Sanatan Dharma is an evolution and a confluence of several spiritual streams and the process itself has gone through significant innovation and evolution, by a steady stream of religious reformers or social scientist (we call them Rushi Muni Tapasvi). Those were not gifted folks but they had thorough understanding of the existing tenets and the different facets of life, evolving the ideology of religion to the form it existed or that we know about Sanatan Dharma.
Of course, such deep realization cannot be understood by common man and it required state support plus ritualization through artifact generation. As with every religion, these were relevant to the life scenario of those times and a system was formed that achieved homeostasis. It’s pretty much akin to blockchain technology or to simply say, one brick over the other to build a beautiful castle.
Sanatan Dharma and Offshoots
It was in this milieu that Buddhism, Jainism and other deviation of practices emerged. It was this character of Sanatan dharma that provided the ripe environment for other offshoots. If I am not wrong, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. had very few or occasional opposition in erstwhile Bharat, the prime reason being Sahishnuta and acceptance of difference of ideology. It’s not a timid concept, its way up in ladder of evolution. It is a reflection of deep respect and freedom and the practice of individual practices and ideology. Such is the deep seated respect for individualism in Sanatan Dharma.
Amidst the cauldron of these evolutionary changes within the religious ideology, (barring few examples), we notice that state craft, despite its support, interfered very little to influence ideology and religious ideology interfered little with state craft. That fine balance was maintained, possibly because those ethos’s were absorbed as a character of the milieu. Over a period of time, we forgot those principles and clung to those artifacts and as we see today, we have become artifact worshipers. That’s not with us alone. Many religions show similar transformation.
Distortion and Exploitation of Justice
Sometimes, I strongly realize, except our genomic and ethnic composition, ideologically we are not the true legacy of our Sanatan Dharma. Those who call themselves the true followers are in fact far off from the true concept propounded by religion. It’s an irony that those deviating from this truth are in fact guardian of the religion. State craft is synonymous with faith and ideology. That’s the degradation and degeneration we witness today, that edifice is crumbling, every day, since the times we froze the ideology and started worshiping the artifacts, the time we fossilized ‘Varna Paddhat’ and exploited masses, the time we eschewed patriarchal society and diluted the importance of women. Unless we correct our fundamental fallacies, we cannot rise as a nation and if at all we see few metric or KPIs (like GDP) improving, those are but material reflection and not our true state of spiritual mental evolution.
Of all the atrocities, ‘Varna Paddhati’ and nebular organization into ‘Patriachial System’ are the ones which have inflicted the most deep seated grave insult to our society. This is despite the individual freedom respect for individualism. These two aspects limit the respect for individuality and individualism. (Please read my blog on Varnapadhati…)
Our Idols in Sanctum Sanctorum
In our daily lives, we often see a dichotomous hierarchy wherein women are often second in command, be it home, offices, social or polity. However, followers of Sanatan Dharma will notice that is a deviation from the original preaching. We never see Lord Sita outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, whereas Lord Ram is inside. Lord Shiva takes it several steps above this. He considers himself incomplete without Lord Parvati. Lord Parvati being the other half of Lord Shiva, a devotion so sublime that it transcends science, philosophy and imagination and a preaching that lays the foundation for humanity for eons.
Women, that feminine aspect of continuity is a completely different creature. Rudimentary cultures often see her as a fertile ground for sowing seeds, as a homemaker and one who rears the siblings. However, in true philosophical sense, she is the Janani and the bearer of this Mother Earth, the continuity of time and the essence of life. Emancipating and enabling women is our prime responsibility as is our responsibility to rear the next generation.
Lesser offsprings of Sanatan Dharma
One of the most lurid exploits of times – I find the imagination, creation and subsequent fossilization of the lesser classes created by guardians Sanatan Dharma as one of the most gory acts of tribulation. It is repugnant to see how in the best of the senses can mankind create such a deed? How in the best of senses and justice could this find continuity across ages and how the system froze it to the best of individual advantage? That is so repulsive, heinous so barbaric and so inhumane. That we let this act to continue despite the system of social justice, is truly a unique blemish on our evolved system. The injustice is so deeply rooted, that all other Varnas should be tried similar to the Nazis for War Crime. I find it repulsive when we oppose ‘Equal Opportunities’ or ‘Reservation’ as those are labeled depending upon the country of origin. However, time has come to overthrow and dismantle that system and usher into a new era of justice for all. We all will have to make sacrifices and offering our rightful meritorious place and finding an alternative spot should be part of our struggle, if we truly believe in this heinous crime committed over eons.
