Critical Podium Dewanand
Sanathana Dharma The Religion
Sacrifice code wfor0379
Sacrifice date 22 february 2005
Message from Bharat-Heritage on 22.02.2005
Sanatana Dharma, "The Law Eternal", is the more appropriate
or rather the accurate name for the religion which is now known as "Hinduism".
The word Hinduism is not the original name for the religion. It is a name
aquired in later historic times, while the religion has been in existence
since timeless beginning. This religion has its roots in the "Vedas"
which are scriptures of the highest wisdom and which originated with creation
itself. It was not a founded religion, it was based on revelations directly
from God himself to the seers during their transcendental and intuitive
communion with the Divine. It was the Dharma and code of life for men
of Bharat or Aryavarta from times immemorial, i.e., from even the pre-historic
and most antique ages.
The religion was used to be known as "Vaidika Dharma" or "Vedanta",
as it has the Vedas for its authority and source (Vedokhilo Dharma Mulam);
it is also called Sanatana Dharma as it delineates and embodies values
and doctrines which are of eternal validity. Sanatana Dharma stands for
"Rita" - the majesty of moral and spirtual law. It looks upon
the whole universe as being under the purview of a moral law and subserving
to the supremacy of God, its creator. Times may change, ages may roll
by, continents may rise and disappear, but values of life like truth,
love, compassion, one's duty to mother, father, preceptor and to fellow
beings, and the eternal reality of the spirit and unity of all life, are
truths and values that subsist and will subsist for ever. These are the
eternal values and truths which are embedded in the Vedas and are embodied
in the religion that had evolved out of Vedas. These values being of eternal
validity and universality, are the justification for the religion that
embody them, for being called as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal Dharma,
The word "Hindu" was of a far, far later origin; during the
Greek period of history, Greeks and West Asians used the term Indu/Hindu
with reference to the people living beyond the banks of the River Indus,
and later the name began to be ascribed to the religion of the land also.
'Hindu' thus has only a geographical connotation and derivation; but,
nevertheless, it has come to stay.
Hinduism exhorts people to abstain from all violence by thought, word
and deed to any being or creature. "Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha"
- "Veneration of all life" (because everything is enveloped
by God); "Isavasyamidam Sarvam" - "God inheres in all beings";
these are the basic, primary and fundamental tenets of Hinduism.
To sum up the whole essence of the Hindu religion and philosophy: "Love
for all beings and love for God"- this is the essence of Hinduism,
and as a matter of fact, it is the essence of all religions too. Anyway
Hinduism can be said to be the most primeval and, so to say, as the mother
"Dharma" sustains the harmony in the cosmos
Dharma means that which links man with God. The Indian name for religion
is Dharma. Dharma is described as: Dharanat Dharma ityahuhu, or Dharayati
Dharma is that which upholds the creation together, which sustains all
the creation-that means which helps to keep up the harmony in creation.
That is the Vedic 'Rita'. It lays the codes of discipline, temporal as
well as spiritual for man to conduct himself during his life's journey
so as to live in tune with and blend himself into the divine harmony of
the Cosmos. Without religion, Cosmos will turn into chaos. Religion implies
realisation of the Reality, i.e., realisation of God who pervades the
entire creation, who inheres in all the beings and who holds all the creations
together; it also charts out the pathway towards this supreme realisation.
stanatraya" - The triple texts: the source scriptures for the religious
philosophy (Vedanta) of the Hindus
(i) "Upanishads" (the end portion of Vedas- the essence of Vedas):
Vedas are, of course, the basic source of Indian religious philosophy.
But they are said to be originally countless-Anantavaivedah, though they
have been later collated by sage Vyasa into four principal texts, namely,
"Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Adharvaveda." The Upanishads,
i.e, the culminating portions of these Vedas (Srutis-divine revelations
or revealed scriptures) form the primary scriptural authority for the
Indian religious philosophy)
(ii) "Brahma Sutra" (the Vedantic aphorisms, as given out by
sage Vyasa): these are a systematic grouping together and enunciation
of the essential doctrines of the Upanishads.
