Sanatana- means 'Eternal'.
Dharma- derived from sanskrit root 'dhri'- means to 'sustain'. Dharma is hence that which 'holds together'- which makes the universes run in their orbits.
Sanatana Dharma, which means cosmic balance and righteousness, the eternal or universal tradition, is the ancient and the actual name for what we today call the Hindu religion. It refers to a dharma, a teaching, law or truth that exists in perpetuity, that is all-encompassing, embracing the full spectrum of human spiritual experience, culminating in the direct realization of the Divine as one's own true Self.
Through the course of time and human limitations, Hinduism may have taken on various elements which do not reflect this eternal essence of universal truth. However, the power of Sanatana Dharma continues behind the Hindu tradition, particularly in its Yoga and Vedanta spiritual forms, providing it with a depth, breadth and vitality that perhaps no other spiritual tradition on Earth is able to sustain.
One can find in Hinduism all the main religious teachings of the world from nature worship, to theism, to the formless Absolute. One can find practices of devotion, yoga, mantra and meditation in a great plethora of expressions, including the world's most sophisticated spiritual philosophies of Self-realization. Hinduism is not anchored to any single prophet, book or historical revelation that can tie down the expanse of its vision. It does not subordinate the individual to an outer religious authority, but encourages everyone to discover the Divine within their own awareness.
Indeed, if one were to synthesize all the existing religions of the world, one would end up with a teaching much like Hindu Dharma. Hinduism has the devotional theism of western religions, the karma theory and meditation practices of Buddhism, and the nature worship of native traditions, all unified at a deep philosophical and experiential level into one harmonious fabric. Hinduism appears like the common root from which these various religious expressions have diversified or perhaps, departed.
Global Sanatana Dharma
Yet though Hinduism has been its main expression through history, Sanatana Dharma as a universal and eternal tradition cannot be reduced to the forms of Hinduism or to a tradition belonging only to India. Sanatana Dharma has counterparts in other lands and traditions. In fact, one can argue, wherever the higher truth is recognized, that is Sanatana Dharma, regardless of the names, forms or personalities involved.
If we look at the ancient world prior to the predominance of western monotheistic traditions, we find much that resembles Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma, whether among the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Celts, Persians, Chinese or Mayas to name but a few. India is the land in which Sanatana Dharma has taken the deepest root and maintained its best continuity. Hinduism is the religion in which Sanatana Dharma has best survived. But Santana Dharma is relevant to all peoples and must be recognized throughout the world for the planet to achieve its real potential for the unfoldment of consciousness.
One then may ask, "If Hinduism is an expression of Sanatana Dharma, why does it appear to be limited to India like a local ethnic religion, rather than a universal approach?" The first thing to realize in this regard is that a universal approach will always seek to create local forms. For example, a universal approach to diet will encourage people to eat the local food that has the best nutritional content. It will not emphasize the same food items for people in all lands and climates.
Sanatana Dharma will always create a great diversity of local forms, and never aim at uniformity. Uniformity is not a sign of universality, but of artificiality. Dharma is not a set of fixed beliefs or practices but a way of adaptation to the living truth that is always changing in form though one in law and principle. Even in India we see a great deal of local diversity in how Hinduism is presented and expressed in the different parts of the country. This variety that exists within Hinduism is probably greater than the variety found within any other religion. Yet through all of this diversity there remains a clear unity of Hindu thought and culture.
Sanatana Dharma is central to the soul of India as a nation. India's place in human history is to function as the global guru or spiritual guide rooted in Sanatana Dharma as Sri Aurobindo once eloquently proclaimed. The traditional culture of India is infused with yoga, meditation and experiential spirituality of all types. This means that India cannot flourish as a country without a recognition of Sanatana Dharma and an honoring of its values on all levels of India's culture.
However, besides its connection to Sanatana Dharma, India has another side, much like many other countries and cultures. There are divisive forces that deny this dharmic cultural unity, whether in the name of political ideologies like Marxism, other religious traditions like Christianity and Islam, or sectarian trends within Hinduism itself. Even in Hindu society, we too frequently see an emphasis on clan, family, and community that overrides any greater national interests or even the greater needs of Hinduism itself. This narrow vision can reduce Hindu Dharma to an Indian tradition only, or it can emphasize one Hindu sect or guru while ignoring the greater background of Sanatana Dharma.
One encounters this problem particularly when non-Indians seek to become Hindus. They are often told that one must be born a Hindu and cannot convert to Hinduism, which is not true historically or Hinduism could have never spread so far as it has. We also see this problem with Hindus who have migrated outside of India. They form their own religious communities, which is admirable, but do not make much of an effort to bring non-Indians into these, even when such individuals may approach them seeking to join Hindu Dharma. This further gives the impression that Hinduism is a religion for a particular ethnic group only, not a universal path. It can turn away westerners who have a genuine receptivity to Sanatana Dharma.
