It is not correct to call the Sanathan Dharma a “religion”.
Unlike traditional “religions” and even the “religion” practiced by the “Hindus“, the actual essence of the Sanathan Dharma is that there is no dogma, single supreme scripture, rituals, pilgrimages, sacrifices or only one single and ultimate path to Brahman.
The meaning of the word philosophy is “Love of Wisdom”.
Like philosophy, the true version of the Sanathan Dharma is to pursue Truth and to question and try to answer the most fundamental matters of self, existence, knowledge, reason, liberation and other basic philosophical concepts.
तत् त्वम् असि Tat Tvam Asi
This is very different from the Abrahamic Religions, which are based not on a pursuit of truth, but a pursuit of the dogma of a “chosen” people who revere a messiah or prophet who is the only source of access to their one and true God.
In fact before the advent of the Abrahamic Religions to the Western World and even to the Middle East, the Greek and Roman traditions and even the traditions of the Middle East were all derived out of the Sanathan Dharma.
Who is your real and true self?
Who are you really after you remove the Ego of “I”, “Me” and “Mine”?
Once you remove Ego, who you really are is Brahman.
Sanathan means Eternal.
There is no correct English translation of the world Dharma.
So the Sanathan Dharma actually means the Eternal Dharma.
It is eternal. It always existed right from the beginning of creation.
It is the only way of the pursuit of Truth.
The Sanathan Dharma is the most complex and diverse of philosophies.
There are 6 schools of philosophy in the Sanathan Dharma:
It is impossible for any human being to learn all paths of the Sanathan Dharma in a single life time.
Another good source and overview and concepts of the Sanathan Dharma is Dharma Wiki.
Another good source is this Google Drive link though some of the content in this link is critical of Islam and Christianity.
Another good site is the Vedic Heritage site established by the Government of Bharat.
The most famous school especially in the west is Yoga.
However the “yoga” that we know and practice today is not even 1/100th of the actual philosophy of Yoga.
These three texts are collectively referred to as the Prasthanatrayi.
Another important text of the Sanathan Dharma is the Yoga Vasistha.
I was introduced to Vedanta at a very young age.
My father had a friend Mr Swami.
He said he had found peace in Vedanta. I also find great peace in the Vedanta.
In fact anybody who reads the Vedanta with an open and unconditioned mind, will find peace in it.
He was solely responsible for reviving the Sanathan Dharma which had fallen into rapid decline due to the spread of Buddhism.
In those times (around 500 BC) he traveled the length and breadth of Bharat mostly by foot.
He established Muttas (monasteries) in the North, South, East and West of Bharat.
All this was done before his death at 32.
In fact Charles Johnston said:
By the Vedanta, we mean, I think, the sum of the rivers of wisdom which rise in the Upanishads, and flow through books like the Bhagavad Gita into the reservoir of the Brahmasutra, made level and water-tight by the commentary of Sankaracharya.
For more about Sankara read my article.
For a person to study the complete works of Sankara, it will take at least 7 years of full time study.
Many other knowledgeable people also have written about the Vedanta.
There are 18 Principal Upanishads (Mukhya Upanishads), 108 Upanishads and more than 1000 minor Upanishads.
For anybody to get a good introduction to the Vedanta, they should read the Mandukya Upanishad which is the shortest, most concise and distilled summary of the Vedanta in just 12 verses.
The main meaning of the verses is:
- Brahman is everything and everywhere including whole Multiverse and also the source of everything.
- The Atman (Self or consciousness) is Brahman
- The four states of consciousness: awake, dreaming, deep sleeping and Pure consciousness
- The meaning of ॐ (AUM) and how the whole Atman can be explained in the word ॐ (AUM)
The actual Mandukya Upanishad can be read here.
Even though the Gita was written millenniums after the Upanishads, it contains the same essence.
“The mind must free itself from the known to enter into the unknown”.
There are three parts to the Vedas:
- The Samitha (hymns)
- The Karma Kanda (rituals) which consist of Brahmanas and Aranyakas.
- The Jnana Kanda (philosophical interpretations) or Vedanta (Upanishads).
In fact the original intention of the Vedas was for the Karma Kanda to just be a brief introduction with deep meaning in symbols and rituals that have now just been reduced to symbolism and its performance solely for self interest.
Once a person was through with Karma Kanda, it was expected that they would proceed to study and understand the Jnana Kanda – the Vedanta which is the actual essence of the Vedas.
The notion that the Upanishads were too complicated was a conspiracy by the Brahmins to keep their importance in society by promoting the ritualistic portions (Karma Kanda)of the Vedas instead of the Jnana Kanda which was an actual exploration of the self and ध्यान that leads to true path of realisation of ब्रह्मन्.
