Sanatana Dharma (SD)
(The Eternal Religion) whose incorrect name is Hinduism
Written for the High School and College Students of the West
by Suresh ‘Vyas’
Hindu is a wrong name of Vedic people whose culture grew in Bharat (India) on the East of Sindhu river and South of Himalayas. The Muslim invaders pronounced Sindhu as Hindu. To them, Hindu meant those who lived on the other side of the river Sindhu. Similarly, the Europeans called Bharat India. This article will use correct original names.
Rather than knowing SD from non-SD or anti-SD person, more and more students and teachers want to know it directly from real Vedic people and SD preachers. This is smart, because you could get true knowledge of SD from them only.
Here is some data about SD:
Number of Followers: More than 900 million people, mostly from Bharat. It has the 3rd largest following.
Number of Scriptures: SD has the greatest number of huge scriptures or religious literature. The root scriptures are four Vedas of 80,000 Sanskrit verses total. The summary parts of the Vedas are called Upanishads which are 2057. Of them, 108 are principals. Then there are 18 Puranas or the history books. Each PuraaN has thousands of verses. Of these, Srimad Bhagavatam is considered a spotless PuraaN. Then there are many Smrutis, literature on the six kinds of philosophies, and two great epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata which has 90,000 verses. It is the story of a great war that occurred 5,000 years ago in Bharat.
One 700-verse portion in the middle of Mahabharata is called Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God). It is the summary of the 80,000 verses of the Vedas. Therefore, it is known as THE BOOK of SD. My guru (spiritual master) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Aacharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has translated Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita in English. His books are studied in many USA universities. He has thousands of disciples all over the world. His books are also translated in many other languages of the world. In addition to the above literature, there is literature written in our times by six great Aacharyas (the spiritual masters who practice what they preach and teach by example).
All the original literature is in Sanskrit language. Now the computer programmers of the world realize that Sanskrit is a logical language and is easily programmable. In a Sanskrit sentence, you could put words in any sequence, and the meaning does not change at all. Obviously, the Vedic culture which developed such an efficient language and such a vast religious literature must be highly advanced intellectually.
The way of Preaching: The world has never seen a Vedic preacher knocking doors to preach. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, in Gita says, ‘This is confidential knowledge for coming to Me. Do not impart it to any one who is not interested or is envious to Me.’ Some great Aacharyas, however, are so compassionate to others that sometimes they do preach to uninterested. Islam, on the opposite end, says, ‘Convert all the people of the world, even by brute force if necessary, or kill them if they refuse or resist. By doing so, you would go to heaven.’ Christians also have used brute force, particularly in South America, to spread religion. This is not the way of the Vedic people. Sanatana Dharma is spread because it is attractive to all types of people, particularly the intellectuals. Not only that, it has survived diabolic acts of Islam, over last 1,000 years, of mass killings, destruction of thousands of temples and libraries and learning centers in Bharat. The holocaust of Hitler is very small compared to what the Vedic people have suffered. Still, Sanatana Dharma is spreading. Unless it speaks of the eternal truths, this could not be possible. No doubt, Bhagavad Gita gives complete science of spirituality, say some world scholars.
1. The Origin Of Sanatana Dharma
The Supreme of Godhead himself gave the knowledge of the Vedas to the first living being, demigod Brahma, in the beginning of the this creation. This knowledge has come down to us through bona fide disciplic successions. In the ancient times, there was no need to write Vedas because people used to keep it in their memory very easily. Vyasadeva, a literary incarnation of the Supreme God, call it Krishna or Vishnu, wrote it the first time 5,000 years ago for our benefit because he knew that we people in the next Kali millennium would not have much ability to remember. Kali started when Krishna left this world about 5,000 years ago.
