Sanatan Dharma is a massive topic. This post aims to provide a concise overview of Sanatan Dharma and provide a general orientation for readers to carry out further explorations on their own.

At the end of this article, references to four excellent resources for further explorations are given. The first book will give us a good understanding of the Six Great Philosophies of India. The study of these six philosophical systems is the most effective approach to comprehending Sanatan Dharma.  The wisdom contained in these philosophies comes from the scriptures found in the Veda and Tantra. These are not ‘religious’ texts.  Sanatan Dharma is not a religion. It is an evolutionary tool that helps humanity to expand their Consciousness and evolve to higher states of existence. Essentially, this paper explains why this is the case. 

The Background

The evidence available to date 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 with innumerable Sutras. Based on the Vedas, there are more than a thousand minor and major Upanishads, and then comes Brahma Sutra,  and Bhagavad Gita. In addition, there are 2 Epics, 18 Puranas, and 18 Upa Puranas.  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.

There are four Vedas. They are the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda, and the Atharvaveda. The “Vedas” are Sanskrit hymns composed in high-precision words with exacting vibratory notes, rendered in specific metre, and concealing profound meaning. The Vedas are more suitable for those who have an intellectual and analytical ability to understand complex principles and who have the willpower to follow a strict life-style regime. The Tantric texts, based on the Agama Shastras, consider those who are not so astute as well. Tantra offers methodologies that are suitable for both individuals with average willpower and those with higher willpower and abilities for comprehension. Both Veda and Tantra have the same end-purpose, but their focus, emphasis and respective methodologies are different. On the ground, both Tantric and Vedic methods are intermixed in the regular practice of Sanatan Dharma.

The vast collection of Upanishads, and the treatises like Brahma Sutra, and Bhagavad Gita are expositions of the higher Truth contained in the Vedas. Even to comprehend these explanations, one requires a certain degree of intellectual deftness.  Tantra is also written in terse aphorisms that need the help of a learned teacher, but its practices are easier to follow for common people. Epics and Puranas are simplified story like narrations of mostly historic events to illustrate the same principles  for common people to understand and learn through them.   Hence, the Vedas, Upanishads, Brahmasutra, Bhagavat Gita, Tantras, and Puranas are all performing a similar task of elucidating the fundamental Truth to a broad spectrum of people with varying intellectual capabilities.  

This immensity is one of the main reasons why Sanatan Dharma is not understood in its full significance and grandeur. Yoga is popular the world over today, and it is mostly practised for health benefits. Little do people know that Yoga is designed for the highest purpose of human evolution. Health and wellbeing are one of the minor side benefits of Yoga Shastra. In its entirety, Yoga Shastra is a Science on the expansion of Human Consciousness.    

The massive library of knowledge referred was not mere speculation 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 of developing personal relationships were all born and grew out of this. All of this became part of a great culture. This is how Sanatan Dharma has become the common cultural heritage and shared values of Bharat that is today.

The Ultimate Reality is Brahman 

Everything started in the antiquity with the search of the Ultimate Reality.  The Vedic Sages were curious about discovering what the Ultimate Reality or Truth really is. They noticed that everyone  actually wants to be joyful and live happily forever. However, in their experience, everything is subject to changes and happiness is not permanent in life. It was clear to them that pain and suffering are common and that one day everyone will die and disappear. They wanted to find out what the Truth is behind all these dramas in life.    

To explore the Ultimate Reality, they first defined what exactly they were looking for. No search is possible without a clear definition of what is being searched for.   The ancient sages put three conditions for accepting anything as the “Ultimate Truth”. The first condition was that it should be ‘one without a second’ (non-dual), meaning it should be self existing, without needing a second thing responsible for its existence. If the Ultimate Truth requires a second thing to bring about its existence, then, it is a limitation, and it cannot be accepted as ‘Real’. The second condition was, it should be all-pervading; meaning, it should be present everywhere. If it is present here but not there, it is a limitation and hence it cannot be accepted as ‘Real’. Thirdly, they insisted that if something is to be accepted as “Real’, it should be changeless. It is only when something is self-existing eternally without beginning or end, existing everywhere, and is NOT subject to any forced changes, it can be accepted as ‘Real’. 

