1. Sanatana Dharma: Anusmriti and Anudhyâyana
Repeated and Cherished Recollection
and Meditation on Sanatana Dharma
1. I take refuge in the great Sanatana dharma, the mother of many religions.
Spiritual Teachings: Âtma and Anâtma
2. The ancient sages studied man and for that they started with themselves; they turned their gaze inward and found there a vast internal life. Going still deeper, they discovered, beyond their more external being, another life or principle which takes another language to describe it; they found it self-existent, bodiless, pure, luminous and conscious; they found that it is in some way unborn and undying; that it does not come along with the body nor does it die with it; that it is beyond sorrow and decay; that it shines from within and it knows itself as self-evident. They found that it is their very essence, their true Self; they called it âtman, which is pure, immortal, and untouched by evil.
3. They found that this innermost truth of their being is also the truth of all beings, that it is inside as well as outside, that it pervades all; that the âtman is also brahman, that the immanent divine principle is also the transcendental principle and divine ground of all.
4. By the same token, they saw in man the other side of the coin, the principle of anâtma. They saw how man gives himself deceptive identities, how he confuses himself with various physico-mental constructs (nâma-rûpa); how there is nothing in him which is abiding, which he can own or call his own; that everything is a concatenation, a link in a chain; that nescience (avidyâ) and ego reign everywhere; that they have deep roots in man; that they are not only in our attachments and hatreds - in the more tâmasika and râjasika part of our nature - but they inform our sâttvika nature too, our good intentions and high principles, which become worse when they pretend to be better than they are. Think of all the make-believe, ego and even dishonesty of much that goes under the name of our charities, our high-minded ideals, missions and theologies. So, to much the seers had to say that This too is anâtma, that This too is not I, that This too is not That - the neti neti (Not this, Not this) of the Upanishads.
5. The two views, looking at the same thing from two angles, found their eloquent expression in two traditions known as Brahmanic and Shramanic, or, to put it differently, Rishi and Muni traditions. Both studied man in his more internal and metaphysical being and the two views were complementary. The two together gave us a great science of man, a veritable spiritual anthropology, which is different from the anthropology that we know today, the one based on the lower, psycho-physical definition of man.
6. Concentrating on the Âtmic truth, the Vedic seers found that though it resides in all, it is also beyond them all; that its truth is beyond all that a man has seen or heard, beyond his speech and mind, beyond his power to describe, imagine or conceive, and certainly beyond expounding (avyâkrita), for there could be no simple Yes or No to various queries.
7. They taught that though this truth is beyond number, gender, definitions, descriptions and indications, yet it is a man's most intimate reality. It is the eye of his eyes, and ear of his ears, and in fact he is It and It is also all this. They taught that this reality is realized in the "cave" of one's heart, and they also described it as sat, chit, ânanda..
8. They taught that though this truth is Unmanifest, the Nameless and Formless (nirâkâra and nirguNa), it supports all manifestations, names and forms. They saw in the world a great moral and spiritual order (rita), which knows no transgression, which sets up from within forces of self-correction and redress when violated. Sanatana dharma believes that truth triumphs, and that which is true never lacks true. being.
9. Sanatana dharma teaches a passage from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. It holds that the world is supported by abhayam, ritam, yajñam, austerity.
10. A deepened spiritual anthropology or rather anthroposophy (âtma-vâda) gave a lofty theology (deva-vâda). Indeed no great thinking about Gods is possible without deep thinking about man. Religious ideologies which are poor in âtma-vâda are also poor in deva-vâda. Their gods lack both immanence as well as true transcendence. Sanatana dharma saw Gods within; and the more it saw them within, the more it saw them outside and also beyond; it saw them filling the world, îSâvâsyam idam; it also saw that its fullness, pûrNam idam, derives from the fullness of that, pûrNam adah. True spiritual transcendence like true spiritual immanence, both are attributes that properly belong only to Yogic Gods.
11. As it saw in the Self all Godly attributes, it saw in Gods the truth and powers of the Self; indeed, it taught that one who worships a God as other than himself becomes his sacrificial animal, his draught-animal. He is driven and ridden by him.
12. Sanatana dharma worshipped God under many symbols and celebrated each Name with a thousand Names. The Names represented attributes of Gods as well as the attributes of the soul, one representing and echoing the other. It found the loftiness of Gods in the depths of the soul. It celebrated soul's yearning for God - its pangs of separation and its delights of union - in a thousand songs all over India. It taught love of God who has no form; it also taught that he takes on the form in which he is worshipped; it also made God incarnate on earth for the sake his devotees. [It is a lawful spiritual and psychic process and has little to do with those theologies which arbitrarily proclaim a man of mere historical interest a God or saviour or intercessor.]
13. Sanatana dharma teaches us that true Gods are met when man goes beyond his sensuous mind, beyond his ordinary desires and hankerings; he sees them by himself becoming, in some sense, God-like.
14. There are a thousand places where man could make contact with his deity. Sanatana dharma teaches worship of him in his various pre-eminent manifestations (vibhûtis).
15. It also gives us "visible Gods" (pratyaksha devatâ) to worship. The sky, the Sun, Ganga and Kavery, father, mother and teachers are visible Gods and they are to be regarded as such.
