What Is Sanatana Dharma? Is It Relevant Today?
Summary: Sanatana means eternal, and Dharma means law. Sanatana Dharma are the fundamental laws that govern existence, it is an Existential Dharma. Dharma does not mean religion. So Sanatana Dharam is looking at underlying laws of existence for your life to happen in the best possible way. Sanatana Dharama is not Hindu; wherever you are whether you are Indian, Hindu or non-Hindu, it applies to everyone - because these are the basic laws of life. In this blog Sadhguru also elaborates on what is Smriti (Memory) and what is Shruti (tune of life), and also the meaning of the word Bharata.
article originally published on isha.sadhguru.org
Is Sanatana Dharma Diluted Today?
Questioner: What does the Hindu Sanatana Dharma actually mean? And is it diluted today?
Sadhguru: There is no such thing as Hindu Sanatana Dharma. It is simply Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana means eternal. Something that is eternal is always true.
Sanatana Dharma is the dimension of life which does not change, which is the basis of our existence. Whether it is a worm, an insect, a bird, an animal, or a plant, all of them are ruled by Sanatana Dharma, the fundamental laws that govern existence. This is not a penal code imposed by human beings upon each other, for control and some semblance of sanity in society. Transactional laws have to change from generation to generation. That is a different matter. Sanatana Dharma is not a transactional dharma – it is an existential dharma.
Wherever you are, whether you are Indian, Hindu, non-Hindu, whatever you are, Sanatana Dharma applies to everyone.
Let us understand the word “dharma.” Dharma means “the law.” Dharma does not mean religion. In this culture, we do not know what religion is. We are only looking at what the underlying laws are for your life to happen in the best possible way. We understand unless you stick to these laws, your life cannot happen well. These laws are not an imposition but the foundation of existence. If you know the laws, and you are in tune with them, then your life happens effortlessly. If you do not know, you will simply suffer for no reason.
Does Sanatana Dharma belong to a Hindu or an Indian person or some other person? –That is not the point. Wherever you are, whether you are Indian, Hindu, non-Hindu, whatever you are, Sanatana Dharma applies to everyone, because these are the laws which guide the fundamental process of life. No other culture has looked at it with such profoundness. Because of that pride, we may say, “This is Hindu Sanatana Dharma.” But we are limiting the possibility of Sanatana Dharma by adding the word “Hindu” to it. Hindu is a geographical identity. The land that lies between the Himalayas and Indu Sagara is Hindu. Sanatana Dharma applies to every life. It talks about how to handle the unborn, the born, the grown-up, the dead, different stages of life, and all dimensions of life. This is a very profound way of seeing life.
Smriti and Shruti
If you had come here a hundred years ago, you would be dressed differently, and you would be doing something else. If you had come a thousand years ago, again you would be doing something different – maybe you would be a farmer or a fisherman.
What we are doing, how we are dressed, how we speak and how we act is of the times; it keeps changing. How the next generation will act, how they will dress and what they will do, will be totally different from the way we do it right now. This is one dimension of life – we call it smritii. Smriti literally translates as “from memory.” What you have learnt by memory is smriti.
Either we are doing the same thing that our parents and our culture did, or, in reaction, we are doing the opposite thing. But this is a constantly changing process. Not only from generation to generation, in our own life, every few years, our smritis are changing. From our memory, we are changing many aspects of our life.
Smriti is something that every generation should reinvent or amend.
Smriti is something that every generation should reinvent or amend. Evolution does not necessarily mean doing something better than the previous generation. It is just that because situations are changing, we are evolving to fit into those situations. Situational transactions always have to change and evolve. We can debate and say that how people ate a hundred years ago is not the way we want to eat today, because our work habits have changed. When you were plowing the land, what you ate and how much was different. How you do things must be constantly amended. Even in the constitution, there are fundamental rights that are absolutely sacrosanct – you cannot touch them. Everything else is available for amendments, improvements, and knockdown.
Your smriti and my smriti may be different. But there is something else called as shruti. This can be interpreted in many different ways; one dimension of it is, it is the tune of life. The tune is not set by you – it is creation.
Only if you understand the shruti of life, can you find the rhythm. This is what Bharata means. Bha means bhava or the experience of life. Ra means raga, which is the shruti of life. Ta means tala (the rhythm). Bhava is what happens to you – it is an experience. But the raga or the shruti is already set. Now it is for you to find the right rhythm for it, so that life happens beautifully, like a wonderful music. If you do not find the rhythm, the same shruti that facilitates life will crush you.
Shruti does not change, because it is not set by you – it is set by creation. So Sanatana Dharma means to understand what governs your life so that you live a profound and beautiful life.
Being in Tune with the Laws
In this culture, no one is talking about morality, commandments, what you should do, what you should not do, “If you do this, you will go to heaven. If you do that, you will go to hell.” All this is not there because we inculcated this dimension: If you are in tune with the laws, you do not need punishment, you do not need reward. It is just like if you understand the traffic rules and you are driving accordingly, you do not need a policeman.
Right now they say there are over 1 trillion life forms on this planet, but I think there are many more that you have not even seen. From a micro-organism to a human being and everything in between, they all have come from the same soil. From the same soil, a tree or a creeper are growing. From the same soil, you have eaten, and you have this kind of body. From the same soil, I have eaten, and I have that kind of body.
The Sanatana Dharma does not belong to you or me – it is laid down by creation.
You cannot become a tree, a dog, a cat, a cow, an elephant, or a tiger – do what you want. The source is the same, but look at the manifold expression. So obviously, there is a law governing it, no matter what. It is fixed like a railway track, and you are going on it. The only question is, how fast and how far will you go? How profoundly do we perceive the law, and how much are we in tune with it?
Essentially, the entire system of yoga is about being in tune with the rest of existence, so that your life happens joyfully, exuberantly, to its fullest capacity. The only thing that can go wrong with your life is this: do you find full expression to your life or not? What can go wrong with a tree? The only question is, will it grow into its full capacity, or will it die as a half-grown tree? The same is true with the human being. If you are in tune with the laws, you will grow to your full possibility. If you are not, you will become stunted in some way. Fundamentally, this is our only concern, even if people are not aware of it. All their desires, ambitions, and longings are about becoming a full-fledged life. If you want to become a full-fledged life, understanding the laws on whose basis this life is happening, is very important.
The Sanatana Dharma does not belong to you or me – it is laid down by creation. It is for you and me to be in tune with it. Here in India, we understood and codified it, and put it together in a certain way. This does not mean that in the rest of the world, no one knows about it. Many individual people know about it. They may not have written it down as shruti and smriti. But a whole lot of human beings around the world have been in tune with it, because everywhere, human beings have blossomed and lived well.
So is Sanatana Dharma diluted today? It is not even in our hands to dilute it. Individual understanding may be diluted. From person to person, there may be different dimensions of understanding. But you cannot dilute Sanatana Dharma, because it is the basis of existence. You cannot dilute it, because you did not create it.