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Concepts of Sanatan Dharm, by Sandeep Khanna

Hinduism, also called Sanatana Dharma (Sanskrit सनातन धर्म sanātana dharma, for the eternal law), with around a billion followers and a share of around 15% of the world's population, the third largest religious group in the world or rather a diverse religious complex. It has its origins in India.

Sanatana Dharma is a religion that makes a human into civilized person and teaches him or her the way to Moksha.

It is both a way of life and goal of life practiced by Hindus. Hindus believe that the Vedas (Scriptures), the most authoritative primary sacred text of Hinduism, are the oldest in the world.

It includes beliefs, faith in God and ritual worship of deities. Sanatana Dharma is a federation of many Sampradays1 with common as well as different beliefs and practices. 

Hindus believe it is the oldest of all living religions. Sanatana Dharma doesn’t have one single historical founder or a specific date of origin.

Actually, the concept of time is cyclical in Hinduism and not linear, where there is a beginning and an end.  According to Vishnu Purana scripture (1.3 & 6.3), there are four yugas (eras). Satyug (1.728,000 years), Tretayug (1.296,000 years), Dwapara (864,000 years), and Kaliyug (432,000 years). At the end of the final era, namely Kaliyug, the cycle repeats itself beginning again with Satyug. So that’s why Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is believed to be eternal. Also, since it was revealed by God, who is eternal, Hinduism is also eternal – Hence the name Sanatna Dharma.  

The Hindu concept of Bhagwan is that he is supreme, one, eternal, Omnipotent (all-powerful and all-doer), omniscient (all knower) and omnipresent (all pervading). 

Hinduism combines fundamentally different currents, some of which overlap with common traditions and influence each other, but which have differences in holy scriptures, beliefs, the world of gods and rituals.

Spiritual directions

The main spiritual currents within the Hindu religion are:

  • Brahma, the creator of the world, he manifests himself as a trinity (Trimurti); each additional deity is an aspect of the One.

  • Vishnuism, the preserver and preserver of the world

  • Shaivism, the finisher and destroyer of the world.

  • Shaktism, the source of life, the benevolent mother, but she can also be a terrible malevolent force.

Most Hindus see either Vishnu or Shiva as the only, all-encompassing and therefore worshipable god. The current that worshiped Brahma as the One God is only rarely found in modern Hinduism.

Another movement is Shaktism. Here Shakti, the cosmic energy, is also presented as the divine mother. She manifests herself and is worshiped in her forms as Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, Sarasvati.

Beliefs and practices

Core Beliefs:

  1. The existence and acceptance of 1 supreme reality known as brahman, parmatma or bhagwan (God), and not many gods, which is the common misconception among those unfamiliar with Hindu beliefs. God, however, manifests in many forms called avatars. 

  2. The authority of Shrutis (Vedic literature) and practices its principles. 

  3. Avatarvad or the belief that the one manifests himself in human and other forms on earth to liberate souls from the bondage of Maya6, base instincts and the cycle of births and deaths. He remains ever present on earth through a God-realized guru.

  4. Atman, the unchanging inner self, is the essence of animate life. The atma is sat (eternally existence), chit (consciousness) and Ananda (bliss).  It is independent of body, mind, intellect, and ego. In fact, it controls them. 

  5. Karma or the law of cause and effect. One’s actions produce positive or negative results which affect one in the present life or future lives.

  6. Punarjanama or rebirth. Due to one's karmas and the will of God the soul (jiva) repeatedly takes another body in the cycle of rebirth and deaths. 

  7. Murtipuja or worship of God in the form of a murti (image). However, there are also Hindus who believe God to be formless (Nirankara) or that he is simply light, and thus mediate on the divine light.

  8. The Guru-shishya tradition. Many Hindus believe that without a spiritually enlightened guru it is not possible for a person to realize and attain God.

  9. Ahimsa or nonviolence in mind, action and speech. Hindus believe that God pervades all things, therefore they care for all living things.

  10. The four purushartha, which means the four goals or endeavours of human life, namely, Dharma, artha, Karma, and moksha. The ultimate goal is moksha (liberation of soul from the cycle of births and deaths) and Maya (ignorance), and the experience of the eternal bliss of God.

