Decoding Sanatana Dharma – The Hindu


What is Sanatana Dharma and what do our scriptures say about it? Simply put, it is the ancient, timeless guiding principle for leading a dharmic life. Vedas show the way, however, the Vedas are not easily comprehensible for the ordinary man. Therefore, such dharma is disseminated through our epics and other holy literature, said Tiruvidaimarudur Nidhiswara Shrowthigal in a discourse.

The Ramayana, Mahabharata and Siva Rahasyam are the three great epics which showcase how our ancestors lived and the guiding principles by which they led a value-based life. In these epics one will often come across the phrase, Esha dharma sanatnaha, meaning, what is shown here is what sanatana dharma is. The best exemplifier of dharma is Rama. Lord Vishnu manifested as the scion of the Ishvaku clan in order to show mankind the importance of leading a virtuous life, regardless of challenges. The Ramayana highlights every facet of dharma in a nuanced manner. One such is the importance of gratitude.

In his Kural, Tiruvalluvar says, En nandri kondrarkkum uyvvundam, uyvillaisei nandri kondra magarkku (All the sins one commits may be redeemed, except ingratitude). This trait is amplified through the episode of mount Mainaka in Sundara Kandam. Mainaka appears in Hanuman’s path as he crosses the sea to Sri Lanka, inviting him to rest en route. One may wonder why a mountain, until then dormant under the sea, should appear and offer a place of rest and repast to Hanuman. The scriptures say that once Indra was on a mission to trim the wings of mountains. However, before he could snip at Mainaka, Vayu, Hanuman’s father, quickly hid the mountain under water. Later, when the time came, out of a sense of deep gratitude, it wanted to help Hanuman. However, the wise Hanuman, equally principled, turned down the offer, as he was keen to accomplish his mission without a pause.

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