2. The Concept Of Time
The smallest unit of time used by the Vedic people was called a Truti. The other units were:
100 Trutis = 1 Vedha
3 Vedha = 1 Lava
3 Lava = 1 Nimesh
3 Nimesh = 1 Kshana
5 Kshana = 1 Kashtha
15 Kashtha = 1 Ghadi
2 Ghadi = 1 Muhoorta (= 1 Hour)
3 Muhoorta = 1 Prahara
4 Prahara = 1 day or night
360 days = 1 Varsha (= 1 year)
432,000 x 1 years = 1 Kali yuga
432,000 x 2 years = 1 Dwapara yuga
432,000 x 3 years = 1 Treta yuga
432,000 x 4 years = 1 Satya yuga
One cycle of Satya, Treta, Dwapara, and Kali = 1 Maha yuga.
71 Maha yuga = 1 Manvantara
14 Manvantara = 1 Kalpa = 1 Day of Brahma
360 days of Brahma = 1 Year of Brahma
100 Years of Brahma = 1 Maha Kalpa = 1 Breath of Maha Vishnu
3. The Predictions:
Bhavishyat PuraaN full of predictions. Srimad Bhagavatam in its final chapters predicts that Krishna would incarnate as Buddha. He did, 2000 years ago. The next predicted incarnation of Krishna is Kalki at the end of Kali. The kind of culture we see now is all predicted in there clearly.
4. The Concept Of Space:
Three quarters of the total creation of God is called the spiritual world. The rest, one quarter, is this material world within our sky with its galaxies, stars, suns, moons, and planets. The spiritual world is beyond this material world which is dark, and that is why God has created suns and moons so that we can see. The spiritual world is self illuminating and has spiritual planets. A lot more spiritual living beings live there.
5. The Technological Advancements:
Space travel, consequences of the theory of relativity, all kinds of weapons much more advanced and destructive than we have now, counter weapons, voice operated airplanes, etc. is described in Mahabharata and other scriptures. To Vedic people, no technological advancement is new. It is new in our time only.
6. The Concept Of The Supreme God:
The Supreme God is only one, otherwise the word supreme has no meaning. He can be realized by any human in three ways:
1) as Brahman which is formless, sexless, without any qualities, impersonal. it is described as sat (eternal existence) chit (supreme consciousness), and aananda (bliss).
2) as Paramatma within one’s heart as the Supersoul along with the Soul in the bodies of all living beings. He just looks at the Soul and witnesses everything the Soul thinks, speaks, and does. He is one, common in each living being, and
3) Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is known as Krishna, Vishnu, Mahavishnu, etc. He is the supreme controller and cause of the causes. He incarnates as Brahma to create, as Vishnu to maintain, and as Shiva to destroyer. Bhagavan the almighty God who is the controller of all opulence, power, fame, beauty, and renunciation, says Swami Prabhupada. He is a person full of all the qualities and forms. He loves His creation and each living being. He especially loves those who love him or remember Him or want to come to Him. He provides extra help to them. His forms, abode and past times are described very vividly in scriptures like Brahma samhita, and Srimad Bhagavatam. Whenever there is decline of religion and advent or irreligion, He incarnates in the material worlds mainly to protect and please His devotees. Then, as His secondary activity, He also annihilates the miscreants who give troubles to His devotees. He is unborn and never dies. He never gets old or sick. He is everywhere, knows everything of the past, present, and the future. He can appear in person before any one who qualifies, and can communicate like any other human being.
7. The Concept Of Demigods:
The principal demigods are three, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as described above. Vedic people worship Vishnu or Krishna, Shiva (a son of Brahma), Goddess Durga (or Uma, wife of Shiva) which is the material energy of Krishna, Ganesh (the elephant-headed son of Shiva, and the Sun God. In addition, they also worship Lakshmi (the goddess of money and wife of Vishnu,) Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge and daughter of Brahma,) and nine other goddesses which are different forms of Durga. The forms of all demigods and goddesses are very beautiful, but goddess Kali’s form is black, and ferocious.
Each demigod or goddess serves Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They control various planets and carry on various functions and control the various natural laws. Each demigod has special power to give special benediction. Lakshmi gives money to her devotees, Saraswati gives knowledge to her devotees, Ganesh gives success in religious endeavors of his devotees, Hanuman, the monkey-god gives willpower to curb sex drive and strength to body and knowledge of Rama (Krishna) to his devotees, etc. Whatever benedictions the demigods give are actually given by Krishna. Demigods are like human beings, but with very much physical and mystic powers and very long lives. They live on their own planets in this material universe. They too die and re-incarnate like humans. The Puranas describe how demigods have fought with each other and how Vishnu finally ends the conflicts. This is always happening on various planets in various universes.
