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Sanatana Dharma - Brief description about the Eternal Religion

SANATAN DHARMA  T he meaning of Sanatan is eternal. Vedic Dharma can aptly be defined as Sanatan Dharma. In English, Dharma is defined b...

The meaning of Sanatan is eternal. Vedic Dharma can aptly be defined as Sanatan Dharma. In English, Dharma is defined by the word 'religion'. But religion insufficiently describes the vast meaning of Dharma. In fact, the spirit of Dharma is so vast that it includes things related not only to our present incarnation but to the past and the future incarnations as well. 
Sanatana Dharma is is the original name of what is now popularly called Hinduism or Hindu Dharma. The terms Hindu and Hinduism are said to be a more recent development, while the more accurate term is Sanatana Dharma. It is a code of ethics, a way of living through which one may achieve moksha (enlightenment, liberation). It is the world's most ancient culture and the socio, spiritual, and religious tradition of almost one billion of the earth's inhabitants. 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.
Sanatana Dharma is by its very essence a term that is devoid of sectarian leanings or ideological divisions. This is evident by the very term itself. The two words, "Sanatana Dharma", come from the ancient Sanskrit language. "Sanatana" is a Sanskrit word that denotes that which which is Anadi (beginningless), Anantha (endless) and does not cease to be, that which is eternal and everlasting. With its rich connotations, Dharma is not translatable to any other language. Dharma is from dhri, meaning to hold together, to sustain. Its approximate meaning is "Natural Law," or those principles of reality which are inherent in the very nature and design of the universe. Thus the term Sanatana Dharma can be roughly translated to mean "the natural, ancient and eternal way."
When translated to English, Sanatana refer to Eternal, Perennial, Never Beginning nor Ending, Abiding, Universal, Ever-present, Unceasing, Natural, and Enduring whileDharma refers to Harmony, The Way, Righteousness, Compassion, Natural Law, Truth, Teachings, Tradition, Philosophy, Order, Universal, Flow, Religion, Wisdom, Divine Conformity, Cosmic Norm, Blueprint, Inherent Nature, Law of Being, and Duty.
What is Sanatana Dharma?
Sanatana Dharma do not denote to a creed like Christianity or Islam, but represents a code of conduct and a value system that has spiritual freedom as its core. Any pathway or spiritual vision that accepts the spiritual freedom of others may be considered part of Sanatana Dharma.
First and foremost, Sanatana 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."
The Nature of Sanatana Dharma
By its nature, Sanatana Dharma is…
  • God-centered rather than prophet-centered.
  • Experience based rather than belief based.
  • Beyond any historical date of founding.
  • The process of growth, which comes from the seed.
  • Inherent in, and inclusive of all.
  • In the world, while above the world.
  • Both immanent and transcendent.
  • The whole and the parts.
  • Loving of all and excluding of none.

Basic Principles

  • Sanatana Dharma recognizes that the greater portion of human religious aspiration has always been unknown, undefined, and outside of any institutionalized belief.
  • The universal flow of Dharma, regardless of what name you call it, whether Dharma or some other name, has eternally existed. It has been before any of the great teachers were born. It is not better than, or alternative to, but is inclusive of all. Dharma is that out of which our earth and humanity itself emerged. Dharma not only is, but always was, and always will be. To live in alignment with, and to know the true nature of that Sanatana Dharma is one of the ways of describing the higher goal of life.
  • Sanatana Dharma thereby gives reverence to individual spiritual experience over any formal religious doctrine. Wherever the Universal Truth is manifest, there is Sanatana Dharma — whether it is in a field of religion, art or science, or in the life of a person or community. Wherever the Universal Truth is not recognized, or is scaled down and limited to a particular group, book or person, even if done so in the name of God, there Sanatana Dharma ceases to function, whatever the activity is called.
  • 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.
  • Since Sanatana Dharma is referring to those ways of being which are in concert with the Absolute, and are therefore axiomatic laws, this term is not referring to something which is open to alteration. Just as the laws of gravity, mathematics or logic are not open to sectarian debate or relative opinion (gravity, for example, is an inherent law of nature regardless of whether one believes in the law of gravity or not), similarly the subtle laws of God transcend all partisan concerns.
  • The world is made up of three tendencies called gunas: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. Sattvic tendencies are those that are pure, clean, good, wholesome, calming, and peaceful. Rajasic tendencies are those that are active, moving, indecisive, and forceful. Tamasic tendencies are those that are inert, lazy, dull, and dark. If it were not for these three tendencies, we would not exist. Everything is a mixture of them. Even a saint, who is primarily sattvic, has some level of rajas and tamas in him/her, however small.
  • Sanatan Dharma makes use of yoga as the means to attain moksha (God-realization). Yoga has been poorly translated to mean "union". It does mean "union", but that is a poor definition because it encompasses so much more. Yoga is the union with Brahman (Absolute God). Yoga is also the means to achieving union with Brahman. Therefore, the word yoga is not merely a statement of union, but it encompasses the actual experience of liberation.

