Dr. Chandra Shekhar Mayanil is a Neuroscientist who is currently living in Naperville, Illinois. He has constantly been engaging in topics related to Yog (or meditation) and Sanatan Dharma. In his previous interview with NewsGram, he gave detailed insights on Yog and briefly touched upon what it will take for the younger generations to appreciate the relevance of Sanatan Dharma Culture and Heritage. This time in this exclusive interview, he has answered all the intriguing questions regarding Sanatan Dharma to eradicate all the confusion and provide clarity regarding the same.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Kashish: What exactly do you mean when you say the term “Sanatan Dharma”?
Dr. Shekhar: I am so glad that you asked this question! The meaning of Sanatan Dharma has completely got distorted. People put in whatever meaning they feel like giving to it, without really understanding the word.
“Sanatan” means eternal; i.e never beginning, nor ending. “Sanatan” means universal, ever-present, natural, and enduring. Anything that has a beginning will end one day. Sanatan is something that was never born, so it is never going to end.
“Dharma” is ‘Dhri’ that means to hold together, to sustain. Let us say in a vehicle, the hub rod which holds the wheels is the Dharma; “Dhri”, which holds everything together, or you can say that which is a substratum on which everything happens. Dhri is like a foundation stone of a building or the earth. Earth is known as “Dharti” and it comes from the same root word “Dhri”, which holds everything.
So collectively, Sanatan Dharma is that, which eternally holds everything together. It’s simple! Alternatively, you can say that Sanatan Dharma is a perennial philosophy which means it has always existed and will always continue to exist. It is in nature; it is in natural laws. Let’s say, for instance, you drop a pen and it falls because of gravity. So, gravity is the Dharma of earth. Gravity is a natural law of “Dharti” (earth). The earth always pulls things towards itself. Another example is that the Earth always rotates around the Sun, this is a natural law, nothing can be changed about it. It has continued from time immemorial, and it will continue forever.
Kashish: Can Sanatan Dharma be called a religion, just like other religions?
Dr. Shekhar: No, the reason is that all the religions are having a beginning and anything that has a beginning shall have an end, sooner or later. A religion or a Sampradaya starts with a person.
Religions or Sampradayas are formed around a highly realized master who himself knew the truth, but his followers make a religion out of it. All they know is him, but they never realize the truth that this master knew! So, this is why all religions are a prophet or a person-centered. Whereas Sanatan Dharma is existence-centered centered. Existence means “Astitva”.
Existence-centered Dharma and prophet-centered religions are vastly different. Sanatan Dharma is “experience-based” and other religions are “belief-based”. Sanatan Dharma has no ideological divisions, whereas in other religions there is always an ideology that people are forced to follow. It is based on duality, and whenever you see the duality in the world there is always conflict, friction, and confusion. It is bound to happen. Let’s say you have worn two bangles in your wrist, howsoever careful you may be, someday there will be friction, they will collide against each other and will make noise! Duality causes problems. Actually, Duality is the problem.
Sanatan Dharma is non-dual. There is no other. This existence or Astitva is the most non-dual thing out there. Sanatan is beyond any historical date, whereas you’ll see that the other religions were founded on a fixed date at a time. Sanatan Dharma is inherent. It is inclusive of all because “Astitva” contains everything. Sanatan Dharma applies to all the people, at all times and in all places. There is no denomination in Sanatan Dharma.
Kashish: Sir, at times many people co-relate Sanatan Dharma with Hinduism. They consider both as the same. How can we explain to people that Sanatan Dharma and Hinduism are not the same?
Dr. Shekhar: Actually, the word “Hinduism” that we often use today inside of Bharat (India) as well outside is just for the sake of expression. Whenever there is a word “ism”, it always represents some kind of belief. Let’s say communism, vegetarianism, pacifism, consumerism- all these words lead back to some beliefs, believing or following a particular idea.
The word “Hindu” came to be labeled as those people who lived east of the river Indus. The people who came from the west could not pronounce “Sa” and they would say “Ha”, so that is why they called it the Hindu river! We call it the Sindhu river but they call it the Hindu river!
The word Hindu is a geographical identity of all the people who lived east of the river Sindhu and all the people from the Himalayas to the Indian ocean. That entire land was known as the Hindu land.
The Englishmen called it the Indus river. The idea of the word “Indian” comes from the Indus river. So, Indus, Hindu, and Sindhu are all basically the same. Hindu, as I said is a geographical identity.
People equated this particular civilization with their mindset. This means the English, Persians, and the Mughals and those who invaded India superimposed their thinking on us. This is the biggest challenge we need to get rid of. They superimposed on us all the things they practiced in their religion which has a fixed time and date. They thought that people here also are the same and not know anything better.
So, it is reasonable for anyone speaking English to conclude that Hinduism is the “belief” of the Indians, and it would be reasonable for a non-Hindu or non-Indian to ask a Hindu, “What do you Hindus believe in?” The Sanatan Dharma, on the other hand, is “not overly concerned with ideas and beliefs”. Traditionally Sanatan Dharma signifies the “dynamic sum of All the knowledge of All the diverse traditions of Bharat or Greater Hindusthan, since the beginning of time”.