(iii) "Bhagavad Gita" (the song celestial): the gospel given
by Lord Krishna (God Himself)
Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita come under the category of Smritis.
Smritis are secondary scriptures based on Srutis but they are human
compositions whereas Srutis are of divine origin. These triple texts
form the authority for Indian religious philosophy.
Hinduism is predominantly monotheistic
While the Indian Philosophy in its higher and ultimate reaches is absolutist,
i.e, believes in the ultimate Reality as being impersonal, the popular
religion is predominantly theistic, i.e., it believes in a personal
God. The impersonal Brahman (Absolute Spirit) manifests itself as "Iswara",
a perosnal God, and besides as various Avatars from age to age. The
concept of Avatar is explained later under "the principle doctrines
of Hinduism". God manifests Himself on earth among humans, in a
human form, to guide the erring humanity into the right path and to
shower His infinite love and grace. God thus assumes various names.
One is free to choose any name and any form for his adoration and worship.
All names and forms ultimately belong to the one Supreme Being only.
This is spelled out in the Upanishads and re-echoed in the Gita:<
"Ekam Satyam, Bahuda Chintayanti"'
"Truth is one, but it is conceived differently"
"Ye yathamaam prapadyante Taamstathaiva bhajamyaham"
- "Oh Arjuna! whichever path men may choose,, howsoever they may
approach, I do accept them all, as all the paths in their ultimate reaches
lead upto me only, who am the Supreme Godhead."
The infinite is conceived in different ways, as per the various and different
levels of understanding and capacity of men. The multiplicity of names
of deities and forms of worship practised by Hindus are like scaffoldings
of different designs to suit the needs of men and women of varying temperaments,
aptitudes and stages of psychological development prevailing amongst people.
The Hindu seers are conscious of the amazing variety of ways in which
we may approach the Supreme and they have provided for diverse ways of
worship according, to suit the needs of anyone and as per his choosing
However, all worship is said to reach the only one and the supreme Godhead
- "Sarva Deva namaskaram Kesavam prati gacchati!"
Hari roopo Mahadevaha, Lingaroopo Janardhanaha,
Yo vai Vishnuhu, sa vai Rudrah, sa pitamaha,
Yam Saivah samupasate Siva iti, Brahmeti Vedantinah!
The same applies also to the various Vedic deities like Indra, Varuna,
Agni and various aspects, facets and manifestations of the supreme divinity.
The different deities and god-concepts are, as it were, so many doorways
through which men can enter into the sanctum sanctorum of the One and
Final Existence. To a Hindu Worshipper, the "Ishta Devta", his
chosen form of deity, is both the Supreme being as well as in whom all
the other gods also reside. Thus, Hinduism is essentially monotheistic
but with the belief and dictum--"Infinite is God and infinite are
Man's imperative need for religious life
God is the mother and father of all the creation. He is the basis of
all life. Can a son disclaim his mother? Just as the mother, so also is
the religion for man. Actually, God's love for man exceeds that of thousands
of mothers. He is the Sustainer, the Provider and the Redeemer. One cannot
afford to remain a run-away and a 'prodigal son' for long. He has to get
back "home" to his mother and father, i.e., God, sooner or later.
God is Truth, God is Reality. A ceaseless quest for God is the purpose
of human life. Hinduism accepts the theme of evolution of consciousness.
Effort, i.e, "Sadhana" ( moral and spiritual practices ), accelerates
this evolution; man is a ceaseless pilgrim on the path of perfection.
Man is of the same essence as tha t of his Creator. "Tat Twam Asi"
(That thou art) - proclaims the scripture. The core of his personality
is an "amsa" of God himself. In addition to his body (deha),
man has a mind (manas),intellect (buddhi) and a soul (atma) which is the
aspect (amsa) of God himself. The Atma links man with God (Brahman).
