(65) The true
path to God and Sanatan Dharm.
What is Sanatan Dharm?
God and His path of attainment are both eternal
The definition of bhakti (devotion)
The eternal significance of bhakti
What is Sanatan Dharm?
The religion which eternally exists in God, which is
revealed by God, which describes the names, forms, virtues and the abodes
of God, and which reveals the true path of God realization for all the
souls is called Sanatan Dharm, the universal religion for the whole world.
The word dharm is formed from the root word
dhryan (dhryan dharne); it means such actions and such
spiritual or religious practices that finally result in all-good for a
soul. A general description of dharm is:
It means that such actions, thoughts and practices
that promote physical and mental happiness in the world (abhyudaya)
and ensure God realization (nishreyas) in the end, are called
There are two kinds of dharmas: (a) Apar
dharm, or varnashram dharm, or seemit dharm, or general
dharm, and (b) par dharm or bhagwat dharm.
(a) Apar dharm, or varnashram dharm, or
seemit dharm, or general dharm. The word dharm means
the religious practices and thoughts that are aimed to fulfill a pious
goal in life. Accordingly the apar or varnashram dharm is
the religious discipline and injunctions of do’s and don’ts that are
explained in the scriptures for uplifting the sattvic qualities of
a human being in general. Varnashram word refers to all kinds and
classes of people of this world living various orders of life (like a
family man, a priest, a monk or a sanyasi), and apar word
means ‘secondary’ or ‘general’ or ‘preliminary’ because it is not the
absolute or prime dharm, it is the preliminary dharm for
everyone in the world.
The discipline and rules of apar dharm vary
according to the state of the spiritual consciousness of a person, and its
rigidness also varies from age to age, that is, from satyug to
kaliyug. In short you can understand that (for the existing age)
all kinds of good deeds and philanthropic works that are beneficial to the
society, and sincere observance of the religious discipline of the ‘order
of life’ (religious student, family man, or a renounced person) you are
following, come in this category, provided, that they are done with
sattvic motivation. Sattvic motivation means having faith
in God and then doing all the good karmas only to please God and
not for any kind of personal gain. Even if you think of receiving
compliments for your good karmas or the religious practices which
you observe, it will not be classified as sattvic, it will become
rajas, because you desired for the compliments and you have
received them. Thus you have already availed the outcome of your so-called
good deeds. According to the Gita:
There is hardly any further good
outcome of such good looking karmas in the next lifetime.
So, apar dharm means good karmas with
sattvic motivation where a person is devoted to God in a conventional
manner, which means a general faith in all the forms of God. Such good
karmas pacify the mind of the doer in the existing life, and in the
next lifetime they create a good destiny which is called ‘abhyudaya’
that brings physical and mental well-being in a person’s life.
(b) Par dharm or bhagwat dharm. This
is the main dharm which brings the absolute good (the nishreyas)
of a soul, and the absolute good of a soul is only God realization which
happens through the direct devotion to God in His personal form. It is
called bhakti. It gives both, peace and happiness in life as well
as God realization. Apar dharm is the general dharm for all
and is only a preliminary dharm, which is like the preparatory
practice for entering into bhakti for those who cannot accept it in
their life right away. Bhakti is above all the religious
formalities, rituals and intellectual practices of meditation. In one
sentence you can say that bhakti is the true ‘love’ for your
soul-beloved God. It could be observed by any person of the world. It is
universal; it is for every age; it is said and revealed by God Himself;
and it is sanatan which means eternal. Thus, the dharm which
is based on such bhakti, which is eternally established in
bhakti, and which establishes bhakti for God as a universal
religion of the world, is called Sanatan Dharm.
God is: “dharmadhishthan.” It means that the
Sanatan (eternal) Dharm is established in God and resides in God as a
Divine power. It is revealed by God through Brahma before the human
civilization and is represented through the Upnishads and the Puranas.
God and His path of attainment are both eternal.
Material beings are eternally under the bondage of
maya and are ignorant. So the Divine matters are beyond the reach of
human mind. It is thus quite obvious that a material mind can never find a
way to approach the Divine. It cannot even know the nature of the Divine
power on its own. It is thus only God Who Himself reveals His knowledge to
the human beings. It is seen in the world that nature produces milk in the
bosom of a woman before the birth of a child as the child may need it
immediately on birth. So, even before the birth of human beings on this
earth planet, God produces the knowledge of His attainment through the
Upnishads, and the Puranas.
These scriptures reveal the form of God, personality of
God, nature of God, greatness of God, Graciousness of God, path to God and
also the procedure of the path. This path is called bhakti or
divine-love-consciousness. Everything that relates to God is
eternal because God is eternal. Thus, all the knowledges of the Upnishads
and the Puranas along with the path of bhakti are eternal.
Bhakti and the Grace of God are very closely related to each other.
The definition of bhakti (devotion).
