Sanatana Dharma is extremely ancient. It originated from a time that was beyond our everyday comprehension of time. Any form of recorded history began only about six thousand years ago with the archaeological findings of inscriptions on stone tablets. Determining the timeline of much earlier periods is largely based on astronomical evidence derived from ancient textual references and archaeological studies. Such evidence indicates that Santana Dharma is at least 15,000 years old. The colossal depository of texts in Sanatana Dharma includes four massive Vedas, 200 Agama Shastra texts, innumerable Sutras, more than a thousand minor and major Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad Gita, 2 Epics, 18 Puranas, 18 Upa Puranas, and 6 philosophical treaties namely, Nyaya, Vaisika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Advaita. Most of this knowledge was preserved and handed down through millennia in the classical Sanskrit language, which made it even more difficult for easy comprehension. Adding to this complexity, there are innumerable interpretations and explanations of all of them. Many of them have eventually become part of the classical textual corpus of Sanatana Dharma. It is on this massive foundation that Sanatana Dharma stands today. With such complexity, depth and scope, it is natural that one cannot easily decipher what Sanatana Dharma is. Obviously, in the relentless march of time and with such complexity of the topic, many misunderstandings have crept into its interpretations and its consequent aberrations. In fact, Buddha Dharma was a serious attempt to correct some of these deviations and simplify the practices in a manner that was more suitable for practitioners of that time. The exposition of Advaita Vedanta in the eighth century AD by Adi Shankaracharya was another eloquent attempt to correct the deviations that have since occurred. Even today, the majority of the Sanatana Dharma practitioners know their Dharma only in fragments and not in its entirety.
It must be noted that the massive library of knowledge referred to above was not mere speculations about some transcendental systems. It was the fountainhead of a great culture and civilization. Several specialized branches of unique knowledge such as science, medicine, psychology, astronomy, epistemology, debates, political philosophy, law, literature, sculpture, dance, music, acting, and the ingenuity to develop personal relationships as art were all born and grew out of this. All of this became part of a great culture. This is how Sanatana Dharma has become the common cultural heritage and shared values of Bharath that is today.
The objective of this paper is to give a basic understanding of what Sanatana Dharma essentially is. It aims to provide a working model of Sanatana Dharma, with all its essential concepts. It is hoped that this working model will help in building an overall understanding of Sanatana Dharma. Furthermore, it is also hoped that it will provide a context and purpose for those who are already practising Sanatana Dharma. Before introducing the working model of Sanatana Dharma, certain necessary terminologies and concepts are explained, so that the working model can be easily understood, using those terminologies. After the working model is given, another set of key terminologies will be explained so that the practices can be understood in the right context. It must be appreciated that this paper is envisaged to be a standardized, logically coherent and balanced narration of what Santana Dharma is and what its objectives are. One may find other variant explanations for some of these concepts discussed in this paper. The limited scope and nature of this paper do not make it feasible to discuss them here; this working model of Sanatana Dharma is merely expected to be the launching pad for the reader’s own further explorations of the concepts discussed here.
Some Popular Misconceptions
First, it is important to clarify three major misconceptions about Sanatana Dharma. It is commonly said in the popular narration that “Sanatana Dharma” or “Hindu Dharma” is “not a religion but a way of life”. However, that is not an adequate narration of Sanatana Dharma because even religions evolve into their own unique ways of life. Therefore, the popular narration of what is “Sanatana dharma” needs to be further refined. Sanatana Dharma is a way of life designed for the highest possibilities for the expansion of one’s consciousness and for assisting in the expansion of consciousness of all other beings as well through the voluntary and “dharmic” discharge of one’s duties and responsibilities in life. This is the refined and more accurate narration of Sanatana Dharma. The word “Dharma” is an indispensable word, which when loosely translated into the English language is “Ethics”. Dharma, indeed, includes everything that is presently understood as ‘ethics’, but, it is much more than that. Since there is no equivalent word in the English language that will totally hold the full meaning of the word “Dharma”, in this paper the word “dharma” will be used throughout. The word “dharma” will soon be further explained.
