Sanatan Dharma

(The Law of Eternity)

The sages were aware of the greatness of Sanatan Dharma and carefully and consciously named it as such. It means Law of Eternity. That cosmic Law, which is ever-operative, was first realised by the sages and thereafter they called the same as Sanatan. The term Sanatan is meaningful indeed. Sanatan Dharma is ever present and God-made. It is beginningless and endless too. It is not the brainchild of any human being. Common mass may not understand its great implications.

The English term of Dharma is Religion. But this is not an appropriate substitute for Dharma, which has a definite connotation in Sanskrit or other Indian languages whereas the word, 'religion', has its usual limitations. Many people understand that observance of Dharma is nothing but following certain rituals prevalent in the society. Some others feel that Dharma is nothing but praying or worshipping God in some particular way. Some consider that Dharma lies in giving charity, chanting God's name and undergoing fasting for receiving divine grace.

Many people think that telling truth is Dharma; offering sacrifices is Dharma; offering charity is Dharma; building temples, churches or mosques is Dharma. Dharma has been more misunderstood than understood as a result of which many actively indulge in different deeds in the name of Dharma, only for the fulfilment of their varied desires. It is tragic that Dharma has not been understood properly by many. Every one boasts of his own religion and denounces the other religion. Through out the world, this feeling of upholding one's own faith and denouncing others' is seen quite often.

It has to be remembered that whatever knowledge the sages have imparted, is nothing but the essence of Sanatan Dharma. At different times, those teachings slowly faded into oblivion and therefore partial observance of Dharma is seen in some cases. Since we do not have the precise knowledge about Dharma, we try to explain Dharma by stating that praying God is Dharma; Nonviolence is Dharma; Speaking truth is Dharma; Doing one's own karma is Dharma; Performing some rituals is Dharma. But deeper insight into the subject will reveal that these are only means to Dharma and not really Dharma. Real Dharma is something else, far above all these.

Scriptures prescribe that sufferings shall vanish by following Dharma. But when the world undergoes chains of sufferings, it indicates that we do not really practise Dharma rather we practise adharma (opposite to Dharma) mistaking the same for Dharma.

Dharma in the phenomenal world.

Whatever is seen in the realm of nature, whatever changes are perceived in nature by way of creation, preservation and destruction and whatever we come across like Sun, Moon, Planets. Stars, animals, plants etc in the process of change are definitely caused and conditioned by some one. In other words, there is definitely some causal factor behind all these. There are laws to accomplish the process. The Law governs all changes, the effect of which we see as the gross objects or the visible world.

To be clearer, there are some laws for the creation, there are some laws for preservation and there are some laws for destruction also. Nothing would have been possible without the Laws. For example, a plant to survive, to bear flowers and fruits, to develop seeds and again seeds to grow into plants, some pre-existing laws are at work. Similarly the roots of the tree go deep and suck the substances from the soil for its sustenance. In the animal kingdom also, certain laws or principles govern birth, growth, procreation, decay and death. These aspects are at times called as properties/ qualities of some thing or as Dharma. The properties are embedded in all matters. That is expressed as Dharma of a particular matter. The properties of water are different from those of fire. Since the properties are different in different matters, they can be identified as such. That means, every birth presupposes some definite purpose.

Eternally governed by this Law of Eternity, everything, maintaining its relative identity for some period, changing its relative identity in course of time and depending upon its latent qualities, which also undergo changes in course of time, evolves and advances towards a common goal, which is beyond all relativities and hence absolute and real. The so-called imperfections we come across all around are but passing phases in a grand process that end up with a perfect, indivisible and homogeneous unity. Being the interim or semi-processed products, we are unable to cognize the great Law involved in this consciously energized evolutionary process.

Sanatan Dharma:

What is Dharma and what is the purpose behind Dharma? Unless we know what is Dharma, we may not be in a position to observe Dharma in a flawless manner. In the phenomenal world, we find that everything has a beginning as well as end. Everybody passes through various stages in between its beginning and end so as to reach his ultimate goal. It is intended to reach there where it had come from.

Water becomes vapour and again drops down as rain and mingles in the ocean. Seed becomes a tree, bears fruits and flowers and again becomes seed. This type of cycle is undergone by every one. While these are all individual cycles, there is another grand cycle at work encompassing all individual cycles. This grand cycle is nothing but creation from Brahman and immergence in Brahman. Whatever manifests from Brahman will be merged with Brahman. The Law that governs the grand cycle is the Law of Eternity.

