Thursday, April 22, 2010
What is Sanatan Dharma?
Religion conveys the idea of faith. Faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change the faith afterwards and adopt another faith. But sanatana-dharma means which cannot be changed, which cannot be changed. Just like water and liquidity. Liquidity cannot be changed from water... Heat cannot be changed from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity, which is known as sanatana-dharma, cannot be changed....Without heat and without light, there is no meaning of the word fire.
Similarly, we must find out the essential part of a living being which is always companion with him. That part of constant companion of the living being is his eternal quality, and the eternal part of the living being's quality is his eternal religion. When sanatana Gosvami asked Lord Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu about the svarüpa.. or real constitution of the living being, the Lord replied that the constitutional position of the living being is to render service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But if we analyze this part of the statement of Lord Caitanya, we can very well see that every living being is constantly engaged in the business of rendering service to another living being. A living being serves another living being in different capacities, and by doing so, the living entity enjoys life. A lower animal serves a human being, a servant serves his master, A serves B master, B serves C master, and C serves D master, and so on.
Under the circumstances, we can see that a friend serves another friend, and the mother serves the son, or the wife serves the husband, or husband serves the wife. If we go on searching in that spirit, it will be seen that there is no exception in the society of the living being where we do not find the activity of service. The politician present his manifesto before the public and convinces voters about his service capacity. The voter also gives the politician his valuable vote on expectation that the politician will give service to the society. The shopkeeper serves the customer and the artisan serves the capitalist. The capitalist serves his family and the family serves the head man in terms of the eternal capacity of eternal being.
In this way we can see no living being is exempted from the practice of rendering service to other living being, and therefore we can conclude that service is a thing which is the constant companion of the living being, and therefore it may be safely concluded that rendering of service by a living being is the eternal religion of the living being. When a man professes to belong to a particular type of faith with reference to the particular time and circumstances of birth, and thus one claims to be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, Buddhist, or any other sect, and sub-sect, such designations are non-sanatana-dharma. A Hindu may change his faith to become a Muslim, or a Muslim may change his faith to become a Hindu or a Christian, etc., but in all circumstances such change of religious faith does not allow a person to change his eternal engagement of rendering service to other.
A Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian, in all circumstances, he is servant of somebody, and thus to profess a particular type of faith is not to be considered as sanatana-dharma, but the constant companion of the living being, that is, rendering of service, is the sanatana-dharma. So factually, we are related in the service relationship with the Supreme Lord.
- Srila Prabhupada, New York, February 19-20, 1966