Likewise, popular expressions like “Hindu Dharma” or Hindu “religion” also need refinement. The word “Hindu” is incorrect to the context; it is given under the mistaken notion that the way of life just narrated is a “religion”. Sanatana Dharma is not a “religion”. It does not have an organic structure with a hierarchy of human administrators. It does not have a reward-punishment system being meted out by any human hierarchy for following or not following its tenets. Moreover, the word “Hindu” as a prefix to the word “Dharma” implies that observing Dharma is something exclusive only for certain people called “Hindus”. On the contrary, Dharma is an infinitely inclusive concept that everyone needs to observe. The all-inclusive Dharmic way of life is “Sanatana” too, meaning, it is eternal and ever-required. Essentially, it is the ‘Dharma’ that everyone needs to fulfil at all times. To help conceptualize the idea contained in the expression ‘Sanatana Dharma’, think of it as “Eternal Dharma for everyone at all times”. The expression “Hindu Religion” is given by the erstwhile British rulers of India for ease of their administration in classifying the population; it is also due to their lack of knowledge of what Sanatana Dharma is. The word “Hindu” is basically meant to refer to the ‘people who live on the other side of the River Indus”. The right translation of the expression Sanatana Dharma, therefore, is “Eternal Dharma” for all, and nothing less!
The entire edifice of Sanatana Dharma is erected on the knowledge contained in the Vedas. Another correction that is required in the popular belief about Sanatana Dharma is the contention that it was the Aryans who came from Europe between 1750 to 1400 BC and wrote the Vedas. The Aryans did not come to India from Europe. Such a misconception has existed in mainstream history for a long time. However, based on the now available scientific evidence provided by modern technology like DNA studies, such notions have been proved to be entirely wrong. The Aryans were never the ones who came to India as invaders nor as migrants from Europe and settled there and wrote the Vedas in Sanskrit language. The Aryans were the children of the soil of Aryavarta. Aryavarta was the ancient name for the Indo-Gangetic plains and surrounding areas of today. It was in this geographic location that Sanatana Dharma originated, and existed; it was from here that it spread to other parts of Asia. Sanatana Dharma is the common culture and heritage of all Indians.
A Brief Overview
Sanatana Dharma is based on the Vedas composed of ‘Shruti and Smruti’. The word ‘Veda’ means ‘known knowledge’. Each Veda has three parts. Those parts are (1) Mantra or Samhitas (2) Brahmana (3) Upanishad. It consists of mantras specially arranged in ‘Samhitas’. The arrangement of the chanting sounds of those mantras has a special power. Mantras are the ‘Science of Vibration’. Mantras have two levels of meaning, one broad external and the other deep internal.
The foundation stone of Sanatana Dharma is the four Vedas commonly known as “Shruti”. Shrutis are Sanskrit hymns that combine words with sound arrangements with a certain harmonic resonance, and profound meaning. The four Vedas mentioned in the ‘Shruti’ are Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva. The last word of Sanatana dharma is given in the Shruti containing these four Vedas. ‘Shruti’ means ‘heard’. This can be explained as what the ancient sages with very highly developed awareness heard internally at a very specific state of their “tapasya” through their intuition. “Tapasya” is a life embedded in deep meditation and an extremely Dharmic way of living. All of them have been handed down from a distant past through thousands of generations, heard from the Guru in proper pronunciation and chanting, recited repeatedly by the disciples, learned and memorized. All of them began to be codified and written down in relatively recent times.
“Smriti” is an equally important aspect of Vedas, second only to Shruti in terms of authenticity. Smriti also has another name “Dharma Shastra”. Smriti contains the rules and regulations to be followed in personal life, family life, social life and as national dharma. Smriti is based only on principles given in “Shruti”. Broadly speaking, “Smriti” is a set of practical rules of life and self-restraints based on the principles of the Shruti.
The fulcrum of Santana Dharma is living a conscious life embedded in ‘Dharma’ and avoidance of ‘Adhara’. Before understanding the words “Dharma” and “Adharma”, it is necessary to understand why one should be living a dharmic life. When we observe our lives and the lives of others around us, we can notice certain anomalies repeatedly occurring. Everyone wants an eternal life with never-ending happiness all the time. But it is not happening the way everyone desires. Happiness is more like an occasional guest in our lives. It comes and goes randomly, interspaced with periods of unhappiness, anxiety, disease, suffering, and pain. Eventually, one day, death comes and snatches it all, rendering all that we underwent here insignificant and apparently meaningless. Death often leaves no trace even to hint that we had once existed here. In fact, all religions identified this disturbing anomaly and wanted to put an end to it and access a joyful eternal life. All religions proposed their solutions to this problem, standing from their own respective understandings of God, our origin, and our fall into a state of suffering. Religions gave their methodologies for building a relationship with God and possibly returning to an eternal life of joy and splendour.