Sanatan Dharma is not the OBJECT of knowledge (or the means by which it may be obtained – as in an ism), but SUBJECTIVE knowledge itself. Only a man or a woman in meditation can truly experience what is Sanatan Dharma. There are no ideas that address the Sanatan Dharma as a whole, but rather interpretations and commentaries of small parts of it. Even the word dharma is used today very largely within the framework of the Britishers’ category of religion, while, traditional people think of dharma much in the same way modern people think of science.
In an intellectually robust culture such as Bharat, there is bound to be diversity. Diversity is the name of Bharatiya culture today as it was thousands of years ago in the time of the Rishis (Sages). There is no uniform belief, doctrine, or set of beliefs that all Hindus accept. This is completely obvious. There is no ism. The Sanatan Dharma addresses this nature of diversity constituting the whole.
Sanatan Dharma is constantly evolving and constantly changing. A 4-year-old understands nature in a different manner and a 30-year-old understands nature in a different manner. Just like his beliefs are not always static are and constantly changing, so is our understanding of Sanatan Dharma.
Evidently, people have started to label it with Krishna, or Rama. I’ll give you an anecdote, there was one lady who came and sat beside me when I was travelling on the train. After finding out that I am from Bharat she said,
“Which religion do you follow?”,
I said, “I don’t follow any religion”.
She asked me, “then what is all about Rama and Krishna in India. Are they not founders of religions in India?’’,
I replied, Oh, you want to talk about the prophets, right? “Yes,” she replied.
I said, “we have a galaxy of such prophets in Bharat. People could have started a religion after each such prophets but we don’t do that. We consider them as having the entire human experience and we appreciate all of them for what they have done the way we appreciate other things. We just learn from their experiences because we want the same experience as they had. This is the beauty of our Sanatan Dharma that here we do not “follow anybody”, we rather wish to have the same experience as these great masters had. This is why we always have someone coming up with an idea better than the previous one. That is why Sanatan Dharma stays young and is always in a state of newer and infinite possibilities unlike the fixed, organized, and dogma based religions”.
“Thanks for enlightening me on Sanatan Dharma and Indian culture”, she said.
“You are welcome”, I replied.
Kashish: I wish to ask about Hinduism now. Many times, the word “Hindutva” is associated with Hinduism. So, what according to you is Hindutva and why is there so much confusion regarding the understanding of “Hindu”, “Hinduism” and “Hindutva”? And now another term “Sanatan Dharma” is added to this confusion between all these terms!
Dr. Shekhar: Confusion is because of non-clarity. “People do not know what they do not know”. The worst thing is that they keep on talking about it as if they know, without knowing it! The biggest confusion always comes when there is no clarity.
Now, let me explain to you what Hindutva is. Just as wetness is the property or “Swabhav” of water, Heat is the property or Swabhav of Fire, Gravitation is the property or Swabhav of Earth, similarly, Hindutva is the property or “Swabhav” of a Hindu (remember, by the word Hindu, I mean a person who is associated -either born in that particular geographical location or is born to someone belonging to that geographical location).
“Prushatva” (Manhood) is the property of a “Purush” (Man), “Streeatva” (Womanhood) is the property of a Stree (Woman). A male having Purushatva is called a man. The one who has Purushatva has the strength, he commands respect, strength to establish righteousness, fights for the right cause, and has a personality that is unwavering in inner spiritual strength, and above all is very compassionate.
A woman having Streeatva is not only a female, but she is a lady who knows what she stands for and she does not want to be taken for granted for anything. A woman possessing Streeatva is so full of strength and courage and nobody can take undue advantage of her. That needs to be developed and re-strengthened back again.
In the same manner, Hindutva means the property of a person who is a Hindu. I had explained to you earlier who a Hindu is. Hindutva is the swabhav of the Hindus. It is not the outer appearance or the labeling that many try to associate a Hindu to be.
The question is, then what is the actual property of a Hindu? Who is a Hindu? Let us talk about that! Tell me, can you even visualize non-wet water? No, because water is established in its essential nature “wetness”, similarly, a Hindu is well established in his essential nature- Sat, Chit, Anand. A person who is established in his or her essential true nature Sat, Chit, and Anand is a Hindu.
Being established in that Sat Chit and Anand is what gives him the following “way of life”:
Admiration of beauty, wisdom acquiring, conscious of cleanliness in body, mind, and the environment he lives in, the one who cultivates a life of ethical virtues, existence-centered, fearless, following a natural and organic approach to health, humility, honesty, health-physical, mental, and spiritual, loyal, meditative, demonstrates nobility in all thoughts, words, and deeds, self-realization and self-knowledge as his highest priority, respect for all living beings, reverence for nature, recognition of the feminine aspect of the divine, seeking excellence in all things, self-discipline, strong and healthy family ties, simplicity, truthfulness, unity in diversity, utmost reverence for our ancestors. These are just to name a few characteristics of a Hindu.
