Friday, March 19, 2010

Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma, ... Truth Based Civilization.

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In a recent blog entry there has been a debate on what Hinduism is. In another entry the author KMS has proposed his answers to the question :"Who is a Hindu?"

Here we propose what we believe to be a very general and yet specific definition of Hinduism. We will also point out, that often various confusions arise out of inappropriate mix of concepts. And therefore we will make a case for our preferred term for the subject matter of the present description.

To begin with, we call this perspective a belief-system or world-view.


Belief-System, World-view:

0. Truth, whatever that may be, is amenable to being investigated using one or many from a myriad of tools, for example, reason, experience, perception, emotion, etc.; and Truth can stand any inquiry.

1. In the past, various investigations have been conducted into Truth, and many of the findings have been recorded or handed down through generations.

2. One is free to investigate ab initio, and one is also free to investigate, starting from some or all of previous findings and continuing them further. Also one is free to make use of previous findings if and when these are available.

It is evident that there are two broad methodologies:

2.a One begins with a willingness to try out some of the previous findings (This is called the Faith aspect), and attempts to verify them to gain conviction for oneself (This is the Confidence aspect).

2.b One sets out with a clean slate and attempts to discover things for oneself (This is the inquiry aspect).

3. Properly conducted investigations -- whether by an individual or in a collaborative way, whether conducted in the past, present or future, independent of the tools used for investigation -- lead to fundamentally and essentially identical results and eventually final understanding; albeit the expressions of the understanding may vary and differ depending upon time, location, language, context, understanding capacity of the listener and also the speaker.

4. Science too is a part of the outcome of such an investigation. Usually science focuses on demonstrable (Personal, Objective) truths, whereas the larger truth encompasses the verifiable (Impersonal, Subjective) truths as well.

5. The underlying principles, that provide sustenance to a Civilization based on such an understanding of Truth, are called Sanatana Dharma.


We can now propose that those who accept, even if tentatively, such a broad understanding of Sanatana Dharma, and live by it, can be stated to be leading a Hindu-Way-of-Life.


0. Sanatana Dharma
is not confined to geo-political India and so on. It may be practiced anywhere and by any people, speaking whatsoever language.

1. The validity or applicability of this Sanatana Dharma is universal and does not depend upon whether someone knows it or not. It was pointed out that some scholar once remarked that everyone was subject to the Eternal Law and it was not a matter of choice!

2. The discoverers of these truths have been called seers, sages or Rishis. Those who pondered over the discoveries were called Munis and so on.

3. There are no fixed text-books for Sanatana Dharma. However, there are many usable text-books. Some of them are even considered canonical.

4. Incidentally, Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti, एकं सत विप्राः बहुधा वदन्ति। does not mean that "All religions contain the same Truth". Sat is technically synonymous with immutable, and the purport of this dictum is to state that This unique immutable can be referred to by many different names.

5. As we tend to agree that even if human civilization forgot all of science and began from scratch, they will rediscover largely the same science again; similarly Sanatana Dharma will also be rediscovered.

6. The word Hindu, historically was used for a geographical region, and the word India came from Hind(u), hence there usually is a confusion between the ancient Way-of-life and current geographical situation.

7. On a more technical footing, the word Dharma is an equally usable term, however since it can be confused with Dhamma of the Buddhists, we prefer the term Sanatana Dharma. However, we are open to new suggestions.

8. It can be conjectured that if there ever has to be a Universal framework for various belief-systems, Sanatana Dharma would be a logical and legitimate choice.

9. Like there are occasional frauds in Science, there can be frauds in religious life as well.

Socio-Cultural and Political Consequences:

0. There may be a way seemingly different from what a person oneself might prefer, which would lead to an understanding of the same Truth, is inherent in Sanatana Dharma. Certain observable aspects like variety, and tolerance, are eminent and exemplary outcomes of this inherent quality.

1. Sanatana Dharma thrived without the need for the notion of a Single-Nation-State to be felt. We welcome more and more peoples and nations to adopt Sanatana Dharma and they have no need to become a part of India! This is again is the same as the fact that India (or any other nation-state) does not become a colony of Europe or USA merely by adopting Science and Technology for its development.

2. Similarly language too was never a barrier. Various kingdoms could exists, and even fight wars without in any way destroying this underlying unity. This is like the axis-countries fighting against the allied-forces during Worl War II, both having the same world-view regarding Science.

3. This does not mean that we encourage fissiparous or secessionist tendencies of the likes of Maoists. We surely disagree with those who claim that Hinduism is the cause of such separatist movements. If at all, the intellectual ideologies behind these movements are the real cause for such political strife. And nothing else, other than, a perspective emerging out of Sanatana Dharma can salvage India from such a turmoil.