Abrahamic religions form some 58% of the world’s population today. They hold the view that there is only one formless, shapeless, attributeless God and that God “created” the Universe of multiple things, including humans, in six days and rested on the seventh day. For Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) the relationship between God and the Universe of multiple things is dualistic, meaning, God is the Creator, possessor and the ownership holder of his creation. In a nutshell, to attain freedom from the anomaly stated above, Judaism has ten commandments in their holy book Torah for their followers to follow; Christianity has their holy Bible, which essentially asks their followers to live a life of love and service while waiting for the second coming of Jesus the Christ to save humanity. Islam has Qura’an which asks their followers to submit themselves unconditionally to God and please God in different ways by living the life of a true Muslim. Basically, Abrahamic religions are ‘dualistic’ in nature. For a huge thumping majority of the followers of Abrahamic religions, it is a “belief” system based on what is asked of them in their respective Holy books. However, there is indeed a micro-minor segment in Abrahamic religions who hold a view broadly similar to the views held in Sanatana Dharma. The Kabalists in Judaism, the Gnostics in Christianity and the Sufis in Islam are examples of those minorities.
In Sanatana Dharma, forming some 15% of the world population, there is only one formless, shapeless, but Greatly “Conscious” but amorphous and intelligent God. However, God did not “create” the universe, instead, God partially “transformed” itself into the Universe of multiple things including humans. Therefore, essentially, everything existing “is” indeed varying degrees of the “God-stuff” or ‘Consciousness’ itself remaining disguised. The relationship between God and the Universe of multiple things is non-dualistic in Sanatana Dharma, meaning, God and the Universe of multiple things are essentially one, differing only in the degree of ‘Consciousness’ with which everything in the Universe is formed. An invisible mind and a visible body are subsequent add-ons. The sentience – the ability to be aware – is the fundamental nature of Consciousness. However, this state of non-duality or oneness is not immediately recognized or known to these forms because the degree of ‘Consciousness’ is immensely stepped down and remains at various lower degrees in different forms.
Since the God-stuff ‘Consciousness’ is there in humans too, an independent feeling of awareness of “I” exists there. This is a natural state of I-consciousness when a human comes into existence for the first time. This intense feeling of “I” and “Mine” gives rise to a sense of “duality” much as in the experience of duality explained above in Abrahamic religions. This initial sense of Duality is a mere initial illusion; only when the degree of Consciousness expands in humans to sufficient levels, would they come to know the real nature of their own non-dual existence. A mistaken Duality-based awareness gives rise to many “wrong” thoughts, words, and actions in life, which in turn give rise to pain and suffering. The way forward to gaining freedom from pain and suffering is to realize our true nature by expanding our consciousness. Hence, in Sanatana Dharma, expanding our consciousness is the first and foremost requirement to gain freedom from suffering. When the consciousness is expanded to a sufficient degree, the importance of living a “dharmic” life becomes all too evident. In Sanatana Dharma, all these are explained not in just one book but in thousands of books full of special knowledge, all of which originate from the four Vedas. Further, there is no need to “believe” in what is taught there; one is free to explore and experience that “consciousness of oneness” oneself. In a nutshell, in Sanatana Dharma, the way to gain freedom from pain and suffering is (1) to realise one’s own non-dual true nature by expanding one’s consciousness and (2) to live a totally “dharmic” life. Nothing needs to be blindly ‘believed’. Everything is available for knowing experientially. The keywords here are “Consciousness” and “Dharma”.
Now, we can explore and understand certain essential terms to understand the working model of Sanatana Dharma. At first, one needs to understand what the terms Consciousness and Dharma are because a Dharmic life has a synergistic effect on the expansion of consciousness, which is a prerequisite for deliverance from pain and suffering.
