The nature of dharma
First it must be stated that mere philosophy or theology is totally useless if it is not supported by a way of life that enables the individual to unfold and bring to perfection the qualities that are the eternal nature of every individual spirit or jiva. Those principles and practices which comprise such an enabling life are what we mean by dharma. A philosophical view is only a darshan, an intellectual view of the way things are. Such is necessary, but only as it leads to the mode of living that is dharma.
True dharma was directly perceived by the rishis of India. Known as Sanatana (Eternal) Dharma, it reveals the Eternal Being, the Sanatana Purusha. That which is in accord with Sanatana Dharma is true; that which is not is untrue, because Sanatana Dharma is not a religion: it is Truth. Religions are usually degenerations of truth and confuse the issue.
In India Sanatana Dharma and Hinduism are naturally considered synonymous, though certain sects are not fully in accord with Sanatana Dharma. For example: those who believe in everlasting damnation, such as the Madhavacharya Sampradaya; those who decry and denounce as either false or inferior all forms of deity other than their particular chosen form, such as certain sectarian Shaivites, Shaktas, and Vaishnavas; those that decry and denounce all forms of deity, such as the Radhaswami or Sant Mat sects. All of these usually denounce and decry all acharyas not of their sampradaya. Frankly, many of today’s Hindu Fundamentalists are much more akin to Moslem and Christian fanatics than to real Hindus.
The following is our attempt to outline and define the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma as we understand and apply it as Saint Thomas Christians, though mere words can never fully express or encompass it adequately.
God, or Brahman, is Absolute Being, outside of which there can be nothing. As a consequence, all relative existence is essentially absolute existence, and as such is the divine reality in manifestation without any loss or alternation of its nature. Thus there is no such thing as creation from nothing.
The same is true of all the individual consciousnesses: spirit-selves or atmas. No one is, or can be, either mortal or sinful by nature. Rather, just as all the waves are formed of the ocean and are an inherent, inseparable part of the ocean, so all individuals or jivas are eternal parts of Brahman, the whole.
As Shankara wrote in one of his hymns: “O Lord, although there is really no difference between myself and You, yet I belong to You–You do not belong to me. The ocean can say: ‘I am the wave,’ but the wave cannot say: ‘I am the ocean.’” That is: Brahman is the totality of our being and existence, but no one jiva can claim to be the totality of Brahman.
Nevertheless, each jiva is totally divine. Any experience or condition that contradicts or veils this is illusory (maya), and can be eradicated from the consciousness by the practice of yoga as revealed to and formulated by the ancient sages (rishis) of India such as Maharishi Patanjali and Yogi Guru Gorakhnath. Realization of one’s innate divinity is inevitable for each person (jiva). Jiva the individual is Shiva the Absolute.
Dharma includes a God-and-spirit-centric view of the world which affirms that all experiences of enlightenment and divine contact are open to every single human being; that no historical event of spiritual illumination and revelation is unique and unrepeatable if it is authentic. Further, that every spiritual aspirant who follows the path of yoga can verify for himself the truth or error of any statement of belief or unbelief, that blind acceptance of any tenet or individual as a source of spiritual knowledge is spiritually destructive, including demands of exclusivity for any religion or teacher.
Identity with Brahman (God)
Each individual consciousness or jiva not only exists within Brahman, Brahman is the inmost reality of each jiva. Seated within the heart of all, Brahman directs and brings about the awakening of each one. Although in our present state most persons require some kind of instruction and guidance from those who are more experienced in the path of yoga and dharma, it is God alone that enables and enlightens the jiva.
There is no one that can stand in the place of God and claim to represent God in our lives. As Buddha said, a true and worthy teacher (acharya) is only a finger pointing to the moon. God, and none other, is the moon, and the wise do not keep looking at the finger but focus attention on the moon.
Further, there is no philosophical or dogmatic formulation, no intellectual teaching or teacher, that is absolutely necessary for liberation (moksha), the only true salvation. Yoga, however, is necessary because it alone reveals and establishes us in our eternal nature. Moksha is our eternal nature and God is our eternal guru.