Excerpts from ‘Varna Vyavastha: Class System Of Vedic Society’
“In the beginning, there was only one varna in the ancient Indian society. “We were all brahmins or all sudras,” says Brhadaranyaka Upanisad (1.4, 11-5, 1.31) and also Mahabharata (12.188). A smrti text says that one is born a sudra, and through purification he becomes a brahmin. According to Bhagavada Gita, varna is conferred on the basis of the intrinsic nature of an individual, which is a combination of three gunas (qualities): sattva, rajas, and tamas. In the Mahabharata SantiParva, Yudhisthira defines a brahmin as one who is truthful, forgiving, and kind. He clearly points out that a brahmin is not a brahmin just because he is born in a brahmin family, nor is a sudra a sudra because his parents are sudras. The same concept is mentioned in Manu Smrti. Another scripture Apastamba Dharmasutra states that by birth every human being is a sudra. It is by education and upbringing that one becomes `twice born’, that is, a dvija. Link here.
Lord Krishna, in Bhagvad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 13, said:-
“Chatur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah,
Tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam”
Lord Krishna said, the four categories of occupations were created by me according to people’s three qualities and activities (guna and karma). Although I am the creator of this system, know me to be the non-doer and eternal.This verse from Gita clearly states that caste is assigned to people not on the basis of their birth but on the three attributes and profession carried by them. No child is automatically bound to the same caste as his parent. The purpose of allotting caste is to enable the person to do his specific karma and reach towards ‘Moksha’ i.e. Liberation. Arjun asked Lord Krishna if mixiing of the caste creates a progeny that does not help with salvation of the pitrus. To this Lord Krishna said,
“klaibyam ma sma gamaḥ partha naitat tvayyupapadyate
kṣhudram hṛidaya-daurbalyam tyaktvottiṣhṭha parantapa”
To translate, it meant, “O Parth, it does not befit you to yield to this unmanliness. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O vanquisher of enemies.” Lord Krishna clearly denounced caste system, the way mankind has interpreted and frozen it to their benefit. Lord Krishna has not alone denounced it but also, supported intercaste marriages as it does not support his view of establishing varna padathi.
Is Sanatan Dharma under threat?
Religions grow and prosper under uncertainty. In the Western World, the numbers of atheist have grown due to existential stability with high economic, political, education and access to technology.
However, Sanatan Dharma (the one that never ends), as the name indicates, got even deep rooted with prosperity and stabilization of erst while society in Bharat Varsha as it revealed greater meaning of life and living. If we revisit Maslow’s Self Actualization pyramid, we realize, as human being rises through those hierarchies, the needs change too. Sanatan Dharma offers that foundation for change through various phases and elevations of life.
An argument often made by politicians and religious hegemonist, that our religion is under threat. That is an easy ploy to garner the undecided votes (an indirect booth capturing mechanism). We may lose few folks due to proselytization but Dharma will never lose. Dharma may lose, due to its intrinsic weaknesses, not due to an external threat or attack as long as we are strong nation.
With deep reverence and adoration, I respect those who hold the cause of Sanatan Dharma. However, I humbly urge that they understand the nature of this Dharma and protect its ethos (atma). To be a true believer, let us go beyond artifacts; let us drive towards the principles. Until then, it is all muddled with politics and selfish gains. I truly believe, protection of one’s faith is with the believer.
(The blog below reflect my thoughts as I discussed those with my college batchmates).
If you liked this, you may also like The Hijacking of Faith
General Citations on religion:
Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not By Robert McCauley
“Nones” on the Rise Pew Research Foundation
Will religion ever disappear? BBC, an interesting read