Publisher's Desk: A Mystical View of Sanatana Dharma
Publisher's Desk: A Mystical View of Sanatana Dharma
As an emanation of God, each soul has the eternal truths of Hinduism encoded within itself, available through meditation
By Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
Hinduism is often referred to by the Sanskrit term Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana means eternal and dharma in this context means religion. Thus, Hinduism is the “Eternal Religion.” Calling a religion eternal naturally leads to the reflection, “What is it that is eternal in the universe?” The answer, of course, is just one entity—God. I propose that Hinduism’s eternal essence is possible only if it abides in the intelligence of God. How then does this spiritual knowledge pass from God to man, whose inmost being is also immortal?
One analogy is to be found in biology where we encounter a common type of cell reproduction called budding where a daughter cell essentially grows out of and then separates from the mother cell. The DNA of each spawned cell is identical to that of the original cell. This, for example, is how yeast cells reproduce. We can picture God as the original cell and each soul as a cell produced by God. Just as the DNA of a yeast cell is passed on to a newly cloned cell, so is the divine intelligence of God, which includes the knowledge we call Hinduism, passed on to each soul.
This logically leads to a second question, “Why then are not all people aware of the truths of Hinduism that reside within them?” The answer is that this subtle knowing is hidden deep in the soul and takes great effort and maturity to find. We can think of this spiritual search as the ultimate treasure hunt. Divine truths are hidden within us, just waiting to be discovered.
Renaissance thinker and writer Ram Swarup gave an excellent description of this search: “Hinduism resides in all seeking hearts and whenever man’s seeking for Gods becomes spiritual, Hinduism, or the tradition of Sanatana Dharma, automatically comes in. In what way and how long could man’s innermost truth be kept away from him?”
To elaborate further on this idea, just as a trained scientist can develop deep understandings of the not-always-obvious laws that govern the universe, the matured soul is able to fathom the hidden laws that govern spiritual unfoldment. As sages have decreed, God’s divine intelligence is available if you go to the depths of your soul. But it is a challenge to get there and even harder to stay there.
Here is an analogy I like to use to illustrate finding the truths of Hinduism. Imagine a pond of water with gold nuggets at the bottom. If the surface of the pond has ripples due to a wind or the pond itself is cloudy due to the presence of mud, the gold nuggets at the bottom of the pond cannot be seen from above. They are there, hidden from view. The ripples on the surface represent the agitated intellect; the cloudy water is a cluttered subconscious mind; and the gold nuggets at the bottom are the precious truths. To find these truths we need to have a quiet intellect and a pure or clear subconscious. To achieve this takes serious spiritual striving, ideally under the guidance of a guru.
An excellent third question would be “Is there an original scripture of the Eternal Religion?” We can say that the original scripture is the wisdom imprinted in each individual soul. Over the millennia, great rishis, swamis and pundits have tapped into this inner knowledge and drawn forth portions of it which comprise Hinduism’s holy texts. However, Sanatana Dharma’s most potent scripture is the unwritten wisdom that resides within each of us. Paramaguru Yogaswami often spoke of the superiority of one’s inner scripture to any outer writing. He said, “Instead of spending time in book-reading, it is better to spend it in studying yourself. Study is also a kind of yoga.”
“The book is within you. Turn over the leaves and study.…Truth is not encompassed by books and learning. You must know yourself by yourself. There is nothing else to be known.… It must come from within. Don’t rely on book knowledge. Trust the self alone.”
That last quote, “It must come from within,” adds a new dimension to the means of understanding the divine intelligence that God has placed within the soul. It is the faculty of intuition, by which we gain understanding through superconscious insight rather than intellectual analysis. Yogaswami referred to such insights as “inner orders.” Here is an explanation from the book The Guru Chronicles of how he used inner orders.
“Yogaswami worked intuitively, responding to those who came according to ‘inner orders.’ In explaining this process, he once said, ‘I do nothing. I can do nothing. Everything you see, that is done by what comes from within.’ Another time he said, ‘When you come here, what will happen was settled long ago. We go through it; you bring it, but it all happened long ago. Sit and be a witness.’ Swami explained the process: ‘When you are pure, you live like water on a lotus leaf. Do what is necessary, what comes to you to do, then go on to the next order you receive, and then to the next that comes.’
“He advised, ‘Boldly act when you receive orders from within. You need not wait until all details are in order. If you wait for everything to be worked out, you may miss your chance. Have faith and do the work that comes from within. Money will trail after you if you are responding to divine orders. Helpers will come. Everything will come. You have only to follow carefully that which comes from within.’”
My Gurudeva, Sivaya Subramuniya, also stressed the superiority of inner superconscious experience over outer intellectualization: “Having never read a book from cover to cover in my life and, having been trained from very early years, sixteen or seventeen, to have the experience first and then somehow or other it would be verified by scripture later on, this was my path. I was told that to know what was coming up in the experiential pattern of spiritual unfoldment could be to put into the subconscious mind the experience and memories of it, which would not be the experience at all. This, I was taught, would build a spiritual pride that would detour one from the path to Self Realization. Very carefully I observed this, fully understanding the wisdom of the advice.”
A fourth question logically arises, “Who is the original teacher of the Eternal Religion”? In his Yoga Sutras, Rishi Patanjali answers this question in chapter one, verse twenty-six. “Ishvara was also the guru of those who lived earlier by virtue of His temporal continuity.” The term Ishvara refers to God as personal Lord. The great commentator Vyasa elaborates on this verse: “The former teachers of knowledge and of piety are limited by time, but He to whom time as a limiting factor is not applicable was the teacher of the former teachers. As He was present with His full powers in the beginning of the present cycle of creation, so was He at the beginning of the past creations.”
In other words, the original teacher of Hinduism is God Himself, and subsequent teachers were his students. A common depiction of God as the primeval guru is Dakshinamurti, which literally means “south-facing form.” It is the image of Lord Siva sitting under a banyan tree, silently conveying the ultimate truths to four rishis sitting attentively at His feet. God’s silence in this transmission of spiritual knowing is important, for He is not endowing the sages with His knowledge, but provoking them to discover the knowing that is always and already within themselves. As Ramakrishna said, “You go into yourself a fool, but through the practices of yoga you come out a wise man.”
My guru’s praise of the Sanatana Dharma is the perfect conclusion to these reflections. “One great joy that the Hindu has is the appreciation for all other religions. Hinduism is theocentric, that means God-centric; whereas most other religions are prophet-centric, revolving around the personality of some living person or some person who once lived in history and interpreted religion to his culture in his time. Hinduism has no founder. It was never founded. It has neither a beginning nor an end. It is coexistent with man himself. That is why it is called the Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Path. It is not one man’s teaching or interpretation. It is not limited to a single facet of religion, but consists of the entire spectrum, seen in its various components as if through a prism.”