Worship, "Forms" of God
16. Though Nameless, this reality is also the source of all names and attributes. Sanatana dharma teaches worship of him under various names and attributes. He is worshipped as the Path, the Abode, the great Shelter, the Witness, the Foundation, etc.
17. Sanatana dharma teaches that God is without form though he upholds many forms. All forms proclaim him. Sanatana dharma gives us Gods of many spiritual and transcendental forms. He is tapas-svarûpa, satya-svarûpa, vijñâna-svarûpa. He is vijñâna-ghana (concentrated consciousness); he is the embodiment of delight (ânandamaya); he is Sânta, Siva, advaita. Religions which lack inferiority and Yoga have only a vague idea of these transcendental forms.
18. In Sanatana dharma, man is conceived in the image of Gods, while some religious ideologies conceive their God in the image of human passions and preferences. No wonder, such a God has chosen people, preferred spokesmen and habitually indulges in acts of wrath and vengeance.
19. To give human form to a God for purposes of worship presents no great problem. In fact, it may even help spiritually in focussing the mind. But to give him unregenerate human passions and worship him is the real hurdle on the spiritual path. Images on the altar are no problem; but idols in the mind and heart are the great enemies.
20. No wonder that while the followers of this god could not claim better morals than their neighbours, they found their religion best fulfilled in destroying the shrines of the latter.
21. Not only under many symbols, but the deity is also worshiped in many ways, Sanatana dharma tells us. There are many paths that lead to him, and one's path is often defined by one's own special endowment, his svadharma, his nature svabhâva, his aptitude (charit). He is worshipped through Yoga, through austerities, through disinterested service, through devotion and wisdom. Some may worship him through many costly sacrifices, but he is as easily pleased with a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water offered to him with devotion.
22. In Sanatana dharma Gods are conceived in various ways: as single, as multiple, and as one in all and beyond all.
23. The Gods thus conceived take no particular pride in being single or singular and do not object to being multiple, for they know that they are both.
24. A God of this conception does not deter partners for he does not become less by having them.
25. A God of the conception of Sanatana dharma says: "Those who worship other Gods also worship me," but a God conceived in exclusive ideologies says: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me." The Gods of Sanatana dharma are not "jealous"; they live in friendliness; they represent each other; in each one can see all. A God of this conception does not abhor "other" or "strange" Gods, for there are no "others" and no "strangers" here; He is in all and all are in Him.
26. In Sanatana dharma one does not love one god by hating another; nor does he need to hate the gods of others for loving his own. It teaches that Jehovah can be loved without hating Jupiter and Allah loved without hating Al-lat and Al-uzza.
27. Sanatana dharma teaches advaita; it says God alone is, But this teaching is different from the teaching of "only one god". The concept of "god alone" is not the same thing as the concept of "the only god." The latter is particularistic, negative and pretentious. Its motive is to deny "other" gods, or more exactly the gods of others.
28. But as Sanatana dharma denies no legitimate spiritual expressions, it fully admits national deities and ancestral Gods (kula-devatâ). It has no difficulty in admitting the God of one's "fathers", the "God of Abraham, and of Isaac. and of Jacob."
Prophets and Saviours
29. Cults of exclusive gods have often given birth to cults of exclusive prophets. A god of this kind says to his chosen people: "I shall be your God and you shall be my people; I shall raise amongst you a prophet and I shall speak to him and he will tell you what I intend you to do. If you do not obey him I shall punish you."
30. Sanatana dharma rejects this approach and these categories. It preaches neither exclusive gods, nor exclusive prophets. Sanatana dharma accepts the fact of gifted God-men but rejects exclusive communicants. The truths it teaches are experiential and open to all. 'Come and See for yourself' is its call. It rejects the doctrine of the only prophet (put forth under the guise of the last prophet) or the only saviour.
31. By this token, Sanatana dharma cannot be a proxy religion. It teaches that one cannot live on truths seen by others. It teaches you direct and personal perception of truth. The voices and visions of one man cannot become standard or authority for all.
32. Sanatana dharma teaches that different parts of man's mind and being project their own "revelations" and "truths", and they share the qualities of their source. An impure source gives impure revelations; it gives boastful and self-regarding gods, and self-proclaimed saviours and intermediaries; it gives birth to dvesha and moha dharmas, to ideologies of hate and delusion which launch you on fierce and aggressive deeds. Sanatana dharma teaches that mind has to be purified through Sîla and samâdhi before it can receive higher truths without distortion; it teaches that even Yogic dhyâna-bhûmis require constant purification and uplifting for contact with higher spiritual truths.
33. So according to Sanatana dharma the source of higher truth is not an agitated mind under excitement of some special idea or mission, but a purified and illumined buddhi or dhî.
34. Not without reason, the representative figure of Sanatana dharma is a seer, a sage not a missionary or a crusader, a martyr or shahid. Similarly, in Sanatana dharma only those. who are good and are men of knowledge and wisdom are regarded as 'saints'; in prophetic ideologies, saints are knight of the church or ummah, its sappers and miners, and even its storm-troopers.