Certain Inconvenient Facts:

0. In view of the first point in the previous section, it is a simple corollary that Islamic claims regarding some person being the final messenger are all inconsistent with Sanatana Dharma.

Therefore a muslim, inasmuch as he/she is a follower of Islam, can not be a leading a Hindu-WOL. Period.

1. Similarly a christian, inasmuch as he/she believes his holy-book, the Bible, to be the only and exclusive source of Truth, can not be leading a Hindu-WOL. Period.

2. Even some of those who claim to be Hindus, like the followers of ISCKON, inasmuch as they insist, that their point of view is the only correct view, are not leading a Hindu-WOL.

3. Merely stating that they accept all as True, does not make one a Hindu-WOL. Accepting all as true is like a scientist who accepts all superstitions as true.

4. It is important to be broadminded with regards to Truth, but it is also important to reject the False.

5. Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs largely honor a similar understanding, however they CLAIM to begin with the recorded discoveries of only their preferred masters, viz., The Buddha, The Teerthankaras, and The Gurus.

We emphasize the word Claim, because the doctrines of Karma, and rebirth which had already been there with the ancient "Hindus" for long period, were co-opted by all these three; and yet each of these insist that they are all Original and New, and pretend as if they began from Scratch!

Therefore, often the followers of Sanatana Dharma consider these to be co-travellers, but these groups in their own view consider themselves to be different, for various reasons including Philosophical reasons, and not excluding social, political, financial reasons.

still in progress ...


  1. There is one more inconvenient reason I can think of, for the misinterpretation people commit in understanding ancient text (what so ever might be the religion it belongs to).

    Example: Some terms like Dharma, Moksha, Sat, Viphra can be used in different way in different context. Equivalizing these words to words “some what similar” in English or other language order to make it easy for the people inconvenient in understanding the native language spoils the essence or context of the usage of the word, leading to confusion.

  2. I first thank samAlochaka for putting things in such a colorful way. The article is really well composed.

    I need more clarification on the following point in the article

    "4. Science too is a part of the outcome of such an investigation. Usually science focuses on demonstrable (Personal, Objective) truths, whereas the larger truth encompasses the verifiable (Impersonal, Subjective) truths as well.

    The following is my confusion
    Why should we call truth as Subjective? If it is truth then it is immutable. Then according to the definition of Subjective(taking place within the mind and modified by individual bias; "a subjective judgment") So irrespective of whatever subjective decision is made the larger truth is still a TRUTH(immutable).

    Can you please give clarification?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Anweekshiki mentions two more reasons regarding the cause of misinterpretations.

    1. Using a meaning of a word out of appropriate context.

    2. While translating or communicating, letting simplicity or convenience over-ride correctness.

    Regarding the second, I remember a quote (I guess it was Albert Einstein who said this): Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.

    Both of these are good points by Anweekshiki.

    We need to guard against the follies of "out of context interpretation" and "oversimplifying things".

  5. Sam thanks Arya for the compliment.

    Arya seeks clarification on "Subjective Truth".

    Sam replies:

    I used (Objective, Personal) and (Subjective, Impersonal) as pairs. I wish to elaborate on these in a separate article, but let me give a flavor of the concept here.

    Please note that Objective and Impersonal have similar meanings, and likewise Subjective and Personal have similar meanings. Now I have chosen pairs of opposites. My motivation is as follows:

    a.1 Usually "objective" means things which exist independent of existence of observers. For example, when we believe that Earth exists "objectively", we believe that Earth existed, and will continue to exist irrespective of the fact whether there were "Observers" observing it.

    a.2 Since objects exist independent of Persons, Persons can "possess" or "own" objects.

    Hence the pair (Objective, Personal).

    b.1 Impersonal, on the other hand, is used here in the sense, that some experience is "independent of who the experiencing person is", but some living or conscious being (Let us, for the time being take common meaning of living/conscious beings) is needed to have the experience.

    b.2 Since this impersonal entails a Subject (perceive), Subject (the essence of being a Subject) is necessary for the impersonal to be perceived.

    Hence the pair (Subjective, Impersonal).

    Now, we are open to suggestions regarding the terminology here. We are continuing to work on the same. Please give your feed-back. Thanks.

    P.S. Similarly we need to elaborate on the difference between "demonstrable" and "verifiable" Truths. We will do so shortly.

  6. Hi,

    For a change I thought I'd respond here instead of writing back to you on Mediacrooks. These are articles you post that contain topics that I follow closely as best as I can. You mentioned about the US Constitution when I referred the First Ammendment on my blog. I believe it is one of the finest pieces of legislation ever made and I reproduce a part below:

    “ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ”

    In other words one is completely free to say what one likes (except defame, incite violence etc.) and the best part is the US Congress CANNOT pass any law that can abridge or abort this law.