According to the definition given in the scriptures:
Upvaas (Religious Vows) this Sanskrit word is really made up of 2 elements meaning near and meaning staying or residing. This means that staying near to god or rather experiencing continuously beatitude of God is known as Upvaas. One has to practice severe austerities while observing these vows. They are control over taking (speech), control over the body and control over the mind. Simultaneously it is important that others are not troubled because of our actions. It is important for the person who takes such a vow to constantly meditate and contemplate on god throughout the stipulated period.

> Rules and regulations devised by our scriptures are known as vows to be followed and this itself is penance. Some important rules to be followed by the person who observes vows are as follows. Firstly the person should perform prayers (Sandhya) thrice a day and should also bathe thrice a day. He should have total control over his senses and should sleep on the floor. He should avoid talking to women and people of impure unmoral nature. It is important that sanctity is maintained and he should perform Yagna (religious sacrifices) everyday.

> The person observing vows should not shave his head. If he does so he should repeat the same vow again. He should avoid eating of horse-beans, lentil, grams, kodo (a type of grain eaten by poor), alcohol and spinach like vegetables. He should avoid taking food in copper vessel and should also avoid food attended by others. Usage of flowers, ornaments, new clothes, incense perfumes, toothpaste and collyrium applied to eyes is not recommended. After taking Panchgavya (cow dung, cows milk, cows urine, curd and ghee) only should one observe such vows.

> Eating more than once a day, eating of Paan (petal nut leaf), sleeping throughout the day and sex should be strictly avoided. Indulgence in either of above activity defeats the basic purpose of a religious vow. The ten common rules that apply to all religious vows are forgiveness, truthfulness, pity, offerings/donations, cleanliness/purity, control over sense, regular worshipping of god, religious sacrifices offered to the fire god (Yagya), contentment and abstinence from steady. Food taken once a day at the time of seeing the constellation is known as Nakta Vrata (Vow), Food taken at night is not known as Nakta Vrata. Whilst observing the vow if women face problem of periods (menstruation) this does not lead to the dissolution of vow. In such cases women should get the worship of gods done or donation accomplished through someone else.

> The greatness of religious vow lies in charity and alms giving and without charity never is a vow ever accomplished. After a vow is observed depending upon ones financial situations one should donate generously. In human life one should definitely donate their things i.e. gold, land and cows. Gold and land can never be destroyed, that is why it is beneficial. The greatness of a cow is even the beyond the above two. A person who donates these three things is considered to be the donor of three worlds (Trailokya). As a result a person can be liberated from the cycle of life and death, and attains the highest level Moksha. Our scriptures also speak of the greatness of offering of food as charity.

> In this manner a person observing religious vows, fasting and charity attains the highest sublime stage and enjoys tremendous happiness for crores of year after which he takes a birth in a very noble clan and attains Moksha. According to scientific point of view for the efficient working of the body mechanism it is imperative that one fasts at least once a week. Rules conduct devised by our scriptures are known as Vows to be observed. Religious vows are basically brief forms or expressions of penance. Usually the main purpose of these vows are, attainment of mental and spiritual energy, purity of mind and soul, improving ones will, development of devotion and faith, cleaning or purity of ambience, sublimity of thought, purification of the same and finally improving ones physical health.