Denial of God
35. According to Sanatana dharma God is dishonoured and denied in many ways: He is denied when he is made in the image of man and personifies his unregenerate passions and preferences; when he is made to seek sole communicants; when he is made to "abhor" other Gods; when he is denied in his "manyness" and in his various manifestations; or when he is denied in the Gods of one's neighbours and consequently in the neighbours themselves - denying the Gods of one's neighbours is often a prelude to denying those neighbours themselves, prelude to attacking them, enslaving and subjugating them in the name of one's own special God. Bad and undeveloped theologies have been a great source of imperialist wars, domination and oppression.
36. God is denied when he is made into an all-time male and denied in women and denied female expression. Theologies which have lacked Goddesses have also been great oppressors of women. Historically, they have also been great persecutors of "infidels".
37. Different available moral codes have derived from what men have thought of their deity, of themselves and of their neighbour. If divinity and even morality are external to man, then his moral code too is external. It is made up of Commandments, and compliance with them is secured by threats of hellfire and promises of a paradise.
38. Sanatana dharma however believes that man is spiritual and moral in his essence; that compassion, truthfulness, disinterestedness reside in his soul, therefore it expresses these luminous and divine qualities in his action too; that if man is depraved and sinful by nature, he neither needs nor is he capable of a developed moral action. What does a sinner need morality for? His moral code has to be rudimentary and it is good enough for a man of this definition. In any case, such a man is looking for a saviour and even an underwriter, not for sinlessness - a state which is impossible for him by definition.
39. Similarly, a limited physical-vital view of man does not need much ethics. If a man live only for himself and for a day, he owes little to others and to tomorrow. Only a higher vision of man gives and can sustain a higher system of ethics.
40. An ordinary man's moral code is prudential in intention. He refrains from doing many things unto others lest they also do them unto him; he also sometimes does good unto them expecting they would do the same unto him. But Sanatana dharma teaches that one should be good and do good for its own sake. One does good because it is one's nature. However, it also knows that the law has its limitations. Forgiveness and patient bearing (kshmâ) under all circumstances cannot be laws of ethical behaviour for all, while mutuality and reciprocity are. Sanatana dharma also holds daNDa-nîti, the science of administering justice, in high esteem; it teaches punishment where it is due though it does not forget the divine in those it has to punish and its penal code has been humane and based on deep understanding. It also teaches that the âtatâyins, aggressors and invaders of various grades, are to be opposed with resolve and force. Are we not aware of ideologies and forces that are aggressive in their very creed and premises, which treat others harshly in the name of one principle while they expect to be treated indulgently in the name of another principle?
41. Broadly speaking, Sanatana dharma has spoken of four aims of man's pursuit (purushârtha). The first two, physical well-being and acquisition of wealth, even for their fulfilment, have to accept the guidance of the third, the ethical law, the dharma. Dharma in turn is rooted in the fourth, moksha, the principle of liberation in man from the pull of his lower nature. There can be no lasting ethical behaviour without cultivating dispassion and a taste for higher life. A Hindu sannyasin takes the vow of fearlessness; he takes no offence and offers no injury to anyone.
42. An ethical code defines a man's behavior, his duties and obligations towards his neighbour. But who is a neighbour? According to prophetic religions, a man belongs to a body of believers, and he has no other existence. They do not have a concept of man as such and their definition of a neighbour excludes non-believers. In this view, a believer owes nothing to them. In fact, he is taught to deny them, to deny their Gods and their God-men, and it is his special obligation to destroy their temples and their groves. In this he fulfils his God's most favorite command.
43. But Sanatana dharma's definition of a neighbour is very inclusive. It includes all men, in fact, all living beings, and even all elements; it includes Gods and angels; it includes beings who have gone before and those who are yet to come; beings on all planes and in all modes of existence. Sanatana dharma teaches, that man owes duties towards them all, that he is indebted to them. It preaches that he pays his debts to them. Therefore he is asked to make daily "sacrifices" to them, to offer his daily oblations to Gods, to ancestors, teachers and rishis of old, to men; in fact to all orders of beings including Gandharvas, Nâgas, Yakshas and Rdkshasas, and to all elements (bhûtâni) including oceans, rivers, mountains and heavenly bodies. Therefore, when a Hindu eats his food, he mentally offers and invokes all beings on different planes living in different modes (âbrahma-stamba-paryantam). He eats the "remains" of this food. He eats sinfully who eats for himself.
44. Our sister animal creation has failed to receive sympathetic recognition at the hands of man. It has been under the curse of the Biblical God. He put the fear and dread of his followers upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air and told them that every thing that moveth was their food and under their domination. Modern European thought carries forward that tradition. And though it derives man from the animals, it has not led to the teaching that animals may be treated like men but on the other hand to the opposite teaching that men may be treated like animals.
45. While modern secular thought sees animals in man, Sanatana dharma saw Gods and the power and presence of Gods in animals. It saw Agni in goats, VaruNa in rams and sheep, Sûrya in horses, and Soma in cows and calves. It taught kindly treatment of animals; it taught jîva-dayâ.
