Sanatana Dharma means the Ancient Dharma. (Dharma is more than merely religion, it relates to ethics, etiquttte, justice, code of conduct and way of connecting to the divine.)
While the greeks labelled everyone to the “east of the Sindhu, south of the mountains and north of the seas”..(Arrian) as Hindus, that is not how Indians referred to themselves in the olden days.
The Sanatana Dharma has changed over time in some facets and held constant in others. The Sanatana Dharma varied across regions and different jathis, and all this variants further evolved over time and yet they had something in common that bound them.
One of the things that causes a lot of heartburn is that modern Hindus, who live by the Kaliyuga Dharma and the Indian Penal Code, are targeted by Neo-Indian-Buddhists as well as Christians and Muslims world-wide to answer for Kruta Yuga Dharma. This is somewhat immature – so I thought that I would share what I have learnt so far on various subjects.
- Vegetarianism: First of all all Hindus are not vegetarians today. Some Hindus were vegetarians even in the most ancient of times.
- For eg., Vasishtha, a brahmarishi, who lived through the Kruta, Tretha and Dwapara Yugas to the beginning of Kaliyuga was not a vegetarian. (For a detailed explanation of yugas and durations, please see : How many kinds of Yugas are there?) though Valmiki definitely was a vegetarian. I know this by reading the Itihasas and Puranas. It appears that the asramavasis, those living in the forest, did not hunt or allow hunting in their precincts. (Kanva, in Abhignyana Sakunthalam.) But the those who dwelled with or near kings near cities., did eat meat.
- Kaliyuga brahmins are traditionally required to be vegetarians but they are not vegans. They can eat diary products like milk, cheese, butter, ghee and so on. They are required even to eschew garlic and onions in some regions. However in some other regions, kaliyuga brahmins are allowed to eat fish.
- In Kaliyuga, there are brahmins who, by personal choice eat meat, and kshatriyas and vaisyas who are “dairy-vegetarians”
- Vegetarianism is beneficial to ecology and global warming and possibly to the heart and health as well. As with any “ism” there are people on either side claiming superiority of their views and trying to convert the others to their side.
- Animal Sacrifice and Butchering : Many humans around the world eat meat either everyday or on occasion. A huge point of debate is how the animal should be killed.
- Today, developed countries butcher their animals in bulk, package, refrigerate and transport to the markets, where they are refrigerated till sale, then transported again till homes, where they are refrigerated again till use. Not only are the animals “dead” for longer period of time, more of them are killed per day and eaten everyday and at great cost to the environment. (The CO2 + CFC emissions of oil based transport and the electricity etc., as well as the huge amounts of water required to breed livestock and slaughter them en-masse when they lose resistance to disease – eg mad-cow, bird-flu, swine-flu.)
- The people described in point 1, shudder at inhuman practice of animal sacrifice.
- In small villages, for eg Kodigehalli, people are vegetarians most of the time. On special occasions, they worship a deity, consecrate a goat, slaughter/sacrifice it and eat it, all of them together. It is a festive occasion. There is prayer as well as festivity. To offer something to God, before you eat it is an Indian custom, just as Christians thank God before they eat their meat. This system is friendly to the environment because, there are no transportation and refrigeration costs. It is healthy for those who eat because the meat is fresh.
- Of course the dairy-vegetarians feel disgusted by people in sets 1 and 2, and the people of set 1 shudder openly at people in set 2 as well as being contemptuous of people in set 3. (See “Oh! The Horror Of Their Ways!”)
Marriage and Morals : Kaliyuga Hindus are required by law (IPC – Indian Penal Code) to be monogamous and by society to never divorce a spouse. However the Indian law does not apply to Indian muslims, so some rich and powerful men who want to be polygamous convert to Islam. (Dharmendra – Hema Malini). Kaliyuga dharma also requires Kaliyuga Hindus not to touch, look at or think about “para-stri” or “para purusha”. (A man or woman not belonging to one). This is however changing in the late 20th and 21st century with the westernization brought by movies, globalization and industry (mostly IT industry) in Urban India.
- In the Kruta Yuga, we have examples of a yajamana Chandra Deva, falling in love with Tara, (the wife of Brihaspati who performed his yajnas) and then taking her home, with her consent. We have Brihaspati fighting and negotiating to get her back and succeeding with intervention from Brahma etc. He also tries to keep Tara’s child Budha, but Brahma awards the child to Chandra based on paternity. (The neo-indian-buddhists and christians and muslims are very happy to hear such stories and beat up their shocked Kaliyuga Hindu friends.. even as.. I write about the Conjunction of the Moon (Chandra), Jupiter (Brhaspati), Tara (a Nakshatra) and Mercury (Budha).) If I point to similar stories in the Old Testament, then some of them are silent for a while. - To me the Kruta Yuga Dharma is very reminiscent of modern American society, where freedom is seen as a virtue.
- In the Tretha Yuga, Sita Devi who was captured against her will and who stayed faithful to her husband, Sri Rama throughout her capture, had to take an Agni-Pariksha as well as a public oath, to be accepted back by a husband who loved and trusted her but was constrained by Dharma and Raja Niti. So by the Tretha Yuga, one could not accept back a woman, who had lived in another man’s house, however faithful she was. There was no Sati Sahagamanam in Tretha Yuga. (Dasaratha‘s queens live after his death).
- In the Dwapara Yuga, paternity was decided by the legal father and not the genetic father. Pandu, Vidura, Dhritarashtra, Pandavas, Karna all these, belonged not to their genetic parents but to their legal parents. See the contrast with Kruta Yuga. (Hindu-baiters also love this story.) In the Dwapara Yuga Sati Sahagamanam was voluntary. While Rukmini followed Sri Krishna, Satyabhama went to the forest. While Madri followed Pandu, Kunthi lived for the children.
- The Dwapara Yuga also permitted polygamy, polyandry if the husbands were brothers, children through niyoga (similar to the levirate marriages of the old testament). It also permitted that a grandson (daughter’s son) could become one’s heir and king if such was agreed by the son-in-law before the marriage. (Arjuna’s son Babruvahana ruled Chitrangada’s kingdom, Bhima’s son Ghatotkacha ruled Hidimba’s kingdom).
- This post is in response to an immature, if annoying, comment by a Hindu Baiter, who thinks that I will renounce the Vedas and Upanishads, simply because value systems change with time and space.
- A Hindu Baiter who is convinced that in their ancestry, humans were very different, from the humans in my ancestry.
- A Hindu baiter who thinks that only Hindus have ancestors and that he/she either does not have human ancestors or can disown them and pretend to claim another ancestry.
- It is also in response to all folks of the kaliyuga of all religions, who think that the present value systems are static and that in the next Yuga or neighbouring region, no body will hold them up as examples of all that is bad and contemptible.