The Revival of Hinduism through Sanatana Dharma
To counter such attempts to limit Hinduism and to bring its teachings out for the benefit of all, we need a revival of Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma, the eternal or universal tradition, for the entire planet. Such a global projection of Sanatana Dharma does not deny the importance of Hinduism as central to India, its culture, its past and its future. But it emphasizes a global and expansive Hinduism, not one that contracts itself according to geographical or ethnic boundaries.
Such a bold assertion of Sanatana Dharma makes Hinduism relevant to all peoples, all religions and all cultures. It removes Hinduism from being restricted to local forms or controlled by the dictates of any particular group. This expansive Sanatana Dharma will naturally honor India and seek a revival of Hinduism in India. But it will do so with a global vision and a linking up with Hindus and dharmic groups worldwide.
There have already been important movements in this in direction. In fact, one can argue that the global spread of Hindu teachings like Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda is a sign of Sanatana Dharma arising at a global level. Gurus from India and their teachings have spread to all countries.
Unfortunately, many modern teachers from India have left the greater portion of Hinduism behind in their attempt to gain a broader recognition, to the extent of denying their Hindu roots and not educating their disciples in the greater Hindu tradition, its importance and its values. Instead of honoring the Hindu connection with Sanatana Dharma, they promote an artificial unity of all religions that puts Hindu views and practices in the background or ignores them altogether.
Such teachers state that people can add the spiritual practices of the Hindu tradition, like Yoga and Vedanta, on to any other cultural or religious foundation. They do not encourage people to study and honor the Hindu tradition itself but rather to stay within their own culture's religious tradition, even if it is anti-Hindu. They do not emphasize Hinduism's special connection to Sanatana Dharma, but try to make Hindus feel that all other religions are the same as their own and no real differences exist between them.
In this regard, such teachers of universal spirituality are making a mistake in their understanding of dharma. Sanatana Dharma is not just a spiritual path or what is called a Moksha Dharma, a way of liberation. Sanatana Dharma shows a dharmic way for all aspects of life starting with personal life-style practices, to the family, education, business, intellectual culture and even politics (all the spheres of dharma, artha, kama and moksha).
Unfortunately, the teachers who try to universalize the Moksha Dharma of Hinduism and apply it to all religions leave out the other aspects of Dharma, which includes the dharmic foundation for both social and individual life. A new resurgent global Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma will project all aspects of dharma and not be limited to a Moksha Dharma. It is important that we replace this "radical universalism" of all religions being the same, which is a misinterpretation and diminution of Sanatana Dharma, with a global Hindu and dharmic resurgence that affirms Sanatana Dharma as both a spiritual path and a way of life on all levels.
It is not only Yoga and Vedanta that have universal value, so does the foundation of Hindu Dharma on all levels. This includes Hindu rituals, which are a science of interacting with the cosmic forces, Hindu temples and holy places which are conduits for cosmic energy, Vedic sciences like Ayurveda, Vedic astrology and Vastu, Hindu music and dance and other Hindu art forms. These outer aspects of Hindu or dharmic living can be developed and adapted in different cultural contexts but their basic principles are as enduring as the great truth of Vedanta that there is only one Self in all beings.
On this foundation of dharmic living, both in terms of our outer culture and our inner spiritual practices, people from all lands and cultures can embrace Sanatana Dharma. They can find in Hindu thought a model for an authentic dharmic culture and spirituality that addresses their own individual, social and environmental needs, which they can use to restructure their lives as way of Self-realization. In that dharmic approach, all divisive religious identities will disappear into a greater unity of consciousness, not only with other human beings, but with the entire universe.
Amitesh Kumar Thanks Tina for tagging me. Very informative and a must read for all. Many amongst us are ignorant of the fact that Sanatana Dharma represents much more than just a religion; rather, it provides its followers with an entire worldview, way of life and with a coherent and rational view of reality.
November 7, 2010 at 5:11pm · Like · 3 people
Per Eric Gillberg The word Dharma is derived from the root Dhr—to hold— ‘that which holds’ this world together, or we can say the people of the world. It is the eternal Divine Law of the Lord. The entire creation is held together and sustained by the All-powerful Law of God. Practice of Dharma, therefore, means recognition of this Law and abidance by it. This truly mean that it is universal and as the basis of all life in all cultures on earth.