46. Widespread vegetarianism in Hinduism is a practical expression of this jîva-dayâ, of the sense of larger unity.
47. Modern materialist thinking which is linear and which holds that everything is for man's use and manipulation is losing credit. Man is being forced to define his attitude towards elements like the earth, the waters, the air, the sky, the rivers. Are they dead? Or, living? Are they strangers? Or, close relatives - father, mother, brothers, sisters, and friends? Are the oceans, the atmosphere merely great sinks, huge waste-dumps? Are the minerals, the plants, the great animal sister-creation there just for human exploitation? Have they no life and rights of their own. Sanatana dharma takes the view that they have their own rights and we have duties towards them. It says that we should cherish them and live in togetherness. If we violate this law and continue to injure them, we create karmas that will strike back in ways we can hardly imagine.
48. The ethical thinking of Sanatana dharma derives from this larger conception of man. Man belongs to a great community and many forces, mostly invisible. He is a meeting-point of many influences; he derives his sustenance and even his being from many planes, many sources. He belongs to a whole universe of interconnections; he is part of a common and larger biosphere, and beyond that of a larger psycho-sphere, a larger cosmic moral and spiritual order (rita). Man is more than ecologic; he is cosmic in his being.
49. Sanatana dharma teaches that there is an interchange going on between Gods and men, between heaven and earth, between men and men, between the past, the present, the future, and they each owe one to the other. It thinks of life as a yajña, an interchange, between different forms and modes, and transformation.
50. Sanatana dharma teaches that only such a large view of man and his ethics can provide the basis of a truly great and compassionate culture.
51. Sanatana dharma believes that man is capable of higher moral action only when he grows into the qualities and powers of the Spirit: that he grows morally when he grows spiritually; therefore it teaches an ethics of personal spiritual growth. It teaches the ten-fold laws and qualities of dharma: contentment (dhriti), forgiveness (kshamâ), self-control (dama), purification (Saucha), sense-control (indriya-nigraha), wisdom (dhî), knowledge (vidyâ), truthfulness (satya), and abstention from anger (akrodha).
52. Therefore, Sanatana dharma seeks "rebirth", a new life in daivyî sampad; it teaches you to cultivate your hidden powers, new powers of the soul, like Sraddhâ, vîrya, smriti, samâdhi and prajñâ. It teaches an upward and inward look.
53. Sanatana dharma teaches man to embrace the Vast, the plenum (bhûman) and reject the Small (alpa).
54. Sanatana dharma regards God as the inner-controller, and moral action as spontaneous and natural. In being moral, a man is being true to himself.
According to one's Readiness
55. While teaching highest âtma-dharma, Sanatana dharma makes allowance for different capacities, different talents, different starting-points, and different needs. A man starts from where he is, and he moves along his svadharma, his bent of mind, his capacity of the moment. Thus his starting-point, his route are his own, and he reaches his destination in his own way.
56. Besides the principle of âdhâra-bheda, there is also the principle of ishTa. Here one chooses one's deity too. The seeker starts according to his spiritual readiness, and he thinks of God in the form most dear to him and most in affinity with his inner nature.
57. By its very nature such teaching cannot be put in a creed or Kalmah or formula; it cannot be exported and sold by vendors of religion; it cannot be had at the stalls of missionaries, nor can it belong to the kitbag of invading armies. One has to grow into it. That is true conversion. All other conversions are political and military and they have no spiritual significance.
58. By the same token these truths cannot be borrowed or stolen; one cannot make them one's own by stealing or robbing, or by cunning adapting and adopting. For learning them, one has to go fuel in hand (samid-pâNi) in humble seeking and supplication. These truths are for the seekers; Vedas cannot be stolen.
59. It also follows that creeds of undeveloped spiritual vision can neither have nor do they need a developed ethical code.
Many Lives, Many Planes, Moksha
60. All these teachings have a meaning when the background and the foundation is a vast (brihat) and even an undying life. Sanatana dharma teaches that there are many lives, many births, many incarnations; it tells us how a soul drops one body and puts on another; it tells us how when a man apparently dies, he draws unto itself all that he has done and thought and desired, in short, all the "impressions" and "proclivities" of this life and restarts on another journey in another body.
61. Sanatana dharma teaches not only many lives but also many "modes" of life on many planes or lokas, and many kinds of beings on different lokas with different powers and possibilities. It tells us that life on some of these planes is grossly physical while on others it is more mental, psychic and spiritual. It tells us of the worlds of Fathers, Gandharvas, Prajâpati, Gods, Brahmâ. It teaches that man is also born on these planes and among their denizens.
62. Though Sanatana dharma has spoken extensively of these lokas and birth in these planes, we need not go into them here. For the principle of all these births and lokas is that man becomes what he thinks, desires, acts, aspires to; that man is Sraddhâmaya and that he is shaped according to the faith, desires and aspirations of his heart; it says that the doer of good becomes good and the doer of evil becomes evil. ,
63. It further says that on this journey of self-formation, there is. no discontinuity, no moral or spiritual break. One makes his start, and the sâdhanâ of this life is taken up in the next. On this path there is no loss of effort, nor any transgression, where goodness and virtue are one's protectors in this as well as future life. Dharma is undying and even a bit of it protects a man from great fear.
