Sanatana is a name which indicates continuity, permanency, a link that exists from one point to the next point to the next point, all being interconnected. Continuity, permanency, inter connectivity are the ideas of the word sanatana.
Another idea of the word sanatana is something which has no beginning and no end, something which is continuous. A circle is sanatana. Where is the beginning of or the end of the circle? Any point where you put your finger becomes the beginning and also becomes the end. There is no defined linear beginning and linear ending. The linear beginning and linear ending is another concept. The circular concept of sanatana has no beginning and no end.
This thought predates every other cultural and religious belief as other religions and theories came much after the sanatana idea. The sanatana idea was to explore the goodness within along with the concept of righteousness, dharma, and justice, the appropriate manner to do things, nyaya.
There is no founder in Sanatana dharma. All other religions have had a founder. Christ was the founder of Christianity. It reflects his thoughts. Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. It reflects his thoughts. Prophet Mohammed was the founder of Islam. It reflects his thoughts. Similarly, the different religions which came later have identified an image, a person, an idea, a concept which somehow links the individual on this material plane with some higher force in heaven, the godly plane.
In Sanatana dharma, the ancient Indian system, there was no founder. There was no aim such as ‘I have to discover God within me’. The only purpose was to explore and discover the goodness within. With this idea the Sanatana dharma developed as a method of expressing and fulfilling one’s potentials, obligations and duties with clarity and contentment of mind and peace in one’s heart.
That was the society which was envisioned by the rishis. No dogma, no ritual, no personal god, no personal founder of belief system, yet everything belongs to the same pool of knowledge. Even after writing four volumes of Vedas, at the end the seers said, “Neti-neti” – “What we have written is not conclusive. There is more that we do not know.”
This was the statement of the enlightened people of this region who said that my experience is my experience. It cannot be your experience. It cannot be the final experience and that final experience is not knowable. Therefore, if that is not knowable, then develop the good, the beauty and serenity, develop the garden of your life and maintain it.
The whole concept of Sanatana, the continuous dharma, developed from this idea. This is the philosophy which sannyasins follow. They don’t follow Shaivism or Shaktism, although some components and symbols are there. They don’t follow any other –ism, yet they do not negate any –ism. They are not negating anything. They follow the dharma which brings out the inherent beauty and that is Sanatana dharma: explore and discover your own beauty.
—30 August 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger