Vedic culture is known as Sanatan or eternal culture. Sat Sanatan Dharma is not a religion in the sense of one religious doctrine like most religions existing today. They have one person – the founder whose spiritual experiences form the basis of that faith. Sat Sanatan Dharma is based on the spiritual experiences of tens of thousands of spiritually enlightened individuals, men and women, rishis (from the word drish – to see), who transmitted the message of spirituality. At the same time, Kal-time and Deš-place are important, so that this culture adapted to place and time. The Rishis, its transmitters and founders chose to be unnamed naming after their role, such as Vyasa – the compiler, the translator, the one who gathered the knowledge.
In this way, they made it possible for their knowledge to be simply, impartially and without prejudice linked to earlier learning, adapted to place and time, and transmitted in an unbroken chain from Master to disciple – Guru parampara.
Sanatan has far too many founders to count. The teachings of Sanatan Dharma are known as apauruseya, which means that they are not based on personality, but on principles. This is very important to emphasize since Sat Sanatan Dharma is not a discovery, an invention of any individual or group of individuals but just as scientists do not find the laws of nature but discover them, so these founders, the rishis did not find spiritual laws but discovered them in meditation.
Sat Sanatan Dharma is the relationship between the individual and the universe, and dharma also implies eternal, cosmic wisdom, law and action. Sat – true, Sanatan – eternal and universal, Dharma – that which contains and sustains the universe. Thus Sat Sanathan Dharma is what keeps society and civilization in communion through righteous living. In a broader sense, it means getting acquainted with the eternal laws of the universe that govern everything. Searching for them and applying these laws for the benefit of all is a way of practicing Sat Sanatan Dharma.
All the religions that we know to this day, originate, last and after some time are extinguished in order to give way to someone else who is currently harmonized with the mentality, culture and social order of that time. Sanatan is eternal because it contains the eternal values on which human evolution is based. It is divided into 2 branches:
Gyan kanda – Includes gjana – knowledge and vigjana – a science based on the experiential knowledge that a person has acquired during life. Vigjana encompasses theoretical and philosophical writings and which transmit universal spiritual knowledge without being limited to any particular divine concept or figure. It is knowledge of spiritual principles and cosmic laws as well as tattvas – elements. In Gyan Kand, they belong to Yogis and Sanjasis, Swamis.
Karma kanda – a branch of action or ritual. It covers topics about karma – deeds and intrusions – sacrifices. Karma kanda deals with practice and includes hymns, prayers and mantras, i.e. Samhita and Brahman, customs and ceremonies. This is where the Pandits – the priests – belong.
Sat Sanatan Dharma says that man must not deny work, the needs of the body and the family, so there is purushart – human purpose, the four principles that every human being must achieve in his life to be Man, and these are:
Artha – material well-being, which means that a person should have enough for himself and his family. If you have a roof over your head, food and clothes you will not be in constant panic what tomorrow brings, and a stable and rich society is possible only through the wealth of each individual. It is not a sin to have and be rich, in one bhajan it is sung: “Here is my mala Lord, I cannot meditate hungry.”
Kama – enjoying happiness, security, creativity, usefulness and inspiration. Sat Sanatan Dharma does not say that emotional needs for happiness and contentment are bad, but that we should be satisfied because when our spiritual journey begins, “crying can only pull us back.”
Dharma – the right life. Fulfilling virtues, duties and responsibilities, honest work, responsibility towards family, society – that is moral dharma. One must not deny duties and promises. Spiritual dharma is to atam gyan, self-realization in this life.
Moksha – liberation. Freedom from rebirth and dying, self-realization. Moksha comes through respect for dharma, kama and artha, and the goal of every man is to know his own self and finally become free from attachment to worldly pleasures and free from suffering. That is the ultimate goal of life, to be reunited with our source – Paramatma – the absolute, God.
In Sanatan or eternal culture, life is divided into four stages. This is not accidental because the main principle is that our phenomenon is a reflection of the universe. On a cosmic scale, time is divided into four jugas, four seasons, so human life is divided into four periods – ashrams. Brahmacharya ashram is up to 25 years of age and it is dedicated to studying, learning. The Grihastha ashram, from the age of 25 to 50, is dedicated to starting a family and working. Vanaprasta ashram, from the age of 50 to 75, is the time when we slowly retire from active life and leave the work to our children. We teach grandchildren and we can say that we have an advisory function. Sanjas ashram, from the age of 75 until the end of life is the period when we retire and fully dedicate ourselves to our goal, atam gyan.
Mahamandaleshwar Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda – part of a lecture on Sanatan Dharma, Strilky Ashram, Czech Republic, 2007
“In the scriptures brought to us by the rishis, in the Upanishads and the Vedas and even in the Mahabharathi, Bhagavat Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam there is no mention of any particular name of any religion because there was only one religion at that time, Sanatan Dharma. Sanatan Dharma means a universal principle that has been followed since the very creation of the Universe.
Hinduism believes in only one God, and that God has no name, he is Ishvara, the universal principle, the cosmic law, and the cosmic law is Sanathan Dharma. Those who understand, respect and accept this are called followers of the Dharma. If you are Dharam Karan it means you accept, follow Dharma. The Vedas and the Upanishads are the teachings of only one thing – the Universal and only one God. On the other side, in Hinduism there are millions of Gods and belief in them. Both are true. If you are wondering how this is possible, Holigurudji will simply answer: “One in all and all in one.” All forms of liquid on earth come from a single root, from water. You see forms and shapes, but in essence it is one, the same quality. Thus there is only one quality, God, Ishvara and the various forms that arise from it. Brahma Satya Jagat Mithja – The ultimate truth is Brahman, and Jagat Mitja, all this changing world is unreal. Sanatan Dharma means for us the Dharma that is meant for us in this life. Sanatan values are love, happiness, contentment, harmony, peace – these are universal principles and no one has “Copyright” on them. It is equally given to all beings, plants, animals and humans”.