Basics of Sanatan Dharma
Sanatan Dharma – By its name it means the eternal religion. The religion that exists for ever. All the historians around the world are busy in calculating the dating of origin of this religion, but till now there is no conclusive answer. Some says it started when the tribe from Central Asia known as Aryans invaded this land during some 1500 to 2500 BC. But the recent evidences show that there was never an Aryan Invasion. In fact there is no race like Aryans. Arya is a Sanskrit word which means Noble. With fall of this propaganda some tried to date it back to 4000 BC. The basis of this claim is that as per OT of Bible, there was a flood during that period and no human before that age was survived. This claim also fell flat when some stories similar to the flood found in Padma Puran, according to which the Sanatan Religion was in existence before and after the flood too.
In short, there is no conclusive proof regarding the Sanatan religion, except what is said in Vedas. Vedas claim the earth to be FOUR BILLION Year Old and the modern science too date the earth to be that old.
No Historians around the world deny the fact that the Sanatan Religion is infact the oldest human civilization, the Vedas being the Oldest Literature available with Human.
This Sanatan Religion saw many bad days in its life of four billion years. Sometimes the Brahmanism tried to misinterprete it, sometimes the birth of Budhism and Jainism threatened it for its existence, the bloody attacks of Gaznis, Mughols tried to root it out of the earth, sometimes the Conversion drive challenged it to prove its strength. Sanatan Dharma accepted all challenges.
Like the earlier attacks, the age old Sanatan Dharma is facing a threat in present era too. And this threat is from those who claim themselves to be the followers of Sanatan Dharma. This threat is ignorance. Ignorance of the basics of Sanatan Dharma. People are busy in some short of activities and believe it to be the Dharma. The younger generation is not getting any truth and try to go out of this. If this trend continuous for some more years, the glorious tradition of Human, which is in existence from the first day of humanity, will come to an end.
Hence I quest to show the basics of this Sanatan Dharma.
Founder or Origin of Sanatan Dharma
For every other religion, there is some Messiah or Prophet. Namely, Budhism from Sri Budha, Jainism from Sri Jain, Christianity from Christ, Islam from Mohammed (PBUH), Sikhism from Guru Nanak Dev ji. But When the question comes about Sanatan Dharma, there is no answer. In fact there is no founder of this religion. This religion is with humans from the first day. If we accept the claims made by Vedas, then it has origin from the Supreme Lord himself.
For every religion, there is one Holy Scripture. But of Sanatan Dharma, there is not one, there are many. People always get confused here to which one is to be followed.
All the scriptures can broadly classified into Four parts –
4. Puran and Itihas
Shruti are the words of the Supreme Lord that the early Rishis heard. These Shrutis were in the form of Rik (Mantras), received by Rishi Agni or Sam (Songs or music) Received by Rishi Aditya or jajus (actions) received by Rishi Vayu. Some other words were directly received by Rishi Atharvan or Angiras.
These four Rishis are called as Mantra Drashtas, as they personally received the Mantras in their heart. These four set of knowledge are known as Vedas. From these four Rishis, a Rishi known as Brahma learned all the four set of knowledge.
From that day, till the age of Mahabharat, these Vedas were passed on to next generations through oral tradition. To ensure that there is not a slightest variation in these mantras, our ancestors developed six Vedangas. They are –
1. Sikhshya : Siksha deals with phonetics, the pronunciation and accent. It explains how each syllable should be pronounced in which context and the psychic effects of those. There are two variations to plain pronunciation, called Udatta and Anudatta. Altering the pronunciation alters the meaning of what is being chanted and the results of chanting. (Important to preserve each and every syllable of Vedas).
2. Chhanda : Chandas is the science of metres. Syllables are classified into two categories, Guru and Laghu. A string of Guru-Laghu sequence of a particular length is called a metre. There are various metres in which the Vedic mantras are composed, such as Gayatri, Anusthup, Trishtup and Jagati. The chandas of a mantra determines its usage, such as its purpose and context. But it acts more as an error-correcting mechanism. Since the Veda is an oral tradition, any aberration in the chandas because of error in text or the swara, can be easily identified and corrected. (Important to check the errors in reciting the Veda mantras).