Sanatan Dharma means the basic principles involved in the manifestation and play of Brahman. Brahman is without any beginning and without any end. Everything is created from Him and again merges with Him. This process eternally continues. Hence, where is the beginning, or where is the end? That is why, the Law is Sanatan which is eternal.

This Law has created everything. This Law regulates everything. From creation to the ultimate end i.e. immergence with Brahman, everything i.e. form, quality, jiva, plants and matter etc. comes under Sanatan Dharma.

The observance of Dharma gives rise to peace, happiness and liberation. Impulses acquired in the previous births form the basis of life in the next births. For the preservation and ultimate end of any creation or any form that comes into existence, certain qualities or properties are present in every thing. These properties sustain the container, protect and ultimately lead towards its dissolution. This is called Mukti or liberation. In other words, to attain Brahman or true self, or to get rid of sufferings is called Mukti or liberation. Had this not been there, nothing would have existed. It would not have been possible to experience any thing, had there been no process of creation and ultimate journey to Brahman.

The sages had realised the mystery of the creation but the ignorant man is unable to understand the grand purpose behind the creation. Man is not born only to survive, eat and enjoy. Had it been so, it would have been sufficient to remain as animals without evolving up to manhood. There is definitely a specific purpose behind human birth. Man can understand and appreciate things better than animals. What is more, God has endowed man with inquisitiveness. By this inquisitiveness, the man would slowly realise everything, get peace and happiness and ultimately realise Brahman. This is evident from the fact that every human being instinctively wants peace, happiness, bliss and freedom. To attain all these he has assumed the human form, which is said to be hankered after by the Devas even. For the sustenance of this body, it is necessary to feed himself. Without food, how can he survive? If he cannot survive, how can he get peace or bliss. He is to survive, get peace and happiness and in the process he will also acquire the knowledge of Mukti or knowledge of his True Self.

For that purpose, nature has also made arrangements for his food. Be it the vegetable kingdom or the animal kingdom, all their prerequisites for their existence are provided even before their births. For that, the five elements such as earth, water, fire, air and ether have been made available earlier. The five elements are designed to contain the required intakes for the vegetable kingdom. Thereafter has evolved the animal kingdom. Thus Sanatan Dharma operates in the whole kingdom of nature and fulfils all requirements of each species.

For example, milk creation process is started in the mother's breast much before the birth of the child (but immediately after conception). This happens so that a baby can live on the mother's milk after its birth. This is a wonderful arrangement indeed!

In fact, the body, mind, vital energy, intellect and conscience are very closely interwoven and become functional due to the operation of the Law of eternity. There is no chance of any interruption to this Law of Eternity. This Law regulates the manhood of man, his life, and his vital energy. Man can never isolate himself from this Law. Without this Law, how can he exist? Therefore, it is said, "Dharma sustains, protects and ultimately leads one to Liberation". It is sheer ignorance to seek peace, bliss and freedom without observing this Law of eternity. The fact is that happiness, peace, bliss and freedom are embedded in Sanatan Dharma.

Observance of Swadharma:

Many people believe that Swadharma is the duty bestowed upon a man according to his birth, caste or hereditary practices. Swadharma was understood and interpreted correctly in the past but slowly the right knowledge lost its lustre being enveloped by ignorance. In this process the correct meaning was distorted in course of time. Different persons have interpreted Swadharma differently. This has led to confusion about the true meaning of Swadharma. People consider something to be their Dharma even though they are indulging in adharma while performing their occupational or hereditary practices. More often than not, people mechanically confine themselves to their Karma without knowing the intricacy of Karma but claim to be performing their swadharma. Of course some karma can be performed keeping in view the environmental and circumstantial factors but that cannot be acclaimed as swadharma. For example, a butcher may also claim that he is performing his swadharma while butchering the animals and simultaneously committing sins. Scriptures exhort, "Animal killing is a sin".

How can a cruel and heartless butcher understand the essence of this scriptural instruction? A thief has accepted theft as his occupational pursuit and has least hesitation to treat the same as his swadharma. In other words, swadharma is misused and misunderstood to such an extent that even theft or robbery is also talked of as Swadharma on the lame excuse of maintenance of family. If this can be termed as Swadharma, then what was the need for Ratnakar to chant the name of Sri Rama to become Valmiki?

Dharma is generally viewed from two angles. First is behavioral aspect; second is spiritual aspect. Dharma in its social, individual or general aspect can be clubbed under behavioral aspect. It also covers moral aspects, mannerisms, and courtesy etc. By practising the above, man generally develops his physical and mental purity and also attains to his devotional inclinations. The vices are slowly dispelled and divine qualities dawn upon. Right from birth till the stage of sustenance of the body, this behavioral Dharma plays its role. That means this behavioral Dharma helps one to grow up in a society with peace and happiness. This leads to spiritual knowledge. Without spiritual knowledge and experience, how shall he realise God's existence and how shall he reach the ultimate goal? Therefore, whatever is done with that end in view i.e. realisation of True Self, can be called swadharma or swakarma. Observance of swadharma is the only means of worshipping and winning God's grace. Without this, life becomes futile and worthless.