8. Analysis Of A Living Entity:
A living being has a body made of five great material elements: earth, water, air, fire, and sky. In the language of Physics these are five states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, plasma, and sky which is void and ether or electromagnetic medium which pervades every where in space. A body is born, constantly changes, gets diseases, could gets cured, and ultimately dies.
Within a body is a Jiva or subtle body made of mind, intelligence, ego, and the Soul of the living being with the Supersoul called Paramatma which is common in each living being.
The mind, intelligence and ego are described as material, but the Soul and Supersoul are spiritual, non-material. Just as light is spread everywhere from the Sun, consciousness is spread everywhere in the body from the Soul. The size of a soul, living spark, is described as 10 thousandth part of the tip of a hair. It resides in the heart along with the Supersoul whose size is that of a thumb. A soul is qualitatively same as the Supersoul, but quantitatively its powers are very less compared to the Supersoul or God. Like God, a soul never dies. It is described as a part and parcel of God.
The business of mind is to make various desires and receive thoughts. Mind is very swift. It can go from one desire to another, one thought to another, with the speed of light. Mind’s natural propensity is to wander swiftly, but it could be made steady by constant practice and detachment, says Krishna. The purpose of Yoga is to make the mind steady and focus it on God.
The business of intelligence is to figure out right form wrong and good from bad. The ego says, “I am this or I am that,” like: “I am American, white, black, student, teacher, president, boy girl, woman, man, etc.” When some one asks you who you are? The answer comes from your ego. Their intelligence could change from fool to wise or wise to fool. The scriptures and SD is meant to make us more and more intelligent and wise, spiritually.
Most people have an ego which is based on the body. Therefore, it is called a false ego because body is not permanent and is material. Our true ego, SD says is that we are the souls, part and parcels of God. We have an eternal loving relation with God, Krishna, which we have forgotten.
9. Why We Are Here In The Material World?
As the servants and devotees of Krishna, we, the souls were once in the spiritual world with Him in perfect harmony and blissful state like many may others who are there. Because God loves all souls equally, He gives all freedom to each soul. Some souls there think, “God controls everything and enjoys everything. I am like God too. So, why not I control the material energy and enjoy myself?” Thus, they desire to enjoy independent of God. This, however, says SD, is not possible unless one forgets Krishna. So, Krishna’s Maya, the illusory energy makes them forget Krishna so that they can fulfill their desire. This gives them a birth in the material world with a material body.
Swami Prabhupada says that this material world is like a prison. The souls who desire to exploit the material energy and enjoy with their senses independent of Krishna are sent here from the spiritual world. Thus they are called fallen. God and His demigods maintain law and order in this prison, but because we have made unspiritual desires, we cause troubles in the prison.
10. The Purpose Of Living:
Some prisoners, the souls in this material world, come to realization that they do not belong here, that they made a wrong desire to enjoy independent of Krishna. They then desire to go back to their original home, back to Godhead, Krishna. Then Krishna’s agents in the prison help them. Thus they go back to godhead soon.
Of all the living beings, only humans can understand God with their intelligence, His creation, purpose of life, etc. Therefore, only they are capable of going back to Krishna in the spiritual world. The purpose of human life is to go back to Krishna.
11. The Concept Of Maya (Illusion):
Maya is the illusory energy of Krishna that makes a soul forget Krishna so that the soul could go ahead per his desire to exploit the material energy of Krishna independent of Him. It conceals the truth from us, and we perceive something other than the truth. It is under the control of Krishna. So, if we surrender to Krishna, Maya could not fool or bewilder us. It binds us by its three gunas (modes or ropes): Satva (the mode of knowledge), Rajas (the mode of work), and Tamas (the mode of ignorance). At any given time one mode is predominant in us. These modes compete among themselves to influence over us. We always are under the influence of a mix of any amount of these three modes. The true purpose of life, says SD, is to constantly struggle against Maya and ultimately become independent of Maya. The purpose is to raise ourselves from Tamas to Rajas to Satva, and ultimately go beyond Satva. Then we free ourselves from the clutches of Maya, we become Gunatitas. Then we qualify to go back to godhead.