64. Sanatana dharma also teaches moksha. It says that at one time or the other, some more contemplative types realize that all this coming and going is no part of their true self and adds nothing to it. They reject all that is not-self (an-âtma). They become aware of forces which stain the natural purity of the soul, which keep man bound to lower forms of life, the lower pull (kleSas, âsravas, saMyojanas, lesyas). They develop nirveda, a distaste for this world, or rather for worldliness. Hindu spiritual teachers have spoken a good deal of this nirveda. They say that without this great turning away, one cannot develop longing for emancipation. They have seen that the forces that keep men in bondage are powerful. They have seen everything - one's eyes, one's ears, one's mind, etc. on fire, burning (âdîpta) with attachment, with aversion, with delusion; and blinded (andha-bhûta) by them. They say that a man should work with zeal for his emancipation (apavarga), get out of this cycle and become a non-returner, nivritta, anâgâmin. Renunciation has an honoured place in man's spiritual growth.
65. A man who has broken his fetters and cut the knots of his heart develops another vision: that a man in his soul already holds all his lives, past and future, terrestrial and celestial; that he is already in touch with all the lokas and their beings, that nothing is too distant for him and that no one is a stranger, that Gods, angels and ancestors are kith and kin, that there is sâdriSya and ekâtmatâ between them all; that he is all, knows all, belongs to all.
66. Sanatana dharma has done a lot of thinking on life and death, on what is a noble life and a noble death, on rebirth and the law of karma, on what might be called pâra or post-mortal states, on the two paths of light and darkness (archi mârga and dhûma mârga), on mârga-yâna and deva-yâna, on birth in celestial realms, on moksha and nirvâNa. These are important questions and intimately related to man's being. Cultures which don't raise these questions are spiritually poor-
One Life, One Judgement, Hell, Heaven
67. The perspective of certain religious ideologies has been different. According to them, there is nothing to account for a man's present birth. He begins suddenly and his end is as "sudden" as his beginning. He dies and is dormant till a particular day when he is raised more or less as he was in his body as well as in his mind or in his affections and appetites and desires, and is judged once for all and condemned or rewarded for an eternal punishment or reward. In this view, a man's life is at best merely an interlude between two blanks. He came from nothing; there were no inputs from a past life, nor does he leave any traces or proclivities of a future life. No past shaped his present life and he is shaping no future life for him. There is a single life, a single judgement and an eternal punishment, but in cases where man belonged to a right religious ummah eternal reward. But in Sanatana dharma, as we have seen, the perspective is very different. There are more than one life and, of course, there is no single judgment. In fact, there is no judgment at all as such, for the idea is to help and not to judge and condemn. The inner dynamics of incarnation is not reward or punishment but self-improvement, and ultimately self-discovery and self-recovery, moksha.
68. In these ideologies, there are no "other" worlds properly speaking. The first place to which a man goes after his death is the purgatory, a sort of detention-camp and a place of torment for the expiation of sins not sufficiently paid for here in this world. Here men wait in torment until the day of Judgement when they are judged for all time and most of them condemned and go to hell and a small minority saved and sent to heaven.
69. In these ideologies the reward itself is conceived in most sensuous terms. There is no concept of a higher life, concept of a man released from its lower nature. Their paradise reproduces the present in all its unregenerate aspects and hardly adds any new dimension; it gives widest scope for fulfilling a man's worst passions, his appetites, concupiscence, his revenge. It provides pleasures dreamt here but often denied; it is one of the greatest pleasures of the heaven of prophetic religions that, from its balcony, the believer can watch his enemies, the pagans, the unbelievers, the heretics roasting in hell.
70. Another piece de resistance is their hell. Its tortures have been described with such great fervour and flourish that for centuries it has held believers in great fear. It gave birth to an ideology of "religious terrorism," as it has been aptly described. Indulgences were and are still sold and bought. Poor men do everything and submit to everything to procure some relief from the tortures of future life for themselves and their dear ones.
71. It also encouraged the cult of Saviours and Mediators. The hotter the fire of the hell, the greater the demand for a Saviour or Mediator.
Modern Western Thought
72. Sanatana dharma and modern European thought disagree in many things, in their method, approach as well as conclusions. But they agree in one most important thing: they are not dogmatic and they do not punish dissent and both allow reason freedom to question and inquire. [In India where this freedom was never under question, we do not even see the importance of the problem. But in the West, this right was won the hard way. There the Church claimed that it had all the knowledge, spiritual as well as secular; it knew who is God and whom He has begotten; it knew when the world began and when it was to end; it knew that the earth was flat and the sun and the moon were set in the firmament to give light upon the earth. These were dogmas and to question them was dangerous and invited burning at the stake.]
73. But here the agreement ends and both have followed their own characteristic methods of inquiry. One has looked inside, the other outside; one has wanted to know that by knowing which all this is known; it thought that by knowing oneself, one would know all. The other studied the outside world and thought that in this way man would also know himself. There was also another difference in their method: one method was discursive and analytical, the other concentrative and intuitive.
74. The two also disagree in their conclusions and approach and temper. One derives the higher from the lower while the other sees even in the lower the play of the higher. As a result, one derives man from animals, the other derives him from Gods and says that man's roots are above (ûrdhva-mûla), and that he is a soul that has come down into an earthly body and has lost the memory of his true home. Similarly, one school is reductionist in approach while the other allows different levels and multiple dimensions. Sanatana dharma has found out a transcendental dimension; modern secular thought denies it altogether; the former takes into account man's spiritual nature and gives it a high place, the latter treats him mainly as a body, though sometimes grudgingly as a mind too regarding it as the body's appendage.