3. Vyakarana : Vyakarana is Grammar. Panini's Astadhyayi is the authority on Sanskrit Grammar. It was not written in Sanskrit but Panini used a meta-language called Upadesa to define the grammar of Sanskrit in about 8000 sutras/rules. (Important to understand the literature of Vedas).
4. Nirukta : Nirukta is the science of etymologies. It explains the word-roots and derivation of meanings of words in different contexts. Text: Yaska's Nirukta. (Important understand the meaning of veda mantras)
5. Jyotisha : yotisha is the science of shining objects - astronomy. Text: Lagadha's Vedanga Jyotisha. (Important to mark the period and dating of events).
6. kalpa : Kalpa speaks of the ritual portion, how and when sacrifice is to be conducted. Texts: Kalpa Sutras, consisting of Sulba Sutras and Srauta Sutras. Sulba Sutras contain the geometry of altars along with mathematical deductions for the geometry. Srauta Sutras contain guidelines for conducting sacrifices. Important to follow the vedic principles so as to get maximum benefit. The Kalp Sturas include:
- Shraut Sutra - the protocal of Vedic rituals
- Grihya Sutra - prescribed rituals for family life
- Dharma Sutra - one's religious, social and moral duties
- Shulb Sutra - how to create an altar for Vedic rituals
These oral methodology is so scientific that it ensures there is not a single vowel corrupted from the origin of Vedas. For this knowledge, this methodology finds its place in the UNESCO’s List of Human Traditions.
During Mahabharat era, VyasaMuni classified these Vedas and grouped them into four parts. Taught each part to a different person. For protection of Vedas and to spread the knowledge, many Branches of Schools of education came into existence.
"According to the Mahabhasya of Patanjali, there were 21 Shakhas of Rigveda, 9 of Atharvaveda, 101 of Yajurveda (86 of Krishna Yajurveda and 15 of Shukla Yajurveda, according to later authorities) and a 1000 shakhas of Samaveda. All these add to give the figure 1131.
However, out of these 1131 Shakhas, only 11 Shakhas remain alive. As far as Rigved is concerned, only one Shakha, Shaakal Shakha alone remains alive out of the 21 that existed at one time. Another shakha that may have survived is the Bāṣhkala, although this is uncertain. Out of the 101 Shakhas of Yajurveda, only 6 are alive. In fact, Yajurveda is classified broadly into Shukla Yajurveda and Krishna Yajurveda. Shukla Yajurveda is also known asVajasaneyi. The Vajasaneyi Samhita has forty chapters or adhyayas and there are two extant Shakhas of Shukla Yajurveda viz. Kanva and Madhyandina. Krishna Yajurveda has 4 extant Shakhas viz.
There are three surviving Shakhas out of 1000 of the text of the Samaveda Samhita:
· the Kauthuma Shakha is current in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and since a few decades in Darbhanga, Bihar,
· the Jaiminiya in the Carnatic, Tamilnadu and Kerala,
· and the Rāṇāyanīya in the Maharastra.
Out of the nine Shakhas of Atharvaveda, only two have survived
· Paippalāda, in regions south to Narmada river
· Shaunakīya, in regions north to Narmada river"
Each veda has four parts –
1. Mantra Samhita
Mantra Samhitas are the complete Books known as Rig Veda, Sam Veda, JajuVeda, and Atharva Veda. Upanishads are the discussions of different Rishis on the concept of Vedas. At some point of time there were more than a thousand Upanishads. But presently we have 108 upanishads alive. Aranyaks are the procedures to be followed by the Rishis staying in the forests. Brahmans are the discussions regarding God.
Smrutis are the Dharma Shastras or Law Books written by the Rishis. These were like the Constitution or different Acts of a country. Very popular Smrutis are Gautam Smruti, Manu Smruti, Vashistha Smruti. Smrutis have to be in accordance with the Shrutis. In case of conflict between the Shruti and the Smruti, it’s the principle of Shrutis that are to be followed.