If such an Ultimate Reality has a form or shape, it will be limited by that form; it cannot be all-pervading and will not be accepted as Ultimate Reality.  Obviously, therefore, the Reality that fulfils all these three conditions stated above aught to be an eternal, formless, changeless, all-pervading singularity or absolute oneness.  The Vedas called this Ultimate Reality, the “Brahman”. The Tantra called this Ultimate Reality, the “Parasamvith” . Yogic Tradition called this Ultimate Reality “Shivaa” (Note the double “a”. “Shiva” with a single “a” is a manifested entity, and “Shivaa” is the unmanifested Reality). Religions generally called it “God” and gave various specific names in their languages.  The Old Testament  called it YHWH (often vocalized with vowels as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”). Islam called it ALLAH.  In the English language, there is only one word for all these, God.  This limitation of the English language brought about many misunderstandings later. 

All Existences are Brahman

The ancient sages understood that everything that exists now would only have originated from the Brahman, if Brahman were the Ultimate Reality. Why? Because, there was nothing else existing in any case, apart from the Brahman  in the very beginning. If something else, besides Brahman existed, Brahman would not have been accepted as the Ultimate Reality. This simply means, every additional thing that ever existed in the past, or will exist in the future, or existing right now would only have been the self-transformations of this eternal, formless, all-pervading, unchanging Ultimate Reality, that they called “Brahman”.   Brahman did not “create” a world using any extraneous materials, for there was absolutely nothing existing anyway apart from the Brahman-self; Brahman would have only partially transformed itself into the multiple ‘things’ of this Universe. Furthermore, all those  existences can exist only in Brahman itself because Brahman is all-pervading according to the definition.  Everything, including humans, therefore, would logically only be the Brahman self-transformed. This would mean, everything, including, the seen or unseen, minerals or plants, animals or  humans, are all nothing but different degrees of Brahman-stuff.  

An analogy to understand this ‘common factor’ in all existences is to think of  gold as the common factor in many ornaments. Different types of ornaments are  Gold transformed itself.  Likewise, Brahman exists in everything that exists, just as Gold exists in ornaments of different names and forms. Another example is the wood existing in all pieces of furniture of different names and forms. Similarly,  anything that exists at all, is  Brahman self-transformed.  

According to the Vedic understanding, all that there is, is Brahman. Brahman is the common factor in all existences.  Not only visible and tangible materials like rock, earth, planets, minerals, plants, animals, and humans have this common factor in them. But also a wide range of intangible existences like thoughts, feelings, emotions, concepts, gravity, magnetism etcetera too are Brahman self-transformed. Everything is alive in varying degrees, according to Sanatan Dharma. 

“I” too Is Brahman

In the light of their above realizations, the ancient sages recognised that they themselves could only be the Brahman self transformed, and nothing else. They set out to discover  this piece of Ultimate Reality Brahman within themselves through an intensive self-enquiry. This resulted in their self-realization that the “I” factor in them is the Brahman self-transformed but expressing in a limited way. They also discovered that it is possible to expand, and grow, this Brahman hiding in the physicality of their bodies, as the “I” factor. This was a giant breakthrough that changed our understanding of ourselves and opened up a brand-new world of new possibilities for human evolution.  

They realized that there is a conscious observer or knower in them, which is what they habitually refer to as “I” or “me”  in  their conversations. It is this “I” factor that cognizes, or becomes aware of, the world.  “Consciousness” is another common word for this. The “I” factor is Consciousness. Consciousness is, therefore, Brahman.  This “I” factor is not our body or mind. It is a separate beingness using the body and mind as a temporary location to exist separately.  This “I” factor is the observer or knower residing in the body. Thus, the final understanding of the ancient sages was this. “I” am Consciousness, which is Brahman; “I” am not the body or mind as previously misunderstood.