So, when someone asks you, What is Sanatan Dharma ? and you say, “it’s a way of life”, they do not get the correct picture of Sanatan Dharma. The above virtues are not thrust on the person by way of commandments, but they dwell in that person because he is established in Sat Chit and Anand. Therefore, the correct picture of Sanatan Dharma is “It’s a way of life which manifests itself as a default living when one is established in his own essential nature which is Sat Chit and Anand”.
When one is established in his own essential nature, then he need not be taught what is morality, what is honesty, what is truthfulness and all the virtues mentioned above. To behave in accordance with his own nature is natural to him.
The people who are not established in Sat, Chit, and Anand can never understand Sanatan Dharma.
Kashish: Can you give a little briefer on Sat, Chit, and Anand?
Dr. Shekhar: Sure, let’s derive Sat, Chit, and Anand. This is a concept what which our Upanishadic scriptures have talked about at length.
Now let me derive a concept: In pitch darkness, when someone calls you, “are you there?” You immediately reply, “Yes, I am there”.
You don’t see yourself in the pitch darkness, then how do you know that you are there? If seeing is believing, which in this case is not possible, then how do you know you are there? To answer this question, you’ll probably have an explanation that I can feel my limbs, I can feel my face and the hands that is why I know I am there. Again my question to you is “when you feel it, then who is the one really feeling it?” The one experiencing that you are is known as “Sat”. What you are is “Sat”. Nobody You do not needs any confirmation from outside to prove that you exist. Sat is the “Satya” (truth) that you are.
Now, the underlying essence that gives you the knowledge that you exist, is “Chit” or consciousness. Simply, the knowledge of the fact that you exist is called Chit. It is the quality by which you experience the truth.
Further, the unlimited expansion of this Sat and Chit is called “Anand”. Anand is the supreme bliss which is beyond comprehension. Anand is not the absolute state of happiness, but it is beyond happiness. This is the thing which you are constantly seeking in the world. We are madly in pursuit of this unlimited happiness. But we are looking for happiness in small installments and we are looking for infinite happiness in ‘finite’ things. Finite things can give us only finite happiness and nothing more. If I ask you the question, Why do you want to be happy, can you give me an answer to that? Precisely no because nobody has an answer to this question. Even you can only experience the answer but you cannot talk about it. It is that complex!
You are seeing rivers that are ultimately going to the oceans. Why are they going to the oceans? Because the ocean is the source they came from. Similarly, when you pick up a handful of soil from the earth and then drop it, it immediately goes back to the earth because the earth is the source where it came from. In both of these examples, you saw one common denominator, that is “Things gravitate towards the very source they came from”.
Now, with that analogy, you ask this question “Why am I seeking happiness?” The answer will be– I am constantly seeking happiness because that is the source I came from! This means to say that “I as an individual am seeking myself only!”
Infinite happiness or BLISS is our essential nature. We are not seeking happiness, we are the happiness incarnation, we are the source from where happiness flows out in the world.
Now whatever we do in the world is to express that happiness. See the difference here. We are not doing a particular thing because after doing that we will get happiness. We are doing it because we are so happy and all we are doing is to express that happiness is now. Those who seek happiness only exploit others. Seeking happiness only gives us misery. The one who experiences it gets into a state of a total transformation.
Sanatan Dharma guides the path towards Sat, Chit, and Anand, the very essence that we already are. Sanatan Dharma is not about pursuing or looking for anything. An imaginary ladder cannot get you back to the place you never left. Isn’t it?
Kashish: The beauty of Sanatan Dharma is that it is a way of life, but theoretically, people won’t understand this concept if we explain this concept to them, so is it necessary for people to themselves experience it in order to understand it?
Dr. Shekhar: Yes, it is important. What you have to do it is that you have to be ready to answer all those questions that people might throw at you. That is particularly important. First of all, you have to be established in it before you talk about it, otherwise, people will misunderstand and take the meaning completely out of context.
You do not need to communicate about Sanatan Dharma to people. You just stay where you are. You see, you are the embodiment of Sanatan Dharma because you exude Sanatan Dharma from within.
People will gravitate towards you as the iron filings get attracted to the magnet. You must become the change that you wish to establish, you will not even have a need to boast about it and people will eventually know it and come to you. It is a natural tendency that when people see something good, they turn towards it. So, at the core level, get established in Sanatan Dharma it first and then act accordingly. When you are established in Sanatan Dharma you just smile, you do not judge anyone or anything. All of these qualities naturally come to you. All these qualities I mentioned above becomes your very nature.
Kashish, mark my words,
“Sanatan Dharma is going to be the very way of life for the entire humanity in the coming years”.
Any sincere seeker or a human being will gravitate towards Sanatan Dharma by default. It has nothing to do with any religion. All the Nuclear/Particle Physicists and the great thinkers and visionaries of the world-they all gravitate towards Sanatan Dharma as expounded in the Upanishads after winning Nobel Prizes. Why? Because they are all seekers of truth and obviously, they gravitate towards Sanatan Dharma.
That sums up today’s discussion!
Written By: Kashish Rai (@KaafyyFilmyy)