Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma
Eminent Tunisian poetess and spiritual stalwart Ms Hela Teleki has asked me about the difference between Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma. Very briefly, it is mentioned that the phrase Dharma Sanatana occurs in classical Sanskrit literature, for example, in the Manusmrti (4-138) composed around 5th century BCE and the Bhagavata Purana. Sanatana Dharma is the oldest religion in the world of India. Hindu dharma is a term given by Persians to mean people living beside the river Sindhu.
In Sanskrit, Sanatana means “eternal”, because no one knows exact when it was founded and who founded it. Dharma means order, religion, cult and way of life. It is assumed that the numerous rishis and rishikas and other erudite who participated in writing down the Vedas, Upanishad, and Puranas are the founders of Sanatana Dharma while elevated souls like Adi Sankara are its revivalists. Many Hindus refer Sanatana Dharma as Hinduism. The other term used as Vaidika Dharma is the cult related to the Vedas.
Hinduism is an Indian religion. It is the world’s third- largest religion. Hinduism is a diverse system of thought marked by a range of philosophies, shared concepts, rituals, cosmological systems, pilgrimage, rites, and shared textual sources that discuss theology, metaphysics, mythology, Vedic Yajna, Yoga, and temple building. Prominent themes in Hindu belief include polytheism, idolatry, ethics, reincarnation, patience, peace, forbearance, asceticism, self-restraint, class society, meditation, usury-oriented economy, duplicity and hypocrisy in politics and social matters. They worship snakes, rivers, fire, idols and the Sun.
In sum, it can be said that Hinduism is not a rational religion. It is a jumble of mythological phantoms and fancies. But, now it is turned in to horrible and horrendous fanaticism by some hardliners. They are using religion for their heinous political gains.
Contemporary Hinduism can be categorized into four major traditions: Vaishnaism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. The doctrinal sources of Hinduism are derived from Vedas, Ramayan, and Mahabharata. In the late 19th century, the term Dharma Sanatana was revived during the Hindu Revivalism movement as a name for Hinduism as a religion in order to avoid having the term Hindu, which is of non-native Persian origin.
Today, Sanatana Dharma is associated with moderate and original concept of Hinduism. In current day usage, the term Sanatana Dharma is diminished and used to emphasize “traditional” or Sanatani (eternalist) outlook in contrast to the socio-political Hinduism embraced by movements such as the “Arya Samaj”.
In sharp contrast to the efforts by Lahore Sanatana Dharma Sabha to preserve the Hindu tradition against the onslaught of reform, now it is being stressed that Sanatana Dharma cannot be rigid, it has to be inclusive without excluding the best and totality of knowledge to guide the “Karmic” process, especially as Sanatana has no beginning and no end. By this stance, it is stressed that the present dogmatism and extremism in Hindus is entirely against the “Eternal Teachings” of Sanatana Dharma and this “Order” is universal, moderate, inclusive, pluralistic, peace abiding and humanistic. Actually, it is a movement to present Hinduism as a religion of peace and moderation.
In our modern scientific and rational age, the prevalent Hindu concepts are very antagonistic to rational and humane norms. The modern Hindus feel ashamed in believing and on practicing some irrational and inhuman rites. “Satti” was a very inhuman ritual in Hinduism. When a husband died, his widow was forcibly burned alive with her husband in blazing flames. She used to shout and cry on this inhuman act but her shrieks were like a cry in wilderness. Her screams went unheard. The Muslim ruler Aurangzeb officially banned this inhuman rite. Even today, the Hindu widows are not permitted to remarry and socially are cursed and regarded ill-omened. What a tragedy!
The Hindus drink the urine of cow and also eat its dung. The cows are sacred to them. They kill the people who slaughter the cow and eat its meat. The blood of a cow is more sacred to Hindus than the blood of a human. Besides, the present way of racial and religious discrimination movement backed and buttressed by RSS and the fascist regime of Narendra Modi and the party of Bal Thackeray, have totally destroyed the democratic and moderate image of India and Hinduism.
I was stunned on watching a video in which an innocent young Hindu girl was rounded and hounded by some young Hindus and they burned her alive. Several Hindus kept on seeing this tragic incident and raised slogans in the flux of merriment and religious frenzy. They enjoyed this terrible and terrific scene, considering it a religious obligation. The so-called sin or the crime of that girl was that she had attended a sermon in a Christian Church along with her Christian class fellow.
India has become the hub of terrorism. The Hindu fanatics kill the Muslims, Christians and the Sikhs. This all is being done in the name of Hinduism. Under the circumstances, some enlightened Hindus have reacted on the fascist mind-set of these extremists. They have declared the revival of true Hinduism that teaches peace, virtue and humanity in the light of Sanatana Dharma. It is a moderate movement and must be appreciated. Terrorism and extremism must be condemned and abandoned. The modern educated and enlightened world needs peace and tolerance. Our slogan should be: “Long live Humanity”.