The Vedas are quite mystical and abstract and need a good teacher to interpret them for perhaps years, but the Upanishads are actually quite easy to understand if one has an unconditioned and open mind and a good teacher.
Children have unconditioned and open minds and are open to new thoughts and ideas.
In fact the entire meaning of the word Upanishads is:
To sit near.
The students sat near the guru to learn his wisdom.
They did not just sit near physically with the guru, they also sat near spiritually to gain his enlightenment.
It is a fallacy that the Upanishads are very complicated to understand.
In fact due to the wonderful work done by Sankara, the mystery of the Upanishads can be decoded even by a young child with an open mind.
There are a lot of stories in the Upanishads that are meant to be taught to young students.
But though it is simpler it is still as profound as the Upanishads.
- Dhyana (Raja) Yoga – the highest of all yogas – to become a person balanced in all actions and thoughts.
One who has achieved समत्वम् Samathvam (equanimity).
- Bhakti Yoga (Way of Devotion) – a person whose whole life is dedicated to true worship of God by love and devotion and without any expectation of reward, or fear of retribution.
Bhakti must be succeeded by Jnana because devotion without knowledge is a waste of time.
- Jnana Yoga (Way of Knowledge) – a person who has forever seeking to find true knowledge of God.
Jnana must be preceded by Bhakti because there cannot be knowledge without devotion.
- Karma Yoga (Way of Action) – a person who performs all his actions and works in the service and dedication to God by SEVA (Selfless Service).
We follow the Dharma and perform all works and actions with dedication to Brahman and without attachment to the results of our action.
I have not read all the Vedas, it is too much to read and will take many decades to understand.
It is also very abstract and hard to understand without a commentary from an accomplished guru.
They are a lot more liberal to read than the books of the Abrahamic Religions.
It is very difficult for a person brought up in the dogma of the Abrahamic Religions of the one and true God in heaven only favouring a “chosen” people to even try to understand the wisdom of the Prasthanatrayi.
The Sanathan Dharma has no dogma at all.
The Gita says:
The Gita, the most renowned text of the Sanathan Dharma in modern times, is so great and liberal that it tells you that you do not even need its primary texts the Vedas once you have realised Brahman.
In fact the Yoga Vasistha goes one step further.
According to Verse II : 18 of the Yoga Vasistha:
The remark of even a child is to be accepted, if it is in accordance with reason; but the remark of even Brahman himself, the creator of the world, is to be rejected like a piece of straw if it does not accord with reason.
Unlike the Abrahamic Religions, in the Sanathan Dharma, there is no concept of only a “chosen” people favoured by the one and true God.
In the Gita it says:
I am the same to all,
None is hateful to me,
None is dear to me,
But those who worship Me with devotion, dwell in Me, and I too dwell in them.
Gita Chapter 9 Verse 29
One of the highest sayings in the Sanathan Dharma is:
लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनोभवन्तु
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all the worlds become happy.
It says all worlds, not just human beings.
Another famous saying from the Hitopadesa is:
He is mine and he is another,
Is a thought that narrow minded, selfish and ignorant people have,
For the truly noble and enlightened,
“The whole world is one family.” (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)
It says “Whole world“, not just a “chosen” people.
Fire is the ultimate purifier.
It can reduce a 6ft, 180 pound man like Rambo into a pile of ashes that will fit in a shoe box.
Ash is the ultimate symbol of ब्रह्मन् (Brahman).
Ash cannot be destroyed. It remains even after the body is completely burnt.
That is the essence of the Atma.
It remains indestructible just like ash.
That is why people should cremate instead of bury.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The Gita says:
The body is just a cloth to be discarded when it gets old and that the soul is immortal and cannot be slain.
Unlike modern “Hindu” worship of only Vishnu and Shiva, in the Rig Veda the gods of Nature were given as much importance and Vishnu(Narayana) and Shiva(Rudra) are mentioned in the same measure as the gods Indra, Agni, Vayu, Surya, Soma, Yama and Varun.
The Mahakavya (Grand Pronouncement) of the Prasthanatrayi is:
तत् त्वम् असि Tat Tvam Asi
To a person of the Abrahamic Religions, especially one who does not understand the true meaning of the Abrahamic religions, this is blasphemy punishable by death.
The Kena Upanishad says:
They also prohibit gambling and drinking and idolatry and hatred for homosexuals.