Kathopanishad gives the beautiful chariot analogy explaining
"The senses (indriyas) are the horses, the objects sought by the
senses are the roads, the body is the chariot, buddhi is the charioteer
and mind is the reins that control the unruly horses. Lord of the chariot
is Atman, and senses are to be regulated by the reins of mind, mind by
the intellect and intellect should be subservient to the Spirit, who is
the lord of the chariot of the human body".
This is what is meant by "yoga", i.e, union of individual consciousness
with the Supreme Consciousness by restraint of senses and mind and treading
on the Godward path. This is the main theme of religion.
Religion implies realisation
Religion does not end with man's mere intellectual belief and faith in
scriptural teaching; but it demands his intuitive experiencing of the
Reality, the nature of which is suggestively pointed out in the scriptures.
Religion finds its fulfillment and fructification in realisation of the
Truth which is the sole purpose and goal of religion.
For this realisation, Vedic religion advocates all the three paths, viz,
"Karma, Bhakti and Jnana." They are complementary to one another.
All these paths duly integrated and harmonised are described in the Gita;
Meditation on self is simultaneously stressed on for the Realisation.
"Atmavare srotavyo, mantavyo, nidhidhyasitavyo Maitreyo"--says
"Sravana" - listening to the scriptural Truth, i.e, any of the
Maha Vakyas (from preceptor), "Manana" - reflection on the truth
heard and "Nidhidhyasana" - deep contemplation on the Truth,
this is the discipline for the realisation of the Truth(self)".
The Vedantic Maha Vakyas are:
1. "Pragnanam Brahma" - "The Supreme
Consciousness is Brahman."
2. "Tatwamasi" - "That thou art."
3. "Ayamatma Brahma" - "The self within me is Brahman."
4. "Aham Brahmasmi" - "I am Brahman."
The first two Maha Vakyas are the Proclamations by the Guru, the preceptor,
to the disciple by way of instruction (Adesa Vakya); the third Maha Vakya
is the premise for contemplation by the disciple and fourth is his (disciples's)
exclamation after his experiencing his identity with God-Head (Anubhava
Before we take to the quest of Truth, we should have our hearts purified;
this is the four fold preparatory discipline called Sadhana Chatushtaya
enjoined on all aspirants.
The four fold disciplines are:
(i) "VIVEKA" - " Nityanitya Vastu Viveka
Jnana" (discrimination between impermanent and the permanent, the
unreal and the Real and non-self and Self).
(ii) "VAIRAGYA" - "Ihamutraphalabhoga Vairaga" (desirelessness
for the joys of this world or the joys of the other world, i.e, of Heaven).
(iii) "SHAT SAMPATTI" - (the sixfold treasures). Sama (mind
control), Dama (control of senses), Uparati (contentment), Titiksha
(forbearance), Sraddha (abiding faith) and Samadhana (steadfastness
and equanimity of mind).
(iv) "MUMUKSHATVA" - (yearning for liberation)
A moral, ethical and virtuous life is insisted upon and one should eschew
and overcome the six inner enemies in our nature, viz., Kama (lust), Krodha
(anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (attachment), Mada (pride) and Matsarya (hatred).
Elimination of these is essential otherwise spritual effort will not fructify.
In a purified heart only the light of the Spirit can dawn and shine.
Some of the principal doctrines of Hinduism
(i) The law of "Karma" (causation) and theory
Creation is governed by an unalterable law - the 'Rita' of the Rig Veda.
Nothing is arbitrary. God is not a capricious tyrant. The law of Karma,
which is fundamental to Hinduism lays down that we reap the harvest, we
have previously sown. The action is the seed, its consequences are the
harvest we have to reap. As we sow, so we reap.
A corollary of the above is the law of rebirth. We go through many births
before we are able to reach back to our source, i.e, God, and get released
from the vicious circle of birth and death. That stage is called "Moksha",
the final redemption.
