Introduction Sanatana Dharma
BASIC HINDU RELIGIOUS IDEAS
Sanatana Dharma means the Eternal Religion, the Ancient Law, and it is based on the Vedas, sacred books given to men many long ages ago. This Religion has also been called the Aryan Religion, because it is the Religion that was given to the first nation of the Aryan race; Arya means noble, and the name was given to a great race, much finer in character and appearance than the races which went before it in the world's history. The first families of these people settled in the northern part of the land now called India, and that part in which they first settled was named Aryavarta, because these Aryans lived in it. "(The land) from the eastern ocean to the western ocean, between the two mountains (Himavan and Vindhya), the wise call Aryavarta."
In later days the Religion was called the Hindu Religion, and this is the name by which it is now usually known. It is the oldest of living Religions, and no other Religion has produced so many great men great teachers, great writers, great sages, great saints, great kings, great warriors, great statesmen, great benefactors, great patriots. The more you know of it, the more you will honour and love it, and the more thankful you will be that you were born into it. But unless you grow up worthy of it, this great and holy Religion will do you no good.
The Basis Of SANATANA DHARMA
The Ancient Religion is based on one strong foundation on which are erected the walls of its structure.
The foundation is called श्रुति: Shrutih "that which has been heard ;" the walls are called स्मॄति: Smrtih, "that which has been remembered".
The Shruti has been given through very wise men, who heard it and received it from Devas; these sacred teachings were not written down till comparatively modern times, but were learnt by heart, and constantly repeated.
The teacher sang them to his pupils, and the pupils sang them after him, a few words at a time, over and over again, till they knew them thoroughly. Boys still learn the Shruti in the same way as their forefathers learnt it in very ancient days, and you may hear them chanting it in any Vaidika Pathashala at the present time.
The Shruti consists of the चतुर्वेद: Chaturvedah, the Four Vedas. Veda means knowledge, that which is known ; and the knowledge which is the foundation of Religion is given to man in the Four Vedas. They are named : ऋग्वेदः Rigvedah; सामवेदः Samavedah; यजुर्वेदः Yajurvedah; and अथर्ववेदः Atharvavedah.
Each Veda is divided into three parts :
- मन्त्र Mantrah ; संहिता Samhitii, collection.
- ब्राह्मणम् Brabmanam.
- उपनिषद् Upanishat.
The Mantra portion consists of Mantras, or sentences in which the order of sounds has a particular power, produces certain effects. These are in the form of hymns to the Devas whose relations to men we shall study presently and when they are properly chanted by properly instructed persons, certain results follow. These are used in religious ceremonies, and the value of the ceremony depends chiefly upon their proper repetition.
The Brahmana portion of the Vedas consists of directions about ritual and explains how to perform the ceremonies in which were used the Mantras given in the first part; and further, stories connected with them.
The Upanishat portion consists of deep philosophical teachings on the nature of Brahman, on the supreme and the separated Self, on man and the universe, on bondage and liberation. It is the foundation of all philosophy, and when you are men, you may study it and delight in it. Only highly educated men can study it; it is too difficult for others.
There was a fourth part of the Veda in the ancient days, sometimes called the उपवेद: Upavedah, or तन्त्रम् Tantram; this consisted of science, and of practical instructions based on the science; but very little of the true ancient Tantra remains, as the Rishis took them away as unsuitable for times in which people were less spiritual. Some Tantrika forms of ritual are, however, used in worship, along with, or instead of, the current Vaidika forms. The books now extant under the name of Tantras are generally not regarded as part of the Veda.
That which is found in the Shruti is of supreme authority and is accepted by every faithful follower of the Sanatana Dharma as final. All the sects, all the philosophical systems, appeal to the Shruti as the find authority, determining every dispute.
The Smriti or Dharma Shastra, is founded on, and stands next in authority to, the Shruti, and consists of four great works, written by Sages, the chief contents of which are laws and regulations for the cirrying on of individual, family, social and national life. Hindu Society is founded on, and governed by, these laws. They are :
- मनुस्मृति or धर्मशास्त्र Manu Smrtih or Manava Dharma Shastram. The Institutes of Manu.
- याज्ञवल्क्य स्मृति: Yajnavalkya Smrtih.
- Shankha Likhita Smrtih.
- पाराशर स्मृति: Parashara Smrtih.
