top of page

The Timeless Wisdom of Sanatan Dharma: Understanding Hinduism

Updated: May 27, 2023

Sanatan Dharma, often referred to as Hinduism, is one of the oldest and most complex religions in the world. Its roots can be traced back to ancient India, where it was practised by the Aryans who migrated from Central Asia into the Indian subcontinent. Over time, Sanatan Dharma evolved and absorbed various beliefs and practices from different cultures and religions.

Sanatan Dharma

It has survived through centuries of invasions and conquests by foreign rulers, including the Mughals and British colonialists. Today, it is still practised by over a billion people around the world.


Definition of Sanatan Dharma

Sanatan Dharma means "eternal religion" or "way of life." It is not just a set of religious beliefs but a complete system that encompasses all aspects of human existence – social, cultural, ethical, spiritual, and philosophical. One unique feature of Sanatan Dharma is that it recognizes that there are many paths to reach God or ultimate reality. It does not insist on any particular dogma or creed but encourages individuals to find their own path towards self-realization.

Sanatan Dharma also emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and nature. It teaches that everything in this universe is part of a divine cosmic order called dharma.

Following dharma involves living in harmony with oneself, others, society, and nature. Sanatan Dharma is an ancient religion that has evolved over time to become a complete way of life that emphasizes individual freedom to seek one's own path towards self-realization while living in harmony with all living beings and nature.


The Beliefs and Philosophy of Sanatan Dharma

Concept of God in Sanatan Dharma

Sanatan Dharma is a religion that believes in the existence of one ultimate reality known as Brahman. This ultimate reality is formless, infinite, and eternal. The concept of God in Sanatan Dharma is not limited to a single deity but rather encompasses many gods and goddesses who are different manifestations of Brahman.

Each deity represents a particular aspect of the ultimate reality, such as wisdom, power, creativity or love. The worship of these deities is believed to help individuals realize their spiritual potential and connect them with the divine.


Karma and Reincarnation

Karma is an essential concept in Sanatan Dharma that refers to the law of cause and effect. According to this belief, every action has consequences that affect individuals both in this life and beyond. Good actions lead to positive results while negative actions lead to negative consequences.

Reincarnation or rebirth is another important aspect of Sanatan Dharma's philosophy. It holds that after death, the soul leaves the physical body but continues its journey through different planes of existence based on its karma until it reaches liberation or moksha.


Four Goals of Life (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha)

Sanatan Dharma recognizes four goals for human life known as purusharthas - dharma (righteousness), artha (material prosperity), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation). These goals are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary aspects necessary for a fulfilling life.

Dharma refers to living a virtuous life according to ethical principles that promote harmony with oneself, others and nature. Artha represents the importance of material wealth and prosperity as means for living a comfortable life while Kama advocates embracing one's desires and enjoying life's pleasures in moderation.

Moksha is the ultimate goal of Sanatan Dharma and represents liberation from the cycle of birth and death. It is achieved through the realization of the ultimate reality or Brahman, by following a path of spiritual discipline.


Importance of Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga are essential practices that help individuals achieve spiritual growth. Meditation involves training the mind to focus on a single point or object, leading to a sense of inner peace and calmness. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that originated in ancient India.

It involves various postures known as asanas, breathing exercises known as pranayama, and meditation techniques that promote physical health, mental clarity, emotional stability, and spiritual awakening. Through these practices, individuals can connect with their inner selves while also improving their overall well-being.

The Writings of Sanatan Dharma

Revealing the Wisdom of the Ancient Rishis: The scriptures and texts of Sanatan Dharma are a vast repository of spiritual knowledge that has been passed down orally and in writing from generation to generation for thousands of years. The earliest scriptures are the Vedas, which were composed between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE by ancient sages known as Rishis, who were considered visionaries with divine insight into the nature of reality.


Vedas and their Significance

Veda

The Vedas are composed in Sanskrit and are considered one of the oldest sacred texts in Hinduism. They contain hymns, prayers, incantations, and rituals that were used for worship by ancient people.

There are four main Vedas: Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. The significance of the Vedas lies in their philosophical content.

They reveal a deep understanding of human nature and the universe's workings. The teachings contained within them provide guidance on how to live a meaningful life through principles such as karma (action) and dharma (duty).



Upanishads

Upanishads

The Spiritual Essence: The Upanishads are mystical treatises that expound upon the philosophy found within the Vedas. They provide insights into metaphysical concepts such as Brahman (the ultimate reality), Atman (the individual soul), Maya (illusion), Karma (action), Samsara (reincarnation) and Moksha (liberation). The Upanishads contain dialogues between sages or gurus who impart spiritual knowledge to their students or disciples—the most popular being Bhagavad Gita.