Brahman is Consciousness, and so is Everything  

This observing/knowing Consciousness is NOT a ‘person’ or a ‘thing’ in the conventional sense of the words. We can start thinking of ‘Consciousness’ as a ‘field of conscious presence’ to use an alternate expression. It is that ‘field of conscious presence’ that enables an otherwise inert matter to become sentient. That ‘field of sentient-presence’ is the responsible faculty within each of us which enables cognitive powers to an otherwise non-sentient  matter. That ‘field of sentient-presence’ causes the eyes to see, ears to hear, nose to smell, tongue to taste, and skin to feel the touch. In other words,    “Consciousness” is the name for that  ‘field of cognition-enabling-presence’ that animates a body-mind-organism from an amoeba to a worm to humans. It is the same     “Consciousness” that enables a member of the mineral world to remain and behave as a mineral for a given time. Hence, the definition of LIFE is that field of presence in every being that gives sentience and enables cognition.

When that  ‘field of cognition-enabling-presence’ is withdrawn from a physical body, we call it a “dead body”. The reason the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or skin of a dead body cannot do their assigned work is that this ‘field of cognition-enabling -presence’ is not there any longer.  

Let us take an everyday example. We call a person  “Ram”, for example, only because that “field of cognition-enabling-presence” stands joined with a specific body and mind combination.  Here, the body and matter are both ‘matter’. The “field of cognition-enabling-presence” is NOT matter. “Ram” is the name given to the resultant body-mind-organism, where matter and non-matter stand united. Ram’s body-mind drops “dead” when that “field of cognition-enabling-presence” withdraws itself. 

Once this withdrawal takes place, we no longer refer to the dropped off body as “Ram.”   The dropped body is only referred to as the “Body of Ram” It is not “Ram” any longer. It is clear that “Ram” was not that body or even mind.  After this withdrawal, we will only ask, “When is the  cremation of the body?”. We do not ask, “When is the  cremation of Ram”. Ram is NOT there in the inert body-mind matter that is lying “dead” on the floor. Actually, “Ram” was the name we gave to that “Cognition-Enabling-Field”. That is the real “Ram”.  

Consciousness in Placeholders

If someone is asking us for some milk, how would we give it?  We would need a cup to hold the milk, wouldn’t we? If someone is asking for some water from the ocean, then again, we would require a pot to make the water from the ocean available. If we want to give honey to someone, we would at least need a spoon to give it.  In these examples, the cup, the pot, and the spoon are ‘placeholders’ without which interaction with these materials is not possible.  Some placeholders are large, like the pot, and some other placeholders are small, like a spoon. When the volume of the content increases, we would require a bigger and more capable placeholder. 

Similarly, to enable multiple units of Consciousness   for interactions, Consciousness  would need different types of placeholders. As in the example of a cup of milk, the cup is not the actual milk, but rather a temporary holder for the milk, our physical and mental bodies are only temporary placeholders for Consciousness.  That Consciousness is what we really are. Consciousness in placeholders alone can   interact with   similar other units of consciousness in other placeholders.  

Consciousness Grows

The ancient sages realised that it is possible to increase  the intensity of  Consciousness that we are, to the extent our present body-mind placeholders would allow. They found  out that raising up the operating levels of Prana  to higher  Nadi Centres  will result in the growth of awareness. Nadis are Pranic distribution system in our physiology. Think of it as intensifying the light of a bulb by increasing the voltage. When the Consciousness that we are thus intensifies, our awareness and our ability to cognize will also increase accordingly.   If the intensity of the Consciousness that we are in this body-mind placeholder is like that of a 40W bulb, our understanding of everything is also similar to the reach of the light of a 40V bulb.  If we intensify the Consciousness that we are to a 100W bulb, our understanding of everything is also increased to the reach of the light of a 100W bulb. The intensity of the light is increased by increasing the voltage. Likewise, the intensity of Consciousness is increased by raising the operating  centres  of Prana in our physiology. There are specific methodologies and processes in Sanatana Dharma to gradually do this. Ashtanga Yoga, and Kriya Yoga are examples of this process.