Three fundamental facts
There are three fundamental facts of our present existence:
- The law of cause and effect, or action and reaction, expounded to us by the rishis as karma.
- Karma renders necessary the experience of rebirth or reincarnation (punarjanma) in order for the individual to “reap” the effects of his karmic “sowing” in past, present, and future births. This, too, is a Law.
- The purpose or effect of Karma and Rebirth is evolution of consciousness, the unfoldment of the jiva’s inherent divinity. At first this takes place automatically, a virtual function of the cosmos (samsara), but in time the human status is reached after passing through countless lower forms of manifestation. After some time the human being becomes capable of taking charge of and accelerating his evolution through the methodology of classical yoga.
To accommodate these three preceding points, the cosmos perpetually passes through stages of manifestation and non-manifestation, the Days and Nights of Brahma. Furthermore, the cosmos is not just physical, but embraces many levels or layers of evolution and consciousness, through which every single jiva passes in its journey to the revelation of its pure nature as eternal Brahman.
Dharma is eternal
The principles of dharma, like the principles of mathematics, are both eternal and universal in their application.
Just as mathematics has no originator or author or connotation of any culture, the same is true of dharma. Dharma is discovered, not created by human beings. For example, “Euclidian Geometry” was discovered by the Greek Euclid, but it is not Greek in any way and carries no connotation of Hellenism.
Nevertheless, it cannot be responsibly denied that Sanatana Dharma, Eternal Truth or Religion, has been completely and perfectly imparted to us by the enlightened sages or rishis (seers) of India, many of whom are completely unknown to us by name. Their vision has been conveyed to us in various sacred texts, using Sanskrit as the perfect, exact and necessary vehicle for its expression. No one should presume the ability or the authority to declare which texts are or are not of supreme or exclusive authority, but we can feel secure in considering that the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and the sutras on which the six orthodox Darshanas (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa, Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta, Sankhya, and Yoga) are based can be accepted as trustworthy guides. In addition there are numberless texts that transmit Sanatana Dharma to the seeker. These include the writings of great philosophers and yogis, ancient and modern. But the ones listed are of unquestioned reliability.
Dharma is universal
Wherever in the world we find any truth, philosophical or spiritual, it is a reflection of Sanatana Dharma, and is often evidence of a forgotten historical presence of India’s influence in that part of the world. At the root of every valid religion we will find Sanatana Dharma–not just abstractly but as the historical presence just mentioned. For example, both Buddha and Jesus were nourished in the bosom of Sanatana Dharma–one as a “native son” and the other as a pilgrim seeker. Those who consider themselves their followers may have strayed far from the principles which produced and empowered those two great teachers, but that in no way dims their value as adherents of the Eternal Dharma. Those who would follow them must of necessity look to the same fountainhead of wisdom from which they drank and came to live–and honestly and openly acknowledge it.
No one is a follower of truth who does not accede to the teachings of the sages of India and their successors through untold centuries the position of primacy and even supremacy both philosophically and religiously. And this should be a personal evaluation, not a vague historical “appreciation.” Further, it must be continually overt and obvious in their words and deeds, giving credit where credit is due. Recasting the teachings of Sanatana Dharma in forms seeming to be native to any other philosophy or religion is merely plagiarism, shameful and childish and often vicious.
Jesus a Siddha
Jesus Christ was not an orthodox Jew, but an Essene who had studied the wisdom of India in the Essene schools. (For this the Essenes were officially condemned by orthodox Judaism.) He spent most of his life in India and returned to Israel as a missionary of Sanatana Dharma. This website could not really be a presentation of original Christianity if it did not present the teachings of the Dharma which Jesus brought back from India.
Jesus Christ was God in the sense that as atmas we are all divine, but he was not the Creator God, nor was he a blood sacrifice to satisfy an angry God and draw his wrath away from humanity. Rather, he was a great Siddha, a liberated being who for all practical purposes can be called an avatara, an incarnation of God, as have been many others throughout history–especially in India.
