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Sanātana Dharma in a Nutshell

HINDUISM is a name that was given to the religions of India by foreigners. All spiritual and religious traditions in India refer to ...



HINDUISM is a name that was given to the religions of India by foreigners. All spiritual and religious traditions in India refer to themselves as "practitioners of Sanātana Dharma" — a term used by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Hinduism is thus not a monolithic structure with a centralized teaching authority and standardized dogma, rather it is a fellowship of the seekers of Truth who are dedicated to the practice of Dharma.

Definition of Dharma:
adrohaḥ sarvabhūteṣu karmaṇā manasā girā |
anugrahaśca dānaṃ ca stāṃ dharma sanātanaḥ ||
^^
The Eternal Dharma  (Sanātana Dharma) is the absence of malevolence towards all
creatures in thought, deed or word, and to practice compassion and charity towards them.
-MB Vana Parva 297;35
adrohaḥ Satya-vacanaṃ saṃvibhāgo dayā damaḥ |
prajanaṃ sveṣu dāreṣu mārdavaṃ hrīścāpalam |
evaṃ dharma pradhāneṣṭhaṃ manuḥ svāmyabhuve'bravīt ||
^^
Abstention from injury, truthfulness, justice, compassion, self-restraint, procreation with one's own spouse alone, amiability, modesty and patience, the practice of these virtues is the best of all religions, thus declared Manu Svayambhuva. (MB. Santi Parva.)
A Synopsis of Hinduism
A Synopsis of Hinduism
Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwar
Hinduism is the name given by foreigners to the collective religious traditions of India. The term that we use is Sanatana Dharma —  the Eternal Path, a term which is used by Buddhists and Jains as well. Hinduism has no founder, no dogma, no creed,  no central teaching authority,  no unified approach to philosophy or belief. Hinduism is a fellowship of the seekers of truth that encourages free thought, discussion, and contemplation. There are hundreds of Hindu sects with differing views on life and the Ultimate Reality. Although the views range from atheism to polytheism, non-duality to duality, all sects hold 5 key doctrines in common.

1. Brahman — the Godhead 
“Whence all arising, by which they are sustained and into which they, departing hence,  all ultimately return — seek to know That! That is Brahman”.  (Taittiriya. Upanishad 3:1;2)
All schools of Hinduism accept that there is ONE  Absolute Reality— known as Brahman (The “Immensity”) which is the “ground of all being”.  It is that from which the entire cosmos arises, by which it exists and into which everything is ultimately dissolved.    

In the beginning, there was Being alone, One without a second. (Ch. U. 6;2:2)

This Godhead is the basis, source, and support of everything in the universe. Its nature is defined by  three attributes;

(1) Absolute Being (sat), 
(2) Consciousness (chit), 
(3) Bliss (Ananda). 

For philosophers, Brahman is an Impersonal Absolute inconceivable and devoid of all attributes and for the theists, It is a deeply Personal God or Goddess conceived of as Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Durga etc.

2. Atman — The Self 
That which is the subtle Essence of this entire universe,  That is the True. That is the Self. Thou art That!  -(Chandogya Upanishad 6:12:3)
The  Self (atman, jiva, jivatman) is an eternal indestructible “expression” or "mode” of Brahman like a photon of light from the Sun and shares with Brahman the essential attributes of  Existence (sat), Consciousness   (cit) and Bliss  (anandam). The Self is characterized by consciousness.  The Self is naturally immortal, having no beginning and no end to its being. It is atomic in size and undergoes ‘embodiment’ which means that it takes birth in the bodies of plants, animals, humans, or gods. In the embodied state the atman is technically referred to as “jiva”. In embodiment, the natural attributive consciousness has become obscured and veiled by ignorance and delusion. The jiva mistakenly identifies itself with the physical body /mind complex and this is the basis of all sorrow and delusion. All sentient  beings  are essentially non-different from each other in their Essence Nature. In the embodied state the difference between them is the degree of ignorance predominating. Animals are in a greater mode of ignorance then are human beings. 