If you read the Prasthanatrayi (Upanishads, Brahmasutra and Gita) and Yoga Vasistha you will wonder at the greatness of ब्रह्मन् who is both Nirguna (without any attributes) and at the same time Saguna) (with infinite attributes).
Unlike most Abrahamic Religions, that only pursue austerity, strict penance, fasting and multiple daily prayers to God as the object of human pursuit, the Sanathan Dharma is the only philosophy that espouses four stages of life as objects of human pursuit (Puruṣārtha):
- Artha (desire for wealth and prosperity)
- Kama (pursuit of desires that make one happy, love, sensual desires)
- Moksha (enlightenment)
In the Gita it also says:
Any attempt to realise ब्रह्मन् must be done alone in a solitary place and with a consistently calm and devoted mind. Chapter 13 verse 8-12
There are no innumerable man made superfluous rules of identity and morality in the Sanathan Dharma.
There is just one absolute, perfect and divine law of Brahman:
The highest ideal of the Sanathan Dharma is:
SEVA or Selfless Service.
SEVA not just to humanity, but to all beings in all worlds.
The Sanathan Dharma is not just a religion of peace and love and non-violence.
One of the other Mahakavyas(Grand Pronouncements) is:
Dharma defends those who defend it.
And Dharma destroys those who destroy it.
Another well known verse from the Mahabharat is:
अहिंसा परमो धर्मः
धर्म हिंसा तथीव च
“Ahimsa Parmo Dharma
Dharma Himsa Tathaiva Cha”
Ahimsa (Non-violence) is the supreme Dharma,
So too is violence in service of Dharma.
There are many parts to the Vedas:
- Vedas consisting of Rig, Sama and Yajur Vedas. The Atharva Veda is a later addition.
- The Upanishads
- The Brahma Sutra
- Vedanga consisting of:
- Upaangas consisting of:
In fact the agricultural, medical and scientific aspects of the Vedas are better and more useful and beneficial than todays so called “modern” Western “medicine” and “scientific technology”.
“Modern” western “medicine” is no better than drug dealing and is derived from the horrible torture and suffering of innocent animals.
There is no dogma, rituals or commands to follow in the Gita.
The main thing that one learns from the Gita is that one must do must ones duty to uphold Dharma, regardless of relationships and without attachment to the fruit of ones actions and no expectation or control over the results.
What is Dharma?
If you have to break your vow to uphold Dharma, you should break it.
If you have to cheat to uphold Dharma, you should cheat.
If you have to kill your own wicked family to uphold Dharma, you should kill them or you will die a wicked death.
The Mahabharat is not just an epic, it is the greatest epic poem in all of mankind.
Most people think the Mahabharat is basically a story about war between cousins, but a significant part of the epic including the Gita and Shanti Parva is dedicated to peace and great spiritual benefit.
The Mahabharat is a lot of stories and fables within a main story.
The fables within the Mahabharat itself can form more children’s moral fables, than perhaps all books in the Western world.
When Krishna said “me” and “I”, he did not mean him as a man, but him as the supreme lord which is part of Brahman.
“I have given you my wisdom, it is for you to do as you think fit.”
He told Arjuna to do as Arjuna thought fit.
Arjuna acted out of his own free will after hearing the wisdom of Lord Krishna.
Bhishma always followed the Dharma, but he did not follow the advice of Krishna who advised that Dharma should be followed at all costs, even if you have to break your vow or kill your own wicked family.
His failure to truly follow Dharma lead to a destructive war and he ended up lying on a bed of arrows which pierced every inch of his body.
I said that the Gita can be read in less than 4 hours and that is true, but to really understand it and practice its teachings it will take many lifetimes and even that is not enough.
According to the Chapter 16 the Gita, there are only two types of beings on this earth:
Bhagavad Gita(Chapter 16 Verses 1-3)
(1) The Blessed Lord said: Fearlessness, purity of mind, wise apportionment of knowledge and concentration, charity, self-control and sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity and uprightness.
(2) Non-violence, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquility, aversion to fault finding, compassion to living beings, freedom from covetousness, gentleness, modesty and steadiness (absence of fickleness).
(3) Valour, forgiveness, fortitude, purity and cleanliness, freedom from malice, envy and excessive pride – these, O Pandava (Arjuna), are the endowments of him who is born with the divine nature.
(5) The divine endowments are said to make for deliverance and the demoniac for bondage. Grieve not, O Pandava (Arjuna), thou art born with the divine endowments (for a divine destiny).
(4) Ostentation, arrogance, excessive pride, anger, as also harshness and ignorance, these, O Bharata (Arjuna), are the endowments of him who is born with the demoniac nature.