12. The Theory of Karma (Action) and Re-incarnation:
This describes a law of Prakriti (nature). Everyone does something at any moment. It is not possible to stop acting. Generally, if we do good, we get good/ pleasing result. If we do bad thing, we get in trouble. We get reward and punishment in fair proportion to our good or bad actions.
A soul never dies. In the material world, Prakriti (nature) gives the soul a body suitable to fulfill its desires. All souls in the animal and plant life once had a human body. It was their chance to use their intelligence and go back to godhead. Instead, they choose to live like an animal or demon. Therefore, as a result of their karma, their desires to enjoy food, sleep, defending, and sex only as animals do, nature prescribed them a series of births in non-human lives.
Animals live by instinct, not by spiritual intelligence. Therefore, there is no sin for whatever they do. In the animal and plant lives, they enjoy as they desired, but they suffer too, because miseries of birth, death, old age, and diseases could not be avoided in the material world. Once they pass through a series of births forced upon them by nature, they again get a human birth. Thus again they get a chance to use intelligence and learn how to go back to godhead.
Whatever a living being enjoys or suffers is because of the results of its past actions, even of previous lives. Krishna loves all souls, and He also controls the nature. Therefore, even if one has committed so much sins, but if one surrenders to Krishna, He could destroy one’s past sin’s bad reactions instantly. Krishna, always being along with each soul as Paramatma, knows all the previous births of a soul and one’s all acts in each. Most of us do not remember our past lives. Whatever one remembers at the time of one’s death, one gets the next birth accordingly.
13. The Ways Of Going Back To God:
Death is certain, but no one knows when it will come. So, if we remember Krishna and think of going back to him constantly, then we would be thinking that too at the time of our death. Then Krishna says, we go to Him. Whatever we remember in most of our lives, whatever our strong desires are, that we remember at the time of death which may be painful.
In Vedic culture, the social system given by Krishna is such that each person has opportunity to go back to Him. This system is called Varna-aashrama Dharma. This is also another true name of SD. The society is divided in four classes of people:
1) Brahmins or the intellectuals. They study and teach the Vedas and other religious scriptures. They are the spiritual guides to the society.
2) Kshatriyas or the protectors. They maintain social law and order within and from without so that all other classes of people could execute their duties as prescribed by Krishna.
3) Vaishyas or mercantile. They do farming, cattle keeping for milk, etc., and merchants, and
4) Shudras or laborers. They do manual service to all the other classes.
A class for a person is decided not by his birth but by his qualities and actions. Krishna and scriptures describe in detail how these classes should conduct their duties. Krishna says, by performing duties as prescribed, one goes back to Him.
Life given to humans is of 100 years, generally. SD says, one should do four activities in life:
1) Dharma. Study religion and what one’s duties are. This is done from age 5 to 25 in a Gurukula where one lives with a spiritual master and serves him and learns from him.
2) Artha . Earn living according to one’s natural tendencies or as advised by one’s guru. This is done from age 26 to 75.
3) Kama. Get married and gratify the senses as prescribed by the scriptures, from age 27 to75. Sex indulgence out of marriage is prohibited. Sex indulgence within marriage is allowed only when one wishes to raise God conscious children and is capable of raising, and
4) Moksha. This, going back to godhead, getting out of the cycle of births and deaths, raising one above the three modes of material nature, is the ultimate goal of life. All the three previous activities are for to get this.
Life of a human has four phases depending upon age:
1) 5-25: Barhmacharya Aashrama (phase). In this phase, one studies and observes celibacy.
2) Grihastha Aashrama. 25-50: In this, one enjoys married life, earns money, raises god conscious children.
3) 50-75: Vanaprastha Aashrama. In this, one retires from family life and lives in nature as prescribed.