The first of these is the chief compendium of Aryan law, Manu being the great Law-giver of the race. Hindu chronology divides the history of a world into seven great periods or cycles of time, each of which is begun and is ended by a Manu, and is therefore called a Manvantara, Manu-antara, "between (two) Manus."
"Six other Manus, very great-minded and of great splendour, belonging to the race of this Manu, the descendant of Svayambhu, have each produced beings." As there are two M;inus for each Manvantara, that shows that we are in th^ fourth Manvantara, under the rule of the seventh Manu, who is, the next shloka tells us, the son of Vivasvat. Some of his laws are handed down in the Manu Smrtih.
The Yajnavalkya Smrtih follows the same general line as the Manu Smrtih and is next in importance to it. The other two are not now much studied or referred to, except in some parts of Southern India.
While the Shruti and the Smriti are the foundation and the walls of the Sanatana Dharma, there are two other important supports like buttresses; the पुराणानि Puranani, Puranas, and the इतिहास: Itihasah, History.
The Puranas consist of histories and stories and allegories, composed for the use of the less learned part of the nation, especially for those who could not study the Vedas. They are very interesting to read, and are full of information of all kinds. Some of the allegories are difficult to understand, and require the help of a teacher.
The Itihasa comprises two great poems:
- The रामायणम् Ramayanam, the history of Shri Ramachandra, the son of King Dasharatha, and of His wife Sita, and of His brothers, a most interesting and delightful story, as you all know.
- The महाभारतम् Mahabharatam, the history of the Kurus, a royal family of Northern India, which split into two parties, the Kurus and the Pandavas, between whom a great war broke out. It contains an immense number of beautiful stories, noble moral teachings, and useful lessons of all kinds.
These two books, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, tell us most of what we know about ancient India, about her people and customs, and her ways of living, and her arts, and her manufactures. If you read these, you will learn how great India once was, and you will also learn how you must behave to make her great once more.
The Science And Philosopy Of SANATANA DHARMA
While the Shruti and the Smriti, the Puranas and the Itihasa make the edifice of Hindu Religion, we find that the Religion itself has given rise to a splendid literature of Science and Philosophy.
The Science was divided into the Shadangani, the Six Angas, literally Limbs; and these six Limbs, or Branches, comprised what would now be called secular knowledge. In the old days religious and secular knowledge were not divided.
They included Grammar, Philology, Astrology, Poetry, together with sixty-four sciences and arts, and the method by which study should be carried
on, so that any one who mastered the six angas was a man of varied and deep learning.
The Philosophy also had six divisions, the Shaddarshanani, the Six Darshanas, or ways of seeing things, usually called the Six Systems.
They all have one object : the putting an end to pain by enabling the separated human selves pto re-unite with the supreme Self ; and they all have one method the development of Jnanam, Wisdom. The ways employed are different, to suit the different mental constitutions of men, so that they are like six different roads, all leading to one town.
As to what is contained in the Six Systems of philosophy, it will be enough for boys to know this;
The Nyaya and the Vaisheshika arrange all the things of the world into a certain number of kinds; then point out that a man knows all things by
means of his senses, or by inference and analogy, or by testimony of other (wise and experienced) men ; and then they explain how God has made all this material world oat of atoms and molecules; finally they show how the highest and most useful knowledge is the knowledge of God, who is also the inmost Spirit of man, and how this knowledge is obtained in various ways.
The Sankhya explains in more detail and in new ways the nature of
Purushah, Spirit, and of Prakritifr, Matter, and relation of each to
The Yoga says that as there are now generally known five senses and five organs of action, so there are other subtler senses and organs; and explains more fully how they may be developed by men who are seeking to know God, who is their own true inmost Spirit.
The Mimansft explains what karma is, i.e., action, both religious and worldly, and what are its consequences, causes and effects, and how it binds man to this world or to another.
The Vedanta finally tells fully what is the exact and true nature of God, or Atma, and shows that Jiva of man is in essence the same as this inmost
God, and explains how man may five so that karma shall not bind him; and finally, by understanding what the Maya Shakti of God is, by which all this world comes forth and appears and disappears, how he may (after practice of Yoga) merge himself into and become one with God and so gain Moksha.
Book: SANATANA DHARMA - AN ELEMENTARY TEXT-BOOK OF HINDU RELIGION AND ETHICS. Published By The Board Of Trustees Central Hindu College Benares, 1916 [THE RIGHT OF TRANSLATION AND REPRODUCTION IS RESERVED]