Sanatana Dharma teaches us that all that there is, is “consciousness”. The only reality is Consciousness. Everything that exists in the universe is ‘made’ of consciousness, originates from consciousness, exists in consciousness, and merges back into consciousness at the end. Consciousness is all that there is. The sentience or the ability to feel and be aware is the inherent attribute of consciousness. “Intelligence” is the reflective aspect of Consciousness. When sufficiently expanded and developed, consciousness will become “aware of being aware”. It will become aware of itself and will know that it is capable of knowing things. We, human beings, are aware that we are conscious and we have awareness! That is because we are conscious beings – a unit of consciousness currently packed with a body and mind. How much aware we presently are is entirely dependent on how much expanded “our” consciousness presently is. It is technically incorrect to say “our” consciousness; because we ARE consciousness. Consciousness is NOT something that we possess. In fact, the reverse is what is true. The body and mind are material objects that the non-material consciousness holds for a certain length of time. Body and mind are the objects held by “consciousness”, which is what we really are; this knower housed in our body is pure “subjectivity”. We are that pure ‘subjectivity’. It is very similar to saying “my car or my house”, where I and the car or the house are different. “I” is the subject and the car or the house is the “Object”. Body and Mind are objects owned by the subjectivity called “consciousness”. Realizing this fact about who really we are is a significant learning milestone in Sanatana Dharma. It is called “Self-realisation”.
If the consciousness that we are is expanded and developed further, our awareness will also be expanded to that extent. For example, if the consciousness that we are is developed only to the size of a lemon, when we read a book our understanding of what we read will also be to the size of a lemon. When we look at the world, what we decipher will also be to the size of a lemon. If the consciousness that we are is expanded and developed to the size of a food ball, when we read a book, our understanding will be to the size of a food ball. When we look at the world, what we decipher will also be to the size of a food ball. If we are made with one ounce of consciousness, our awareness will also be one ounce. If we are made with one litre of consciousness, our awareness will also be that much greater.
Units of existence with low levels of consciousness, such as a grain of sand, can be called “entities”. A grain of sand is conscious and intelligent to a certain minimal degree; that is why it holds on to the shape and appearance of a grain for a certain length of time. A tree is an “entity” with a higher degree of consciousness. We humans are not only aware but also self-aware. We know we exist. That is why we are called human ‘beings’, not human ‘entities’. Anything that exists is ‘consciousness’ self-metamorphosed enough to become that thing. It is not necessary that an existence should always have a body. Units of “Existence” can be a mere presence of intelligent energy without a visible body, such as Gravity. Gravity exists, magnetism exists, and even extremely subtle concepts like love exist. They are all different degrees of consciousness in Sanatana Dharma
In Sanskrit, the word used for consciousness is “Prajnanam”. Light, energy and matter are essentially consciousness “re-formed” itself. An example to illustrate this point here is to consider wood existing in a wooden chair or Gold existing in a gold ornament. Both are the same stuff fundamentally, but they exist differently for fulfilling a specific purpose. In this example, Gold in an ornament that can technically exist with 99.99% purity while it remains as an ornament. An ornament cannot remain with 100% purity of gold because if it does that, it is no more an ornament; it becomes Gold itself. An ornament can also exist with 10% purity or 25% purity or 50% or 75% or 90% purity levels. In the same manner, the consciousness that we are, can gradually expand itself to different levels higher or lower and gradually become more and more aware or less and less aware. Living a Dharmic life while in a body and mind is the only way to practice a Dharmic life and expand our awareness from a state of self-awareness to a state of all-awareness. This is what Sanatana Dharma teaches. Living a Dharmic life is that important for us right now! According to Sanatana Dharma, everything in the universe is designed to make this expansion of consciousness happen, if we work through it – only if we work through it; if we do not do this, our being here becomes a wasted opportunity, and we can sink into the abysses of acute unawareness. That is the importance of a Dharmic life. We become what we practice every day.
Dharma and Adharma
“Dharma” is the highly moral way of behaviour that all sentient and conscious beings (i.e. each of us – we are sentient and conscious) should adopt with one another as well as with everything around them. Therefore, the word ‘dharma’, does not mean a mere list of certain good qualities, although “dharma” includes all of these qualities. In simple terms, ‘Dharma’ refers to the right relationship that all individuals should maintain with everything sentient and conscious around them. It is about the fundamental principles underlying these relationships. ‘Dharma’ is a general series of clear and systematic patterns of behaviour that govern the proper relationships at the experiential level. Hence, practising Dharma and experiencing Dharma first-hand is of paramount importance in Sanatana Dharma. The total of Ethics and Morality that is extended and experienced by everyone and everything is Dharma. Dharma is not limited to physical actions alone. It encompasses mental and verbal activities too.