4) 75 to end: Sanyasa Aashrama. In this, one completely withdraws from worldly life and lives a complete spiritual life with just minimum necessities. They become the highly respected preachers of the society. Thus, SD prescribes how one in each Varna should live in each Aashrama. The spiritual intelligence goes down from Brahmins to Kshatriyas to Vaishyas to Shudras. Therefore, a higher Varna usually is more strict in living according to scriptures. More one abides by SD, more one is respected in society.
14. The Four Main Yoga’s:
Yoga means to join, with the supreme god, Krishna. One chooses a yoga depending upon where one’s strength is. The result, or goal, ultimately is the same, Moksha.
1) Some people are more action oriented. They mostly think, “What do I do?” They usually prefer Karma yoga. Krishna says, “Whatever you do, do it for Me, and do not aim for results. Just do it because it is right thing to do for me.” This is karma yoga.
2) Some people have a lot of brain power. They usually prefer Gyana yoga. They study about god and his creation. They ask who am I, why am I here, etc. Births after births they keep on studying and developing intelligence. Krishna says that after many births a Gyana yogi becomes a Bhakti yogi.
3) Some people are men of heart, very emotional. They usually prefer Bhakti Yoga. They fall in love with Krishna. Then they cannot help but do everything to please Krishna. Krishna says that of all the yogis, a Bhakta, a devotee, is most dear to Him. Bhaktas are of two kinds: a) A Sakama Bhakta worships Krishna because he wants something from Him. b) A Niskama Bhakta worships Krishna because he knows that Krishna is worshipable. He does not want anything from Him. He loves Krishna so much that he does not want to give Him any trouble. Such Bhaktas do not care for even Moksha. They want is to have the opportunity to serve and glorify Krishna and His devotees. This is the highest form of Bhakti. It usually comes after some sakama bhakti.
4) Some, very few, people are good at controlling mind. They prefer Dhyana yoga. They constantly practice controlling the wandering mind and focus it on Krishna. When they become able to do it by practice and by detachment, they feel bliss when they are in that Samadhi condition when the mind stays steady on Krishna like a flame of a lamp in a room without any air movement. They get some supernatural power because of this accomplishment. If they misuse it, however, they fall down spiritually and suffer eventually.
15. Control Over The Senses:
Any yogi, anyone who wants to go back to godhead, needs to keep his senses in control. The senses of knowledge: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and sense of touch are engaged in acquiring knowledge and understanding of Krishna and His past times. The senses of action are engaged in the service and glorification of Krishna and His devotees.
16. Some Vedic Views and Prayers:
- Parents, teachers, and gurus are revered as demigods.
- The whole world is a family.
- O God, lead us from darkness of ignorance to the light of spiritual knowledge, from all the untruths (relative truths or partial truths) to the Absolute Truth.
- A mother, the earth, a king’s wife, teacher’s wife, guru’s wife, elder brother’s wife, and a cow are all treated as one’s mothers. One should walk softly on the earth and never mistreat a cow.
- One should respect other’s sadhana (practice of going back to godhead), but should not deviate from one’s own sadhana.
- One should always give up (control) lust, anger, greed, and passions.
- One should not give up sacrifice, charity, and austerity. Chanting the holy names of Krishna is called Japa sacrifice, and it is the easiest recommended way in this Kali yuga to go back to godhead.
- One should take every opportunity to read or listen scriptures. One should use one’s talents of music, dance, and arts in the service of Krishna.
- A serious sadhaka should avoid meat eating, drugs including tea, coffee, coke, etc., gambling, and illicit sex. Then it becomes easy to move from Tamas to Rajas to Satva and above Satva guna. Controlling lust, anger, greed, and passions also becomes easy. The brain and intelligence develop so nice that it becomes easy to understand spiritual knowledge and Krishna.
- One should eat, sleep, and work moderately.
- Only the truth prevails.
- Speak truth, speak pleasing.
- Body is a tool to practice religion and thus go back to godhead. We are not the body.
- In the universe, there is unity in variety.
Just as physical laws are universal, the spiritual laws are also universal and absolute. They do not change or stop affecting whether you believe them or not. Because, those who know these laws can see how much spirituality there is in any one’s actions, no matter which religion one follows. Ultimately, what matters is what you do with your body, mind, and intelligence, no matter what religion you say you follow.