To understand the real Sanatan Dharma, its deeper philosophy and worldview, it is important first to understand what it is not…
Sanatan Dharma is not religion—this is the first thing we must resolutely bear in mind. It has never had an established clergy or a central authority, and there has never been any final arbiter in the interpretation or application of the Dharma, no single scripture or theology, no prescribed rites and rituals, and whatever rituals that do exist in the day-to-day living of the Dharma are highly symbolic in nature.
The second important thing to remember is that Dharma has never been about mandatory or prescribed rules for ethical and religious behavior; it does not posit absolute rights or wrongs and holds that everything is relative and contextual and the sense of right and wrong must arise only from one’s inner understanding, guided by the higher buddhi or the Atman. Therefore, in Sanatan Dharma, the most important practice is to awaken and cultivate the atman and the buddhi of which spiritual discrimination—viveka—is an essential part.
Sanatan Dharma does not tell us what to eat or not to eat, what to wear or not to wear, how to live and behave. It is not a set of dos and don’ts—for Sanatan Dharma, the only thing of spiritual, social, and moral significance is the development of consciousness: the height or depth of one’s consciousness is incomparably more significant than a set of moral and social rules and laws. In fact, of what good use would all our ethical and social rules be without any development of consciousness?
We must also bear in mind that Sanatan Dharma is not just the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Upanishads, nor the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, nor even the Puranas—these texts do not in any way define or limit the Dharma. However, these texts do align the buddhi to Dharma, making Dharma more accessible to the mind of humanity. A deep understanding of the Vedas, the Gita, and the Upanishads, for example, can be of immense importance to one who wishes to live the Dharmic life, but they are not the only sources or guides. The ultimate source of the Dharma, and the only infallible guide, is the eternal Wisdom within, the secret Veda in the heart. This is the only grand scripture and temple of Sanatan Dharma.
Therefore, the finding of the Atman is the only fundamental and indispensable practice of Sanatan Dharma—all else is of secondary or peripheral interest.
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