How Hindus can promote Sanatana Dharma

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • July 6, 2022
Left Adi Sankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Paramhansa Yogananda, Sri Bamdev, Swami Chinmayananda
  • Five ways in which Hindus can promote Sanatana Dharma in their own lives. How to recognize that you are chosen for sewa by Brahman? How to know one is not selected for sewa by Brahman?

There are two distinct ways to live your Dharma daily. All of us who are followers of Sanatana Dharma, or the Laws Eternal, have to follow the path shown to us by Acharyas, or teachers, as diverse as Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanujacharya, Sri Abhinavagupta and nearer to our times, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Yogananda Paramhamsa, Sri Aurobindo and Sri Bamdev of Tarapith, West Bengal.

All of them preached our Dharma to people of other religions and opened our ancient lineages to those who are called by the Supreme Godhead to live and serve Brahman or, Shaktih, as followers of our Faith. Baba Bamdev continually engaged with the Brahmo Samaj and even with Rabindranath Tagore who had visited Baba in the jungles of Birbhum of Tagore’s times.

So, it is our duty as a Faith community to reach out to seekers of the eternal in other countries, in our country and in our families.

We must not hide behind complicated language, whiplash attitudes and racial barriers while reaching out to our immediate families, friends and acquaintances while preaching in action and words our sacred Dharma. If you are invited to a birthday, give the birthday girl whatever she would want. But add a simple English or Tamil or Malayali translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Give them a Kindle version of the Yoga Sutras. Avoid bulky commentaries and gift simple translations. Listen to the problems of others and help them out. Live for others.

And when they look at the source of your quiet and kindness, they will see that you live by our sacred Scriptures. Wherever you find money changing hands in the name of our Dharma, intervene politely and help the victim of monetary greed to access our Scriptures. In short, all of us are called to be missionaries. Only those who have not studied our Scriptures believe that our Dharma is not a missionary religion. Where do you think the Buddha learnt his missionary techniques? In pre-Buddhist works like The Great Forest Upanishad we have the seeds of itinerant missionary monasticism.

If you are a follower of Sanatana Dharma, you must at least fulfil the following duties as missionaries:

1. Everyday study our Dharma and then write about it on social media, become podcasters and write simple pamphlets uploading them on social media. Make attractive slides and put them up on various media channels. 

2. Become available to teach your Dharma to the kids in your housing block and mohallah. Make it a fun event. Create your own study materials and reach out to our kids. 

3. If you have any specific talent, mentor others and they will slowly follow your lifestyle rooted in your Faith. Do not take fees for the mentoring. Just freely give. If a mentee is non-responsive to our Dharma, just move on to the next person. 

4. If you are wealthy, help poor students to study our Dharma. So, send a needy but worthy scholar to the American Academy of Religion by funding her book/studies/research. But do not give direct money. Provide what is required in terms of infrastructure and peace of mind to succeed as an academic. And never boast about helping your own. Everyone who follows our Dharma, whether an African or a poor Punjabi youth, is to be helped through personal reach-out programs and bursaries to exclusively study, teach and write on our Faith. 

5. Set up English medium schools throughout India where you pay extra to deserving teachers and make the study of our Dharma compulsory from childhood. Preferentially admit the poor over the rich. Make certain that these highly paid teachers teach them both English and Sanskrit and our religious rituals from childhood. Do not hide that these are Hindu educational institutions and preferably make them ‘not for profit’. This is the single most urgent need of the hour. 

Students will speak equally well in English and Sanskrit and should have access to technology. As a wealthy Hindu you are duty bound to do this corporal work of charity leaving all other corporal works. Like Christian educational institutions have quotas for Christian children including orphans, these schools should have transparent policies of educating Hindu children in preference to others. I cannot over emphasize the education ministry for all practicing Hindus.

Instead of wasting money for gaudy Pujas and big fat weddings, make it a point to educate children who will later take our Faith all over the world. 

This is why I insist that English be taught from childhood along with Sanskrit. Without being fluent in conversational English these children will not have meaningful futures and if they do not have stable employment in the best companies, their knowledge of Sanskrit and our Scriptures will be wasted. Language acquisition becomes difficult with advancing age.

The above-mentioned points are some of the ways in which each Hindu is called to live out her life. Each of us is called to live for others. That is certain.

So, what is the second way in which other Hindus are called to live out their lives?

There are some amongst us who might hear an interior, still small voice nagging us to dedicate our lives 24*7 to serving our Faith. A profession is what one does to earn money, and from which one takes breaks. That is a perfectly honest way of living and as a Hindu that hard earned money and knowledge can be used in discharging the five points given above. 

But there are Hindus who are called by the Supreme Godhead to not be rooted in one place and to disregard any wealth other than the bare minimum required to keep oneself and one’s family in relative comfort and serve the cause of Hinduism. I am not talking about our monks. I am talking about Hindu families who are touched by Brahman to serve Brahman.

Instead of thinking of settling in the first world, these families should preferentially relocate to extremely poor nations to spread our religion. Spouses too are called by Brahman to discharge their familial duties to their elders and children and then be itinerant preachers. They take voluntary retirements from their jobs or businesses early on in their careers not to hike in the Swiss Alps but to travel to hinterland India and other poor nations to teach Hinduism and to open schools, run medical dispensaries and open houses for women in trouble. Theirs are not professions but vocations.

A vocation is an anthropomorphic call by Brahman to the individual, including the basic family unit of wife and husband to disregard samsara to serve others for the sake of our Dharma. A few are called to become theologians of our Dharma; theirs is the task to interpret our Scriptures as life altering, revolutionary texts. Some others are called to translate into simple English our sacred texts. To this day, hundreds of Tantras and commentaries on the Vedas and the Agamas are yet to be translated and digitized. Some are called to teach our Dharma to doctoral candidates. 

