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What is Sanatana Dharma

Loose translation of late puri Shakracharya Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthji’s explanation

Marut Mitra
‘Sanatana’ means ‘Nitya’ or Eternal. For Bharat, dharma is ‘Sanatana’, eternal. In any other language, there is no word to represent Dharma. In English, there is word ‘Religion’ but it cannot substitute word ‘Dharma’ fully. Word ‘Religion’ is so limited and narrow-minded translation that eternal gist of ‘Sanatana’ is lost when it is used as synonym. Dharma is so unfathomable that it not only covers subjects related to this life but a continuous time-immemorial living.

In scriptures, ‘Dharma’ is described as ‘Dharanata Dharma’ (There are many interpretations but essence remains same). Dharma is that which sustains the society, protects the society from decadence, downfall and destruction. Whereas ‘Religion’ is strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny. Religion may lead to superstitions, delusions and tunnel vision but Dharma cannot. For example, Veda does not mere prescribe spirituals discourses but they also suggest ways to prosper in material worlds.

Let us try to understand word by different yardsticks.

1) In Sanskrit grammar, word Sanatana Dharma is having Shashthi-Tatpurushasamasa i.e. ‘Sanatanasya Dharma iti Sanatana Dharma’. Like how Christ is part of Christianity, Buddha is part of Buddhism, Sanatana is part of Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma is being governed by the Sanatana i.e. Nitya Parmatma. It is not man-made, man-prescribed dharma but God-made, God-governed, God-prescribed, eternal dharma. Since Dharma has closest meaning in ‘Religion’, it is natural tendency to compare ‘Dharma’ with ‘Religion.

Take any religion of the world. It can be classified in two categories 1) Those who were there in ancient times and not practiced currently 2) Those that were not there in ancient times but are being practiced in present times. Sanatana does not fall in this category for very reason that it carry i.e. Nitya or eternal. It was there in ancient times and it is here right now, very reason why life still prevails in turmoil times.

2) Sanatana Dharma is eternal not only because it is created and prescribed by almighty but also because it remains eternal from formation of universe to destruction of universe and beyond. If we understand word Sanatana Dharma by ‘Karmadharayah Samasa’, it means ‘Sanatanashchasau Dharmashcha’ or dharma which stays forever.

This does not mean ‘Religion’ equivalents of ‘Dharma’ are fraud or false. Since they are influenced by one or another person, and controlled by sects, they die out.

3) Another way to interpret Sanatana Dharma is again ‘Karmadharayah Samasa’. There goes a shloka in ‘Karmadharayah Samasa’ which means Sanatana Dharma is eternal, not only because it was prescribed eternal almighty or it is eternal but also because those who follow Sanatana Dharma, also become Sanatana or Amar or immortal.

To understand this, we will have to look for comparative analysis of civilizations and Nations of the past. Greece, Rome, Syria, Persia and many such nations were powerful and had hold on Earth, but they all are vanished with time. Mighty military, abundant wealth and mass – they had everything but not a power to make people Sanatana. Despite turmoil of many millenniums, it is this land, land of Bharata, that has sustained life and the credit goes to people’s varied but steadfast belief in following eternal dharma principles.

4) To understand meaning of 3rd point (Dharma that makes followers immortal), we need to understand meaning of word Sanatanayati.

means Dharma which helps followers to attain God.

This is the nature of Sanatana Dharma. The one prescribed by eternal nature, is eternal and helps followers to become eternal by realizing existence of the eternal almighty. To understand and implement Sanatana Dharma in life, scriptures are written by Rishis in their deep communion with eternal. They are torchbearers. Whenever, they are not followed, society invites destruction, sooner or later.
(From : prachodayat.in)
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