Sanatan or eternal is the adjective ascribed to Bharat as Bharat is Anaadi (beginningless) and Anant (unending). There are two reasons for the same. One, the philosophy that has shaped Bharat is eternal, and two, the society which lives by it and is the embodiment of this philosophy, is also eternal.
The unique worldview of Bharat is eternal because the basis of it is spirituality. Hence, it is integral and also holistic. Owing to this worldview, Bharat considers the entire creation as interconnected – singular consciousness manifested in varied expressions. Therefore, Bharat considers there is coordination in the universe, not conflict.
Bharat or Bharatiya society holds four beliefs as central to its civilisation. First, Truth or God is one – it can be called by various names and realised through different ways and religious practices. Second, to see unity amidst diversity, to appreciate it and to celebrate it is the very essence of the Bharatiya way of life. Third, every soul (man and woman) is potentially divine and the goal of life is to manifest the divinity by controlling nature, external and internal, and to liberate oneself from the cycle of birth and death by merging into that supreme consciousness is the ultimate goal of human life. Fourth, one’s innate divinity may be manifested by walking different paths (referred to as religion or worship) as conducive to one’s unique nature and interest and all paths are equal, acceptable and respectable. These paths may be referred to by different names, and with time newer paths may emerge. The old and the new are all welcome here. This is the defining feature of Bharat. This is why Swami Vivekananda in his 1893 Chicago addresses referred to Bharat as the “mother of all religions.” The basis of this philosophy being spirituality makes it eternal.
Having all this merely at the level of thinking and philosophy is not sufficient. A timeless tradition of living that philosophy has been established by the society here. Having suffered innumerable attacks and blows, this society, which is referred to as the Rashtra, continues to exist. The interminability of this society also makes Bharat Sanatan. Two main factors responsible for the continuity and Sanatan tradition of this rashtra are spirituality-based view of life and the society not being based on the state.
Gurudev Rabindra Nath Thakur, in his essay Swadeshi Samaj, writes, “Welfare state is not a Bharatiya tradition. Barring law & order, defense and foreign affairs, the society had its autonomous systems for all other matters like education, healthcare, trade & commerce, temples, fairs, art & aesthetics, music, dance-drama, pilgrimage, etc. Sanatan Bharat did not rely on the state treasury to fund these activities of the society. The society had its independent arrangement which had dharma as its guiding principle. This Dharma does not imply religion or worship. To give to society as one would to one’s own family, to give back, is considered dharma. Swami Vivekananda’s disciple Bhagini Nivedita has said that the society in which the people, instead of keeping the remuneration of their efforts to themselves, give it to the society, becomes rich and prosperous. As a result, every person in society becomes rich and prosperous. This is called Dharma and Dharma does not discriminate. It connects all, it binds all and it holds all together. But if the people in the society, instead of giving the remuneration of their efforts to the society, keep it to themselves, some persons in the society may become rich, but the society remains poor. A tent-like structure that is supported by but one pole is grounded in case the pole is damaged whereas a tent-like structure that is built with the help of three-four poles will not be grounded in case any one of the poles gets damaged, moreover it can possibly be internally reconstructed. Bharat has traditionally been working in the same way. Hence though the foreign attacks defeated the kings, the society or Rashtra remained undefeated. Each time swaraj has been restored through suitable awakenings. This design is also at the heart of the secret of Bharat being Sanatan.
The unique spirituality-centric view of life of this Rashtra is known by the name Hindu across the world, which is why this Rashtra is Hindu and its adjective Sanatan. We did not coin this name because we never considered ourselves separate from the rest of humanity. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole vasudha or creation is one kutumba or family) has been our belief. But those who viewed us from the outside christened this uniqueness of ours to differentiate us as Hindu (those who hail from the other side of the Sindhu). Between 1935-1940, the ghee shops in Nagpur bore boards flanked by the names of the neighbouring villages, viz, Boregaanv, Dahegaanv or Aamgaanv followed by the suffix “ghee shop.” Around the time when WW-II was going on, a product called Dalda made an appearance in the market, which looked like ghee but wasn’t ghee. It was then that the boards of those shops began to be renamed as “shudh ghee shop” suffixed after the name of the village. Now the word shudh (pure) was added later, but that cannot be interpreted as what was being sold earlier was not pure. It was added to differentiate it from the imitative article. This applies to Hindu too. Living by the dictum of aatma vat sarva bhuteshu (to consider everyone as oneself), the necessity to define ourselves with a name or a label was never felt; therefore, we did not consider doing it.