"Bhishma says in his instructions to Yudhishthira that whatever creates conflict is Adharma, and whatever puts an end to conflict and brings about unity and harmony is Dharma. Anything that helps to unite all and develop pure divine love and universal brotherhood, is Dharma. Anything that creates discord, split and disharmony and foments hatred, is Adharma. Dharma is the cementer and sustainer of social life"
November 7, 2010 at 8:37pm · Like · 6 people
Anu Mullick Kaul thank you so much for this important thought provoking and extremely informative piece on Hinduism.I would luv to share it with others and especially those in the mediation class i am starting this month.What a wealth of info all in one place....Om.
Vibhu Sharma Sanatana Dharma, meaning “Eternal or Universal Righteousness” is the original name of what is now popularly called Hinduism. Sanatana Dharma comprises of spiritual laws which govern the human existence. Sanatana Dharma is to human life what natural laws are to the physical phenomena. Just as the phenomena of gravitation existed before it was discovered, the spiritual laws of life are eternal laws which existed before they were discovered by the ancient rishis (sages) for the present age during the Vedic period. Sanatana Dharma declares that something cannot come out of nothing and, therefore, the universe itself is the manifestation of the Divine being. This truth forms the invocation of the Isa Upanishad (a Hindu scripture):
Poornam-adah, poornam-idam, poor-nath poornam-udachyate.
Poor-nasya poornam-adaya, poornam-eva-va-sishyate.
That is full; this is full. The full comes out of the full.
Taking the full from the full, the full itself remains.
This verse expresses the mystery of creation. This universe comes forth from the Divine, yet the universe takes nothing from the Divine and adds nothing to It. Divine remains ever the same. Since the universe has come forth from the Divine, all things and beings are sacred and must be treated so in human thought and action. The Divine sleeps in minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals and thinks in humans.
Sanatana Dharma looks upon a person as a part and parcel of the mighty Whole, but never regards him as “the Measure of all things.” In the West, “person” is a supreme and final value, while Sanatana Dharma regards person as a part of the Whole, having the same vital essence as all other human and sub-human creatures of the universe. This cosmic view of Hinduism transcends the sectarian or group dogmas and paves a way for the coexistence of all creatures under the Vedic principle of Vasudev Kutumbhkam, meaning “The Universe is One Family.” This principle guides the humankind towards universal harmony through acceptance and tolerance.
Sanatana Dharma recognizes that the Ultimate Reality, which is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization, cannot be limited by any name or concept. The potential for human wholeness (or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, liberation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana, moksha) is present in every human being. No race or religion is superior and no color or creed is inferior. All humans are spiritually united like the drops of water in an ocean.
November 8, 2010 at 11:25am · Like · 5 people
Gurushankar Swaminathan Thanks for the tag & David Frawley has been doing some phenomenal work on Sanathana Dharma. Our dharma espouses freewill w/o any dogmas & also the concept of liberation or mukti. While attaining mukti is the pinnacle of the practices of our dharma, it can be attained only after the the other lower rungs are understood.
Our dharma is so embedded in our society that those that are illeterate & donot understand the nuances of our dharma still do relate to mukti. While the big picture of flashing the greatness of our dharma worldwide shouldnot be forgotten, it is important that we put our own house in order. We must tranlsate the works like the one above into other languages & take it to the grassroots.
November 8, 2010 at 11:49am · Like · 4 people
Per Eric Gillberg @ Tina, You doing a a wonderful and very valuable work here on FB, it's really the best way to exploit the opportunities that this social network have, thank you very much.
Om & prem
November 8, 2010 at 12:55pm · Like · 2 people
Natesh Mahadevan While Relgion by itself is a limitation - the essence of hinduism is that of Freedom, Moksha.
Every other system or religion has a limited set of priniciples and ethics or a single master to whom the religion ascribes to - but the hindu way...See More
November 8, 2010 at 1:03pm · Like · 5 people
Tina ૐ Sadhwani Thank you "everyone" for these valuable and deeply enlightening inputs... you all have touched upon many important elements of Sanatana Dharma, approaching it from many angles and many levels, providing a humanist, rational and profoundly h...See More
November 8, 2010 at 1:37pm · Like · 6 people
Varun Ahlawat Religion is a set of belief , dharam is not a set of belief . Like everything ......English change this 2 . He is not in us , we are in him . The eternal , the absolute , being . He is the breath of all breath
November 8, 2010 at 2:47pm · Like · 3 people
Amitesh Kumar By its nature, Sanatan Dharma is
1. God-centered rather than prophet-centered.
2. Experience based rather than belief based.
3. Beyond any historical date of founding.
4. The process of growth, which comes from the seed.
5. Inherent in, and inclusive of all.
6. In the world, while above the world.
7. Both immanent and transcendent.
8. The whole and the parts.
9. Loving of all and excluding of none.
November 8, 2010 at 5:48pm · Like · 4 people
Aline Trejo Thanks for tagging me Tina,I feel very honored ;)))...Sanatana Dharma is the eternal service that the living entity offers to God..
