Sanatana Dharma – An Overview
What is Sanatana Dharma?
Sanatana Dharma is the parent of all religions in the world. Sanatan means origin. Dharma means principle. Sanathana Dharma is the principle or practice that is followed by the people from the origin of this universe. Vedas and the ancient scriptures are the base for Sanatana Dharma. In the olden days we had a very flexible dharma followed among the people where people had freedom to worship anyone or anything as the supreme power. There is a quote in Rig Veda as follows.
एकम् सत्, विप्राः बहुधा वदन्ति – Rg-veda 1.164.46
The above verses say that “The supreme truth is one, the knowledgeable person express it in different ways.
In ancient India there was a practice of live and let live. People were free to follow any practice. Science was not the only this that was advanced in ancient India but the minds of people were also advanced during the Vedic times. Gurukula system helped man to learn the path of righteousness and good virtues.
Religions are all the ways to express the inexpressible. Even though most of the religions speak about certain aspects of Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism is a religion that is purely based on the Sanathana Dharma. The below stats show the national religions followed in various countries.
Total popular religions – 9
122 Countries – Christianity
68 Countries – Islam
1 Countries – Jews
9 Countries – Buddhism and Jainism
None – Hinduism
As mentioned above Hinduism is the number 4 religion in the world and in spite of people that none of the country has Hinduism as a national language. Nepal was one country which had Hinduism as their national language, but from 2007 it was declared as a secular state. But we have 1 billion people in the world following Sanatana Dharma.
Origin of Sanatana Dharma
Every religion in the world has some Originator from whom the religion came into existence. Based on the ideas and principles given by that person the religion will be followed all over the world. But if you see Sanatana Dharma, there is no origin or founder. This very Dharma was brought to us by rishis and Yogis passing it from generation to generation as Guru shishya parampara. Origin of Sanatana Dharma is expected to be before 10000 years.
Why are there lots of scriptures on Sanatana Dharma? Why not just one scripture?
Human Beings need several sources of knowledge and several branches of knowledge in various fields. They need variety of knowledge on many different things. This vast amount of knowledge required cannot be given in a single literature or by a single person. Also this cannot be given at a particular period of time. So approximately we can say there are more than 2000 foundation literature in Sanatana Dharma for which we have nearly 10000 commentaries written in Sanskrit and more than 1 lakh sub commentaries in different languages written by more than 1000 rishis written over a period of more than 7000 years. Sanatana Dharma is expected to have started to survive in the form form 8275 BC onward which is nearly 10000 years in total. 10000 divided by 20 is about 500 generations. So for 500 generations, scholars, Rishis, Yogis, Kings etc have contributed their experience and knowledge to the Sanatana Dharma. It is human nature to have different types and varieties of knowledge which cannot be given to us by one single book. This variety requirement cannot be fulfilled if we just have only one book or literature, if we just have one acharya or scholar to teach, if we just have one God to worship and if we have just one method of worship.
Unity in Sanathana Dharma
विविधता में एकता || – Unity in Diversity
Unity is always a part of the Sanatana Dharma. This Dharma is prevailing in the world for more than 10000 years without any problem or confusion. Irrespective of the caste of people and method of worship that they follow in this Dharma, people go to all famous Skhethrams like Tirupathi, Kashi, Amarnath, Badrinath, Guruvayur etc. There are millions of God, thousands of method of worship but still all are united. The Hindu Dharma followers never claim that Hinduism is the only religion by which you can attain salvation. Hindus never say that our Hindu Scriptures are the only perfect scriptures in the world. Hindus always accept good thoughts from everywhere. They always try to implement the good thoughts that they get from everywhere into their life to lead a peaceful life.
आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः || – Let good thoughts come from everywhere
This unity is into existence for ages in India. Thoughts are the things that help a person to stay united with another person in the society. As the above verse describes, we are always ready to accept all the good thoughts that come from everywhere. Selfless motive has helped this Dharma to survive ages to ages.
ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय । – Om, Lead us from unreality (Maya) to Reality (Self Realization)
तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय । – Lead us from Darkness of ignorance to Light of knowledge
मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय । – Lead us from Death fear to knowledge of immortality
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ – Om, peace, peace, peace
There are also some constructive messages given by our Vedas to the world about Togetherness. Our Sanatana Dharma believes that Unity can help us in various aspects. Usually very common example is given for the strength of Unity. A small stick can be broken easily. few sticks together can also be broken easily. But a bunch of sticks hold together cannot be broken. The same way when people and their thoughts are united for a good cause, there will not be any obstacles. Importance is given to unity and togetherness in the below verses from our Upanishads.
ॐ सह नाववतु । – Let us exist together
सह नौ भुनक्तु । – Let us share the result of the work together
सह वीर्यं करवावहै । – Let us work together
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै । – Let us enlighten our knowledge together and let us not hate anyone
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ – Om, Peace, Peace, Peace
ॐ भद्रं कर्णेभिः शृणुयाम देवाः । – Let us hear with our ears what is auspecious
भद्रं पश्येमाक्षभिर्यजत्राः । – Let us see with our eyes what is auspecious
स्थिरैरङ्गैस्तुष्टुवागँसस्तनूभिः । – Let us live with Contentment with Strong Body and Limbs.
व्यशेम देवहितं यदायूः । – Let us Praise the God and sing His Glories during our Lifespan Allotted to us by the Devas.
Apart from the above there are millions of Sanskrit verses that describes about good living.
ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः – Om, May all become happy
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः । – May all have good health
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु – May all see what is auspecious
मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत् । – May no one suffer
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ – Om, Peace, Peace, Peace
ॐ लोकाः समस्ता: सुखिनो भवन्तु || – Let the whole world live with peace and happiness
The above verse is said during the prayers of a Hindu every day praying for the peace and happiness not only for him but for the whole world. We have never prayed that only a specific group of people or only Hindus should live with peace and happiness. This thought is for the good of everyone and religion specific. So the thought that is brought in the mind of an Hindu is universality and that too from the childhood days onwards. Hindus never try to convert people from other religion to Hinduism. They always say that, wherever we are just follow the path of Truth, Dharma, Goodness, Righteousness and enlighten yourself. This is the main specialty of the Hindu Dharma.