Sanatan Dharma is an evolution and a confluence of several spiritual streams. The process has gone through significant innovation and evolution by a steady stream of religious reformers or social scientists (we call them Rushi Muni Tapasvi). Those were not gifted folks, but they had a thorough understanding of the existing tenets and the different facets of life, evolving religious ideologies to the form it existed or that we know about Sanatan Dharma.
Of course, such a profound realization cannot be understood by the common man, and it required support for the state plus ritualization through artifact generation. As with every religion, ritualization was relevant to the life scenario during those times, and over a period, a system evolved to achieve homeostasis, a stable state. It’s pretty much akin to blockchain technology or, to 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 ideological differences. It’s not a timid concept, and it’s way up the 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 statecraft, despite its support, interfered very little to influence ideology, and religious doctrine interfered little with statecraft. That delicate balance was maintained, possibly because ethos 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 a similar transformation.
Distortion and Exploitation of Justice
Sometimes, I strongly realize, except for our genomic and ethnic composition, ideologically, we are not the real legacy of our Sanatan Dharma. Those who call themselves the loyal followers are, in fact, far off from the actual concept propounded by religion. Ironically, those deviating from this truth are, in fact, guardians of the religion. Statecraft 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 doctrine. We started worshiping the artifacts, the time we fossilized ‘Varna Paddhat’ and exploited masses, the time we eschewed patriarchal society and diluted women’s importance. Unless we correct our fundamental fallacies, we cannot rise as a nation. If we see a few metrics or KPIs (like GDP) improving, those are but material reflection and not our actual state of spiritual, mental evolution.
Of all the atrocities, ‘Varna Paddhati’ and nebular organization into ‘Patriachial System’ are the ones who have inflicted the most deep-seated grave insult to our society. It is despite the individual freedom of respect for individualism. These two aspects limit the respect for individuality and uniqueness. (Please read my blog on Varnapadhati …).
Our Idols in Sanctum Sanctorum
In our daily lives, we often see a dichotomous hierarchy wherein women are usually second in command, be it home, offices, social, or polity. However, followers of Sanatan Dharma will notice that it 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 is the other half of Lord Shiva, a devotion so sublime that it transcends science, philosophy, imagination, and preaching, laying the foundation for humanity for eons.
Women, that feminine aspect of continuity, is an entirely 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 the real philosophical sense, she is the Janani and the bearer of this Mother Earth, the continuity of time and life’s essence. Emancipating and enabling women is our prime responsibility, as is our duty 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 goriest acts of tribulation. It is repugnant to see how in the best of the senses can humanity create such a deed? How can this find continuity across ages, and how the system froze it to the best of unique advantage in the best of senses and justice? That is so repulsive, heinous, so barbaric and brutal, and so inhumane. That we let this act continue despite the social justice system 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, the time has come to dismantle that system and usher into a new era of justice for all. We all will have to make sacrifices. Offering our rightful meritorious place and finding an alternative spot should be part of our struggle if we genuinely 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 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 Bhagavad 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 Santi Parva, Yudhisthira defines a brahmin as one who is truthful, forgiving, and kind. He points out that a brahmin is not a brahmin just because he is born in a brahmin family, nor is 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. By education and upbringing, one becomes `twice-born,’ that is, a dvija.
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 I created the four categories of occupations 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. Gita’s verse clearly states that caste is assigned to people not based on their birth but on the three attributes and professions 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 ‘Moksha,’ i.e., Liberation. Arjun asked Lord Krishna if mixing of the caste creates a progeny that does not help with the 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 denounced the caste system, the way humanity has interpreted and frozen it to their benefit. Lord Krishna has not condemned it and 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 number of atheists has increased due to existential stability with high economic, political, education, and technology access.
However, Sanatan Dharma (the one that never ends), as the name indicates, got even deep-rooted with prosperity and stabilization of erst. At the same time, society in Bharat Varsha revealed the greater meaning of life and living. If we revisit Maslow’s Self Actualization pyramid, we realize that as human beings rise through those hierarchies, the needs change. Sanatan Dharma offers that foundation for change through various phases and elevations of life.
An argument often made by politicians and religious hegemonists, that our religion is under threat. That is an easy ploy to garner the undecided votes (an indirect booth capturing mechanism). We may lose a few folks due to proselytization, but Dharma will never lose. Dharma may fail due to its intrinsic weaknesses, not due to an external threat or attack, as long as we are a strong nation.
With deep reverence and adoration, I respect those who hold the cause of Sanatan Dharma. However, I humbly urge that they understand this Dharma’s nature 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 genuinely believe the 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