from era to era. In other words, it varies from time to time and from region to region. Therefore, whatever varies cannot be ETERNAL and is therefore not Sanatan.
That brings us to the word DHARMA! Is the dharma and religion the same? Some people equate it and believe it to be so. However, dharma simply means being true to your nature. It is the dharma of a lion to kill a prey to eat and survive. Even in extreme starvation, a lion will not eat grass. It is against his “dharma” or nature to eat grass. In the evolutionary chain or sequence of creation, each species “knows” its dharma by instinct or intuition. When it comes to man, that instinct or intuition is dull. WHY? Simply because man has been given a superior intellect as compared with any other species and it is this gift of intellect which challenges man to “discover” his “dharma”.
Now let us combine these two words – Sanatan and Dharma! The meaning becomes crystal clear – “discovery of the eternal (truth)” which many call “God” is the “purpose” of human existence. What has caused confusion in mankind is the description of different Gods in different lands at different times in the history of man. It is this process of discovery that leads man to enlightenment and the final destination which people call “Moksha” or “Nirvana” or a state of “sat-chit-anand”.
Now, the next piece of the puzzle! Who or what is God? The key lies in two words viz. “discovery” and “enlightenment”. Discovery is the journey and enlightenment is the destination. The term “enlightenment” means dispelling darkness. Darkness of the intellect means ignorance. Mankind is blessed with superior intellect but it is enveloped in ignorance. When we tear down the envelope of ignorance we come into the light of knowledge. Which knowledge? The knowledge of the eternal truth which is ageless and thus imperishable. Opposite of darkness is light and light is a manifestation of energy. Energy is pure vibrations having amplitude and frequency. When the human being is able to match the frequency and amplitude of his existence with the frequency and amplitude of the universal energy, he discovers the truth and becomes one with the truth himself. At-one-ment with the supreme which we refer to as atonement!
When we undertake the journey in our quest for this eternal truth we are on our way to enlightenment. And that is the SOLE PURPOSE of the life-form called human being. It is beyond land, time, religion or any other belief and therefore it is imperishable.
When people call for a ban or eradication of Sanatana Dharma, little do they realize that they are talking of the impossible. They may succeed (if ever) in eradicating the words, but not the truth.
Now let us address the issue of the atheist! When you say there is no God, what you are actually denying is the “word” or “words” that represent God. But if you understand that God is pure energy and that the whole universe is filled with energy in the visible form (sagun/सगुण) and the invisible form (nirgun/निर्गुण), you cannot deny its presence or eradicate it. It is omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time/सर्वव्यापी); it is omniscient (knows everything/सर्वज्ञ); and it is omnipotent (it is all powerful/सर्वशक्तीमान). Scientifically speaking you are in the realm of quantum physics. Therefore, science is spirituality and spirituality is science. Those who deny God, deny quantum physics or science.
So, where or how does Hinduism connect with Sanatan Dharma? How is Ramyan or Mahabharat part of Hinduism? Now here is how things must have panned out. Since spirituality is abstract and it cannot be understood through the sense organs, for the average intellect (the common man), an easier via media was created in the form of stories and tales weaving the principles or laws of life with characters and events in a storyline. Here is one example! The story of Sage Vishwamitra and Apsara Menaka is famous. Menaka is a beautiful maiden sent to break the meditation of Vishwamitra. Ostensibly, she succeeds because Vishwamitra succumbed to his lust and passion when he saw her beauty! This story is easily understood by any common man. The spiritual teaching from this story is now lost from the masses with the passage of time. The underlying message in this story is that when man, in his quest for enlightenment, starts practising contemplation (मनन/चिंतन) on the seven chakras, to attain the highest state of meditation, the first to vibrate is the mooladhara (मूलाधार) chakra at the tailbone in the spine. If he succeeds in reaching the seventh chakra or sahasrara (सहस्रार) he will get enlightened. This journey of activating the chakras is not free from difficulties. When the mooladhara chakra starts vibrating it stimulates the organs near the tailbone. One such organ is the sex organ which gets stimulated. If a man (represented by Vishwamitra) succumbs to this stimulation, his practice/penance (तपस्या) is destroyed (भंग). The message to the aspiring man is to become aware of this danger should he start meditating. Different storylines with plots and sub-plots were created to explain to man the tiniest nuances of simple living and high thinking. These plots and sub-plots became epics or mahakavya (महाकाव्य) like Ramayan and Mahabharat. As the literature flourished, the whole body of spiritual text became known as Hindu religious text and the principles they depicted became known as Hindu religion.
The generation of today must realize the greatness of Sanatana Dharma and not be fooled or bull-dozed into believing that their religious roots are inferior to the more modern religions. We have been lucky to be born in a culture that has such a rich and scientific heritage. Let us go back to our roots and rise up tall, strong and powerful as our great ancestors.