Community projects for the four orders of society,combined with family welfare activities ,as are set forth...See More
November 8, 2010 at 9:32pm · Like · 2 people
Siddharth Kaul I agree Tinaji.....east or west, sanatan dharma is the best! :)
om namah shivaye
November 9, 2010 at 3:44am · Like
Surye Narayan Singh Thakur A brilliant Article..really succinct ...Thanks a lot Tina for the tag..Once again as always, you have helped us revisit the basics of our culture which are so obvious but so easily ignored.
The best part for me was the para
// Unfortunately, many modern teachers from India have left the greater portion of Hinduism behind in their attempt to gain a broader recognition, to the extent of denying their Hindu roots and not educating their disciples in the greater Hindu tradition, its importance and its values. Instead of honoring the Hindu connection with Sanatana Dharma, they promote an artificial unity of all religions that puts Hindu views and practices in the background or ignores them altogether. //
November 9, 2010 at 12:13pm · Like · 1 person
Surye Narayan Singh Thakur We as present day hindus/ Indians at times are too much worried about getting ourself stamped with approval of authenticity from westerners. This thought emerges from lack of self belief which ofcourse can only emerge if we dont follow the ...See More
November 9, 2010 at 12:14pm · Like · 4 people
Vibhu Sharma हिन्दुत्व एक जीवन पद्धति अथवा जीवन दर्शन है जो धर्म, अर्थ, काम, मोक्ष को परम लक्ष्य मानकर व्यक्ति या समाज को नैतिक, भौतिक, मानसिक एवं आध्यात्मिक उन्नति के अवसर प्रदान करता है। हिन्दू समाज किसी एक भगवान की पूजा नहीं करता, किसी एक मत का अनुया...यी नहीं हैं, किसी एक व्यक्ति द्वारा प्रतिपादित या किसी एक पुस्तक में संकलित विचारों या मान्यताओं से बँधा हुआ नहीं है। वह किसी एक दार्शनिक विचारधारा को नहीं मानता, किसी एक प्रकार की मजहबी पूजा पद्धति या रीति-रिवाज को नहीं मानता। वह किसी मजहब या सम्प्रदाय की परम्पराओं की संतुष्टि नहीं करता है। आज हम जिस संस्कृति को हिन्दू संस्कृति के रूप में जानते हैं और जिसे भारतीय या भारतीय मूल के लोग सनातन धर्म या शाश्वत नियम कहते हैं वह उस मजहब से बड़ा सिद्धान्त है जिसे पश्चिम के लोग समझते हैं । कोई किसी भगवान में विश्वास करे या किसी ईश्वर में विश्वास नहीं करे फिर भी वह हिन्दू है। यह एक जीवन पद्धति है; यह मस्तिष्क की एक दशा है। हिन्दुत्व एक दर्शन है जो मनुष्य की भौतिक आवश्यकताओं के अतिरिक्त उसकी मानसिक, बौद्धिक एवं आध्यात्मिक आवश्यकता की भी पूर्ति करता है।
भारत भूमि में अनेक ऋषि, सन्त और द्रष्टा उत्पन्न हुए हैं। उनके द्वारा प्रकट किये गये विचार जीवन के सभी पहलुओं पर प्रकाश डालते हैं। कभी उनके विचार एक दूसरे के पूरक होते हैं और कभी परस्पर विरोधी। हिन्दुत्व एक उद्विकासी व्यवस्था है जिसमें अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतन्त्रता रही है। इसे समझने के लिए हम किसी एक ऋषि या द्रष्टा अथवा किसी एक पुस्तक पर निर्भर नहीं रह सकते। यहाँ विचारों, दृष्टिकोणों और मार्गों में विविधता है किन्तु नदियों की गति की तरह इनमें निरन्तरता है तथा समुद्र में मिलने की उत्कण्ठा की तरह आनन्द और मोक्ष का परम लक्ष्य है।
November 9, 2010 at 12:26pm · Like · 2 people
Anu Mullick Kaul Tina could u pls tell me the source o f this article.thank.
November 10, 2010 at 12:13am · Like
Tina ૐ Sadhwani @Anu the article is by David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva)-this is the online source: http://www.vedanet.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=148
There are more articles by him given here: http://www.vedanet.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=1&Itemid=2
This is another great site for articles on Vedic culture and Hinduism by Stephen Knapp: http://www.stephen-knapp.com/articles_to_read.htm
And finally this is one of the best websites for information on everything related to Hinduism, its science, yoga, history, cosmology, basic concepts, etc: http://www.hinduwisdom.info/
November 10, 2010 at 12:45am ·