Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism?
The terms Hindu and Hinduism are said to be a more recent development, while the more accurate term is Sanatana Dharma.
The term Hindu is said to have referred to the culture of the people on the other side of the Sindhu River. Although the terms Hindu and Hinduism were created by foreign invaders, sometimes using them as derogatory terms, the indigenous people then co-opted these terms (mostly in the past 200 years) as collective or umbrella terms to describe themselves and their various ways of living, and many different religions and spiritual practices, a custom which continues today. The original term, predating these by thousands of years, was Sanatana Dharma, a profound term that is rich with beauty and inherent wisdom. Out of that Sanatana Dharmaemerged modern Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, while significantly effecting many other religions or traditions, which also followed much later. The underlying reality referred to by the term Sanatana Dharma is actually eternal, and thus is beyond any reference to the first usage of the term, or to any religions or traditions stemming from it.
Sanatana denotes that which always is,
that which has neither beginning nor end,
that which is eternal in its very essence.
Dharma is designed to communicate the view that
there is an underlying structure of natural law
that is inherent in the very intrinsic constitution
of Being itself - an essential nature.
Thus, Sanatana Dharma refers to the eternal,
natural way, the never beginning and never
ending flow of the whole of being.
The Misuse of Terminology in the Study of Hinduism (original article):
...Used often as a matter of convenience even by followers of the religion itself (including by this author), the term "Hindu" is not a term that is inherent to the religion itself. Rather, the term is known to have been first coined by the ancient Persians, who were culturally, religiously, and perspectivally extrinsic to the culture. The term was first used by these ancient Persians in order to conveniently designate the ancient Vedic spiritual culture, and was mistakenly used to refer to the Vedic religion as primarily a geographic and ethnic phenomenon, more than as a religio-philosophical world-view. To the ancient Persians, the word “Hindu” simply referred to the culture, people, religion and practices of the peoples who lived on the other side of the Sindhu River. In the ancient Avestan Persian language 's' grammatically became 'h'. Thus, the Persians pronounced the name of this river “Hindhu”, rather than “Sindhu”. Thus, ironically, the currently used word “Hindu” is itself a corruption of the Persian word “Hindhu”, which is in turn a corruption of the term “Sindhu”, which is itself only referring to a river, and not a religion! Thus when the word “Hindu” is used today to refer to the ancient religion of India, the term is in actuality a corruption of a corruption of a word whose meaning is irrelevant to begin with.
The terms "Hindu/Hinduism" are not self-referential terms that the practitioners of the Vedic world-view chose for themselves or called themselves. These words are not attested to in any of the ancient Vedic or Classical Sanskrit literatures, or even in any of the many local dialects of ancient India until the medieval era. One will not find the term “Hindu” used to describe the Vedic religion in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, or anywhere else in the Vedic scriptures. The word “Hindu” is not intrinsic to the religion of the Vedas at all. It was not, in fact, until as late as the 19th century, under the colonial rule of the British Raj, that these dual terms even acquired any legal significance on a national scale in India.
The actual term that the Vedic tradition uses to refer to itself is “Dharma”. The word Dharma is found repeatedly throughout the entire corpus of the Vedic scriptures, from the Rg Veda to the Bhagavad Gita. There is almost no scripture in the entirety of Hinduism where one will not come across the word Dharma as the preeminent name of the religion in question. Sometimes the word Dharma is used by itself; at other times it is used in conjunction with other qualifying words, such as “Vaidika Dharma” (Vedic Dharma), “Vishva Dharma” (Global Dharma), or "Sanatana Dharma" (the Eternal Dharma). The diversity of adjectival emphasis will vary in accordance with the precise context in which the word is used. Of these terms, the name “Sanatana Dharma” has been the most widely used name of this ancient religion, and is used as far back as the Rg Veda, the very earliest scripture of Hinduism, and the earliest written text known to humanity. It is also the most philosophically profound and conceptually beautiful name for our religion.
While many reading this work have no doubt encountered the term “Sanatana Dharma” before, not every follower of Sanatana Dharma is necessarily as familiar with the full philosophical implications of the term's meaning. Thus it is necessary to explicate the term's full meaning in depth. The Sanskrit word "sanatana" is the easier of the words to translate into non-Sanskrit languages. It denotes that which always is, that which has neither beginning nor end, that which is eternal in its very essence. The concept of eternality that the word “sanatana” is trying to convey is a radically different concept than is ordinarily understood in the Western Abrahamic religions. When the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam employ the concept of eternality, it usually means that x thing, having come into being, will never come to an end. In other words, “eternal” for the Abrahamic religions, usually refers only to the future. A more accurate term for this Abrahamic concept is thus “everlasting”, rather than “eternal” proper.
In Sanatana Dharma, however, the concept of eternality denotes something quite different from the standard Western notion. In this more expansive and bi-directional model, the concept of sanatana extends not only into the infinite recesses of the future, but into the past as well. By referring to something as “sanatana”, the idea is that not only will it never come to an end, but it has always had necessary existence. Thus, God (Brahman), the individual self (atman), prime materiality (jagat or prakriti), Truth (satya), the Veda (Truth rendered into literary form), and Dharma itself all have necessary existence. They always have been - and they shall always be....