Therefore, I am a piece of Consciousness in a placeholder called body-mind. You, too, are the same. So is a rock, a tiny volume of Consciousness in a placeholder called minerals. Likewise, plants and animals too are placeholders for Consciousness in varying degrees. In the case of minerals, plants and animals, we can see the temporary placeholders; but in the case of thoughts, concepts or ideas too, they are units of consciousnesses in unseeable placeholders.  We must note that even thoughts, feelings, or concepts  also have a certain type of existence. Everything that exits is a unit of Consciousness in certain types of placeholders. 

Freedom Through Growth of Consciousness/Awareness 

Here  is the summary of the ultimate understanding  that the ancient sages steadily developed, tried, tested, and peer reviewed for several hundred of generations across several millennia. 

(1) All that there is, is Consciousness. Everything is limited versions of Consciousness existing in unlimited CONSCIOUSNESS, the Brahman. Anything and everything is a certain unit of Consciousness inherent with great possibilities for voluntary growth, but temporarily placed on a suitable, fixed placeholder. The fixed nature of the placeholders have no possibilities for growth or change beyond certain minimal limits. For example, the human body, which is a placeholder, will grow only up to two decades roughly. Thereafter, it is only our awareness and cognitive powers that can grow and develop.   Consciousness is open to great possibilities. Placeholders are not, they are fixed.    

(2) Consciousness, after attaining a critical threshold level of growth,  can be expanded  through intention and voluntary self-efforts. Examples are Consciousness in the human body-mind placeholders. We can learn and develop ourselves until the time our bodies go to the graveyard.  Nonetheless, before achieving the aforementioned crucial threshold level of expansion,  the advancement of Consciousness in placeholders is largely accomplished through involuntary automatic mechanisms. Examples are the Darwinian evolution of plants and animals. 

(3) A unit of Consciousness bounded to a placeholder is a limitation for it. It is a bondage. Our suffering and pain is due to our wrong identification with the placeholder  and the resultant bondage.  Freedom from pain and suffering comes from the realization of our true nature, that we are Consciousness  and not the placeholders. This is the first requirement for liberation from pain and suffering. Thereafter, we need to expand our  Consciousness through our intent and voluntary self-efforts. 

(4)Vedic and Tantric literatures are replete with methodologies for this self-realization and eventual expansion of Consciousness. Practising Ashtanga Yoga or Kriya Yoga are all excellent practical tools to expand the Consciousness.  Visiting temples and engaging oneself in developing a personalised relationship with the deities are also exquisite tools. Moreover, leading a totally ‘dharmic’ and conscious life helps tremendously.   The ancient Sages have indeed designed and developed   a way of life totally embedded in Dharma for expanding  Consciousness, and gaining freedom from our current existence in pain and suffering. The name for this way of living is “Sanatan-Dharma-Way.” 

Dharma is “together with all, evolution for all”

The fulcrum of Santana Dharma is consciously living a  life embedded in ‘Dharma’ and avoidance of ‘Adharma’. Dharma includes everything that we understand today as “Ethics” or “morality”, but it is  much more than that. There is no English word equivalent to Dharma.  Dharma is two-fold: The first is our responsibilities to ourselves for expanding the Consciousness that we are and helping ourselves to evolve.  The second is our responsibilities to assist everything else around us and help them to evolve. These twofold responsibilities are to be discharged  as appropriate to dharmic rules of  one’s  chosen occupation and respective stage in one’s life.  Preventing Adharma  (opposite of Dharma) from happening is also an integral part of one’s Dharmic behaviour.  “Dharma”  is absolute by definition – any thought, word, or action aiding the highest good  of all beings is ‘dharma’; but that dharma should be performed as appropriate to the ‘dharma’ of the specific occupation one has undertaken and as appropriate to the ‘dharma’ of the stage in one’s life.  The essence of  “Dharma” can be summarised in Indian Prime Minister Modi’s  oft-repeated slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, meaning, “together with all, development for all.”  In our context on hand, Dharma is “together with all, conscious evolution for all.”