3.  Punar-janma — transmigration
“One who entertains desires, thinking of them is born again here and there on account of those desires”.   -(Mundukya  Upanishad 3:2:2)
The core doctrine of all schools of Sanatana Dharma and its offshoots — Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism is the doctrine of reincarnation or transmigration. This process is called Samsara which translates as the “flow of life”.  It is the process of the jiva’s involution back to Brahman — its true state.  

The consciousness which is perfect, eternal and blissful “devolves” into the lowest species becoming more and grosser, and then begins a process of  involution towards it’s natural and essential state of being known as sat - chit - ananda  — existence, consciousness and bliss absolute. It passes through various lower life forms until the attainment of the human state which is the highest and most desirable birth in the Universe. Birth in the heavenly realms or as gods (Devas) is not desirable because it is only in the human form that one can work out one’s Karma and can achieve liberation through Self-realisation. 

There are some schools and gurus which teach that retrogressive rebirth as an animal or a plant is an option, but this is doubtful due to the fact that animals are not bound by the moral law of Karma and Karma is the driving force of rebirth.

4.  Karma  — The Economy of Action 
“a person consists of desires. As is one’s desire so is one’s will; as is the will so is the deed that is done, and one’s deeds conditions what one will become”. (Brihad Aranyaka  Up. 4:5) 
Karma is the doctrine of the economy of action. The word Karma means ‘action’   and refers to the entire cycle of action and its consequences. Every action in addition to its material goal produces a moral consequence which manifests as either joy or sorrow.  Whatever we put out into the universe we get back in equal measure. All positive actions produce happiness and all negative actions result in suffering. This law operates whether we are aware of it or not. It is the process by which we shape our own destinies and build up our own reality. Through ignorance, we bind ourselves by selfish actions, feelings or thoughts. As long as our actions are directed towards self-gratification alone, there is not the slightest possibility of working towards liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. Even the smallest thought or act has consequences which are not settled with death.

Three types of Karma There are three types of Karma  including both negative and positive;
Sanchita Karma; —  the accumulated results of acts which have been committed in the past lives and are waiting to come to fruition in the future.
Prarabdha Karma;  —  acts done in the past which have resulted in the circumstances of the present incarnation and are causing all the joys and sorrows which we are now experiencing.
Kriyamana Karma;  — All the actions which are now being performed;  the results of which will be experienced at a later date and will condition the circumstances of the next incarnation.

5. Aims of human Life: Dharma (Ethics), Artha (Prosperity),  Kama (pleasure), Moksha (liberation).

All human aspiration can be classified under these four headings:

Dharma – Right Living according to universal ethics based upon non-violence and compassion and the benefit of the majority.

Eating, sleep, fear, and procreation are common to both animals and humans; Dharma alone is specific to humans, without Dharma (ethics), they are equal to animals. (hitopadesha)

Universal Dharma. There is an objective ethical code  (Loka-Dharma) which has been revealed through Scripture and is applicable to every society and all humankind. One is assured of spiritual progress and the Divine Grace if one follows this code (Manu 7;92) regardless of one’s theological or philosophical convictions or lack thereof.

 1. Contentment, 
 2. Forgiveness, 
 3. Self-control, 
 4. Truthfulness, 
 5. Abstention from stealing and cheating, 
 6. Observing physical and mental purity, 
 7. Having sexual relations with one’s spouse only, 
 8. Pursuit of knowledge [concerning the world], 
 9. Pursuit of wisdom [concerning the Ultimate Truth], 
10. Abstention from anger

Artha -- legitimate and ethical pursuit of wealth and prosperity but surplus should be used for the benefit of others.

Kama —  the pursuit of sex, pleasure and the fulfillment of desires. This too should be done in accordance with the ethical guidelines of Dharma.

Moksha — the striving to be liberated from want and suffering in the short term as well as long-term i.e. liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.

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