Hinduism lays down how this state is to be reached. The word 'Moksha'
itself gives the clue 'Moha -Kshaya' i.e, desirelessness. To be desireless
is to be free from the fruits of our actions. The Gita calls it "Nishkama
Karma". Action or Karma is essential for the world's progress and
human welfare; it forms a major factor for human sustenance. But action
with an eye on its reward or fruit binds us more strongly to the wheel
of birth and death. Action carried out as duty, in a spirit of submission
to God, indeed liberates. The Gita calls it 'Karma phala tyaga'. Such
a doer is a free man; he carries out God's will and is not enslaved by
any motive or selfish desires.
(ii) Varnasrama Dharmas
Hinduism takes cognisance of the overall welfare of society and all aspects
and needs of life. It sets down four purposes for man's life. These are
called the four Purusharthas - "Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha".
Artha and Kama should subserve Dharma and all should be oriented towards
attainment of Moksha. It also sets down the codes of duties pertaining
to each stage of life viz. "Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha
and Sanyasa" (Asramadharmas) and so also to one's station and vocation
in life (Varna-dharmas or caste duties). Here caste (Varna) is not to
be determined by birth. It is determined by one's guna and karma (quality/qualifications
and profession). Gita clearly says Guna Karma Vibhagasah. Guna is one's
nature, aptitude and capacity. Karma is the profession which one has chosen
'commensurate with his qualifications and capacities'. All this duties
are to be performed, as said above, as Nishkama Karma. 'Na idam mama',
and 'Iswararpanam' are to be the attitude in all activities. Then Karma
gets transformed into Yoga which redeems and liberates.
(iii) The concept of "Avatar"
One of the wonderful and unique doctrines of Hinduism is the concept
of 'Avatar'. This word is derived from the word 'avatarana' which means
'descent'. It is descent of God to earth in human or any other form. Its
purpose is to preserve Dharma, the Supreme Law of righteousness in the
world. God incarnates again and again, from age to age, whenever Dharma
is on the decline.
Man, though divine in origin, is still apt to do evil and contribute
to filling the world with misery. 'To err is human' it is said. When men
are almost on the threshold of disaster, God incarnates Himself and continues
his mission of redemption and revitalisation of righteousness, Dharma.
Hinduism usually refers to 10 Avatars. But Indians have never been so
rigid to believe that these will incarnate in India alone.
The Hindu regards every great prophet, no matter where he may manifest
himself, as a God's Messenger, or as God incarnated Himself as man. This
shows the great spirit of tolerance which has been the country's tradition,
its unique catholicity in matters of religion and its veneration to other
faiths. India has always extended generous hospitality to followers of
other religion who have sought shelter in the country from time to time.
In fact, 'secularism', i.e, respect and positive goodwill for different
faiths, is the very basis of Hinduism.
"The paths may be different but the goal is same";
"cows may be of different colours, but they all yield the same milk"
-- such is the attitude of the Hindu to the other faiths.
Hindu social conventions unfortunately have changed with passage of time.
In the Vedic period, women were respected and enjoyed equality with men,
and religious and spiritual activities were open to all men and women
alike. Satyakama, Gargi and Maitreyi are examples of this equality. Some
of the social denials and stigmas seen today are all subsequent accreations.
These evils are social ethos and degeneration which crept in later, in
the course of history, due to various conditions and reasons, but they
never had any religious origin.
Ritualism is an essential feature of any religion. They are, of course,
disciplines primarily intended to cleanse the heart and spiritualise the
whole attitude, vision and life of man. The daily life and conduct of
people of India even today are to a large extent guided by injuctions
of the Vedas. This is particularly true of the ceremonies connected with
birth, marriage and death. These are called "Samskaras" or purifactory
and solemnising rites. Rituals, a large number of them, are thus meaningful,
though sometimes the spirit underlying the ritual is forgotten or missed,
there-by making the ritual appear as blind superstition. Hinduism is no
exception to this general trend; but it must be kept in mind that rituals
and extraneous ceremonials are not essentially the same as religion. All
the same, the deeper significance of ritualism should not be lost sight
A Hindu is expected to worship even animals, plants, rivers and stones
- the real objective being to spiritualise the whole vision and attitude
of man. He has to see the all pervading God behind superficial forms.