  11. Varnashrama Dharma, which deals with the duties and responsibilities of Hindus in relation to their varnas (classes) and ashrams (stages of life). Besides these 11 beliefs mentioned there are others which different of Hinduism give importance to and practice.

What are the sacred texts of Hindus?

  1. Vedas (Shrutis means heard) The most sacred text or shastras of the Hindus are called Vedas the name veda is derived from the Sanskrit root word with which means “to know”. So the Vedas mean divine knowledge. The Vedas were revealed by God to the enlightened rishis of India during samadhi. and are revelation from God to many enlightened Rishis (Sage, Saint) of India. The Rishis mediated on God, and in the state of Samadhi they heard the truths revealed to them by god. The revealed knowledge of rishis was passed on from generation through oral tradition and it came to be Sanatana Dhrama. The Vedas are known as Shruti Shastra. Shruti means that was heard or revealed. Later it was written and classified by Veda Vyasha into four Vedas. Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Athra.
  2. Brahmanas: The Brahman texts are mainly in prose, describing rules for various rituals and explaining their meaning and purpose. They contain myths and stories to make them interesting and understandable.
  3. Aranyakas: the aranyakas are the ‘forest’ texts that focus on meditation and ultimate reality and the mystical interpretation of Vedic rituals. They form a transitional link between the Brahmans and the Upanishads.
  4. Upanishads: are chronologically the last portion and spiritually the highest teaching of Vedas, and are also known as Vedanta. They deal with the basic philosophy of Hinduism, including most notions on the nature of God, soul, creation, moksha, rebirth, karma etc. They are mainly in dialogue form. In all, there are over 200 upanishads out of which 13 are considered to be the oldest and principal ones. The upanishads. Is believed to be the most creative period of Indian philosophy. 
  5. Smruti: The secondary sacred texts are the Smrutis which means that which was ‘remembered’. They are based on Vedas and deal with social and domestic laws of further Hindus. They prescribe vidhis (act to be performed) and nishedhas (prohibited acts) in the moral development and social life of a person.The itihasa (epics) namely Ramayana and Mahabharata and the 18 puranas also form a form of Smruti shastras but are considered to be separate group.

Practicing Hinduism

The ultimate aim of life.

To attain moksha or realize God is a final aim and purpose of life. Moksha means freedom of the soul from the bondage of Maya and the circle of births and deaths. Furthermore, the bhakti Vedanta sampradayas believed that moksha includes the experience of the eternal bliss of God either in his abode or here in this world.

What is karma?

Karma means action or deed. Any mental thought, emotional feeling or physical action is called karma. Karma is both an individual act and the sum total of all acts, both in the present life and in the preceding births. Furthermore, karma is a universal law of cause and effect. Though God is ultimately the all-doer, he has endowed humans with free will. In species of life other than humans they cannot make moral decisions but are governed by instinct. Good deeds of by humans give merits and happiness, and bad deeds result in sin and suffering which he or she experiences in the future lifetimes. All souls reincarnate in various bodies depending upon the karmas performed in previous lives. Thus the principle of rebirth (punarjanam) and action karma are interrelated. 

The law of karma, that is cause and effect, does not work automatically or by itself. God is the supervisor, controller and the giver of the fruits of one's actions.

The four endeavors (Purusharthas) of life:

The four endeavours for a person are Dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth acquired through righteous ways), Kama (fulfilling one’s carnal and worldly desires within the disciplines of dharma) and moksha (liberation from material desires and the cycle of births and deaths) which is the final goal of life. In the liberated state the sole experiences god's divine bliss.

Practice yoga:

Yoga literally means union or to join. The ultimate aim prescribed in the yoga sutras by maharshi patanjali is to attain rapport with God or realization of God. He further describes that yoga also deals with holistic development of an individual: physical, mental and spiritual. Gradually the persons actions and thoughts attain harmony with the ultimate divine personality. There are several types of yoga some of which are karma yoga or yoga of action which is for people who are active bhakti yoga for emotional aspiration inclined towards devotion of God Raja yoga for person of mystical temperament janana yoga for people of rational and philosophically temperaments hatha yoga deals with breathing and body posture or to purify the inner body systems liya or kundalini yoga deal with waking the kundalini power from the base of the spine and the mantra yoga deals with risk recitation of mantras for self elevation and protection.


Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by the author are solely that of the author and do not reflect the views, thoughts, opinions, or policies of the HRÖ. 

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