Vocations are not obsessions; neither are they temporary, nor is a vocation dependent on an individual’s free choice. Vocations are not anyone’s birth-right. A vocation is freely gifted by Brahman to whom It wants to gift, as is mentioned in the Katha Upanishad.

If you have a vocation, then everything will fall into place if you agree to your calling. You always have the freedom to not agree with your vocation. Within spiritual life, unlike within samsara, an individual always has the right and freedom to say no to saguna Brahman and yet this saguna Brahman will continue to love you unconditionally. If you accept this call, then you have to be ready to make huge sacrifices. I am solely concentrating here on vocations of couples for reasons given at the end of this article.

How to recognize that you, as a couple, may be chosen by Brahman? Here are some pointers:

1. You are wealthy, have a functional family and are mentally fit, you have a great social life and are reasonably healthy having both intellectual and emotional maturity and yet both wife and husband feel that your lives are empty though you love each other. And all your social commitments and involvements even with temple trusts and helping the poor are just not enough. Both of you feel that your children are well-settled and your duties to your elders have been discharged and yet you feel strongly about your Faith.

Then perhaps you as a couple, have a vocation. You know instinctively that the best is yet to come and it is in practicing Sanatana Dharma.

2. Both of you loved parties, occasionally got high and enjoyed life, but now you feel that you need to go back to your roots. You need to study Sanskrit and visiting temples is not enough for both of you. You both feel the need to meditate, do japa and lead calmer lives. Perhaps, you have a vocation.

3. You both are successful in your personal careers. There is nothing more to achieve. You have that farmhouse which your colleagues envy. Yet both of you are increasingly thinking about Hinduism and the poor. You now without realizing, preferentially think of how the poor live and your solutions in helping them are based on Hindu truths. Probably, you have a vocation. 

Once your realise this, you seek out someone who has trained in discernment using modern psychological techniques who will help you to rule out mental illnesses like neuroses, religious mania and escapist urges. Instead the person shall slowly prepare you to serve Brahman as Brahman wants to be served by both of you.

How do you know you probably do not have vocations though you feel everything that a couple with true vocations feel? Here are some other pointers: -

1. Your married life is a mess. Your career is in a mess. You are into addictive behaviour patterns, and involved in extra-marital relationships. What you think to be vocations are just strategies to escape the harshness of your life.

2. You are unsuccessful in your career and live from salary to salary. You do not have a vocation, at least now. Earning money is easier than serving Brahman. Since you are unable to take the pressures of financially responsible behaviour you might want to run away from your job by deluding yourself that you have a vocation.

3. You are both unemployed and your business is not doing well. This has led you to come under the influence of some charismatic religious person, and now you feel that you should give up everything to serve that person. This is against our Dharma.

In reaction to Buddhist monasticism, the post-Buddhist Bhagavad Gita insists on doing what is righteous no matter what the cost without running away from the battlefield called life.

4. You are mentally ill, and you are suffering from schizophrenic diseases, both husband and wife can hallucinate together, in fact entire families can and are having supernatural experiences. This needs immediate treatment with antipsychotics and later, talk-therapies. If you see our Deities or they are speaking to you, you do not have a vocation. You are hallucinating. You need to see a psychiatrist to prevent the disease from progressing.

5. You feel, called by Brahman, but you are planning for the long future about your retired life and how the money will come for your grand projects.

6. You are disinclined to study or, swadhyaya. Without lifelong learning, your faith in our Dharma might be shaken. Evils like social inequities, personal tragedies will make you cynical and depressed. A vocation usually is characterised by an intense urge to first help oneself and then others though swadhyaya.    

7. You want to do social service and help the poor so wish to dedicate your life to the poor. That is an excellent service but those with vocations think of Dharma first and of the condition of the world as a natural corollary to practicing and preaching this Dharma of ours.

Celibate women and men, that is, Hindu nuns and monks have definite and different vocations. This author is not a celibate and hence cannot write on the lives of celibates. That is something they need to do.

Academic psychology till the mid-1960s did not accept vocational psychology because scientists simply could not factor in God in their analytic work. During the 1960s and later, psychologists and various talk-therapists began to accept the fact that God is part of the work of our beings.

Thus, was born the discipline of formative spirituality which focuses on helping those called by God in three ways: by helping those who feel they have vocations to discern whether it is real or momentary; to help nuns and monks, to integrate and rethink psychoanalysis and psychology in the light of Faith and spiritualties.

The time has come for us, the followers of the Sanatana Dharma, to integrate within our spiritual lineages, the developments within contemporary talk-therapies and methods of life-skills’ coaching without accepting the classical psychic apparatus posited by Sigmund Freud in its entirety. But it is also foolhardy to neglect the insights of classical psychoanalysis and positive psychology; the challenge is to rethink and see how these disciplines can help us to help those with vocations. I have also kept out of purview the concept of the fit vessel or adhara and the final discernment of a truly awakened Guru who has become one with the One.

Remember, even if you are the fit vessel, the right heir, you always have the freedom to turn your spiritual gifts to ruin your life and the lives of others by just being proud that you are one of the few chosen. That is sufficient to make life hell for others and to destroy you completely. 

I have seen people feel proud just because they can wake up earlier than others.

It is not for nothing our Scriptures declare that the path to mukti is razor sharp and if we are not alert, our fall will be immediate.

Om Namah Shivaya

Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay has a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in Prabuddha Bharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences.

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