This essay goes into details about what I have learnt over the years on Santana Dharma in my spiritual journey. I am not a scholar, nor am I an expert on all the facets of this religion. I am still far from perfect, I am not a self-realized soul, and I still have to learn a lot. But, I believe I do know enough that might help people wrap their head around this religion and might add a bit to their understanding. All the information from the writings below are from multiple sources that I have read over the last couple of decades, I will try my best to recollect and list them as further reading for interested readers. Santana Dharma stands for “Eternal Religion”. The religion is currently known as “Hinduism” as invaders from the Middle East named the people who live east of river “Sindhu” as “Hindus”. Subsequently, their way of life or practices came under the umbrella term “Hinduism”. Before delving into what Hinduism is, let us see what Hinduism is not.

It is not a set of ritualistic practices with no meaning.It is not a religion which emphasizes a style of diet, or marks on the body or dress code which often people identify with. To me, Sanatana Dharma is a product of interior research done by Sages of yore on the Truth that exists beyond all names and forms.

While much of the Western civilization went on to study the external or material world, the Indian Sages studied the internal nature of the human being. They were on a quest to see the Truth of life – what is life all about – is it just birth, education, accumulation and death, or is there something beneath it all? The physical body comes into being but undergoes change, death and decay. Much of the things of the external world like relations, governments etc also undergo change. Is there anything changeless that we can anchor our minds to gain internal stability, was one of the questions raised.

In their quest to discover these truths, they developed a method for introspection of contents within the mind – they termed it ‘dhyaana’ or meditation .Who was the founder of meditation? You would be surprised – it is Indian village women! Swami Rama states in “Meditation and Selfless Action” in his book “Conscious Living” :”Who taught meditation for the first time? Indian woman. I am going to give you that history. Outside every village there is a plaza with a well. Indian women go there in the evening to fetch water, balancing vessels of water on their heads. Women like to speak to each other about their pains and express themselves. They will dance, cry, laugh, discuss family problems with each other, but their vessels will not fall off their heads. This is called meditation in action. You do your duties no matter where you go, whatever you do, but you do not forget your atman, the Lord seated deep down within you. So no matter what you do, the consciousness should not fall. Who is the founder of the school of meditation? Not man, but woman, remember that.”

The entire gamut of practices, lifestyles, morals, dress codes, and almost everything in the Indian culture was done with one thing in mind – to optimize life so that the mind becomes still and stabilized, leading it to the center of love and life – the Atman. Different paths of Yoga – which is merging of the individual (egoistic identity) with the Undivided Universal soul were propounded to accommodate different temperaments of seekers. Sages chose practices based on mental maturity and inclinations of the disciple.

In the Indian tradition, much emphasis is placed on revelation which occurs when the mind is in a receptive state in deep meditation, rather than endless speculation of the human intellect which forms theology of different religions.

The primary difference I found in my study of other religions and Hinduism is that this religion offers hope – it provides tools and means for a seeker to realize and experience God, not just theorize or imagine Him or Her. It also does not condemn a person to Eternal Hell or Heaven based on their deeds on Earth – everything is Karmic, and one can re-incarnate in the next birth and try her shot at merging with God. There is also a lot of flexibility in choosing your path, and the form of your deity – the Ishta devata. Unfortunately, this complete flexibility while its strength also has given rise to bewildering ccomplexit and confusion. 

Does this religion have one God or is it polytheism? This was my question for a long time. The conclusion of research of the sages of Santana Dharma was there is one Godly principle which is Unborn, Eternal and Imperishable. It is beyond space, time and causation. However, not all people are capable of meditating on the abstract. Hence, different forms of deities of the One were introduced to aid the mind for concentration. The temples of India are not empty idols. They are consecrated through mantras (which are vibrations heard in deep meditation), which infuses the idol with ‘prana’ or ‘life-force’ thereby making the atmosphere Divine. Identifying with Atman or a deity merged in the Atman is called liberation or Self-Realization, which is the ultimate goal of Human Life. Self realization culminates in merging with the Divine which results in taking away of suffering due to separation from the Divine.

While the Vedic tradition emphasized renunciation of the world to seek truth, Tantric tradition recognized that not all are capable of the same. They encouraged getting freedom in the world rather than from the world through process of both Yoga and Bhoga – Bhogo Yogayate, that is fulfill your desires in the world and then seek God. It further divided into Samaya, Misra and Kaula based on the quantity of internal and external rituals in the practices prescribed.

I will goto more details on one of the above topics in my further posts. 

Further reading:

1. Books by Swami Rama, Rajmani Tigunait,  and Om Swami



4. Books by David Frawler and Robert Svoboda 



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