Sanatan Dharm aka Hinduism

Sanatan Dharm, commonly referred to as Hinduism in the West, is the world’s oldest known set of traditions with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years in India.

Sanatan Dharm is unique in that it’s not a religion but a compilation of many traditions and philosophies, and it does not have a founder as do Buddhism and Christianity.

AUM - OM - Hinduism

Fundamental Teaching of Sanatan Dharm

The fundamental teaching of Hinduism, or Vedanta, is that a human being’s basic nature is not confined to the body or the mind. Beyond both of these is the spirit or the spark of God within the soul. This spirit is within us and also within everything we see. All beings and all things are really, in their deepest essence, this pure or divine spirit, full of peace, full of joy and wisdom, ever united with God. This is not just theory, but it can actually be experienced. Anyone who takes the trouble to undergo the necessary training to purify and refine the mind and senses can begin to feel the truth of this. This training can take various forms and is known as yoga (“union”- union of the individual self with this inner spirit).

Some Key Shared Hindu Beliefs

Here are some of the key beliefs shared among Hindus:

  • Truth is eternal.
  • Hindus pursue knowledge and understanding of the Truth: the very essence of the universe and the only Reality. According to the Vedas, Truth is One, but the wise express it in a variety of ways.

  • Brahman is Truth and Reality.
  • Hindus believe in Brahman as the one true God who is formless, limitless, all-inclusive, and eternal. Brahman is not an abstract concept; it is a real entity that encompasses everything (seen and unseen) in the universe.

  • The Vedas are the ultimate authority.
  • The Vedas are Hindu scriptures that contain revelations received by ancient saints and sages. Hindus believe that the Vedas are without beginning and without end; when everything else in the universe is destroyed (at the end of a cycle of time), the Vedas remain.

  • Everyone should strive to achieve dharma.
  • Understanding the concept of dharma helps you understand the Hindu faith. Unfortunately, no single English word adequately covers its meaning. Dharma can be described as right conduct, righteousness, moral law, and duty. Anyone who makes dharma central to one’s life strives to do the right thing, according to one’s duty and abilities, at all times.

  • Individual souls are immortal.
  • A Hindu believes that the individual soul (atman) is neither created nor destroyed; it has been, it is, and it will be. Actions of the soul while residing in a body require that it reap the consequences of those actions in the next life — the same soul in a different body.

    The process of movement of the atman from one body to another is known as transmigration. The kind of body the soul inhabits next is determined by karma (actions accumulated in previous lives).

  • The goal of the individual soul is moksha.
  • Moksha is liberation: the soul’s release from the cycle of death and rebirth. It occurs when the soul unites with Brahman by realizing its true nature. Several paths can lead to this realization and unity: the path of duty, the path of knowledge, and the path of devotion (unconditional surrender to God).

Gods, Goddesses, & Dieties

Hindus worship many gods and goddesses in addition to Brahma, who is the supreme God force present in all things. The most prominent deities include, in alphabetical order:

  • Brahma
  • Devi
  • Durga
  • Ganesha
  • Hanuman
  • Krishna
  • Lakshmi
  • Parvati
  • Rama
  • Saraswati
  • Shiva
  • Surya
  • Vishnu

Hindu Sects

Within Hinduism there are five major sects or denominations:

  1. Vaishnavism
  2. Shaivism
  3. Shaktism
  4. Ganapatism
  5. Saurism

The followers consider the dieties Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti or Devi, Ganesha, and Surya to be the supreme deity respectively.

How Has Sanatan Dharm Come Into My Life?

Like many Westerners, Sanatan Dharm has seeped into my life by becoming aware of yoga, meditation, and Sanskrit Mantras, often by reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda.

Sanatan Dharm Resources

Here are some resources to learn more about Sanatan Dharm aka Hinduism:

Sanatan Dharm aka Hinduism - My Points of Reference - richard edward ward

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