Sanatana Dharma

This page is based on the page on Hinduism (see here).

A question that perplexes many while drawing various, often contradictory, responses from most is: Who is a Hindu? Hindus are often confused while non-Hindus often give deliberately wrong answers to create further confusion and conflict.

Here we propose what we believe to be a very general and yet specific definition of Hinduism. We will also point out, that often various confusions arise out of inappropriate mixing of concepts. And therefore we will make a case for our preferred term for the subject matter of the present description.

To begin with, we describe a perspective and we call this perspective a belief-system or world-view.

Belief-System, World-view:

0. Truth, whatever that may be, is amenable to being investigated using one or many from a myriad of tools, for example, reason, experience, perception, emotion, etc.; and Truth can stand any inquiry.

1. In the past, various investigations have been conducted into Truth, and many of the findings have been recorded or handed down through generations.

2. One is free to investigate ab initio, and one is also free to investigate, starting from some or all of previous findings and continuing them further. Also one is free to make use of previous findings if and when these are available.

It is evident that there are two broad methodologies:

2.a One begins with a willingness to try out some of the previous findings (This is called the Faith aspect), and attempts to verify them to gain conviction for oneself (This is the Confidence aspect).

2.b One sets out with a clean slate and attempts to discover things for oneself (This is the inquiry aspect).

3. Properly conducted investigations -- whether by an individual or in a collaborative way, whether conducted in the past, present or future, independent of the tools used for investigation -- lead to fundamentally and essentially identical results and eventually final understanding; albeit the expressions of the understanding may vary and differ depending upon time, location, language, context, understanding capacity of the listener and also the speaker.

4. Science too is a part of the outcome of such an investigation. Usually science focuses on demonstrable (Personal, Objective) truths, whereas the larger truth encompasses the verifiable (Impersonal, Subjective) truths as well.
Now we can summarize that the underlying principles, that provide sustenance to a Civilization based on such an understanding of Truth, are called Sanatana Dharma.
We can now propose that those who accept, even if tentatively, such a broad understanding of Sanatana Dharma, and live by it, can be stated to be leading a Hindu-Way-of-Life. And, they can be called Hindus.


0. Sanatana Dharma
is not confined to geo-political India and so on. It may be practiced anywhere and by any people, speaking whatsoever language.

1. The validity or applicability of this Sanatana Dharma is universal and does not depend upon whether someone knows it or not. It was pointed out that some scholar once remarked that everyone was subject to the Eternal Law and it was not a matter of choice!

2. The discoverers of these truths have been called seers, sages or Rishis. Those who pondered over the discoveries were called Munis and so on.

3. There are no fixed text-books for Sanatana Dharma. However, there are many usable text-books. Some of them are even considered canonical.

4. Incidentally, Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti, एकं सत विप्राः बहुधा वदन्ति। does not mean that "All religions contain the same Truth". Sat is technically synonymous with immutable, and the purport of this dictum is to state that This unique immutable can be referred to by many different names.

5. As we tend to agree that even if human civilization forgot all of science and began from scratch, they will rediscover largely the same science again; similarly Sanatana Dharma will also be rediscovered.

6. The word Hindu, historically was used for a geographical region, and the word India came from Hind(u), hence there usually is a confusion between the ancient Way-of-life and current geographical situation.

7. On a more technical footing, the word Dharma is an equally usable term, however since it can be confused with Dhamma of the Buddhists, we prefer the term Sanatana Dharma. However, we are open to new suggestions.

8. It can be conjectured that if there ever has to be a Universal framework for various belief-systems, Sanatana Dharma would be a logical and legitimate choice.

9. Like there are occasional frauds in Science, there can be frauds in religious life as well.

Socio-Cultural and Political Consequences:
0. There may be a way seemingly different from what a person might prefer for oneself, which would also lead to an understanding of the same Truth, is inherent in Sanatana Dharma. Certain observable aspects like variety, and tolerance, are eminent and exemplary outcomes of this inherent quality.

1. Sanatana Dharma thrived without the need for the notion of a Single-Nation-State to be felt. We welcome more and more peoples and nations to adopt Sanatana Dharma and they have no need to become a part of India! This is again is the same as the fact that India (or any other nation-state) does not become a colony of Europe or USA merely by adopting Science and Technology for its development.

2. Similarly language too was never a barrier. Various kingdoms could exists, and even fight wars without in any way destroying this underlying unity. This is like the axis-countries fighting against the allied-forces during Worl War II, both having the same world-view regarding Science.

3. This does not mean that we encourage fissiparous or secessionist tendencies of the likes of Maoists. We surely disagree with those who claim that Hinduism is the cause of such separatist movements. If at all, the intellectual ideologies behind these movements are the real cause for such political strife. And nothing else, other than, a perspective emerging out of Sanatana Dharma can salvage India from such a turmoil.

Certain Inconvenient Facts:

0. In view of the first point in the previous section, it is a simple corollary that Islamic claims regarding some person being the final messenger are all inconsistent with Sanatana Dharma.

Therefore a Muslim, inasmuch as he/she is a follower of Islam, can not be a leading a Hindu-WOL, and hence is not a Hindu. Period.

1. Similarly a Christian, inasmuch as he/she believes his holy-book, the Bible, to be the only and exclusive source of Truth, can not be leading a Hindu-WOL, and hence is not a Hindu. Period.

2. Even some of those who claim to be Hindus, like the followers of ISCKON, inasmuch as they insist, that their point of view is the only correct view, are not leading a Hindu-WOL.

3. Merely stating that they accept all as True, does not make one a Hindu-WOL. Accepting all as true is like a scientist who accepts all superstitions as true.

4. It is important to be broadminded with regards to Truth, but it is also important to reject the False.

5. Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs largely honor a similar understanding, however they CLAIM to begin with the recorded discoveries of only their preferred masters, viz., The Buddha, The Teerthankaras, and The Gurus.

We emphasize the word Claim, because the doctrines of Karma, and rebirth which had already been there with the ancient "Hindus" for long period, were co-opted by all these three; and yet each of these insist that they are all Original and New, and pretend as if they began from Scratch! Thus inasmuch as they insist on being original and new, they are being dishonest and ungrateful.
Nevertheless, often the followers of Sanatana Dharma consider these to be co-travellers, but these groups in their own view consider themselves to be different, for various reasons including Philosophical reasons, and not excluding social, political, financial reasons.