Dr (Pundit) Roshan Singh
Many people have heard of “Dharma,” even the term “Sanatana Dharma”.
Some people say that they are Sanathan while some claim to follow the Vedic way of life. Sanathan Dharma is not a religion but a way of life. In fact in the Bhagavad-Gita the Lord says. “Abandon all varieties of Religion and simply surrender unto me.”
But exactly what is Dharma? And what is Sanatana Dharma? The Sanskrit word sanatana means “eternal” and the word dharma means “occupation.” Therefore the term “Sanatana Dharma” can be taken to mean our eternal occupation.
The Supreme Lord and His transcendental abode are both sanatana, eternal, as are the living entities, and the combined association of the Supreme Lord and the living entities in the sanatana abode (the spiritual world) is the perfection of human life.
Sanathan Dharma is when the living entity re-establishes his lost connection with God. The soul is but part and parcel and of the super soul and can become happy when it reconnects with God. The soul then discards the process of repeated birth, old age disease and death and goes back home as it is Sanathan or eternal and Dharma refers to nature or quality. This is real Sanathan Dharma. Religion is only a boat or carriageway to aid us to know our Sanathan Dharma. By holding onto a particular religion we forget the real purpose of the religion and remain caught in religious activities instead of learning to use the religion to love and serve God. The person caught in religion does not serve the Lord but wants the Lord to serve him instead. He preys on God and does not pray to God. Prayer becomes a process in which he carries out various religious obligations with the desire to acquire something from God.
Krishna is very kind to the living entities because they are His sons. Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-Gita that, “I am the father of all.” There are many different types of living entities according to their different karma, and Krishna declares He is the father of them all. Therefore, time and time again, the Lord descends to this material world to reclaim all of these fallen, conditioned souls to call them back to the sanatana, eternal, sky so that the sanatana living entities may regain their original eternal positions in association with the Lord. Thus Krishna comes himself in different incarnations, or He sends His confidential servants as sons or acaryas to reclaim the conditioned souls.
Therefore sanatana-dharma does not refer to any sectarian process of religion. It is the eternal function of the eternal living entities in relationship with the eternal Supreme Lord. Sanatana-dharma refers, as stated previously, to the eternal occupation of the living entity.
The English word “religion” is a little different from sanatana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith, and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change this faith and adopt another, but sanatana-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken from the living entity. Sanatana-dharma is eternally integral with the living entity. When we speak of sanatana-dharma, then, we must take it for granted that it has no beginning or end.
That which has neither beginning or end cannot be sectarian, for it cannot be limited by any boundaries. Yet those belonging to some sectarian faith will wrongly consider that sanatana-dharma is also sectarian, but if we go deeply into the matter and consider it in the light of modern science, it is possible for us to see that sanatana-dharma is the business of all people of the world–nay, of all the living entities of the universe.
Non-sanatana religious faith may have some beginning in the annals of human history, but there is no beginning to the history of sanatana-dharma because it remains eternally with the living entities. It has no date of beginning nor will it have an end. This is Sanathan Dharma. It was not created by man nor does it have a founder.