Sanatana Dharma literally means Eternal Dharma, embodying fundamental values. It has been described as the highest common factor of all religions.
That which gives stability to an individual is ‘sva-Dharma’.
That which gives stability to the family and society is ‘kula- Dharma.
That which gives stability to the nation and the epoch is ‘yuga-Dharma.
That which enhances the evolution of human civilization is Sanatana Dharma.
Sanatana Dharma stresses and celebrates the universal values and virtues which all religions proclaim as the bed-rock of true spirituality. Among these are truthfulness, charity, compassion, self-control, non-violence, selflessness, purity.
Sanatana Dharma does not stress the ritual or the formal. It is concerned with the development of the under spiritual wealth, the atma-guna, which resides in the lotus of the heart of every individual. Sva-dharma, Kula-dharma, and Yuga-dharma can obtain worldly success and appreciation for an individual. Sanatana dharma attains only an inner radiance through one’s own conscience, by knowing that what one is doing is not only morally important but externally precious.
Since Sanatana Dharma by definition transcends the limitations of time, place, and social laws and customs, it implies openness to spiritual values and experience, no matter where these are to be found. Sanatana Dharma therefore is built upon catholicity and genuine tolerance, it seeks the best and finest; it cherishes the permanent and the abiding. It honors the deepest yearnings of the soul. All religions have temporal and transcendental aspects. The temporal deal with the here and now – the nitty gritty of social life and behaviour of forms and ceremonies and experience. The transcendent is timeless and placeless – that is why it is eternal.
Hinduism has always placed great emphasis upon this timeless dimension of religion and spirituality, for which reason the greatest role models of Hindu culture are not people involved with the here and now, but people involved with what is beyond and above the here and now. Such people are not only respected, but are almost worshipped. They are rishis, munis, mahatmas and tyagis. The list of those who practice “Sanatana Dharma” is endless, though they may be in a minority, they are the leaven of Hinduism.