Sanātana Dharma

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Aum, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. Aum

    Aum New Member


    Hinduism is a modern term, but it represents the ancient most living thought and culture of the world. The concept of 'Hindu-ism' (categorically termed 'Hinduism' in the narrow sense 'religion') being a single monolithic religion is recent, dating back only to the 19th century. Many scholars liken Hinduism to a family of religions, with all affiliated members bearing a family resemblance. The Hindu tradition consists of several schools of thought. Thus any definition of Hinduism is somewhat arbitrary and requires qualification. One such definition is "the followers of Vaidika Dharma," or those who follow the religious teachings outlined in the Vedas and their corollaries.


    Although the terms Hindu and Hinduism were created by foreign invaders, the word 'Hindu' has its origin in Sanskrit literature. In the Rig-Veda, Bharat is referred to as the country of 'Sapta Sindhu', i.e. the country of seven great rivers. The word 'Sindhu' refers to rivers and sea and not merely to the specific river called 'Sindhu'. Thus the word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit word Sindhu.

    The word Hindu was first used by Arab invaders and then went further west by the Arabic term al-Hind referring to the land of the people who live across river Indus and the Persian term Hindū referring to all Indians. By the 13th century, Hindustān emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the "land of Hindus".

    The term Hinduism also occurs sporadically in Sanskrit texts such as the later Rajataranginis of Kashmir (Hinduka, c. 1450), some 16th-18th century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts, including Chaitanya Charitamrita and Chaitanya Bhagavata, usually to contrast Hindus with Yavanas or Mlecchas.

    It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the European merchants and colonists referred collectively to the followers of Indian religions as Hindus.

    The term Hinduism was introduced into the English language in the 19th century to denote the religious, philosophical, and cultural traditions native to India.

    Sanātana Dharma:
    The original term, predating these by thousands of years, was Sanātana Dharma, a profound term that is rich with beauty and inherent wisdom. Out of that Sanatana Dharma emerged modern Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, while significantly effecting many other religions or traditions, which also followed much later. The underlying reality referred to by the term Sanatana Dharma is actually eternal, and thus is beyond any reference to the first usage of the term, or to any religions or traditions stemming from it.

    The meaning and origin of Sanātana Dharma:

    “Sanātana” is a Sanskrit word that denotes that which is Anadi (beginningless), Anantha (endless) and does not cease to be, that which is eternal and everlasting. In other words it means "the eternal law", "the eternal law that sustains/upholds/surely preserves.

    "Dharma" is also a Sanskrit word derived from dhri, "to sustain; carry, hold; that denotes "the way of righteousness." Hence dharma can be briefly said as "that which contains or upholds the cosmos".

    In Mahabharata, on being asked by Yudhistira to explain the meaning and scope of DHARMA, Bhishma who had mastered the knowledge of Dharma replied thus:

    Tadrisho ayam anuprashno yatra dharmaha sudurlabaha
    Dushkamha pralisankhyatum tatkenatra vysvasyathi
    Prabhavarthaya bhutanam dharmapravachanam kritam
    Yasyat prabhavasamyuktaha sa dharma iti nischayaha.

    SHANTHI PARVA - 109-9-11

    It is most difficult to define Dharma.

    Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the upliftment of living beings.

    Therefore, that which ensures the welfare of living beings is surely Dharma.

    The learned rishis have declared that which sustains is Dharma.

    In the Mahabharata, Sri Krishna also defines dharma as,

    "Dhāranād dharma ityāhur dharmena vidhrtāh prajāh,

    Yat syād dhārana sanyuktam sa dharma iti nishchayah"

    Mbh- 12.110.11

    i.e., Dharma upholds both this-worldly and other-worldly affairs.

    JAIMINI, the author of the celebrated Purvamimamsa and Uthara Mimamsa, explains 'Dharma' thus:

    Sa hi nisreyasena pumshamsamyunaktiti pra-tijaneemahe

    tadabhidhiyate chodanalakshno ariho dharmaha.


    Dharma is that which is indicated by the Vedas as conducive to the highest good.

    Therefore, Dharma embraces every type of righteous conduct covering every aspect of life essential for the sustenance and welfare of the individual and society and includes those rules which guide and enable those who believe in God and heaven to attain moksha (eternal bliss)

    Thus the term Sanātana Dharma can be roughly translated to mean "the natural, ancient and eternal way to attain the Moksha or to connect with the cosmos." It is not for a particular religion or for particular human beings. It is the natural element for mankind just like the Vedas.

    Sanātana Dharma is anadi (without beginning) and also a-paurusheya (without a human founder). It is defined by the quest for cosmic truth, just as the quest for physical truth defines science. Its earliest record is the Rigveda, which is the record of ancient sages who by whatever means tried to learn the truth about the universe, in relations to Man's place in relation to the cosmos. They saw nature — including all living and non-living things — as part of the same cosmic equation, and as pervaded by a higher consciousness. This search has no historical beginning; nor does it have a historical founder. This is not to say that the Rigveda always existed as a literary work. It means that we cannot point to a particular time or person in history and say: "Before this man spoke, what is in the Rigveda did not exist."

    Here again the Sanātana Dharma is directly related to the Vedas and the ancient scriptures which are Anadi and Eternal.

    To know the Sanātana Dharma in a better way and to get rid of the confusions of so many “Hindu” traditions and diversities, we have to know the ancient Scriptures in details. In our next article we will attempt to put some light in the ancient Vedic Scripture.

Share This Page