The definition of Dharma in Sanatana Dharma is very precise. Any thought, word or deed that helps a sentient and conscious being to develop its consciousness and ensures its inner upliftment, is the integral to the ethos of Sanatana Dharma. Any thought, word or deed that works against the development of consciousness and does not promote the inner upliftment of a sentient and conscious being is ‘adharma’ (not-dharma) in Sanatana Dharma. On the path of development of the consciousness of a sentient being, there are two distinct stages. There is an involution stage called “Pravruthi” and another evolution stage called “Nivruthi” in the Sanskrit language. The involution stage of Pravruthi can be considered the infancy and childhood stages of humanity. The evolution stage of Nivruthi is akin to the stage of the child reaching adulthood and maturity with the stability of emotions. It must be understood that both Pravruthi and Nivruthi are natural stages in the expansion of consciousness. Just as a child makes mistakes in childhood and learns from the mistakes, beings of lower degrees of consciousness also make mistakes when they grow and expand themselves they learn from their mistakes.
In Sanatana Dharma, everything that exists has “life” and is indeed “living” because everything is fundamentally the same God-stuff called “consciousness” (further explained soon). Life or sentience is the inherent nature of “consciousness”. Sentience is the ability to experience feelings and sensations. We ordinarily recognize “life” only when something starts moving on its own. If something is not moving, we consider it dead. According to Sanatana Dharma, in reality, it is not ‘dead’ at all; it is still a living entity as there is “consciousness” in it, which is what it is made of. The only limitation is that the “consciousness” in it has not expanded enough to start moving. Even if something is not seemingly living or sentient, it still is made of the same “consciousness” and therefore, it still is a living ‘entity’ – but not to the degree enough to move or become sentient. As the “consciousness” expands, it gradually starts moving and then becomes more and more sentient; in due course of its expansion, it becomes a ‘being’ with self-awareness. At first, an ‘entity’ is just ‘aware’; when the consciousness expands it becomes a ‘being’ and becomes ‘self-aware’; we humans are ‘beings’ because we know we are aware and conscious; gradually through further expansion of consciousness and experience, beings become all-aware. The “pravruthi” stage is the initial stage of the expansion of consciousness, where an entity or a being becomes aware of itself for the first time. There is great euphoria in that stage of a new experience of existence and the feeling of “I” and “mine” as a separate entity. In that newfound euphoria of “I-ness”, the being will make many mistakes. Through mistakes, it learns and before long it finds out that every other thing is also like itself. Then the euphoria of being “self-aware” starts diminishing and the process of becoming “all-aware” beings. This is the “nivruthi” stage of evolution.
In the “pravruthi” stage, the ‘egoistic’ state of mind becomes more and more powerful and everything one does will be in increasing degrees of selfishness. It is the early stages of the development of consciousness. In this stage, the feeling of “I” and “Mine” will be stronger. The consciousness of a living being at this stage will be more and more exclusive and not inclusive in nature. This is a natural stage in the natural development of the living being and hence the relationship with someone on this stage needs to be handled firmly but with understanding and objectivity.
Therefore the concepts of Dharma are different in Pravruthi stage and Nivruthi stage. Hence, at Pravruthi stage, the relationship that is ‘corrective’ in nature is Dharmic. Due to these two stages in development, Dharma and Adharma can be relative, depending on whether the one that is being dealt with is in the involution stage or in the evolution stage. This dual concept of Dharma can be a little confusing. One would wonder how is it that “Dharma” is not absolute! It can be understood easily with an example. Would we give a matchbox to a three-year-old baby, if the baby starts insisting on getting it to play with? It is “Adharmic” to give it to a baby, who does not know the potential consequences of playing with fire. However, giving the same matchbox to an adult when asked for, is “Dharmic”. Being a Dharmic is a great responsibility. But, that is the ONLY way to progress forward.
Brahman -The God Principle in Sanatana Dharma
In Sanatana Dharma, the only real existence is that of The ALL or The Brahman or the absolute undifferentiated Consciousness. All that there ever is, in reality, is only the Hundred per cent Consciousness. Hundred per cent Consciousness is, by definition, all-pervading, and never changing. A Hundred per cent Consciousness is the only one without a second, meaning, Hundred per cent Consciousness is self-existing. Consciousness does not require any help or assistance from a second thing to cause the existence of itself. For example, if there is a telephone existing, there is a telephone maker causing its existence. If a son exists, there is a father-mother pair causing the son’s existence. Therefore, a telephone and a son are not the ones without a second. Likewise, a Hundred per cent Consciousness is without anybody or shape, and it is unknowable. If a Hundred per cent Consciousness has a body, it cannot be all-pervading, meaning, it can be here but not there; A body is a limitation. The body needs space and time to move from here to there. Such an ‘existence’ without a body will be unknowable for us, humans. Before the creation came into existence, all that was there existing was this Hundred per cent Consciousness. Sanatana Dharma calls it “Brhaman”. Religions generally call it “God”. In Judaism it is called “YHVH”, In Christianity, it is called “Jehovah” and in Islam, it is “Allah”.