Darshanas (or Philosophies) are the summary of Veda and Upanishads. If one wants to know the summary of Sanatan Dharma, its sufficient if he goes through the Darshana Shastras. These six darshanas are also known as six schools of Hinduism. Thesix darshana Shastras are:
- Poorva Mimansa by Sage Jaimini explains the performance of lower or apar dharma actions and rituals for material prosperity and happiness
- Nyaya by Sage Gautama is a system of logic for discerning the difference between maya, matter, and God, who we should desire to attain and know
- Vaisheshika by Sage Kanad is another system of logic for finding happiness through renouncing worldly desires and attaining absolute liberation and knowledge of the Divine
- Sankhya by Bhagwan Kapil delineates 24 stages of physical creation and discriminates between what is material and what is Divine, and explains that material attachment binds the soul in the cycle of birth and death, and the understanding of Divine truth (God) releases the soul from that bondage
- Yoga Sutras or Yoga Darshana by Sage Patanjali explain there are three kinds of evidence for determining the aim of life, perceptual, inferential and scriptural.
There are five kinds of mental anguish associated with ignorance, ego, attachment, hatred, and the fear of death. These are eliminated through the practice of yoga and total renunciation.
The Yoga Sutras define renunciation as the elimination of all the thoughts and the desires that arise out of direction perception of, or indirect knowledge of this world. The practice of perfecting this renunciation is ashtanga yoga, which has 8 stages:
- yama -- moral codes of behavior
- niyama -- disciplines of self-restraint
- asana -- physical postures,
- pranayama -- breath control,
- pratyahara -- sense control,
- dharana -- concentration,
- dhyana -- meditation
- samadhi -- complete absorption in thought-free trance. For success in perfecting the final state of samadhi, Patanjali advises the practitioner to seek God's help (Sutra 2/45).
- Uttar Mimansa or Brahm Sutra by Bhagwan Ved Vyas states the prerequisite for its study is a deep desire to know God, and true liberation is only attained through surrender to God. God is unlimited and endowed with Divine qualities including a Divine personal form. It describes the existing state of the universe, the state of a soul under the bondage of maya, and the greatness of bhakti. It explains that through bhakti God's Grace is easily attained. The Brahm Sutra conveys the same theme of the Upnishads, which are the essence of the scriptures of Hinduism.
Purans and Itihas are the History books of the land. Very popular purans are –
3. Padma Puran
4. Vishnu Puran
5. Shiva Puran
These Purans although show us morality, but are not authentic for Praman. Praman are to be from the Shrutis. Srimad Bhagavat Gita is a part of Mahabharat, where Bhagavan Shree Krishna says about the duties and spirituality. It’s the best commentary on Vedas. Hence this is highly appreciated by all around the world.
Principle of God
Every Religion has a principle on God. Christianity believes on Trinity – YHVA (God), the Holy Spirit and Jesus. Islam believes on Allah being the only God. While reciting the kalma, muslims loud this statement that, “There is No God except Allah, and Mohammed is the Rasool of Allah”
These two religions believe God to be a spirit who created the whole Universe. I don’t deny these theories. But my belief on the principles of Vedas is stronger because of the concept of reality that comes out from these principles.
Starting from the smallest living being to the largest, all are related to each other, all reproduce in distinct manner, all live in a special style, all have some distinct character, these all can not be just coincidence.
But I don't believe God is sitting some where in this Universe, with a remote control in hand and controls us, I do agree with that, our destiny is designed by us, and these are not engraved on our palms. I am neither in support of palmistry nor of astrology regarding forecast of future. But as a scientist, we can easily forecast on some issues. Those are based on some rules. And these rules are not created by human. These laws are accounted by human. All scientist agree that these are laws of nature, so do I.
Vedic view is The entire Universe is the physical appearance of God. For that I rely on the Nashadiya Sukta and Purusha Skta of Mandal-10 of Rig Veda.
