Sanatan Dharma: Knowing the Self

Sanatan Dharma: Knowing the Self

Part 1 of a series on the ancient Vedic philosophy

Santana Dharma in its original form is neither a belief nor a religion. It is a dharma, or a way of life that encourages you to explore the 'self'. Yes, unlike other forms of worship where there is a need to connect with the external, Santana Dharma guides you to turn inward – to connect to your-self.

The venerable sage Ramana Maharshi and author of the philosophical literary work Who Am I would consistently request his followers, and the public in general, to understand the ‘I’ - not the name, not the family, not the professional, but the true self. This might sound preposterous in today’s modern world as the word modern itself appeared around the 14th century, while Bharat (or India) was rooted in a way of life that was a highly sophisticated and evolved living quite unknown to the western world. It would be worthwhile for modern thinkers, i.e., us, to look at the present-day life coaches speaking about self-love and self-analysis. This is indeed the first step to a deeper inquiry.

Before we delve into the deep sea of the dharma, let’s understand some of its basic tenets. Without a strong foundation of understanding, harping on lofty ideals is absolute wishful thinking.

What is Santana Dharma?

Santana means eternal and Dharma means a collection or set of values that directs to the path of righteousness. One may debate about what is right and what is wrong. In the larger societal concept, that which is done for the larger good of humanity is right and that which harms humanity is wrong.

Purusharthas – The four goals of human life

Dharma isn’t a religion. It is based on truths, principles and those behaviors that enriched the soul and life as we know it today - a concept that addressed both the spiritual and material needs of our lives. Human lives have been given a code of ethics through four goals collectively called Purusharthas. They were named: Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, Moksha being the ultimate goal, i.e., becoming one with the eternal consciousness or better known as releasing oneself from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Ashramas – The different stages of life

Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired), Sanyasa (renunciate).

Today we have Grihastha as the predominant stage. And rightly so, our kama (lust) towards materialism keeps us on our toes. The stages of Vanaprastha and Sanyasa do not exist in today’s context.

As we explore the realm of the Santana Dharma, we will be exposed to the advanced thought process that our forefathers possessed by simply having the control over their thoughts and actions.

In the next part, we will discuss the Schools of Thought and the five predominant forms of worship of the past. One step at a time to understand the philosophy that’s eternal.

Meenakshi Vijay is a communications specialist, and an Agnihotra practitioner. She is deeply interested in literature on Hindu philosophy and seeks to delve deep into the practice of the Vedic way of life.

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