Bhagavad Gita

Upanishads

The Song of the Lord: The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the epic Mahabharata. It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and his disciple Arjuna on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra war. It contains 18 chapters and 700 verses, making it one of the most concise yet profound spiritual texts in existence.

The Bhagavad Gita expounds upon concepts such as dharma (duty), karma (action), yoga (union with the divine), and moksha (liberation). The teachings contained within it have had a profound influence on Indian thought, literature, and culture for thousands of years.


Puranas

Puranas

The Mythic Lore: The Puranas are a collection of Hindu texts that contain stories about gods, goddesses, heroes, kings, and sages. They are composed in Sanskrit and are believed to have been written between 300 BCE to 1300 CE.

The Puranas provide insights into Hindu mythology, cosmology, geography, astrology, astronomy, ethics and morality. The writings of Sanatan Dharma reveal deep insights into human nature's workings through spiritual principles such as karma and dharma.

They offer guidance on how to live a meaningful life through practices like meditation and yoga. These ancient texts continue to inspire people around the world today.


Puja: Devotion to the Divine

Sanatan Dharma is characterized by a deep devotion to the Divine, and one of the primary ways in which this devotion is expressed is through puja or worship. Puja can take many forms, from simple daily rituals performed at home to elaborate ceremonies conducted in temples.

The core elements of puja involve offering food, water, flowers, and other items to specific deities while reciting mantras and prayers. The goal of puja is not simply to ask for blessings or favours but also to cultivate a sense of humble gratitude and reverence for the divine aspects of existence.

In Sanatan Dharma, each deity represents a different aspect of divinity or nature, from Shiva's destructive power to Lakshmi's abundance and prosperity. Puja allows devotees to connect with these aspects on a deeper level and invite their presence into their lives as sources of guidance and inspiration.


Festivals: Celebrating Life's Cycles

One of the most visible expressions of Sanatan Dharma's vibrant culture is its rich calendar of festivals. These celebrations are based on various astronomical events, seasonal changes, and mythological legends that highlight important values or themes.

Diwali (or Deepavali) is perhaps the most well-known festival associated with Sanatan Dharma. It marks the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, as well as celebrating Lord Rama's return home after defeating Ravana.

During Diwali people decorate their homes with lights (diyas), wear new clothes, exchange gifts & sweets. Holi is another popular festival that celebrates springtime renewal alongside fun-filled merrymaking such as throwing coloured powder at each other!

Navratri occurs in spring & fall every year and honours feminine divinity through nine nights filled with traditional music & dance performances called Garba-Raas. These festivals are not just about external rituals but also offer opportunities for self-reflection and inner transformation.


Yoga: Journey to the Self

While many people associate yoga primarily with physical fitness, it has a much deeper significance within Sanatan Dharma as a spiritual practice. Yoga is a way to connect with the Divine and untangle oneself from the ego-driven distractions of daily existence.

In Sanatan Dharma, yoga encompasses various practices such as Hatha Yoga (physical exercises), Raja Yoga (meditative practices), Bhakti Yoga (devotion to God) and Karma Yoga (selfless service.) These practices help individuals cultivate awareness of their true nature beyond superficial identities or social roles. Meditation is an essential component of yoga.

It helps still the mind, allowing one to access deeper levels of consciousness. Through meditation, one can experience unity with the Divine and transcend the limitations of conditioned thinking patterns.

Sanatan Dharma offers a holistic approach to life that encompasses both inner and outer dimensions. By engaging in rituals such as puja, celebrating festivals, and practising yoga, individuals can connect more deeply with their own spirituality while strengthening their sense of community with others who share similar beliefs.


Caste System in Sanatan Dharma

Origin and Evolution of Caste System in India

The caste system is an inherent part of Indian society, and its origins can be traced back to ancient times. According to the Rigveda, the primary Hindu scripture, the caste system was created by Brahma, who divided society into four varnas or castes based on their occupation - Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants), and Shudras (labourers). The Vedic texts also mention jatis or sub-castes within each varna.

Over time, the caste system became more rigid and complex, leading to a hierarchical structure where Brahmins were considered superior to all other castes. This led to discrimination and oppression of lower castes which was further solidified during British colonial rule.


Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding the Caste System

The caste system has been widely criticized for its discriminatory nature. Lower castes have historically been denied access to education, employment opportunities, and basic human rights. They were also subjected to physical violence if they challenged their social status.

Despite efforts by Indian lawmakers and activists over the years to eradicate the caste system, it continues to be deeply ingrained in Indian society. The practice of untouchability - denying interaction with certain groups deemed "impure" - still persists in rural areas.

Moreover, there are ongoing debates around affirmative action policies that provide quotas for people belonging to lower castes in educational institutions and government jobs. While many argue that affirmative action is necessary for social justice, others believe it perpetuates discrimination against those who belong to higher castes but are disadvantaged economically.