Nashadiya Sukta says, in the begining, there was neither non-being, nor being. A desire came to manifest. then a sound was made Om... from that first came the space, then the sky, air, water, fire and last came the earth. In this sukta, there are some questions too, which are yet to be answered by human. Purushua sukta goes in detail of this. It assumes the Universe being a human, and how different components of the Universe came out of his body.
In short, Veda sees God being the entire Universe. But this physical body is not the Brahman or the God. As there is a life content in our body, there is a life content of this Universe too. That life content is God.
Yes, Universe has life, so as with air, fire, water etc. Each and every component, that you can show has life. Entire human body has life, each body part has life, each cell has life. But they are different to each other. You know, in the Universe, nothing is static, each one is moving around some thing, the source of that moment is life. You know water has some character; source of that character is life. We know other planets are not good enough for life, but in this case, we mean life as existing on earth, can you say, there cant be any other form of life ?
Life on earth lives on Oxygen to live, life under water live by extracting Oxygen from water. Why oxygen is required? Because it will burn the food that we take, why burning is required ? to distribute food that we eat. So ultimate action to live is to distribute energy to each and every cell of our body. Can we safely say, these action is not possible without water or presence of oxygen in air ? There may be some life system that can extract oxygen from Carbon dioxide. We can’t deny.
Many think Hinduism being Polytheism, as they worship many Gods. But this is just a misconception. Sanatan Dharma believes on one Parambrahma and sees him in every thing. What people see to be many Gods are in fact many Devatas. Devatas are the life content of different components of universe that we see, like the air, water, fire etc. To understand these better, I will show an extract of Brihadaranyak Upanishad. This says about the life content or soul, that I have said so far -
Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad/3/7/3 – 22.
3. “He who dwells in the earth, yet is other than the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body is the earth, who controls the earth from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
4. “He who dwells in the waters, yet is other than the waters, whom the waters do not know, whose body is the waters, who controls the waters from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
5. “He who dwells in the fire, yet is other than the fire, whom the fire does not know, whose body is the fire, who controls the fire from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
6. “He who dwells in space, yet is other than space, whom space does not know, whose body is space, who controls space from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
7. “He who dwells in the wind, yet is other than the wind, whom the wind does not know, whose body is the wind, who controls the wind from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
8. “He who dwells in the sky, yet is other than the sky, whom the sky does not know, whose body is the sky, who controls the sky from within– he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
9. “He who dwells in the sun, yet is other than the sun, whom the sun does not know, whose body is the sun, who controls the sun from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
10. “He who dwells in the regions of space, yet is other than the regions of space, whom the regions of space do not know, whose body is the regions of space, who controls the regions of space from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
11. “He who dwells in the moon and the stars, yet is other than the moon and the stars, whom the moon and the stars do not know, whose body is the moon and stars, who controls the moon and the stars from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
12. “He who dwells in the atmosphere, yet is other than the atmosphere, whom the atmosphere does not know, whose body is the atmosphere, who controls the atmosphere from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
13. “He who dwells in the darkness, yet is other than the darkness, whom the darkness does not know, whose body is the darkness, who controls the darkness from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
14. “He who dwells in the light, yet is other than the light, whom the light does not know, whose body is the light, who controls the light from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
“So far with reference to the divinities. Now with reference to beings.
15. “He who dwells in all beings, yet is other than all beings, whom all beings do not know, whose body is all beings, who controls all beings from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
“So far with reference to beings. Now with reference to the body.
16. “He who dwells in the life breath, yet is other than the life breath, whom the life breath does not know, whose body is the life breath, who controls the life breath from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
18. “He who dwells in the eye, yet is other than the eye, whom the eye does not know, whose body is the eye, who controls the eye from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
19. “He who dwells in the ear, yet is other than the ear, whom the ear does not know, whose body is the ear, who controls the ear from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
20. “He who dwells in the mind, yet is other than the mind, whom the mind does not know, whose body is the mind, who controls the mind from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
21. “He who dwells in the skin, yet is other than the skin, whom the skin does not know, whose body is the skin, who controls the skin from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
22. “He who dwells in the understanding, yet is other than the understanding, whom the understanding does not know, whose body is the understanding, who controls the understanding from within–he is the atman within you, the Inner Controller, the immortal.
