SANATAN DHARMA :
The meaning of Sanatan is eternal. Vedic Dharma can aptly be defined as Sanatan Dharma. In English, Dharma is defined by the word 'religion'. But the term religion is incapable to describe the vast meaning of Dharma. In fact, the spirit of Dharma is so vast that it includes things related not only to our present incarnation but to the past and the future incarnations as well.
According to the definition given in the scriptures:
Meaning- Dharma is something that should be borne all the time. Thus, it is the powerful means that saves us from catastrophe and leads to evolution. For example, Vedas are not only the means to attain comfort in metaphysical world but they also show the path to all round development and prosperity.
MEANINGS OF SANATAN DHARMA
SANAATANASYA DHARMA ITI SANAATAN DHARMAH|
Meaning- Sanatan Dharma, as the name suggests owes its inception to none other than the eternal supreme soul- Brahm. Unlike other religions such as Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrians and Buddhism which all clearly show the name of their inceptors like Christ, Mohammed, Zarthustra and Buddha, Sanatan Dharma boasts its inception to the supreme soul Himself.
All the religions except Sanatan can be classified into two parts-
1. Pre-historic religions.
2. Historic Religions.
But Sanatan cannot be included in any of these two categories. It existed even before the birth of other religions and it exists even today. Sanatan shall exist in future also. History has witnessed the rise and fall of scores of religions and sects. But, Sanatan has withstood all kinds of upheavals and oppositions and continues to exist.
Regarding the future of Sanatan, we have to keep in mind that since it has no beginning hence it will have no end. So, it is beyond the reach of 'natural-law of change' which states that one which has born shall inevitably come to an end. There has never been an exception to this rule nor there shall be one. Even the divine embodiments of almighty God in physical incarnations had to see their end. Thus, even the physical embodiment of even the eternal God is not an exception to this rule.
Second meaning: Sanatan has no beginning and hence no end. It exists right from the moment of creation of universe to the time of Pralaya (the great deluge). It is Sanatan not because it owes its inception to the eternal God but because it is eternal in itself. It shall exist up to Pralaya and shall not be destroyed even after Pralaya when it will lie dormant but exist neverthless.With the beginning of new creation, Sanatan shall rise once again to protect mankind and help it prosper.
But all said and done one should not have a misconception that all the other religions are false. Every religion guides the human being to its ultimate goal. But these religions being historic and propounded by somebody inevitably will see their end, of course except Sanatan Dharma.
Third meaning :
SADA BHAVAH SANAATANAH, SANATANAM KAROTI ITI SANATAN YATI, SANATAN YATITI SANATANAH|
SANATANASHCHASOU DHARMA ITI SANATAN DHARMAH
Sanatan Dharma is eternal not because it owes its inception to the eternal God. It is eternal not because it is timeless and indestructible. Sanatan is eternal because it is capable of making all those who have faith in it eternal by providing them the 'ultimate knowledge'.
To get this point better, let us think a little more deeply and compare the different nations, which were once super powers at some point of time in history. Greece, Roman, Syrian, Persian, Macedonian, Babylonian, Phoenician, Egyptian were the powerful empires that once held the sway in human history; but none of them exists today. Those empires had everything- wealth, power and huge armies. But they did not had the spiritual consciousness to sustain itself for a long time. And that lack of such a capacity became the cause of their extermination. But India did have such a capacity and hence its religion endured every onslaught and exists even today. No doubt, Sanatan played an important role in keeping our culture alive.
Thus, Sanatan has three distinct features.
1.The eternal supreme soul propounded it.
2.It is eternal in itself.
3.It is capable of making its followers eternal.
Now a question naturally arises as to what are the traits of the followers of Sanatan. Let's explore it in the fourth meaning.
Fourth meaning -
SANATANAM PARAMATMA SWARUPAM PRAAPYATI ITI|
Meaning - The religion that helps us attain union with the eternal soul is Sanatan. A follower of Sanatan dharma abides to the true- path and which helps him to unite with the almighty God ultimately.
This is the real characteristic of Sanatan,which helped India to prosper in all walks of life since time immemorial. But now, we are neglecting it and hence are facing the consequences. Those who discard religious path are sure to fall. Even God has said regarding such people:
YAH SHASTRA VIDHI MRITASRINYA VARTATE KAAMKAARTAH|
NA SA SIDDHIM VAARNOTI NA SUKHAM NA PARAAMGATIM||
TASMA CHCHHASTRAM PRAMAANAM TE KARYAA KARYAVYA VASTATAU|
GYAATVA SHAASTRA VIDHAANOKTAM PARAM KARTUMIHAARHASI||
Meaning - Those who neglect the scriptures and act in whimsical way neither attain perfection nor any comfort and salvation. O Arjun! Scriptures dictate the things worth your doing and unworthy of doing.
Even Manu says:
DHARMA EVA HATO HANTI, DHARMO RAKSHATI RAKSHITAH
Meaning - A exterminated religion kills the people ultimately but a protected religion protects its followers.
RELIGION AND COMMUNITY
There is only one religion. Nomatter if it has acquired different names in various parts of the world depending upon circumstances, culture and tradition but the fact is that it must necessarily contain all the good qualities capable of giving boost to the spiritual upliftment of a man and his ultimate salvation. These diverse elements of virtuosity have been named as religion. Anything lacking this spirit cannot be called a religion. For example 'warmth' is the distinctive feature of 'fire'. If fire loses warmth, it is no more a fire. Similarly, the sun provides light and warmth, if it loses these properties, it will be no more than a dead star. Liquidity and coldness are the property of water. Without them, it will not be water.
Human being is the supreme creation of the nature. Our ancient sages, with the help of their tremendous insight had formulated certain rules for the society-how a human should live and what should be his behaviour in the society, etc. A man who doesn't follow any rules and regulations is not a human. Such a conduct bound by certain norms and regulations is termed as religion. This very quality of man (Following the religion) makes him distinct from the animals. By, instinct man behaves like an animal. Force that checks this fall in human behaviour is known as religion. It is said that only those shall live-individual or institution- who follow the religion; those who do not follow the religion shall be no better than dead despite having a living body.
Let's now consider the difference between the religion. Such as the soul that is present in a living body is eternal, similarly the religion is also eternal. That is why it came to be known as eternal. Thus, religion has no end. But,all the different sects or communities that exist today were established by people in divine incarnations according to the needs of the time. But, basically all the religions are same despite their distinct rituals.
DHARM or RELIGION
1. Dharma is the spirit of humanity.
2. Dharma is the heart to feel humanity.
3. Dharma is the examiner and investigator of the spiritual faiths.
4. Dharma investigates the reasons for creation.
5. Dharma shows the relation between the regulations and regulator of the creation.
6. Dharma helps one for introspection.
7. Dharma is culture.
8. Dharma is knowledge.
9. Dharma is fortune and salvation.
10. Dharma provides eternity.