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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Suhotra Dasa Tapovanachari > Hinduism > Sanatana Dharma

7. Sanatana-dharma 


Brahman, the Absolute Truth, the goal of vedanta, may be achieved in two ways. One way is by vedanta-darshan, or the philosophical comprehension of the conclusion of the Vedas, as described previously. Another way is by sanatana-dharma, the eternal religion of vedanta. Both darshan and sanatana-dharma are taught in the Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Sri Krishna to His disciple Arjuna 5000 years ago at Kuruksetra.


Darshan is explained in Bhagavad-gita 7.19:


bahunam janmanam ante

jnanavan mam prapadyate

vasudevah sarvam iti

sa mahatma su-durlabhah 


"After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare."


Sanatana-dharma is explained in Bhagavad-gita 18.66. This verse is the culmination of the entire text:


sarva-dharman parityajya

mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah 


"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."


In both darshan and sanatana-dharma, surrender to Krishna is the goal, because Krishna is the goal of the Vedas, as confirmed in Bhagavad-gita 15.15: vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham, "By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."


What is the difference between religion (dharma) that is eternal (sanatana) and religion that is not eternal? The noneternal religion, which in Bhagavad-gita 18.66 Krishna asks us to give up, is of two types: bhoga-dharma and tyaga-dharma.


Bhoga-dharma, the religion of work (karma) for sensual pleasure in this life and the next, is summed up in Bhagavad-gita 2.42-43 thusly:


"Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification (bhoga) and opulent life (aisvarya), they say that there is nothing more than this."


Tyaga-dharma, the religion of withdrawal from karma, is rejected by Lord Krishna in this verse:


"Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection." (Bhagavad-gita 3.4)


Sanatana-dharma, the eternal religion, is bhakti-yoga, the yoga of devotional service to Lord Krishna. Shunning both work for selfish pleasure and the stoppage of all work, the bhakti-yogi works only for Krishna's pleasure. Bhakti-yoga liberates the soul from entanglement in the web of tri-guna (the three modes of material nature) and transfers the liberated soul to Krishna. Krishna's transcendental personal form is the source and basis of the impersonal Brahman effulgence (brahmajyoti), which shines forever beyond the darkness of material nature. This is all confirmed in Bhagavad-gita 14.26 and 27:


"One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman."


"And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness."


Sanatana-dharma is exemplified in the lives of the mahatmas, or great souls. Their religious practices are described in Bhagavad-gita 9.14 and 15:


"O son of Prtha, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible."


"Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion."


Krishna spoke the Bhagavad-gita shortly before the beginning of the Kali-yuga, the present age of darkness, sin, and quarrel. After Krishna departed this world, mayavada philosophy became prominent. Because mayavada philosophy denies that Krishna is the eternal, transcendental Personality of Godhead, and because it distorts His teachings on bhakti-yoga with impersonal speculation, it thwarts both the method and goal of sanatana-dharma. Modern Hindus, confused by mayavada ideas, think mundane politics and social work are the method of dharma. And they think the goal of dharma is the impersonal jyoti (light). The mayavadis claim the jyoti is the truth behind God's personal form. But this claim is in direct opposition to Bhagavad-gita 14.27. Thus the path of the mahatmas given in the Bhagavad-gita is lost in much of Hinduism today.


Taking compassion upon the unfortunate, misguided souls of Kali-yuga, Lord Krishna descended again, only 500 years ago, to show mankind by His own example how to practice sanatana-dharma according to the Bhagavad-gita. This incarnation of Krishna is the Golden Avatara, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Chaitanya accepted initiation from Isvara Puri of the Madhva Sampradaya. From Madhva's school, Lord Chaitanya accepted two principles: (1) opposition to and defeat of mayavada philosophy, and (2) worship of the transcendental form of Lord Krishna as the path of eternal religion. The first principle is darshan, and the second is sanatana-dharma. These two principles are the philosophical and religious foundation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), established by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.


In Bhagavad-gita 4.2, Lord Krishna declares that the principles of eternal religion are handed down via the guru-parampara (disciplic succession). The parampara system protects eternal religious principles from corruption by unauthorized teachers who, without following the principles themselves, interpret the Bhagavad-gita through their speculative opinions. The disciplic succession of Madhva and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is known as the Brahma Sampradaya, because it originates with Brahma, who received Vedic knowledge from Krishna at the beginning of creation. Brahma's disciple is Narada, and Narada's disciple is Vyasa, who composed the Vedanta-sutra. After Lord Chaitanya accepted this sampradaya as His own, it was called the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya. In our time, this disciplic succession and its teachings of sanatana-dharma are represented to the whole world by ISKCON. Following in the parampara tradition, members of ISKCON refrain from adharma (irreligion) in the form of meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication, and follow sanatana-dharma as shown by the mahatmas.