Sanatana Dharma - An Introduction

In my previous article, I had quoted from other sources about the etymology of the word "Hindu" and "Hinduism".  We also established that the culture, tradition and life style of the people who lived on the eastern side of the river Sindhu was called "Hindus" mostly by external civilizations.  The geographical land mass of the Indian Subcontinent was called the Bharatha meaning "that which loves or is attached to light (wisdom)".

In this article we attempt to understand the different schools or paths of Sanatana Dharma.

A path by definition leads to a destination.  So what was the destination of the Sanatanis?

When I pose this questions, I get various answers like Englightenment, Liberation, Moksha, Nirvana, Kaivalya, etc.  Is this the true destination of the Sanatanis?

The objective of the Sanatanis is exempliefied in the Sanskrit Compound Word "Sat - Chit - Ananda".

Sat means "that which really is"

Chit means "to understand, comprehend, know"

Ananda means "Bliss"

The knowing of that which really is which leads to Bliss.  Thus the objective of the Sanatanis was to “Experience the Bliss that arises out of the understanding or knowing that which really exists”.

Now from the above statement arises the following questions?

  1. What is existence?
  2. What are the different ways in which to “know” this existence?
  3. What are the different methods to be employed to arrive at the answer?

Most of the Sanatanis accept the supremacy and authority of a structured body of knowledge called the “Vedas” the earliest known literature of mankind.  However, there were a few Sanatanis who do not accept the supremacy and authority of the Vedas.  This brings in two Major schools of thought:

  1. Astika School (the one that accepts the supremacy and authority of the Vedas)
    1. Sankhya
    2. Yoga
    3. Nyaya
    4. Vaisheshika
    5. Purva Mimamsa
    6. Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta
  2. Nastika School (the one that rejects the supremacy and authority of the Vedas)
    1. Charvaka
    2. Arhata or Jaina
    3. Bhoutha

Each school of philosophy approaches the question differently of “How to Experience the Bliss that arises out of the understanding or knowing that which really exists”?

The schools of philosophy also define the methods to be used to find the answer.

Broadly, the different schools accept only some or all of the following six methods of knowing the answer to the question raised above:

  1. Pratyaksha or Perception
  2. Upamana or Comparision
  3. Anupalabdhi or Non-Cognition or Intuition
  4. Anumana or Inference
  5. Arthapatti or Postulation
  6. Sabda or Testimony

It is evident from the above that the Sanatanis were “seekers of the truth” and not blind followers.  The system of philosophy is grounded in a systematic study of finding the answer to the question.

In the next article, when we discuss each philosophy in details we will understand the beauty and simplicity of these philosophies.