Here are some examples to illustrate this: The ‘dharma’ of a school student is to learn the allotted lessons oneself in a manner that will not only be conducive for own learning processes, but should also be supportive of the learning possibilities of the fellow students.   A  student in the Brahmacharya stage should not indulge in sexual activities, which is the legitimate dharma of procreation for a married person in “Grahastha” stage of life. A student should not indulge in politics, which is the legitimate dharma of a Kshathriya. Likewise, a person in Sanyasa and Vanaprastha stage should not indulge in  sexual or in business activities or in politics which are out of steps with the dharmic responsibilities at that particular stage in life.  Similarly, a  Kshathriya’s dharma is to govern and protect. If a Kashthirya fails to prioritize the safety and security of the nation and its citizens, it is adharma. If he or she fails to punish the guilty, or refrains from engaging in war when it is necessary for the protection of the nation, his/her actions will become ‘Adharma’.  As a general rule, when any tasks voluntarily accepted are performed in accordance with the respective dharmic duties of the life-stage (Ashrama) of the performer, for the highest benefit of everyone, it is Dharma.

It is not considered ‘dharma’ to engage in actions solely for one’s own benefit, while disregarding the highest good of others. It is ‘adharma’. Our family life and social life will provide opportunities galore through interpersonal interactions to practice ‘dharma’  in our everyday life.  Interpersonal relationships are critical opportunities to practice ‘dharma’  with awareness and understanding. Our birth-families as well as the families we get through marriages are vital in this regard. We need to cultivate each relationship in families ‘dharmically’ with care and intent.   

To sum up,  working for the highest good of every existence is Dharma. Our chosen occupation (called, “Varna” in Sanskrit)  should be dharmically discharged. One’s actions should also be dharmically appropriate for one’s specific stage in life (called, “Ashrama” in Sanskrit, meaning stage in life-cycle). Dharma is the behaviour with absolute morality in all walks of life, aiming for the highest good of everything existing, and using all available resources only for their naturally intended purposes. 

True Human Physiology

We are usually only aware of our physical body. According to the understanding of Sanatan Dharma, we are a limited version of Consciousness, existing on a placeholder composed of five bodies.  Think of it as a balloon blown up, where the air inside and outside are essentially the same, separated only by a thin enveloping layer. Imagine this layer is not just one layer, but a composite structure of five layers. The outermost one is a very thick layer and visible. The following four layers are growing thinner and thinner and totally invisible.  The first three outer layers are the physical sheath, mental sheath, and energy sheath, all of which are material substances. However, only the physical sheath is visible and the mental sheath and energy sheaths are invisible, and hence we do not typically know that they exist. The next two sheaths, namely the knowledge or data sheath and  the bliss sheath, are not material substances and are totally invisible. 

The knowledge or data sheath holds the complete data on how or what the outer three bodies should be formed and look like. This sheath holds eight types of data, including the Karmic data,  which holds the key to what we should become and what types of experiences we should undergo when we are in an embodied state.  The Karmic data is the data that we acquired during several of our previous embodied existence. Until we completely exhaust all our karmic data, we will keep taking the outer three sheaths time and again.  When the Karmic data is fully exhausted,  and at that time if our  inside the balloon (Consciousness) is in an expanded state, the two walls will become extremely thin. Chances are then there, for bursting open of the two sheaths, and we are getting liberated. 