Jesus’ original contribution
There is one aspect of Jesus’ teaching that was his personal creation. Since his disciples did not have the advantage of living in India and being immersed in the source of what he was teaching them, Jesus formulated various rituals to compensate for their not having access to the samskaras of Sanatana Dharma. These are what came to be called “Sacraments.” Jesus formulated those rituals to empower his disciples’ spiritual practice in the West. We use the sacramental rites that were formulated at the beginning of the twentieth century by Bishops James Ingall Wedgwood and Charles Webster Leadbeater for use by those who followed Sanatana Dharma and practiced Yoga in what became known as the Liberal Catholic Church.
We use the term “original Christianity” because we want to get it across to those who visit our website that Jesus’ original teachings were those of Sanatana Dharma which he brought back with him from India. Our position is simply this: We cannot follow the teachings of Jesus outside of Sanatana Dharma, because they are nothing but Sanatana Dharma. Jesus learned his wisdom from the sages of India and so must those who would follow him. Original Christianity also includes the practice of traditional Yoga as found in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras.
We are not the originators of this ideal. In 1920 Swami (later Paramhansa) Yogananda came to America to speak at a religious conference in Boston, Massachusetts. In his discourse at that conference he announced that he would be remaining in America and giving weekly classes of one and a half hours in length: the first half hour would be on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the second on the teachings of the Gospels, and the third on the fundamental unity of the two. For thirty-two years he held to this approach. Today many people in East and West carry on that vision. We are just a few of them.
Paramhansa Yogananda was continually denounced by Christians as a Hindu missionary trying to fool Christians into converting to Hinduism, and denounced by Hindus as a Christian missionary trying to fool Hindus into converting to Christianity. He was, of course, simply presenting the truth. We are trying to do the same.
As Saint Thomas Christians we are definitely of Christ; and Christ is of India.
Acharya: Preceptor; teacher; spiritual teacher/ guide; guru.
Atma(n): The individual spirit or Self that is one with Brahman. The true nature or identity.
Avatar(a): A Divine Incarnation.
Bhagavad Gita: “The Song of God.” The sacred philosophical text often called “the Hindu Bible,” part of the epic Mahabharata by Vyasa; the most popular sacred text in Hinduism.
Brahman: The Absolute Reality; the Truth proclaimed in the Upanishads; the Supreme Reality that is one and indivisible, infinite, and eternal; all-pervading, changeless Existence; Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute (Satchidananda); Absolute Consciousness; it is not only all-powerful but all-power itself; not only all-knowing and blissful but all-knowledge and all-bliss itself.
Darshan: Literally “sight” or “seeing;” vision, literal and metaphysical; a system of philosophy (see Sad-darshanas).
Dharma: The righteous way of living, as enjoined by the sacred scriptures and the spiritually illumined; characteristics; law; lawfulness; virtue; righteousness; norm.
Gorakhnath: A master yogi of the Nath Yogi (Siddha Yogi) tradition. His dates are not positively known, but he seems to have lived for many centuries and travelled throughout all of India, Bhutan, Tibet, and Ladakh teaching philosophy and yoga.
Jiva: Individual spirit.
Karma: Karma, derived from the Sanskrit root kri, which means to act, do, or make, means any kind of action, including thought and feeling. It also means the effects of action. Karma is both action and reaction, the metaphysical equivalent of the principle: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). It is karma operating through the law of cause and effect that binds the jiva or the individual soul to the wheel of birth and death. There are three forms of karma: sanchita, agami, and prarabdha. Sanchita karma is the vast store of accumulated actions done in the past, the fruits of which have not yet been reaped. Agami karma is the action that will be done by the individual in the future. Prarabdha karma is the action that has begun to fructify, the fruit of which is being reaped in this life.
Maharishi: Maha-rishi–great sage.
Maya: The illusive power of Brahman; the veiling and the projecting power of the universe, the power of Cosmic Illusion. “The Measurer”–a reference to the two delusive “measures”: Time and Space.
Moksha: Release; liberation; the term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death; Absolute Experience.
Patanjali: A yogi of ancient India, the author of the Yoga Sutras.
Punarjanma: “Birth again;” rebirth/reincarnation.
