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About Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion

About Sanatana Dharma header

Sanatana Dharma, commonly called Hinduism, is not just beautiful temples, colorful festivals, gurus and unusual beliefs.

It is, simply put, “The Way Things Are” on a cosmic scale. It is the facts of existence and transcendence.

It illumines who we really are, what the world is, and how we should live our lives to go from mere belief to actual Realization of the Ultimate Reality we call God or Brahman.

Swami Nirmalananda has edited for the modern reader a book originally printed nearly one hundred years ago in Varanasi, India, for use as a textbook by students of Benares Hindu University. Its original title was Sanatana Dharma, An Advanced Text Book of Hindu Religion and Ethics.

In Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Religion you will discover:

  • Basic Hindu Religious Ideas, including karma, rebirth, spiritual evolution; the worlds, visible and invisible, and the path of Freedom.
  • General Hindu Religious Customs and Rites, including mantras, worship, the stages of life, the castes (as they should be understood), and the purpose of life.
  • Ethical Teachings, including the foundations of ethics, right and wrong, the teachings of the ancient rishis, duty, virtue and vice, training and control of the mind, and human relationships.
  • The Wisdom of the Manu Smriti: Swami Nirmalananda has extracted and commented on passages from the Manu Smriti, an ancient scripture in India, examining those parts of the Manu Smriti that deal with the Supreme Dharma (Param Dharma) which embraces both Atmajnana, Knowledge of the Self, and Brahmajnana, Knowledge of Brahman the Absolute Being.

“One has always heard the term, Sanatana Dharma if you follow Hinduism, but to have a book that can give concise details on how it was developed over the millennia from Vedic scriptures and how it can be used in our daily lives is invaluable to a spiritual seeker.”
–Stanley Wroblewski

Excerpts from Sanatana Dharma

We have seen that He is the Saguna Brahman, and He is declared to be in His own nature Sat, Chit, Ananda (Satchidananda), Pure Being, Pure Intelligence, Pure Bliss. He is called Akshara, the Indestructible One, on whom the other–Prakriti–is woven; He is the Atmantaryamyamrita [Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.7-8], the Self, the Inner Ruler, Immortal, who dwells in the earth, the waters, the fire, the atmosphere, the wind, the heavens, in all that is, in the devas, in the elements, in the bodies of all beings, the all-pervading.

“Unseen He sees, unheard He hears, unthought of He thinks, unknown He knows. None other than He is the Seer, none other than He is the Hearer, none other than He is the Thinker, none other than He is the Knower. He is the Self, the Inner Ruler, Immortal. That which is other [than This] perishes” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.1, 23).

He is “the Self abiding in the heart of all beings” (Bhagavad Gita 10:20). This is the clearest idea to grasp. The conditioned Brahman is the Self-conscious Universal Ego as against the Non-Ego, Spirit as against matter, the “I” everywhere, always and in all things, identical in nature with the Nirguna Brahman, but manifested, with qualities, and always united to mulaprakriti.

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We have already seen that the work of the devas was recognized and duly honored among the aryans, and that the duty of sacrificing for their support was regularly performed. But the truly religious man’s relation with the invisible powers are not confined to these regular and formal sacrifices. Ishwara Himself, the Supreme Lord, will attract the heart of the thoughtful and pious man who sees beyond these many ministers the King Himself, the ruling power of His universe, the life and support of devas and men alike. It is towards Him that love and devotion naturally rise–the human spirit, who is His offspring, a fragment of Himself, seeking to rise and unite himself to his Parent. These feelings cannot find satisfaction in sacrifices offered to devas, connected as they are with the outer worlds, with the Not-Self; they seek after the inner, the deepest, the very Self, and remain craving and unsatisfied until they rest in Him.

Worship is the expression of this craving of the part for the whole, of the separate for the One, and is not only due from man to the source of his life, but is a necessary stage in the evolution of all those higher qualities in the jivatman which make possible his liberation and his union with the Supreme. An object of worship is therefore necessary to man.

That object will always be, to the worshipper, the Supreme Being. He will know intellectually that the object of his worship is a form of manifestation of the Supreme, but emotionally that form is the Supreme–as in truth it is, although the Supreme includes and transcends all forms.

simple mandala

Because refined cultured sense-enjoyment such as befits human beings living in Society is not possible without a reasonable amount of property; and the secure possession and use of such property is not possible without mutual understanding and self-restraint; therefore the purpose of sense-enjoyment, abhyudaya, becomes subdivided into three.

(1) Kama, the pleasure of the senses, and the fine arts, to be rationally enjoyed in the family-life, and as subserved and refined by:

(2) Artha, riches, useful and artistic possessions, property acquired, maintained and used in accordance with:

(3) Dharma, law and religion, which lay down rights and duties.

The order in which the three are usually mentioned is (1) Dharma, (2) Artha, (3) Kama, in order to emphasize the supreme importance of dharma; and then, in the next degree, that of artha, for the preservation and the well-being of society. The next and final purpose, called nihshreyasa, “greatest good, than which there is no greater good,” summum bonum, paramam shreyah, is usually not subdivided. Thus we have the three purusarthas, ends or purposes of life: “what the human being desires.”

The triad of Dharma-Artha-Kama is known as the Tri-varga.

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