The entire concept can be understood in simple way. Lets take an example. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin are the sense organs, but Veda say, Dristi (ability to see), Shruti (ability to hear), ghran (ability to smell), swad (ability to taste) and sparsh (ability to know by touch) are the senses.
Take the organs as hardware, and senses as softwares. These can not be separated, with out one, the other one is not possible.
Similarly, fire, air, water are hardwares, Agnidev (Devata that dwells in fire, though in fire is not fire and not separate from fire) is the software.
Synonomy of God in Vedas
When ever we hear the word religion, the first question that comes in our mind is the concept of God.
Christianity as well as Islam say about “Monotheism”. Means God is one. The name of God of Bible is Yahava, and the same of Quran is Allah. But when the question comes on Hinduism, every one is in doubt.
The Quran says the Hindus as “Mushrik” because they worship more than one God. The Bible says them Pagans, for the same reason. And both these divine books claim eternal hell for Hindus for this activity.
Now questions are being asked, how many Gods are there in fact ?? For that we have to first understand what does God mean ??
In Vedas many words are equated with English God. Lets explore them one by one.
1. Brahma –
Brahma or Brahmatatva or Brahman is the primary and the basic. That is the original, unborn, eternal. The famous Nasadiya Sukta of Rig veda starts with “Neither there was a being or Nonbeing” . That primary who is eternal is Brahma. That Brahma expanded itself. That Brahma is every thing. That is one, and surely only one. There is nothing beyond that. The Universe is called as Brahmand for being of Brahma.
2. Paramatma –
Brahma consists of both matter and consciousness. The Consciousness is known as Paramatma, and the matter as Prakriti
3. Iswar –
Iswar is vast, the unborn, the eternal and primary seed in the form of consciousness. Paramatma is consciousness of Brahma, where as Iswar is the conscious one. That is verily one. Theoritically Paramatma and Iswar represent two different things, but practically these are one, being the former is just an attribute of the later.
4. Devata –Here all people get confused. Devata are the different energy levels or forces of nature. A combination of consciousness and matter. These are called as Devata, because the give us, without taking something in exchange. Any one who possess this quality will be termed as Devata.
Vedas declared there are primarily 33 devatas. They are –
1 Brahmaa -
The ultimate knowledge. Knowing which will liberate from all bondage
1 Indra -
The ultimate energy – that transforms into different other energy, it is that force of nature which controls all other forces of nature. Hence it is said as king of devatas.
8 Vasus –
Agni- “hot fire
Āditya- “eternal”, a very common name for the sun Surya
Nakstrani – “stars”
11 Rudras -
Regarding 11 Rudras there are many difference of opinions, Iam giving you all the sets of 11 names which I have,
Rudra Prasna (3.5):
Bhava; Sharva; Pashupathi; Nilagriva; shithikanta; Kapardina; Vyupta-kesha; Shasraksha; Shatadhanva; Girisha ; and Shipivista.
Rupa-mandana (a text of Shilpa sastra) :
Isana; Tatpurusha; Aghora; Vamadeva; Sadyojatha; Mruthyunjaya; Kiranaksha; Srikanta; Abhirbhudhya; Bahurup… and Tryamkaka.
Visvakarma Shilpa (a text of Shilpa sastra):Aja;
Ekapat; Abhirbudhya; Virupaksha; Revata; Hara; Bahurupa; Tryambaka; Suresvara; Jayanta; and Aparajita.
Amsumad bheda agama ( a text of Shilpa sastra):
Mahadeva; Siva; Rudra ;Sankara; Nilalohita; Isana; Vijaya; Bhima; Deva -Deva; Bhava ; and Kapali.
Rta-dhvaja; Manu; Manyu; Ugra-retas; Mahan; Siva; Bhava; Kala; Mahinasa; Vamadeva; and Dhrta-vrata.