75. In conformity with its basic approach, modern thought explains the world mainly in physical terms. This view is not new and as a school of thought is quite old and found in all cultures wherever any philosophical thinking was done. What is new is the intellectual prestige the view has acquired in scientific circles as a result of certain marvellous achievements in the field of technology by following its quantitative approach. The view has also the support of our senses and empirical mind and therefore has a universality of its own. In India too this school of thought has existed from very ancient days though it did not belong to the mainstream.
76. The physical view of the universe went along with a physiological and biological view of man, and also supported a particular ethical theory of man's conduct. It said that the highest aim of man is to fulfil his desires and those desires are mainly of his body. This view holds, to put it in the language of the Gita, that the world is without moral basis, without spiritual governance, without Gods, and that its motive force is lust and greed. Modern philosophical thought works on these premises and accepts these views of the world, of man and his ethics.
77. Sanatana dharma rejects these views. It rejects the view which identifies man with his body alone or even with his mind. It accepts man's physical and physiological being but it regards it as only the first definition of man. Beyond this man, annamaya purusha, the sages found other dimensions which constitute man's deeper being.
78. They therefore also rejected the ethics based on this identification. They denied that the highest aim of man is merely to fulfil the desires of this body, "to make it happy and wait upon it." They called it an asuric doctrine.
79. They in fact rejected all such views of the world, man and his conduct which deny worlds other than the world of the senses and pragmatic mind, which deny the hereafter, which deny sowing and reaping, which deny law of karma and the path of dharma, which deny higher motivation and larger life. India has known its Chârvâks and Jâbâlis, but has found their definition of man, and consequently their ethical thinking too, as inadequate and unacceptable.
80. Sanatana dharma teaches that materialism and hedonism in their exclusive demands are very unsatisfactory, that cultures based on a purely psycho-physical definition of man are neurotic, that they cannot provide the basis of a truly stable society. These cultures lack vision and sympathy; they are violent. Think of all their meat industries and their slaughterhouses and even their laboratories and experiments. See how they kill whole species for food, for entertainment, for commercial profits. Think of all the tears and sighs involved. They must be leaving karmas behind, must be setting up forces of nemesis somewhere. These cultures are also wasteful and self-destructive. Think of their poisoned food, poisoned soil, poisoned waters and air; how they mine away their soil, how they exploit whole continents and peoples, how they use away in a decade nature's assets accumulated over thousands of years - to feed the ever-hungry Market, the new Moloch-God. And behind and supporting all this wastefulness and cruelty, one can also see the mindlessness of the whole prevailing system, its forgetfulness (vismriti) of any higher dimension. Think of its sensation-seeking, its entertainments, its education, its health systems based on a narrow definition of man.
81. Sanatana dharma also rejects the stupendous egocentricity of modern Europe which regards all human past as "primitive", all Asia as "outmoded", and believes that it has been the centre and secret meaning of all human endeavour and that man's history by an inner law has been leading up to it and it has now reached its finale!
82. Time and space of Hindu thinking were vast. It is only recently that modern Europe attained those scales - though it still regards them too physically and has no idea of psychic time and space. However, the old Biblical chronology of creation it had inherited from Christianity is still active. It has come by the backdoor and it is now applied to the history of civilization giving it five or six thousand years, the same it once gave to creation. This view suits Europe's ego, but Sanatana dharma rejects it. It believes that man's history is long and he has seen and known many civilizations which have come and gone and reappeared more than once. It believes in cycles, in patterns, in repetition. It also believes that civilizations had more than one centre and that fortune smiled on different peoples and regions and they created great civilizations at different times. But in this matter too, the West was moved by its Biblical bias. It concentrated its archaeological labours in the Palestinian land and its neighbourhood, believed to be the place where the Garden of Eden was and where lived Adam and Eve. In this way the first site of creation also became the first and foremost site of civilization.
83. Sanatana dharma is a soul religion, therefore it is universal. Wherever there is sincere seeking, it comes into play. Therefore though it found its most profound and continuous expression in India. it belongs to all whose spiritual quest is sincere.
84. Its truths have been confirmed in every age, but one has to work for them in order to make them one's own. These truths are closed to the sensuous mind, but they are revealed to a sâttvika buddhi; they are closed to the foolish, but they are revealed to the pure (Suchivâna) and the wise (vijña).
85. By its very nature, Sanatana dharma cannot be a religion of a chosen people or a favourite church or ummah. It expresses man's secret seeking for truth, therefore it belongs to all seekers. It rejects the approach which divides humanity into believers and infidels or heathens, and regards this division spiritually untenable.
86. Its sympathy is not limited to humanity; its compassion reaches out to all beings, all creatures. It teaches compassion for all beings on all planes, those who are living, and those who have gone and those who are yet to come.
87. Sanatana dharma believes that a tribal god belonging to a particular ummah trying to become the god of all through conquest has no universality. A true universal God is met in the inferiority of one's soul where what is intimately individual is also truly universal. Similarly, a god who owns and rules the world but has lost his soul or inwardness is no true god.
