SAI DHAM (Nottingham)
From Scriptures to Sanatan Dharma to God
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At the beginning of time, the Supreme Lord passed on his transcendental knowledge to Lord Brahma, who is the creator of the material world. Lord Brahma then gave this knowledge to his son Narada Muni who in turn instructed the sage Vyasa who recorded it in written form, as four books known as the Vedas. We can trust the knowledge from Vedic literature as the truth as this knowledge was passed down in disciplic succession.

The Universal Symbol of Sanatan Dharma

Our scriptures, namely the four Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Upanishads and the many Puranas and Sutras speak of the righteous and the virtuous way that we should perform our Dharma and explain our existence and the science of self-realisation. Truthfulness, Austerity, Mercy, and Cleanliness are the four key points which provide the foundations of Dharma.

Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma)

Hinduism is an umbrella term which groups together the vast ancient traditions of India including Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaisnavism and many more. The word Hindu was originally a geographical term used by Persian invaders which was adopted by the people who lived beyond the river Sindhu and followed a non Islamic faith, i.e. the Indian subcontinent.

The traditional name for Hinduism, which is evident in ancient scriptures, is Sanatana Dharma. Dharma loosely translates to ‘religion’ however a religion it is not, as religion divides human beings by implementing subjective truths, on the other hand Dharma is universal and so to translate the word Dharma as law or duty is more accurate. Sanatana Dharma means eternal duty or law. This suggests that Sanatana Dharma has always been around since time immemorial, we believe that we are eternal Atma (spirit or Soul) and not the body, as the soul is never born and never dies, where as the body is perishable. “Santana Dharma” is the correct terminology to depict what modern day Hindus follow, rather than the words Hindu or Hinduism which came from the time of Islamic oppression on modern day India.

It is hard to change the naming convention of an eternal doctrine followed by nearly 1 billion people around the world, however we must take notice of this actual name too.

One God or Many?

It is a common misconception that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. While acknowledging many ‘Gods’ or celestial beings, Hindus believe in one supreme God who creates and sustains the universe. After all, the word God in itself suggests that He is unique and is supreme, supreme as in the greatest and no one greater. Logically there cannot be more than one Supreme Being. If ones greatness was equal to another’s greatness then neither would be supreme. Therefore the word ‘Gods’ is grammatically incorrect. According to the Vedic scriptures, there are numerous Hindu deities that serve as manifestations of this one Supreme God. These empowered beings (or Devas) are delegated with powers to manage the material world as servants of the Lord. Running the material world is a huge task and so it is recognised that there are approximately thirty-three-million Devas each with their specific responsibility.

The Devas inhabit the heavenly planets. Although heavenly, we still consider these planets to be in the material world along with Earth and the hellish planets and are under the influence of Maya or ‘illusion’. Everything in the material world is temporary. Just like in a monarchy, there is parliament, with a prime minister, and different cabinet ministers to take care of work, in the same way there is the Supreme Being, God and many demigods to take care of his work, though the ultimate source of energy for these demigods is the supreme himself.

Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.

- Bhagavad Gita (7.22)