What we refer to as ‘death’ is the dropping off the outermost three layers, sequentially.  However, the last two non-material bodies will remain, retaining the invisible balloon a shape, structure, and existence.  This analogy of an invisible two – bodied air balloon is what we commonly call as ‘soul’ or ‘ jeevatma’.  Here, the ‘air’ inside and outside the balloon is the analogy  for Consciousness. Soul, therefore, is a temporary limitation given to the Consciousness by way of two layers of extremely subtle covering. If the air inside (limited version of Consciousness) expands, the subtle enveloping walls will burst and the air inside (limited version of Consciousness) gets freedom and merges with the air outside (unlimited  CONSCIOUSNESS).

Purpose of Embodied Life

The purpose of the embodied life is twofold. (1) Expand the Consciousness that we are  to the maximum possible extent, through the various methodologies given in Sanatan Dharma so that in the disembodies state, chances are there that we will break the wall and get liberated.  (2)  Consciously wear out the wall thinner and thinner by undergoing the Karmic experiences  in a Dharmic way and without accumulating fresh Karmas, so that repeated embodiments are not required, and liberation becomes an instant possibility. This is the ture  purpose of life. 

A Working Model of LIFE

Shakespeare said in “As you Like it”,  “all the world is a stage, And all the men and women merely players”; In Sanatan Dharma, all the world is a university, where all men and women are students specialising on serving others without servitude, through “Varna-Ashrama” curriculum. In this university, only one core subject is taught. “Giving Dharmic Services at all levels”  is that subject. Our lifetime is the academic year. There are four distinct schools in the Varna-Ashrama University, namely Shoodra, Vaishya, Kshathriya, and Brahmana. Life experiences are the teachers. However, it is largely a self-study program.  In each academic year, there are four semesters, namely, Brahmachari, Grahasta, Vanaprastrha, and Sanyasa. The marking system is automatic and self regulated through Karmic software.   The  Shoodra School teaches how to give dharmic services at the entry level, helping in the generation of wealth. The Vaishya School teaches dharmic services in the distribution of wealth. The Kshathriya School teaches  dharmic services in the protection of wealth. The Brahmana School teaches dharmic services  for the expansion  of human consciousness and tread the steps of evolution through observance of Dharma. 

 Misconception 1:Neither Hindu nor a Religion

There are several popular misconceptions about Sanatan Dharma. At first, Sanatan Dharma is often wrongly referred to as “Hindu Religion”. Neither the term “Hindu” nor the term “Religion” is correct.  The word “Hindu” is etymologically meant to refer to the ‘people who live on the other side of the River “Indus” (River Sindhu), from a perspective of those who lived on its western side.  Sanatan Dharma is, indeed, not a “religion”. It does not have an organic structure with a hierarchy of religious administrators or a regulatory mechanism. It is not organized or structured in any way. Not only that, but it does not have any reward-punishment system, externally enforced by any authority for following or not following its tenets.  The only regulatory mechanism at work is the  law of Karma, based on cause and effect principles. The Law of Karma is not a punishment system. It is a device for self learning through repeating life experiences, and is more like the “impositions” given in the regular classrooms.

Even if we use the term “Hindu Dharma” instead of “Hindu Religion, the prefix  “Hindu” implies that observing “Dharma” is something exclusive only for certain people, called the “Hindus”. This is incorrect. On the contrary, Dharma is an infinitely inclusive concept that everyone needs to observe.  The right expression is not Hindu Dharma or Hindu Religion, it is Sanatan Dharma. One who follows it is a ‘Sanatani”.

Misconception 2:Aryan Invasion, a Myth

Another correction that is required is the contention that it was the Aryans who came from Europe between 1750 and 1400 BC and wrote the Vedas.  