Further he has to step out of limitations of ego and establish kinship
with all creation; to be able to apprehend the all pervasive spirit of
God inhering in himself (man), bird, beast and stone alike. By worshiping
a cow, he establishes kinship with all animal life; by worshipping a cobra,
he establishes kinship with all creatures including reptiles; by worshipping
an Aswatha tree or a Tulsi plant, he establishes kinship with all plant
life; by worshipping rivers, mountains and stones, he establishes kinship
with all the inanimate world. These rituals represent a discipline to
cultivate an eye and heart to glimpse the divine behind every pa rt and
particle in the creation. Then alone can true love prevail between man
and peace can reign on earth. That is the Rama Rajya or the "Kingdom
of Heaven on earth" envisaged in the scriptures.
Altruistic and catholic spirit of Hinduism
Brotherhood of man and Fatherhood of God is what Sanatana Dharma emphasises.
It envisages, therefore, that each individual should help his less fortunate
'brother'. This ideology is represented in the saying "I can never
attain perfection in a imperfect society. I must, therefore
work for the welfare of the community too".
Sarvevai sukhinah santu, sarve santu niraamayaah
Sarve bhadrani pasyantu, maakaschit dukhamapnuyat...
"May people of all the lands, everywhere, be happy"
-- Such are the religious prayers of the Hindus.
'Atmano mokshaya, Jagat hitayacha' is the integral
ideal of Hinduism.
That is why Hinduism respected and continues to respect all men, whatever
their ra ce or community and as such there have never been any conversions
to Hinduism which is actually a faith, a way of life. It provides within
this framework infinite shades of beliefs, all of which are said to belong
to Hinduism. It is synthetic religion that tolerates and respects others
and their views. Conversions must come, if at all, by conviction and not
by coersion or extra-religious considerations.
Hinduism is a religion that should satisfy every rational individual.
To recapitulate, its fundamental principles are:
(i) it believes in an all-powerful, all-wise and omnipresent superhuman
and spiritual power.
(ii) it lays down one of the most exhaustive moral, ethical and spiritual
codes or laws for the guidance of the conduct of man on this earth.
(iii) it continuously affirms the divine origin of creation.
(iv) it recognises a way of life based on Satya (Truth), Dharma (Right
conduct), Shanti (peace), Prema (love) and Ahimsa (non-voilence).
(v) its tolerance is a unique factor. It refuses to inflict any harm on
one simply because the latter belongs to a different faith.
(vi) it brings the entire life o f a man, his professional, social and
religious duties under the guidance of Dharma, which is one of its most
(vii) it has never relegated man or creation to a low level. One of the
most profound statements in the Upanishads is "everything in creation
is sacred, because it is breathed upon by the breath of "brahman".
All are an embodiment of the divine spirit.
- Divyatma Swarupas / Amritasya Putraha.
Om bhur bhuvah swah, tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahe, dhiyo yonah prachodayat.
"May the Supreme Light illumine our intellect and direct the rays
of our intelligence to the path of virtue."
Sarve Janah Sukhinobhavantu-- " May all beings be happy "
Asatoma Sadgamaya, Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityoma Amrutamgamaya
Om Santi, Santi, Santhihi!
Oh Lord lead us from untruth to Truth, from darkness into Light and from
mortality to immortality.
Peace, peace, peace.
Note: This article has been compiled from notes of the Lectures given
by Shri S. G. Mudgal, Principal, Ruparel College, at Sri Satya Sai Pre
Sevadal Classes, Bombay
LET US NOT FAIL OR WAVER IN OUR DIVINE SERVICE OF OUR
With all the prayers
Bharat Heritage Mailing Team
Critical Podium Dewanand
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