Three Sanskrit Terms To Describe The Eternal Religion

[Radha-Krishna]“A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.46)

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तपस्विभ्यो ऽधिको योगी
ज्ञानिभ्यो ऽपि मतो ऽधिकः
कर्मिभ्यश् चाधिको योगी
तस्माद् योगी भवार्जुन

tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogī
jñānibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna

Go beyond religion. More than something you accept and reject based on personal preference. Far more involved than taking a seat at a designated establishment once a week. Really finding what it is that corresponds to the active propensity within you.

The animating spark is described as soul, which corresponds to the word atma in Sanskrit. Whatever the preferred term, it is the defining aspect for a living being. In other words, its presence is what constitutes life. Take away the soul and you take away life, at least in the affected region.

To help in understanding the broader scope of what life should be like for the soul, there are Sanskrit terms which essentially share the same meaning. They often get translated as “religion” in general conversation, but there is much more to the concepts.

1. Sanatana-dharma

Dharma in this sense is an occupation. Something to do. The individual is active and must therefore find a way to act. Even inaction is a kind of choice, a means of exercising freewill. I choose to sleep in on a particular Sunday. I choose to remain silent when others are having a conversation about politics. I do not eat for a certain number of hours in order to further a specific purpose.

Sanatana refers to infinity, both forwards and backwards. Without beginning and without end. Genuine religion is a timeless occupation. Go back a thousand years and the dharma is the same. It is not part of a larger progression, bent and shaped based on the times and discoveries made in research.

This makes sense because the soul itself is unchanging. The individual does not evolve from one species to another; rather the soul travels through different body types. It is an evolution of movement, with the human birth hopefully the final stop.

Here the individual can learn about sanatana-dharma. They can discover it, but they can never create it. It is always there for the taking, to be accepted and followed, but not until I have the necessary intelligence can I realize the need for it.

मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु
कश्चिद् यतति सिद्धये
यतताम् अपि सिद्धानां
कश्चिन् मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः

manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3)

[Lord Vishnu]Of the many who endeavor for perfection, hardly one will attain it. The masters degrees still exist, despite the difficulty in earning them. There are still doctors in this world, even though it takes many years of training to become one.

2. Bhagavata-dharma

Sanatana refers to the timeless nature of the occupation, and bhagavata refers to the object of service. There is work to be done. The actor is not the sole beneficiary. Neither is another conditioned living being, though everyone is automatically best served through the exercise of the eternal dharma, in the same way that watering the roots provides the necessary nourishment to the entire tree.

Bhagavata refers to both the Supreme Lord and those serving Him. Bhagavata-dharma can thus have two meanings, but they are essentially the same. One person is engaged in serving God the person in some capacity. If I help that person in their service, I am also helping Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

3. Bhakti-yoga

This term describes how the eternal dharma dedicated to Bhagavan manifests in terms of action. In other words, what does bhagavata-dharma look like? What are the symptoms? What are the immediate results? How can we gauge progress?

Bhakti-yoga is more specific, though its exercise is not limited to one particular area. I could be eating, sleeping, driving, working in the office, worshiping in the temple, or chanting the holy names. The qualification is based on the mood. Yoga is the connection, the linking between atma and Paramatma. The individual soul finding the Supreme Soul.

[Radha-Krishna]Shri Krishna advises to become a yogi. Stay connected to Him. Don’t forget Him. The link will stay forever, should we desire it. This link was the way towards transcendental happiness in the past. It is the only way today, and it will remain so in the future.

In Closing:

Bhagavata-dharma to hear,
To sanatana-dharma near.

Bhakti-yoga the actual exercise,
Passed down and not to surmise.

Terms describing eternal living,
Man’s way out of ignorance giving.

Applicable to any period’s time,
So even now Bhagavan can find.

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