The Aryans did not come to India from Europe. Such a misconception existed in mainstream history for a long time. However, based on the now available evidence provided by modern technology like DNA studies of the local population, satellite photography of the region etcetera, 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 in the Indus Valley regions and wrote the Vedas. The Aryans were the children of the soil of Aryavarta.  Aryavarta was the ancient name for the Indo-Gangetic plains and surrounding areas. It was in this geographic location that Sanatan Dharma originated, and existed; it was from here that it spread to other parts of Asia. Sanatan Dharma is the common culture and heritage of all Indians. The so-called “Aryan invasion of India” was about 1400 years before Christ, as stated in the history books. If the Aryan Invasion ‘theory’ is true, how could the Aryans write in the Vedas about the   river Saraswati  that existed 8000 to 10000 years ago?  Clearly, the Aryan Invasion theory is false.

Misconception 3: One God or Many Gods?

Sanatan Dharma, too, has only one God, which is the Brahman as explained earlier.  Brahman is absolute singularity, the non-dual oneness.  Brahman was the only one single existence.  Whatever came into existence thereafter, was not something  Brahman “created”. The universe and with its billions of existences came into existence subsequently through a series of 36 principles of self-transformations of Brahman. Brahman partially transformed itself into multiplicity of existence.  The first five principles of the 36 principles are “Ishwaras”, who are formed first. Ishwaras are responsible for the formation of the rest 31 principles of self-transformations that followed.  The five Ishwaras are NOT Gods. Ishwaras are the precursors and caretakers of all existences.  In the English language, there is only one word, God, for every such contexts, which created the misunderstanding. Under Ishwaras, there are countless Devathas.  Devathas are the sub principles functioning under Ishwaras, for the upkeep and maintenance of the universe. Again, in English, the same word “God” is used for Devathas too.  Deities and Temples are mostly connected to Devathas and extremely rarely are they connected to Ishwaras or Brahman. 

Misconception 4: Deities, Temples, and Rituals

As we have noticed, everything that exists is Consciousness in a placeholder of some description. A “concept” also has an existence, and that is why it is capable of growing to a physical existence in due course.  Building a house is initially a concept, for example, which finally grows and becomes a physical entity. A concept is also, therefore, Consciousness existing as a separate entity. It is as much live as a rock, plant, or animal is alive. Likewise, health and well-being is an important concept in the maintenance of the Universe, for example. The formula, E=mc2 is a scientific symbolism, using English language, which English-speaking people alone can read. Even then, not all of them can understand its full depth and significance, until they develop sufficient awareness.  

Just as we use formulas,  symbols, or notations for mathematical or scientific concepts, Sanatan Dharma uses  ‘deities’ to symbolise various concepts. When significant concepts are   “deity-fied”, it takes a Devatha name for easy recognition.  Health and well-being is a concept in Sanatan Dharma, with a deity named “Dhanwanthara Murthy”.  This is just as E=mc2   is a symbolic formula,  and the name of the concept is “Theory of Relativity”.  A ‘deity’ is a living concept given in a symbolic form, but without having the limitations of language-based formula, like E=mc2

Temples are placeholders for deities. Temples are the tools to enable us to develop a relationship with those deities.  Different temples are for different deities and for different purposes.  Rituals are   specific ways of interaction and engagement with those live deities. These contacts are real and tangible for those who have developed enough awareness. Repeated interactions with the deities are referred to as ‘rituals’. They become meaningful, only when we increase our awareness.  To sum up, there is only one God, five Ishwaras and numerous Devathas in Sanatan Dharma. In the English language, they are all grouped together as Gods, which is incorrect. 

Misconception 5:Varnashrama 

Sanatan Dharma is often accused of promoting the caste system. This is incorrect.  Sanatan Dharma does not promote caste system. Absolute inclusiveness is the bedrock of Sanatan Dharma.  As explained earlier, ‘Varna’ is occupation. ‘Ashram’ is the life-cycle stage. “Varna Dharma” is our dharmic duties to others.  “Asharma Dharma” is our dharmic duties to ourselves. Depending on  which stage of life we are, our dharmic responsibilities to ourselves change.  But our dharmic responsibilities to others does not change. Varnashrama is a powerful tool for practising the art and science of providing dharmic service to others, regardless of occupation or lifecycle stage. 


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