This clearly tells us that both in Abrahamic religions and in Sanatana Dharma, there is only one God. There are no multiple Gods in Sanatana Dharma either. However, there are five Ishwaras and multiple Devathas in Sanatana Dharma – never multiple Gods. In the English language, there is only one word for the principles of God, Ishwaras, and Devathas, and that single word is “God”, which will be confusing when used in different connotations. Hence, in this paper, the word “Brahman” will be used to indicate the undifferentiated highest Consciousness (the God Principle), from which alone everything came into existence. Everything existing could not have come into existence from anything else, since there was absolutely nothing existing in the very beginning anyway, apart from the Brahman. Nothing is, therefore, “made” using any extraneous ‘stuff’; everything in existence today is different degrees of self-transformation of the same Brahman.
According to Sanatana Dharma, everything that is existing today came into existence through a well-defined process of self-transformation involving 36 design principles. In Sanatana Dharma, these 36 design principles are called 36 Tatwas. This is one of the unique differences between Sanatana Dharma and Abrahamic religions. In Abrahamic religions too, it is God who was “creating” everything. But in Abrahamic religions how the creation was made is not explained in any detail. In Sanatana Dharma, the “WILL” to bring forth multiple existence is first formed in the Brahman. As a result of this WILLPOWER, the Brahman partially undergoes certain steps of self-transformation. This is comparable to a spider making its own web from its body. It is very similar to a caterpillar transforming its body into a cocoon and later into a butterfly. The Universe is a ‘metamorphosis’ or ‘self-transformation’ of a small ‘portion’ of Brahman. The universe is not something that Brahman “created” with extraneous materials. Kickstarting this partial transformation of itself, a roaring sound is first formed, much like how a huge machine starts operating when switched on. This is the famous “AUM” sound of Sanathana Dharma. Following the roaring AUM sound, which scientists called the ‘big bang”, light, energy, matter, space, and time were formed from that ‘portion’ of Brahman where it underwent self-transformation. Because this self-transformation does not happen to the entire Brahman and it happens only to a relatively small ‘portion’ of the Brahman, it is correct to say that the Universe exists in the ‘mind’ of Brahman. A close analogy is how we build our own dream car with dream materials in our nightly dreams and how this dream car exists in our minds.
At first, 5 Ishwaras were formed with the entire responsibility for designing, bringing into existence and governing the universe. In the second stage of this self-transformation, 7 rules and regulations were formed by the Ishwaras, and thereafter 24 design features were formed by the Ishwaras to bring forth the Universe into existence.
Brahaman is ONE, Ishwaras are Five and Devathas are Multitudes
The very first existence to be formed in Brahman was the principle of Parama Siva. Parama Siva is not Brahman. For the sake of understanding through an analogy, if we consider that Brahman is 100% Pure, Undifferentiated Consciousness, with no coagulation or differentiation of any nature whatsoever, then, Parama Siva is 99% Pure Consciousness, and differs only marginally from Brahman; the difference is, nevertheless, there.
It must be noted that while the Brahman is undifferentiated with no attributes, Parama Siva has three attributes namely the highest degree of eternal existence, the highest degree of consciousness and the highest degree of bliss (Sat-chit-Anand). Since everything formed further down is from Parama Siva, all these three attributes are present in every piece of existence – but in varying degrees and levels. This means everything that exists whether with a physical body or without a physical body, has an existence of its own, has a degree of consciousness of its own and has a level of joy of its own; we humans too have all these three inseparable attributes in our being; that is the reason we wish to exist eternally without dying, why we want to increase our knowledge and awareness, and why we wish to be happy and joyful at all times. Although we are inherently the same ‘stuff’, we are not experiencing it. This is the problem we face. Some of us realize this problem but most of us do not even know that we have such a problem on hand!