Repository of Many Religions:
Religious Renewal of the World
88. Last centuries have been dominated by ideologies, religious as well as secular, which were based on denial and exclusion. They denied truths they did not know; they denied peoples and continents they did not control; they denied their neighbours' Gods; they denied and maligned mankind's whole religious past; they dismissed it as "age of ignorance"; they described their human ancestors as "benighted", or as is the fashion of modern anthropology - a development of Christian theology - "primitive". They saw nothing good in anyone before them or beside them or after them. Modern Europe's social sciences, philosophies and ideologies - its sociology, anthropology, its Darwinism and Marxism - all are merely carrying forward the old bias of its narrow, self-centered Christian theology. They are blackening with a big brush man's whole heritage, in fact, the whole of past humanity itself and quite a part of present humanity as well. But now this thinking is facing difficulties and there is a growing realization among the more perceptive thinkers that this view of mankind and its past is inadequate. Hinduism which views human history in great time cycle can help this process of rethinking.
89. Sanatana dharma teaches that one's world is relative to one's consciousness, the world of a predominantly physical mind is physical; it is dead and inert and lacks inner movement. But there is another mind which views things differently; its world is animate, conscious; it is also made up of "things", but those things are powers, personalities; they have mana in them; they are internally linked and one could stand and signify another. However, during the last millennium, the physical mind has been dominant. It has given rise to ideologies which see the world that way, dead, inert, and passive. Under their auspices, we have learnt to deny many cultures, continents and peoples as "animists", or as "ancestor worshippers". Hinduism rejects this approach; it accepts the world-view of these cultures as valid and believes that something of it is needed by the modern man for his own self-renewal, that man must relearn that world-view of great spiritual truth, and that he needs these ancient views to cure his own deadness and rootlessness.
90. Sanatana dharma was known in many lands under different names. But at one stage or the other, it came under the attack of monolatrous creeds which lacked internality but were moved by a fanatic idea. Many countries lost all memory of it but India has been able to preserve it though in a form badly damaged. Thus India has come to preserve spiritual traditions which many ancient cultures and countries have lost. Today Hinduism represents not only India but the ancient wisdom of humanity and therefore in a most vital way that humanity itself. In Hinduism many ancient countries can still rediscover their religious past, their old Gods and their old spiritual traditions.
91. And while it reveals their past, it is also a pointer to their future; while linking them up with their roots, it tells them that they can best develop by following their own inner light. No borrowed gods, saviour and prophets would do.
92. Hindu dharma is the dharma by knowing which many ancient religions become known; it is the illuminator, interpreter (bodhaka, prakâSaka and vâchaka) of many a religion of the world, both past and present. It also fulfils man's deeper religious seeking at any point of time.
The Great Refuge
93. I offer my obeisance to Sanatana dharma of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the PurâNas, the Epics and many Âgamas.
94. I take refuge unto this dharma which has been nourished from generation to generation by great sages and teachers.
95. I take refuge in Sanatana dharma, whose precepts and practices are pure, which is auspicious in its beginning, auspicious in the middle, and auspicious in the end; whose roots are deep, whose fruits are sweet.
96. I take refuge in Sanatana dharma whose teaching is pure, whose desires, aspirations and works are pure.
97. I pay my obeisance to Sanatana dharma which gives us a vision of a higher life, a great and immortal life, a life renewed by a higher truth, a life which goes beyond its present limitations.
98. May I be a sharer in its truth! May I be a worthy sharer in its heritage! May it be given to me to serve it with all my heart and mind.
99. God grant me that I make its truth my own. Make me a participant in its truth. May I become worthy of it. Expand me and deepen me. Take the veil off from thy face and reveal thy face and thy inner truth.
100. I pay my obeisance to Sanatana dharma which teaches oneness of men and Gods, oneness of all life. May I be one with Gods! May I be one with our ancestors! May I be one with those who have gone before me! May I be one with those who have yet to come. May I serve those who are immediately around me, and also those who are hid from my sight. May I serve all beings on all the planes!
101. I pay obeisance to Sanatana dharma which has power to heal and reconcile, power to awaken, and re-form. May this dharma restore my people and my country! May it bless all humanity and all beings! May all be auspicious towards each other.
102. Sanatana dharma protects those who protect it. Therefore protect and serve it in order to deserve and claim its protection.
103. Sanatana dharma is as wide and profound as its subject. Like its Gods, it has a thousand names and facets, but only some of them have been indicated here.
Hindu Dharma, Hindus, India
104. India was the place where Sanatana dharma flourished. Its people were called Hindus and their religion came to be known as Hindu dharma. Hindu dharma went abroad from time to time and vitally influenced the cultures and religions of many lands and regions of the globe, but India remained its home par excellence, and it never tried to set up a foreign Empire. Its influence was purely spiritual, cultural and intellectual.