Mahabharata (Adi Parva):
Mrigavyadha; Sarpa; Niriti; Ajaikapat ; Abhivardhana ; Pinaki ; Dahana ; Iswara ;Kapali ;Sthanu ;and Bharga.
Valmiki Ramayana (4.43):
Aja; Ekapada; Abhirbhudya; Hara; Shambu: Tryambaka; Aparajita; Isana; Tribhuvana; Twasta; and Rudra.
Srimad Bhagavata (3.12.12):
Manyu ; Manu; Mahinasa; Mahan; Siva; Rta-dhvaja; Ugra-reta; Bhava; Kala; Vamadeva; and Dhrta-vrata.
Agni Purana (Ch 18) :
Aparajita; Hara; Bahurupa; Tryambaka; Vrsakapi; Shambu; Kapardina; Raivata; Mriga vyadha; Sarpa; and Kapali.
According to Jothish Sastras :
Kapali; Pingala; Bhima; Virupaksha;Vilohita; Shasta; Ajapada; Abhirbudhnya; Shambu; Chanda ;and Bhava.
These rule the eleven-division chart called Rudramsha, which indicates the struggles and strife’s of the horoscope. There are prayers to appease the specific Rudras.
12 Adityas –Vishnu,Sakra,Aryaman,Dhuti,Tvastr,Pusan,Vivasvat,Savitr,Mitra,Varuna,Amsa andBhaga.
5. Bhagvan –
bhag means wealth. So Bhagvan means possesor of wealth. Those who have wealth and those who give that to us are known as Bhagvan. Very often devata and bhagvan means the same, because devata is one who gives without any thing in exchange, and bhagvan is one who gives the wealth which that possess.
Goal and Procedure to reach the Goal
Every religion shows a goal or target to man kind. Islam and Christianity shows the target being the Heaven. And claim hell for all those who does not accept their view.
But the target as envisaged by Vedas is Mukti. Mukti means freedom from any kind of Bondage. Even the Heaven or Swarga is a bondage too.
All religions say about some rituals to follow, like prayer of five times a day by the Muslims. Here to Vedas show a neutral view.
Isha Upanishad, Mantra – 9
andham tamah pravisanti ye'vidyamupasate
tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayaD ratah
“Into a blind darkness they enter who are devoted to ignorance (rituals); but into a greater darkness they enter who engage in knowledge of a deity alone.”
In this mantra of Isa Upanishad, it is said that, those are ignorant who only believe in rituals (although rituals are important, only rituals not going to help), but those are blind who expect mokhsya from Devatas (Devatas are there for betterment of our life on earth, but mokshya can not be given by them. Infact like we humans, devatas are performing to get mokshya.
Most important lines of Ishaupanishad is Mantra 11
vidyam chavidyam cha yastadvedobhayaD saha
avidyaya mrtyum tirtva vidyaya'mrtamasnute
“He who is aware that both knowledge and ignorance should be pursued together, overcomes death through ignorance and obtains immortality through knowledge.”
Here knowledge does not mean knowledge of any religious scriptures like Veda, it means the ultimate knowledge (Brahmgyan). What is Brahmgyan is mentioned in Katha Upanishad, the story of Nachiketa and his visit to yam. Brahmgyan is self realization, realization of the reason why and how we are different from God, and to practice to remove all differences.This can be achieved through performance,Krishna in Srimad Bhagavat Gita, said two ways of performance, 1. Sankhya Yoga (To gain knowledge)2. karma Yoga. (to perform duties). Though Krishna viewed that Karma Yoga is the best way of getting salvation, I view both are important.
So Vedas are not suggesting to go through rituals always, they suggest two ways, 1. knowledge and 2. performance of duties. But these are to be in accordance with Dharma (ethics).
In short, the Sanatan Dharma urges to live happily and to let others live happily on earth. This is the only way of living on earth. Only way of humanity.
He alone is noble who strives for well-being of all human beings irrespective of their faiths, personal beliefs, gender, region or any other division. (Rigveda 10.26.5)