While the caste system has undergone changes throughout history and there have been attempts at reforming it, its impact on society remains deeply embedded. The only way to eradicate this system is to work towards a more egalitarian society where all individuals are treated equally, regardless of their caste.


Contributions to Science, Mathematics, Art and Literature


Advancements made by ancient Indian scientists

Sanatan Dharma has a rich history of scientific achievements that date back thousands of years. Ancient Indian scientists were pioneers in several fields including mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and metallurgy. The famous mathematician Aryabhata was the first to calculate the value of pi.

Bhaskara II made significant contributions to algebra and is credited with discovering the principles of differential calculus. In addition to mathematics, ancient Indian scientists were also well-versed in astronomy.

The observatories at Jaipur and Delhi are magnificent examples of their expertise in this field. They were able to make accurate astronomical calculations using complex instruments such as sundials, astrolabes, and celestial globes.


Mathematical discoveries such as zero and the decimal system

One of the most significant contributions by ancient Indian scientists was the discovery of zero and the decimal system. It is believed that these concepts were first introduced by Aryabhata in the 5th century CE.

The use of zero revolutionized mathematics and paved the way for modern algebraic equations. The decimal system made arithmetic calculations much simpler.

Prior to this discovery, various systems like Roman numerals etc., had complicated rules for addition or subtraction making everyday calculations time-consuming tasks. Today we use these fundamental principles daily in our day-to-day life without even realizing it!


Rich cultural heritage including literature like Ramayana & Mahabharata

Sanatan Dharma boasts a rich cultural heritage that includes literature like Ramayana & Mahabharata. These epics represent an important source of spiritual knowledge for Hindus all over the world.

They teach us about moral values such as truthfulness, honesty, courage & loyalty among others. Aside from these two epics Sanatan Dharma has other important religious texts like the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita which impart wisdom about the concept of God and life beyond this physical realm.

The Ramayana & Mahabharata continue to be popular today, inspiring films, plays, and television shows. They remind us of our ancient roots, cultural values, and spiritual heritage.


Modern-Day Relevance & Global Impact

Sanatan Dharma, despite being one of the oldest religions in the world, has been spreading its influence throughout the world at an exponential rate. Its appeal to people outside India is primarily due to its focus on spirituality and inner peace.

With yoga and meditation becoming increasingly popular in Western countries, more people are seeking information on Sanatan Dharma to get a deeper understanding of these practices. The spread of Hinduism beyond India's borders has also led to an increase in cross-cultural exchange.

This exchange has not only increased knowledge about Hinduism but also helped Hindus learn more about other cultures. In fact, some scholars believe that Sanatan Dharma can be seen as a "universal religion" because it speaks to the spiritual needs of people from all backgrounds and cultures.


Spread of Hinduism Beyond India's Borders

Hinduism was limited to the Indian subcontinent for many centuries, but with globalization and advances in technology, it has become accessible to people worldwide. The diaspora communities across the globe have played a significant role in representing Sanatan Dharma abroad with their temples and cultural events. The Hindu population in America alone has grown by over 1 million since 2010.

Hinduism has grown rapidly outside India because it offers practical tools for daily life such as meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda. Yoga centers offer classes that teach breathing techniques for better health and stress relief while Ayurveda offers ways on how to balance our lives with nature.


Influence on Western Culture (yoga, meditation)

The impact of Sanatan Dharma on Western culture cannot be overlooked; one can see its influence everywhere from music festivals like Coachella where attendees practice yoga before concerts or mindfulness apps like Headspace which touts benefits such as “reduce stress” among others. Yoga's widespread popularity in the Western world is due to its practical approach and accessibility. It’s not just a physical workout but also teaches users to focus on one's breath, which helps relieve stress and anxiety. Meditation has been scientifically proven to have numerous benefits including improving mental health and increasing happiness.


Conclusion

Sanatan Dharma has stood the test of time because of its innate spirituality and inclusiveness. It has managed to adapt to changing times while still staying true to its roots, spreading its message beyond India's borders.

Despite criticism of some practices such as the caste system, Sanatan Dharma offers a rich heritage filled with literature, philosophy, and spiritual teachings that have influenced millions of people worldwide. As Hinduism continues to spread across the globe, it offers hope for a more peaceful future where people can learn from one another's practices and beliefs.



If you have found this information valuable, make sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletters. Stay updated and never miss out on anything while you continue your journey towards optimal health and holistic living.

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating

About the Author

Namaste! My name is Pooja Chauhan

I am a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher and a practitioner. Diving deep into the realm of my own heritage to create a significant impact in preserving and sharing my culture with the world.

  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

Take the leap of Faith! - Subscribe NOW!

By entering your info, you’ll receive – FREE access to exclusive insights, private Q+As, inspiring content and the latest trends and roadmap for your delivered with 💜 to your inbox. (Unsub anytime with a click.) You also agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

bottom of page