sanatana dharma
   Sanatana dharma (eternal way) is a term created in 19th-century India as a more meaningful syn-onym for Hinduism. The word Hindu, after all, was not indigenous to the culture, but was coined by ancient Persians (based on their pronuncia-tion of Sindhu, the Indus River). Indian spiritual traditions had typically described themselves as “the DHARMA.” Dharma admits of many English translations; it refers to an essential set of rules and prescriptions that make up a given religious path. Those who coined the term sanatana dharma wanted to emphasize the Indian sense that their “way” was an eternal one that had had no begin-ning in time.
   Because of the universality of certain Hindu notions, and the acceptance of a wide diversity of spiritual paths within the Hindu fold, the term sanatana dharma sometimes is taken to mean the ancient truth behind all religions (not just those of India), the truth that all seek in their own unique ways. In that sense, the santana dharma is not merely the religions practiced by the inhabitants of India who look upon the VEDAS as the supreme wisdom, but the “way” of all who seek the highest truth, whatever their religion.
   Further reading: Balasubramania N. Aiyer, Principles and Practice of Hindu Religion, Sanatana Dharma Sastra: A Comparative Study of the Ancient Tradition and the Perennial Philosophy (Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1999); Param Dayal Faqir, Satya Sanatan Dharam: Or, True Religion of Humanity. Translated by B. R. Kamal and Swami Yogeshwar Ananda Saraswati (Hoshiarpur: Manavta Mandir, 1978); Swami Rama Tirtha, Sanatan Dharma (Lucknow: Rama Tirtha Pratisthan, 1990).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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