“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)
चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागश
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम्
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
It’s not just a religion. Not merely a faith, either, to put in a basket to include with the others.
“Pick and choose your favorite one. Rely strictly on inheritance from the family. Whatever past generations subscribed to, that is the path laid out for you, as well.”
Sanatana-dharma is a way of life. Based on the definition of the two component terms, there is universal applicability. Just as the law of gravity pays no attention to race, gender, ethnicity, age or period of time, the eternal way of living for the spirit soul is valid and true across an entire spectra of paired life conditions.
1. Youth to old age
“There is one savior, appearing at one particular time, and just one book to describe them. Failure to show allegiance to any in the link is blasphemy and leads to automatic condemnation. The place of punishment is hell, and there is no escape. No way to redemption. Too bad, you missed your chance.“
The following series of questions is often asked of those following what would be categorized above as Abrahamic faiths.
“If what you say were actually the case, then what happens to children? The innocent ones in society, who do not know better. If they do not make the conscious choice, if somehow nature prevents them from reaching adulthood, what is their fate? In times past, when infant mortality rates were much higher, priests were known to offer sacraments immediately after birth, to cover exactly such a situation. But what is the reasoning to explain?“
While sanatana-dharma has the most complex and enlightening philosophical foundation, it is applicable even to children. That is to say a person is not required to reach adulthood to achieve success. Just a little effort on the path pays real dividends.
On the opposite side are the elderly. For some reason they didn’t get the chance to become familiar with dharma’s principles. They lived a life of sense gratification, working hard enjoying things from which the taste had already been extracted. Chewing the chewed, as Prahlada Maharaja describes.
मतिर् न कृष्णे परतः स्वतो वा
मिथो ’भिपद्येत गृह-व्रतानाम्
अदान्त-गोभिर् विशतां तमिस्रं
पुनः पुनश् चर्वित-चर्वणानाम्
matir na kṛṣṇe parataḥ svato vā
mitho ’bhipadyeta gṛha-vratānām
adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ
punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām
“Prahlada Maharaja replied: Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)
Yet hope is not lost. The elderly are just as much eligible to the rewards of dharma as are children. The central factor is consciousness, after all, and so as long as there is vitality, there is the potential to alter the thoughts for the better.
2. Female to male
One person will say to never trust a woman.
“They are less intelligent. Their focus is only on the external. That is why they prefer jewelry and clothes. You can drop them off at the shopping mall for hours and they will be happy. If you watch something important on television, their first comments will be related to the appearance of the characters, not the content.”
One person will say that men are focused only on puffing themselves up.
“Driven by ahankara, false ego, they do not pay attention to the details in life. They could never care for a young child if they had to. They don’t have the requisite patience. They are interested only in advancing materially, not actually helping others.”
Regardless the opinion, sanatana-dharma is for both women and men. The principles set in place benefit both. Though women are considered dependents, to be protected throughout life, there is always eligibility to achieve the supreme shelter.
मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य
ये ऽपि स्युः पाप-योनयः
स्त्रियो वैश्यास् तथा शूद्रास्
ते ऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम्
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya
ye ‘pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās
te ‘pi yānti parāṁ gatim
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth—women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers]—can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
3. Laborer to wise scholar
A person may argue that in Hindu culture there is the worst kind of discrimination known as the caste system.
“Condemn a person simply because of the circumstances of their birth. Denied through DNA. Another person is elevated just because of who their ancestors were.”
In the Bhagavad-gita we find the real form of societal division. The varnashrama system is integral to the management of society, and it descends from sanatana-dharma. The four divisions of occupation are created by the Supreme Lord Himself.
The laborers are just as eligible for achieving liberation as are the priest-like people. The wise scholar can guide others on how to live properly, providing advice to avoid the common pitfalls. The laborer perhaps cannot do the same, but if connected to the Divine, there is no distinction between the two.
4. Birth to death
Sanatana-dharma is from beginning to end. If a person fails to comprehend even a smidgen of Vedanta philosophy, there is always hope. The next life brings another chance. Even if the wise scholar somehow fails to attain the proper consciousness despite their auspicious circumstances, they get to continue in the next life.
प्राप्य पुण्य-कृतां लोकान्
उषित्वा शाश्वतीः समाः
शुचीनां श्रीमतां गेहे
prāpya puṇya-kṛtāṁ lokān
uṣitvā śāśvatīḥ samāḥ
śucīnāṁ śrīmatāṁ gehe
“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.41)
Sanatana-dharma gives guidance from conception to last rites. Everything in between, for the goal is to remain conscious of the Supreme Lord. Work has to be done; no one can avoid it. Follow efforts suited for the type of body received. Avoid attachment to the fruits of work and instead maintain a spirit of renunciation.
Limitations on enjoyment, such as the marriage institution and fasting schedules, are meant for the advancement of the consciousness. Sanatana-dharma is what separates the humans from the other species, and if followed properly there is a chance for liberation even prior to death. Such a person is known as jivan-mukta and today they are likely seen chanting the holy names, the dharma for this particular yuga [age]: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Suitable for all time dharma,
Chanting especially for this yuga.
The liberated souls in this way seen,
On material endeavors not keen.
To both young and old applying,
Whether a yogi or in labor trying.
Beyond faith blind or inheritance forced,
Krishna’s own words chartering the course.
Categories: the four