Unlike the word “sanatana”, the term ''dharma" is a term that can be properly rendered into the English language only with the greatest of difficulty. This is the case because there is no one corresponding English term that fully renders both the denotative and the connotative meanings of the term with maximal sufficiency. Rather than merely communicating a nominal subject for which there can be an easy word for word equivalency, dharma is communicating a metaphysical concept. The denotative meaning of "dharma" straightforwardly designates an essential attribute of xobject - an attribute whose absence renders the object devoid of either rational meaning or existential significance. A thing's dharma is what constitutes the thing's very essence, without which, the very concept of the thing would be rendered meaningless. To illustrate the full meaning of this term, we can use the following examples: It is the dharma of water to be wet. Without the essential attribute (dharma) of wetness, the concept and existential fact of water loses all meaning. Likewise, it is the dharma of fire to be hot, the dharma of space to be expansive, etc. The denotative meaning of dharma is easy enough to comprehend. It is, however, when we come to the connotative meaning of the term "dharma" that we then leave the more microcosmic concerns of Vaisesika categoriology behind, and then enter the realm of the overtly philosophical.
For, according to the Vedic tradition itself, the very empirical cosmos in which we find ourselves currently situated also has its own inherent dharma, its essential attributive nature, without which the universe becomes meaningless. In this more macro-cosmological sense, the term dharma is designed to communicate the view that there is an underlying structure of natural law that is inherent in the very intrinsic constitution of Being itself. The Vedic world-view sees the universe as a place that has inherent meaning, purpose and an intelligent design underlying its physical principles and laws. The world is here for a purpose – God's purpose. The word Dharma, in this more important philosophical sense, refers to those underlying natural principles that are inherent in the very structure of reality, and that have their origin in God. Dharma is Natural Law. Thus, if we needed to render the entire term “Sanatana Dharma” into English, we can cautiously translate it as "The Eternal Natural Way". Sanatana Dharma is the true name of our religion.
The term “Sanatana Dharma” more accurately communicates the axiomatic metaphysical nature of this concept than do the less meaningful and concocted terms “Hindu/Hinduism”. Thus, when the terms "Hindu/Hinduism" are repeatedly used by both Euro-American and Indian scholars, as well as by actual followers of this eternal spiritual tradition, we fall very far short from fully communicating the metaphysical, ethical and ontological components of the world-view of Sanatana Dharma. The former term – i.e., “Hinduism” - is a word mistakenly created to describe a culture in a purely ethnic, national and social context. The latter – “Sanatana Dharma” - is describing an illustrious science of Being in a purely philosophical - and therefore highly rational, and inherently beautiful - sense. It is understandable that the terms “Hindu/Hinduism” will continue to be used periodically as a matter of convenience. After all, it takes time, coupled with continuous education, for people to break themselves of a two hundred year old habit. For the sake of accuracy, as well as to uphold the dignity, beauty and grandeur of our ancient and sacred religion, however, we must always do our utmost to use the much more meaningful, linguistically correct and beautiful name Sanatana Dharma when referring to our religion. Our religion is Sanatana Dharma....
What is Sanatana Dharma?
Sanatana means eternal, never beginning nor ending.
Dharma is from dhri, meaning to hold together, to sustain.
Sanatana Dharma eternally holds All together.
Sanatana Dharma means:
Never Beginning nor Ending Way
Never Beginning nor Ending
Law of Being
By its nature, Sanatana Dharma is:
Experience based rather than belief based.
Without any ideological divisions.
Beyond any historical date of founding.
The process of growth, which comes from the seed.
Inherent in, and inclusive of all.
Applicable to all people of all places and times.
In the world, while above the world.
God-centered rather than prophet-centered.
Devoid of sectarianism or denominationalism.
Both immanent and transcendent.
The whole and the parts.
Loving of all and excluding of none.
The universal flow of Dharma,
regardless of what name you call it,
whether Dharma or some other name,
has eternally existed.
It has been before any of
the great teachers were born.
It is not better than, or alternative to,
but is inclusive of all.
Dharma is that out of which
our earth and humanity itself emerged.
Dharma not only is,
but always was, and always will be.
To live in alignment with,
and to know the true nature
of that Sanatana Dharma
is one of the ways of describing
the higher goal of life.
Swami Rama: The words "religion" and "dharma" denote two entirely different concepts and perspectives. Religion is comprised of rituals, customs, and dogmas surviving on the basis of fear and blind faith. Dharma--a word, unfortunately, with no English equivalent--encapsulates those great laws and disciplines that uphold, sustain, and ultimately lead humanity to the sublime heights of worldly and spiritual glory. Established in the name of God, a religion is an institution that requires a growing number of adherents for its expansion and future existence. A religion discriminates against human beings who do not belong to its particular order and condemns their way of living and being, whereas dharma is eternal, looking for no followers for its propagation. With no discrimination whatsoever, it leads a human being beyond the realms of man-made, institutionalized dictums. Instead of creating fear of God, it makes God manifest in the human heart, not in an anthropomorphic form, but as the absolute and universal One in whom all diversities reside in perfect harmony
This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.
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