Parama Siva is the first and foremost Principle and the most superior Ishwara concept among all forms of existence. The word “parama” means “Most Superior”. Hence, “Parama” Siva is also known as “Parama” Ishwara, or “Parmeshwara”. Another popular word for Parama Siva / Parameswara is “Parama Aathma”. The word “Aathma” is a rough equivalent of the English word “soul”. The word “Aathma” indicates the idea of the introduction of a certain level of limitations to a unit of Consciousness. While Brahman is naturally devoid of any attributes and is unknowable and unapproachable to us humans, the first principle of Parama Siva (Parameswara) is with attributes and is approachable and knowable to us, as and when the consciousness that we are, is sufficiently expanded. However, at best our human ability to know and approach Parama Siva will be one step below that of Parama Siva. That is all as far as we can develop ourselves.
Param Siva (Parameshwara) is also the first masculine gender to be ever formed. Figuratively, it is seen that Parama Siva (Parmeshwara) is 99% pure Consciousness. Consciousness is differentiated into existence-consciousness-bliss, which is its power or strength. Just as we can say heat and light are the power of fire, we can say that existence-consciousness-bliss is the power of Parma Siva (Parmeshwara). The next step in the transformation process in the continuum of 36 Tatwas is the formation of the Energy principle. Parama Siva (Parmeswara) forcefully separates its own power or strength and reflects it like a mirror reflects light. The power thus separated from Parama Siva Consciousness is called “Aadi Paraa Shakti” or “Parashakti” or even merely as “Shakti”. Parmasiva and Parashakti are the first two Ishwaras; that is the beginning of “Duality”. Aadi Paraa Shakti becomes the feminine gender, which is the second Tatwa of the 36 Tatwas. The original ONE has partially transformed itself into two now – Parama Siva and Paraa Shakti. Because the principle of the feminine gender is forcefully separated from the principle of the masculine gender, there is always a mutual attraction between these two. Here, it is the Principle of Genders, and should not be confused with “sex”. The concept of Sex is a lower manifestation of the same higher principles of Gender. Existence is like the Russian Doll set – we can see the self-repeating design features at all levels of existence. The famous aphorism “As above, so below” reflects this fact.
The Male Gender is the directive principle with the ability to visualize and give directions, but lacking creative abilities. This lack is understandable because we have just seen that Shakti has been forcefully separated from Parama Siva to form Paraa Shakti. The female Gender is the Creative principle but lacks the ability to visualize and direct, as we have just seen in the forceful separation. For ease of understanding, we can say that the male Gender can see (meaning, it can visualize and design the universe with the minutest details) but it cannot walk (meaning, it cannot bring it to existence, for it needs Shakti, the feminine Gender.). The feminine Gender can walk (meaning it has the energy power and can bring the universe into existence) but cannot see and cannot design it). Together, they can design anything and bring anything into existence – together they have the necessary willpower and necessary knowledge and they are capable of undertaking the required actions. Hence, these two genders are required to accomplish anything – one for direction and the other for execution. This relationship is much like a design engineer providing the design and supervision and a contractor building it as designed and directed. This means everything existing – including humans- has a Siva Principle of Consciousness, which is what each of us is, and a Shakti Principle of Energy, which is what the intelligent energy Prana thatwe all have. When Prana is withdrawn, everything is dropped off and only consciousness remains. We call it “death”.
Parama Siva and Paraa Shakti together bring forth three more Ishwaras principles, namely Sadasiva, Ishwara and Sudha Vidya. These are three categories of principles with specific roles and responsibilities in bringing forth more pieces into existence and maintaining them. In broad terms, the Ishwara principle is responsible for stepping down the degree of consciousness in various objects of existence. The Sudha Vidya principle is responsible for stepping up the degree of consciousness in various objects by giving grace. The Sadasiva Principle is where the consciousness remains at its peak. This means, we can expand and develop our present level of consciousness to the Sadasiva Level, which is only second to Parama Siva. This shows the huge potential available to us for the growth of our consciousness.
From now onwards, for the sake of clarity and consistency, the word “Parama Aathma” (written also as Paramatma) will be used in this paper to indicate the Parama Siva principle. It must be remembered when the word “Paramatma” is seen, that it is the 99% Conscious LIFE with absolute existence-consciousness-bliss. The God principle of Absolute Oneness will be henceforth referred to as “Brahman”. The word “Ishwaras” will be used to refer to the five topmost categories of existence at the helm, responsible for bringing forth all pieces of existence, as well as maintaining them, and dissolving them. The rest of the Ishwaras other than the Paramatma, are also with attributes of existence-consciousness-bliss, but in differing composition ratios.