Purusha: “Person” in the sense of a conscious spirit. Both God and the individual spirits are purushas, but God is the Adi (Original, Archetypal) Purusha, Parama (Highest) Purusha, and the Purushottama (Highest or Best of the Purushas).
Rishi: Sage; seer of the Truth.
Sad-darshanas: The six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta.
Sampradaya: Tradition; philosophical school; literally: “handed-down instruction;” also a line of initiatic empowerment.
Samsara: Life through repeated births and deaths; the wheel of birth and death; the process of earthly life.
Samskara (2): A ritual that makes an impression or change in the individual for whom it is done. There are sixteen samskaras prescribed by the dharma shastras, beginning with conception (garbhadan) and concluding with the rite for the departed soul (antyshthi). The major ones besides these two are the birth rite (jatakarman), naming ceremony (namakaranam), the first eating of solid food (annaprasannam), the first cutting of the hair (chudakaraman), bestowal of the sacred thread and instruction in the Gayatri mantra (upanayanam), marriage (vivahanam), taking up of the retired life (vanaprastha), and taking up the monastic life (sannyasa). They are all done at points in the person’s life when significant changes in the subtle energy bodies are going to take place. Thus the samskara protects and strengthens the individual at those times and also prepares him for those changes, making actual alterations in his subtle bodies. Although they are often made social occasions, they are very real instruments of change to facilitate and further the person’s personal evolution. They are the linchpins of dharmic life, and essentially spiritual events.
Sanatana: Eternal; everlasting; ancient; primeval.
Sanatana Dharma: “The Eternal Religion,” also known as “Arya Dharma,” “the religion of those who strive upward [Aryas].” Hinduism.
Sanskrit: The language of the ancient sages of India and therefore of the Indian scriptures and yoga treatises.
Shankara: Shankaracharya; Adi (the first) Shankaracharya: The great reformer and re-establisher of Vedic Religion in India around 300 B.C. He is the unparalleled exponent of Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta. He also reformed the mode of monastic life and founded (or regenerated) the ancient Swami Order.
Shaiva/Shaivite: A worshipper of Shiva; pertaining to Shiva.
Shakta: A worshipper of Shakti, the Divine Feminine.
Shiva: A name of God meaning “One Who is all Bliss and the giver of happiness to all.” Although classically applied to the Absolute Brahman, Shiva can also refer to God (Ishwara) in His aspect of Dissolver and Liberator (often mistakenly thought of as “destroyer”).
Siddha: A perfected–liberated–being, an adept, a seer, a perfect yogi.
Upanishads: Books (of varying lengths) of the philosophical teachings of the ancient sages of India on the knowledge of Absolute Reality. The upanishads contain two major themes: (1) the individual self (atman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman) are one in essence, and (2) the goal of life is the realization/manifestation of this unity, the realization of God (Brahman). There are eleven principal upanishads: Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Shvetashvatara, all of which were commented on by Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhavacharya, thus setting the seal of authenticity on them.
Vaishnava: A devotee of Vishnu.
Vedas: The oldest scriptures of India, considered the oldest scriptures of the world, that were revealed in meditation to the Vedic Rishis (seers). Although in modern times there are said to be four Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva), in the upanishads only three are listed (Rig, Sama, and Yajur). In actuality, there is only one Veda: the Rig Veda. The Sama Veda is only a collection of Rig Veda hymns that are marked (pointed) for singing. The Yajur Veda is a small book giving directions on just one form of Vedic sacrifice. The Atharva Veda is only a collection of theurgical mantras to be recited for the cure of various afflictions or to be recited over the herbs to be taken as medicine for those afflictions.
Vishnu: “The all-pervading;” God as the Preserver.
Yoga: Literally, “joining” or “union” from the Sanskrit root yuj. Union with the Supreme Being, or any practice that makes for such union. Meditation that unites the individual spirit with God, the Supreme Spirit. The name of the philosophy expounded by the sage Patanjali, teaching the process of union of the individual with the Universal Soul.
Yogananda (Paramhansa): The most influential yogi of the twentieth century in the West, author of Autobiography of a Yogi and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship in America.
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