105. Hindu Dharma raised fundamental questions and made profound answers. It discussed Gods and the discussion was most intimate and profound and we find nothing like it anywhere. It also discussed man - a most important question but altogether neglected in many religious ideologies, particularly prophetic ones - and asked many questions about him. Is he one or multiple? Is the visible man the only one, or has he also an invisible dimension? And after great investigation, the answer it gave was that man is made up of many sheaths (koshas), one inside the other; that he comes from higher sources; that much of him, his form, his beginning and end and his resting-place are indiscernible. Similarly, it raised questions about living, dying and immortality; it raised questions about the quality of life, about suffering and death, and about the way to overcome them; it discussed the law of karma and found that its working was inscrutable. It discussed man's own internal enemies, and friends, the forces that bound man and those which liberated him.
106. It raised other similar questions centering on the same theme. It raised the question about purusha and prakriti; it raised questions about bhakti and mukti, about karma and dharma, about saMsâra and nirvâNa, about pravritti and nivritti, about what is action and what is inaction, what is yajña (sacrifice) and what is worship, about Sîla, samâdhi and prajñâ, about yama and niyama, about tapasyâ; it spoke of the two lives, one that is worthy, righteous and good and the other which is merely pleasant (Sreyas and preyas); it shoved how life could be uplifted, how man could develop an upward and inward look. It spoke about vyakta and avyakta; it asked questions about Gods, about ancestors, about different spheres and planes (lokas), about the "invisible" worlds corresponding to the "invisible" man and vice versa. In the same vein, it asked questions about the four purushârthas, about the four varNas and âSramas.
107. The truths that Hindu dharma taught were profound and recondite, but they were made available to the least of its members. It was done through epics and the Puranas, through songs and psalms, through stories and parables. What the village minstrel sang in direct and simple language was what the Upanishads taught in cryptic and terse language. The same truths were conveyed both through Sanskrit as well the more ordinary medium of discourse. No antagonism was ever felt between Sanskrit and Prakrit, or any other local language in use. The source was the same, the inspiration was the same, the message was the same.
Reason and Religion
108. Hindu dharma was a great reconciler. It reconciled various viewpoints, various doctrines. It knew how to look at things from various angles and viewpoints. It knew no conflict between science and religion, between rationalism and spiritualism. It was so because it was not dogmatic either in its reason or its religion. Its spirituality did not deny reason, nor its reason denied spirituality. And why should they? Both are great truths of man's being and both are needed and they reinforce each other. But where one or the other or both lack in depth, conflict is inevitable. In cultures where spirituality and philosophy were undeveloped or underdeveloped, the two have been either in conflict or they have lived in uneasy coexistence.
VarNa-âSrama Dharma: Social System
109. Hindu dharma has also been described as varNa-âSrama dharma which represents an important facet of ancient Hindu thinking. The old sages saw that men are broadly divided into four psychological types (chaturvarNa), a very different thing from the castes-system with which it is often confused. They found that these psychological differences were natural and their variety matched the variety of man's needs. Similarly, they thought of man passing through four stage: as a student when he should be acquiring knowledge both vocational and liberal; then as a householder when he enters life, marries, earns and creates wealth for himself and for others and supports all other activities of the society; and at the end he retires from these activities and in the last two stages becomes an intense seeker of truth and spends his time in self-reflection. All these stages or âSramas were important but in a certain context the householder was declared superior to all for he supported and protected the rest. This ordering involved no iniquity for each man was also all others at different times.
All this thinking and ordering derives from what these sages thought of man. They found that each man is a multiple being: he is physical, mental and spiritual and that all these parts should find fulfilment. From this also came the celebrated four aims (purushârthas) of Hindu conception we have already mentioned. Man should work for his physical and economic well-being; he should hand down the torch of life from one generation to another; he should also earn and create wealth; he must also search and follow values and discover the meaning of life. Man was both spirit and body, though he was more of the one at one stage than of the other. The sages followed this natural law and made their recommendations accordingly. The four âSramas and the four orders were conceived to fulfil the fourfold nature of man and the four aims of life.
The society had the same needs as its individuals: physical, mental and spiritual. Similarly, its members were endowed with different talents and the results were best when their work, talents and training went together. The varNa-âSrama dharma was meant to serve this end as best as it could. The society needed creators of wealth and in the Indian scheme they also owned the best part of it; it also needed its warriors, defenders and protectors and also its thinkers, teachers and priests. For what is a society without them? - an easy prey and a bountiful reward for various aggressive forces around. [It is also the class which accustomed invaders and practised imperialists most hate and would like to destroy and discredit - they only care for hewers of wood and drawers of water who are leaderless and whose resistance has been broken.]
In all this ordering of the society, there was no iniquity. Dharma set limit and informed all relations. Its inherent justice can be seen from the fact when we remember that Hindu social order neither knew slavery nor serfdom as a system. It did not live on Imperialist and feudal occupation of other peoples' lands, nor on forced tributes, or the "holy fifth," or jazia. The society produced its wealth by its own members living in self-governing communities. Only that wealth was praise-worthy which was honestly earned and shared (Suddha-sudhana).
Now the âSrama system hardly exists, and only its memory remains. VarNas were never castes which followed their own laws. But even castes too have lost their old vocational and cultural relevance; they exist, and sometimes even too insistently, mainly politically and they have grown their own vested interests. They are a hot subject and need more mention.
Castes and Communities
110. No society is a mass; it has always a social configuration. Any developed human society follows the law of differentiation. So did the Hindu society. For better self-articulation, it divided itself in many segments; but in all its diverse expressions, it remained