In the first seventeen centuries of the current era Bharat’s share in world trade was over 30 per cent. Despite trade relations with several countries, we did not attempt to colonise them, plunder their riches, ‘convert’ the natives or enslave the people and rob them
With time, in the natural course of events, every society undergoes changes. While remaining steadfast in the eternal principle, discarding obsolete practices in the light of the timeless principles and adopting concurrent new practices comes naturally to Bharat. In this line, Bharat has had a culture of adopting certain foreign values and systems after refashioning those as per the local lore. This is yet another hallmark of Bharat that makes it ancient and antiquated (chir puratan), yet ever so young (nitya nutan). Many treatises or documents (smritis) that inform the attitude and behaviour of the society were composed here from time to time as this process of aforementioned integration of values and knowledge systems in the light of the existing timeless principles took place. This text here is the panacea of knowledge and that there will be none beyond this – Bharat has never proclaimed this.
For the Bharat of current times, our Constitution is the latest Smriti. The provisions for modifying this Constitution are enshrined within the Constitution only. The tact of periodically renovating the structure while retaining the base of the foundation is what Bharat has championed. It has ensured our civilisational continuity and renewal and it is this which makes it Sanatan.
Prosperirty with Sprituality
Yet another peculiarity of Bharat is that it has held both abhyuday (material prosperity) and nihshreyas (salvation or liberation) as equally important. To live a life that strikes a balance between these two inseparable pursuits is called Dharma (Not religion). ”यतोऽभ्युदय नि:श्रेयस सिद्धि: स धर्मः’ is another definition of Dharma. Because of this view, in the first seventeen centuries of the current era Bharat’s share in world trade was over 30 per cent (highest in the world, then). Despite trade relations with several countries, we did not attempt to colonise them, plunder their riches, ‘convert’ the natives or enslave the people and rob them of their dignity by trading them as labour. This also was possible because of the eternal global view – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – held by Bharat. Bharat is an ancient civilisation. In the long journey of its existence, it has seen periods of degradation which led to passivity in the attitude of its people. In such situations, to awaken and strengthen the society, many saints incarnated in all segments of the society who were instrumental in reinvigorating the consciousness of the people. This timely intervention through directives of many such saints and sages also gives Bharat its Sanatan adjective.
Preserving this uniqueness of Bharat, along with its prosperity, continuity and security, is a global necessity. And for Bharat to remain Sanatan, this Sanatan spirituality-based Hindu view of life must continue to thrive
Bharat and global challenges
Today when the whole world has moved in closer, newer speed and efficiency have dawned upon the mediums of transportation and communication, and to balance the diversity manifested in languages, lineages and religions with the finite resources available on earth is a challenge before all of humanity. Where the need of the hour is the aspiration to live a truly prosperous life but in harmony then only Bharat has the worldview, the philosophy, the experience and also a history that illustrates a similar achievement.
Famous physicist Fritjof Capra’s illustration illuminates the same idea, “The paradigm that is now receding has dominated our culture for several hundred years. During which it has shaped our modern western society and has significantly influenced the rest of the world. This paradigm consists of a number of entrenched ideas and values, among them the view of the universe as a mechanical system composed of elementary building blocks, view of human body as a machine, the view of life in society as a competitive struggle for existence, belief in unlimited material, economic and technological growth, and last but not least, the belief that a society in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male is one that follows a basic law of nature. These entire assumptions have been fatefully challenged by recent events. Indeed a radical revision of them is occurring. The new paradigm may be called a holistic worldview, seeing the world as an integrated whole rather than a dissociated collection of parts. It may also be called an ecological view if the term ecological is used in a much broader and deeper sense than usual. Deep ecological awareness recognises the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the fact that as individuals and societies, we are all embedded in (and ultimately depend on) the cyclic process of nature. Ultimately, deep ecological awareness is spiritual or religious awareness. When the concept of the human spirit is understood as the mode of consciousness in which the individual feels a sense of belonging, of connectedness, to the cosmos as a whole, it becomes clear that ecological awareness is spiritual in its deepest essence. It is therefore not surprising that the emerging new vision of reality based on deep ecological awareness is consistent with the so-called perennial philosophy of spiritual traditions.”
Therefore, preserving this uniqueness of Bharat, along with its prosperity, continuity and security, is a global necessity. And for Bharat to remain Sanatan, this Sanatan spirituality-based Hindu view of life must continue to thrive. The continuity of a close-knit, strong, active and victorious society that embodies this view of life is equally important. To sustain this Sanatan Bharat and maintain the Sanatanata (eternal values) of Bharat, honouring the essence of the word Hindu by consolidating the Hindu Samaj, remedying it and instilling the virtue of the Rashtra is the only solution.