Sanatana Dharma, eternal truth & ‘spangled heavens’
For some, however, Sanatana Dharma seems to be an allergen. Probably due to a perception problem.
KOCHI: Sanatana Dharma, for many, is the soul of India — that is Bharat. They believe it’s dharma that binds the people of the nation, transcending religion, caste and politics. For some, however, Sanatana Dharma seems to be an allergen. Probably due to a perception problem. At least, that’s what the recent vitriol by DMK leaders Udhayanidhi Stalin and A Raja indicates. Brazen and offensive.
An ally of the INDI Alliance, Udhayanidhi allegedly called for eradication of Sanatan Dharma, comparing it to diseases such as “dengue and malaria”. Raja added “HIV and leprosy” to the bile, reportedly stating Sanatana Dharma was “very dangerous, and it is our duty to root it out in its entirety”. Imagine the tumult that would have erupted had a ‘Sanatani’ political leader made a similar statement against some other religion.
However, the beauty of Sanatana Dharma lies in the fact that even the harshest of diatribes or the filthiest abuses do not mar it. It has withstood onslaughts over millennia. And will continue to do so.
Hence, the ideal reaction to Udhayanidhi and Raja should be a warm smile.
Sanatana Dharma has, time and again, charmed the world with its mystic power to turn the fiercest of critics and skeptics into advocates. Take the celebrated English philosopher and writer Aldous Huxley, who authored ‘Brave New World’.
In his later-stage work, ‘The Perennial Philosophy’, he writes: “The religions whose theology is least preoccupied with events in time and most concerned with eternity, have been consistently less violent and more humane in political practice. Unlike early Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism (all obsessed with time) Hinduism and Buddhism have never been persecuting faiths, have preached almost no holy wars and have refrained from that proselytising religious imperialism which has gone hand in hand with political and economic oppression of coloured people.”
American naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau was an ardent fan, too. “Whenever I have read any part of the Vedas, I have felt that some unearthly and unknown light illuminated me. In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism,” he noted.
“It is of all ages, climbs, and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge. When I read it, I feel that I am under the spangled heavens of a summer night.”
Incidentally, he was deeply impressed by the Bhagavad Gita, which holds the nectar of Sanatana Dharma. “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial,” remarked Thoreau.
Back home, Swami Vivekananda, Sree Narayana Guru and Mahatma Gandhi were proponents of dharma. The revolutionary-turned-reformer Sri Aurobindo advocated it with much verve. His transition was complete after being locked up at the Alipore jail for revolutionary activities. After his release in 1909, he offered deep spiritual and nationalist perspectives in his famed Uttarpara speech.
“We speak often of the Hindu religion, of the Sanatana Dharma, but few of us really know what that religion is. Other religions are preponderantly religions of faith and profession, but the Sanatana Dharma is life itself; it is a thing that has not so much to be believed as lived,” Sri Aurobindo said.
“This is the dharma that for the salvation of humanity was cherished in the seclusion of this peninsula from old. It is to give this religion that India is rising. She does not rise as other countries do, for self or when she is strong, to trample on the weak. She is rising to shed the eternal light entrusted to her over the world. India has always existed for humanity and not for herself and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great….
The task we set before ourselves is not mechanical but moral and spiritual. We aim not at the alteration of a form of government but at the building up of a nation. Of that task politics is a part, but only a part. We shall devote ourselves not to politics alone, nor to social questions alone, nor to theology or philosophy or literature or science by themselves, but we include all these in one entity which we believe to be all-important, the dharma, the national religion which we also believe to be universal. There is a mighty law of life, a great principle of human evolution, a body of spiritual knowledge and experience of which India has always been destined to be guardian, exemplar and missionary. This is the sanatana dharma, the eternal religion.”
Well, time for me to delve into the ocean of ‘dharma’. Wish you guys a righteous and enlightening weekend ahead. Signing off with a quick scan of definitions of Sanatana Dharma/dharma.
Britannica: “Sanatana Dharma, in Hinduism, term used to denote the ‘eternal’ or absolute set of duties or religiously ordained practices incumbent upon all Hindus, regardless of class, caste, or sect. Different texts give different lists of the duties, but in general sanatana dharma consists of virtues such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings, purity, goodwill, mercy, patience, forbearance, self-restraint, generosity, and asceticism.
“Sanatana dharma has thus become a synonym for the ‘eternal’ truth and teachings of Hinduism, the latter conceived of as not only transcendent of history and unchanging but also as indivisible and ultimately nonsectarian.” Collins Dictionary: “the eternal way: a phrase used by some Hindus to designate Hinduism as a unified religion, based on universal and primordial truths”
Merriam-Webster: “the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence: divine law”
Dictionary.com: “the name used by Hindus for Hinduism”
The Free Dictionary: “the name used by Hindus for Hinduism”
Cambridge International: “Universal dharma, a term used to describe ethical principles which always apply to every person. This is distinct from the particular ethics and duties associated with varna and ashrama”
Wisdom Library: “Sanatana-dharma refers to the ‘Indian ethos’, which is founded on the eternal values of the country. The Hindu philosophy reveals the spirit of the principles of sanatana-dharma. The whole world around us has been conceived as part and parcel of the Divine. Hence, every aspect of creation could be viewed with great and noble qualities attributed to them. Such an approach to nature helps humans to learn values of life from nature and to draw lessons of dharma from every object around them.”
Oxford Dictionary: “(in Hinduism) the law that affects the whole universe and on which all correct behaviour is based”
Urban Dictionary: “Before Persian and English arrived, Hinduism was called Sanatana Dharma. Dharma means ‘right way of living’.”
Iskcon: “Sanatana-dharma – duties which take into account the person’s spiritual (constitutional) identity as atman and are thus the same for everyone.”
World History Encyclopedia: “Adherents of the faith know it as Sanatan Dharma (‘eternal order’ or ‘eternal path’) and understand the precepts, as set down in the scriptures known as the Vedas, as having always existed just as Brahman, the Supreme Over-Soul from whom all of creation emerges, has always been. Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin!) is the First Cause which sets all else in motion but is also that which is in motion, that which guides the course of creation, and creation itself.”