Bhakti is the submission of the deep loving
feelings of a devotee’s heart for his beloved God where all of his
personal requisites are merged into his Divine beloved’s overwhelming
Grace which He imparts for His loving devotee. This loving submission has
been described in the scriptures and in the writings of the acharyas
and Saints in many ways.
The Gita uses the terms surrender and
These are the famous verses of the Gita
that tell about surrendering all the social and religious (apar dharm)
commitments at the lotus feet of Krishn and then wholeheartedly and
single-mindedly worshipping Him with faith and confidence.
The Bhagwatam stresses on the selflessness
of a devotee (bhakt) of
Krishn and tells that the leela Bliss of Krishn is so deep,
profound and limitlessly charming that even God Shiv’s heart was entangled
in its fascination and He always wandered in Braj absorbed in the love of
Krishn. So the Bhagwatam advises the souls,
to drink the nectar of the leela
Bliss of Krishn and selflessly desire for His vision and the Divine love.
The Ramayan emphasizes on the sincere humbleness of
a devotee. Goswami Tulsidas says,
O my supreme beloved Bhagwan Ram, the crown jewel of
the dynasty of King Raghu! I am the most fallen and humble soul of this
world, and You are the most kind friend of all such souls. Your
Graciousness has no compare. So, please lift me up from this unlimited
cosmic ocean and make me Your own forever.” Selfless devotion to God with
such feelings of devotional humbleness are constantly expressed in the
Ramayan and also in the Vinay Patrika.
Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya introduced a method of
devotional remembrance and meditation called ashtyam seva, which
means that a selfless devotee should remember the leelas of Radha
Krishn, whatever They normally do since the early morning when They get up
from the bed and till the night when They go to sleep. In this way,
meditating upon Their leelas, the devotee should feed and decorate
Radha Krishn accordingly. (Ashtyam literally means the 24 hours.)
This is just a procedure of meditation where a devotee develops his
longing to see the Divine leelas of Radha Krishn and to be in Their
Divine service forever in Vrindaban or Golok.
Jagadguru Ramanujacharya used a word prapatti
to express the feelings of a devotee who very humbly surrenders his heart,
mind and soul at the lotus feet of his loving God and earnestly desires
for His Divine vision.
Vallabhacharya defined his path of devotion as the
pushti marg. Pushti means the loving Graciousness of Krishn which
fosters the devotional feelings of a selfless devotee, and marg
means the path. So pushti marg means the path of devotion to Krishn
where a devotee, depending upon the Graciousness of Krishn, humbly
surrenders and dedicates his whole being for the service of Krishn.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhuji simplified the procedure of
sadhana (devotional) bhakti for the devotees and said that
the remembrance of Krishn is easily and most effectively done through the
chanting of His name and the leelas, and the desire of His meeting
is quickly deepened when you develop the feeling of longing for Him in
your heart. He says in the Shikchashtak:
It means that a devotee should be humble, forgiving,
forbearing, respecting to the devotional feelings of others but not
desiring for any personal compliments for himself. With such a humble
heart, which is yearning for the love and the vision of his beloved Krishn,
the devotee should sing and chant the leelas and the names of
These are all the descriptions and the definitions of
the devotional bhakti (sadhana bhakti) as to how it should
be observed in the practical life.
The eternal significance of bhakti.
As mentioned above, bhakti is eternal. It means
that it is the eternally existing path to attain God. God is one, so the
path of His attainment is also one, and thus, the same path of bhakti
ensures the attainment of any of the forms of God. The path of bhakti
is prevalent in every brahmand of this entire universe and it is
for all the souls of this universe. It remains the same in all the four
yugas (satyug, treta, dwapar and kaliyug) and, as it is
directly related to soul and God, it is above caste, creed, sect and
nationality. It can be adopted by any person of any nation of this world,
because it is gifted by the supreme God Himself for the benefit of the
humankind; and again, there are no physical requirements in doing
bhakti. There are no meditation postures to adopt, no concentration
techniques to follow and no rituals to observe. So it can be done by
anyone, young, old or sick, and at any time in twenty-four hours, because
bhakti is the pure love of your heart that longs to meet the Divine
beloved of your soul in this very lifetime. The philosophy of bhakti
is also described in Narad Bhakti Sutra and Shandilya Bhakti
Karm-yog and gyan-yog.
Sattvic good karmas on their own only purify
the heart to some extent; but if the doer of good karmas starts
doing bhakti, his actions are classified as karm yog, and
then, on the perfection of bhakti, he receives God realization.
Literally the word yog means ‘the unity.’ Thus, the (Divine)
uniting factor, bhakti, when it is predominantly added to the
sattvic good karmas, it is then called “karm yog.”
Similarly, when bhakti is predominantly added to the practice of
gyan (or yog), it is called gyan yog. So, now we know
that all kinds of good karmas and all kinds of yog and
gyan-related practices are only sattvic, but when they are
predominated with bhakti, they become the means of God realization,
because bhakti unfolds the field of God’s Grace.