(7)Those who are demoniac do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them.
(8)They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust.
(9)Following such conclusions, the demoniac, who are lost to themselves and who have no intelligence, engage in unbeneficial, horrible works meant to destroy the world.
(10)Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent.
(11-12)They believe that to gratify the senses is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus until the end of life their anxiety is immeasurable. Bound by a network of hundreds of thousands of desires and absorbed in lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.
(13-15)“The demoniac person thinks: “So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice.” In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance.”
(16)Thus perplexed by various anxieties and bound by a network of illusions, they become too strongly attached to sense enjoyment and fall down into hell.
(17)Self-complacent and always impudent, deluded by wealth and false prestige, they sometimes proudly perform sacrifices in name only, without following any rules or regulations.
1. Om. There once lived Svetaketu the grandson of Aruna.
Also read the story of Satyakama in the Chandogya Upanishad.
Satyakama did not know who his father was and from what family he came from and so he asked his mother who his father was.
His mother told him she was very busy in her youth so she did not remember who his father was, but her name was Jabala and his name was Satyakama, so he could called himself Satyakama Jabala.
So he spoke the truth to Rishi Haridrumata Gautama and told him the truth as his mother had told him and that he was very eager to learn from the Rishi.
Some of it is pretty strange like Draupadi having five husbands.
But the reason that Draupadi had five husbands is not because of her wish, but the blind ignorant order of her mother-in-law Kunti who when told that her son Arjuna had brought something precious to her, without even thinking or seeing what he brought, she told him to divide the precious thing equally among her brothers.
There is also the Brahma Sutra which I have read.
It is a summary analysis of the Upanishads .
He has an excellent introduction and interpretations throughout the book.
S Radhakrishnan is the translator and interpreter.
He is probably one of the few individuals in this world who was fortunate enough to have exposure to a global perspective.
S Radhakrishnan was also the President of India.
The best thing I like about the Sanathan Dharma is that it can be what you want it to be.
Unlike the Abrahamic Religions, in the Sanathan Dharma, there is no single book containing the final word of the one and true God that was only secretly revealed only to a chosen messenger who is the only source of access to God..
There cannot be a final word from God because God is beyond time and definition.
There is no final word from Brahman.
And even that can be changed in your favour if you abide by Dharma.
But since the Rtam is dispensed dispassionately, even if you abide by Dharma in this life, your bad karma of past lives and even this life will have to be repaid not only in this life but perhaps even in future lives.
Another important portion of the Sanathan Dharma are the Puranas.
They are an extremely vast storehouse of knowledge about a variety of topics.
When I have more time after I have outlined other concepts on this website, I will get down to a study of at least the main Puranas.
The problem with most people are that they are only taken up with the mythical tales of the Puranas.
They fail to comprehend the underlying concepts of Dharma which is also an essence of these mythical tales.
The Puranas are not just mythical tales.
In fact if the government of Bharat set up many institutes just to study all technological formulas and mantras in the Puranas, Vedas and other Shastras (historical texts), major inventions and innovations would be developed by Bharat which would change its future for generations.
The Sanathan Dharma is not just a study for serious scholars.
Some of the most wonderful and profound concepts of the Sanathan Dharma like Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (“The whole world is one family”) are found even in children’s moral fables like Panchatantra and Hitopadesa.
Man, removing Avidya (Ignorance) and removing Maya (Illusion of material comfort as happiness) is the pure Atma (Consciousness) which is the same as ब्रह्मन् which leads to the grand pronouncement of the Arya Dharma:
When they say elimination of material desires it does not mean that one should give away everything and retire into the forest naked.
Elimination of material desires mean that one is not affected by material desires and it makes no difference to them if they have or lose something.
Equanimity or even mindedness.
समत्वम् Samathvam means that one should treat their enemies the same as they would treat their friends and family.
समत्वम् Samathvam means that one should treat a bucket of manure and a pot of gold equally.
समत्वम् Samathvam means that one should treat death same as they would treat birth.
समत्वम् Samathvam means that they should treat pain same as they would treat pleasure.
समत्वम् Samathvam is extremely difficult to practice.
But once you reach समत्वम् Samathvam, you unite with Brahman and achieve Moksha (NO THING or Shunyata).
Unlike the Abrahamic religions, where the ultimate reward is a heaven or paradise filled with material pleasures or 7th century Arab sexual fantasies, the ultimate goal of the Sanathan Dharma is Moksha (NO THING Shunyata)
So finally, its all about nothing 🙂
After all the hard work you put in to understand and practice the Sanathan Dharma hopefully you would have achieved nothing 🤦