Under all four of them, there is innumerable existence of Devatha principles with innumerable combinations of sub-Ishwara-principles to support and sustain the huge multiplicity of the Universe. For example, for life to be sustained in the universe, there needs to be innumerable mechanisms or principles, such as the principle of knowledge, health, wealth, various types of energies and forces, food, willpower, love, war, protection etc. to illustrate some examples. For all of these concepts to work, there need to be working principles in existence – these are called “Devatha” principles which are there in multitudes. For any concept to “exist”, there needs to be an existence for it. We cannot see “love”, for example. However, we know ‘love’ exists. All existence is due to the presence of “consciousness” at a certain degree of expression. Concepts can be expressed by means of notations, symbols or formulas, which are beyond the limitations of any particular language-based word. An image of a white ‘dove’ is one such symbol to express the concept of love. “Devathas” in Sanatana Dharma are symbolic representations of intelligent concepts that really exist in the subdomains of Ishwaras. More on these will be discussed later.
To sum up, there is only ONE formless, amorphous, attributeless, unknowable, unreachable God principle called “Brahman”, which is Pure Consciousness. The WILLPOWER of that ONE single “Brahman” brings forth multiple units of existence, instantly triggering a series of metamorphic transformations of a portion of itself. The first and foremost formation was five “Ishwaras”; unlike Brahman, Ishwaras are differentiated Consciousness with the highest three attributes of existence-consciousness-bliss. This Existence is the eternal. This Consciousness is all-knowing – including past, present and future, with the willpower to do anything and with the ability to do anything at all. This Bliss is ever-renewed bliss. “Paramatma” is the most Superior Ishwara amongst all of the five Ishwaras. However, there is virtually a large diaspora of “Devatha” principles in existence under the Ishwara domain. Under these laws and mechanisms of Brahman, Ishwara, and Devathas the entire Universe functions. There is absolute order, harmony and balance in the working of the whole mechanism.
In Sanatana Dharma, the word “LIFE” envisions the whole harmonic existence of Brahman, Ishwaras, Devathas and the Universe, which obviously includes us humans too. This big LIFE is a giant, throbbing, living, and purposeful Life. We, humans, have not expanded our consciousness or awareness sufficiently enough to grasp this big LIFE in its entirety; we mistakenly consider and recognize only our small “life” as the time between our one physical birth and physical death. In Sanatana Dharma, there is only one BIG LIFE, in which we are “Jeeva Aathmas”(written as ‘Jeevatma’), living in the mind of “Paramatma” that in turn lives in the colossal mind of the Brahman. Considering ourselves as independent life is an illusion. The illusion makes us make many mistakes, which in turn gives us our suffering and death. In order to transcend what we call “suffering” and “death”, we need to expand our consciousness and go all the way back to an expanded state of consciousness as much proximal to the Paramatma Consciousness as possible. Sanatana Dharma is a way of living our daily life to steadily reach that goal of immortality and blissfulness, both of which are the birth rights of every Jeevatma.
Jeevatma or Soul
We, humans, are “Jeevatmas”, which is again a unit of the same Paramatma Consciousness but severely stepped down through further process steps of 31 principles. These thirty-one steps include the principles of illusion (Maya), principles of Time and space, the Law of Karma and Rebirths, Formation of mind, intellect, and ego, and gathering loads of Karmic Data through unconscious living. A full discussion of these 36 principles are outside the scope of this paper. If the reader wants to understand the full spectrum of the thirty-six Tatwas and its ramifications, this author has posted a series of YouTube video talks at this link, https://www.youtube.com/@consciousliving02 which may be helpful.
Unconscious living and ‘adharmic’ interpersonal interactions with other Jeevatmas result in pain and suffering, which in turn generate emotions. Acute emotions triggered by the Pain and suffering create Karmic impressions on the Jeevatma. Consequently, the Jeevatma ends up with a physical body and Karmic Data, which forces the Jeevatma to take up incessant cycles of repeated births and deaths to work out and exhaust the Karmic Data gathered. This is a vicious circle, and to break it, a Jeevatma needs to expand its consciousness and lead a Dharmic life without creating fresh Karma. This needs knowledge, a passion for evolution and committed actions. Sanatana Dharma is a way of life designed to increase its possibility.
Self Realization or Spiritual Development
The end objective of Sanatana Dharma is transcending the pain and suffering in individual lives and attaining eternal bliss and immortality. Self-realization is the final understanding of who really we are. Spiritual development is the process of understanding the nature of the largest context of Life and our individual role and purpose in it and consciously moving in that direction.