True Knowledge:

Man suffers due to want of knowledge. In other words, without knowing where and what to be done, why to be done, he whimsically imagines a particular event or situation in his own way. More often than not, he is unable to identify the lapses in his karma. This lack of knowledge brings him misery. In order to help mankind dispel ignorance and tide over sufferings, the sages of yesteryears have handed down to us the Vedas, the Upanishads and various other scriptures. Still some superstitions have crept into the behavioral Dharma. Due to want of sufficient knowledge, we are not able to know our loopholes. To attain spiritual knowledge, behavioral Dharma is necessarily to be observed. This fact also remains unknown. For that, there are hindrances on our ways and we are not able to move faster towards our goal.

It is to be remembered that the word swadharma is used to signify all those duties, which are necessarily to be performed for attainment or realisation of true self. But common men do not understand the wide meaning of this term as a result of which they pursue wrong pursuits and consequently suffer. If duty is performed keeping in view the attainment of true self, then Sanatan Dharma, it is to be understood, is followed in true spirit.

Scriptures already show us the ways of getting peace bliss and liberation. What is this way? What is creation and what is its mystery? What is God or Creator? What is freedom or liberation? Who is the jiva? To know the right answers to all these questions, scriptures exhort sometimes exhaustively and sometimes symbolically. On the whole, scriptures teach us about the Sanatan Dharma. Veda means knowledge. Whatever the Vedas teach us are the subject matter of Sanatan Dharma or the Law of Eternity. Everything in this creation becomes operative by the Law of Eternity or Sanatan Dharma. This Law of Eternity is present in everything in this Creation. By this law alone, every movement, every evolution, every development and every accomplishment of life are regulated. To know all these or to know the Law of eternity is true knowledge and observance of the Law of Eternity is true Dharma. Bereft of this knowledge life becomes arid and turns to nothingness.

The essence of Sanatan Dharma is present more or less in all religions and in all philosophies. In yesteryears, people had sufficient knowledge of Sanatan Dharma and they regulated their living accordingly. People were enjoying long life with peace and happiness. They were also preparing themselves for liberation. That supreme knowledge is now confined to books and scriptures without being accessed by common men. Therefore, man suffers. Since we are suffering, it has to be inferred that we are not having the right knowledge or knowledge on Sanatan Dharma.

The right knowledge is called knowledge on Brahman, knowledge on Atman, knowledge on Truth, knowledge on True Self, etc. This knowledge is verily divine. He who will acquire this knowledge will become himself divine. He, who will become divine, will definitely attain to divinity, who is Brahman and also his divine True Self.

In this world today, man is beset with fear, miseries and every moment he is seen to be restless and clamouring for peace. From these symptoms, it can be inferred that he is not able to realise the essence of Sanatan Dharma. Therefore, instead of developing his divine virtues from within, he has been nurturing the devilish tendencies, which bring him sufferings. It is imperative for him to acquire the divine knowledge pertaining to Sanatan Dharma. The present day mankind is awfully lacking in two most important things, namely, divine qualities and divine knowledge. The Philosophy Divine aims at doing away with both the inadequacies.

There is no dearth of temples, mosques and churches. Rather the number is increasing day by day with new structures coming up. The number of devotees under various sects and religious faiths is also growing. Simultaneously, the demoniac qualities are also on an increase. Many seem to be getting more and more inclined towards materialism than towards divine knowledge. The scriptural instructions on divine knowledge are just confined to a few. Many others read or listen but they, due to their other priorities, do not pursue further. With bundles of doubts, they carry on. Hosts of desires goad them towards their immediate goals offering little scope to get themselves aware of their ultimate goal. Fulfilment of desires being an unending process, struggle goes on births after births and thus the goal, which is attainment of the True Self, is lost sight of.

Therefore, this philosophy (Dibya Darshan) lays utmost emphasis not only on the subject of Sanatan Dharma but also on knowledge and divine qualities, which are essential for attaining peace, bliss and liberation. God expresses himself as true knowledge and divine qualities. Possessing divine qualities is Dharma because only through divine qualities, advancement towards realisation of True Self is possible. In other words, divine qualities are the divine vehicles to divinity, moksa or liberation.