I presented to the Peninsula Interfaith Coalition about the Sanatana Dharma. There were about forty people from different religions, and it was very interactive. Here’s the presentation I made.
A personal connection to divinity in Hinduism
We are the at the Sanatana Dharma Temple today.
Sanatana means timeless. What is true today, and not true tomorrow is not really true. To be “Sat”, or true, it must be outside of time. What was there before the BIg Bang? What will remain after this Universe shrinks back into the Void? that must be real, then.
The word Dharma is ordinarily translated as Religion, but that is to misunderstand the word. Here is what we mean by Dharma…
dharma is the universal foundation of life and relationships.
Beyond definition, whole epics have been written to describe the challenges of understanding dharma, and the dangers of mis-understanding dharma. With time, place and circumstance, the dharma can change, and only through “sila” or right relationships and the right understanding of relationships can one understand their own dharma.
The Greeks may have called dharma as arete (excellence), and the philosophers would have called it Quality or Virtue. Taoists would call it the “Tao, the way”. Many civilizations have arrived at the same intuitive meaning of dharma, but the Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh/Jain traditions have been continuously lived in dharma to the present day.
And so “‘Sanatana Dharma’ is a combination of the time-less and the ever changing foundation”.
And that is why we have the temple, as a place for community to gather, share stories, engage in dialog- including your presence here- so that we may understand our own personal dharma better and therefore be better Hindus and better people.
We are at a temple with murtis all around us.
Hinduism’s root is in the mystic and meditation traditions of the Indian subcontintent. The deep insights of the traditions were revealed and shared through aphorisms (sutras), mystic poetry, close conversations (upanishad), debates, commentaries, practiced traditions (acharyas), stories, rituals, chants and mantras, parables and other mnemonic forms. All these are considered valid paths to the divine.
What is the essential connection between us and divinity?
This wasn’t just a topic for dry philosophical speculation. For example, if I told you that sugarcare is “sweet”, would you have the same experience? You won’t, and for much of the experience of divinity, words are very inadequate.
The experience of divinity must be entirely personal and felt by each of us inside our hearts.
Hindu tradition and practices insist on this direct and intensely personal connection with the divine.
Ishta: Loved Deity
There are as many deities as people, because how can you know the formless and the nameless infinite? You can only know through your own heart.
Isavasya Idam Sarvam: This is from Isopanishad, and it describes how The Isha is inside, outside and everywhere
Iswara Pranidhana: Patanjali insisted that the way is to perceive the divinity everywhere.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of the heart, and what you see around you are the methods we use to open our hearts and connect with the divine.
Murtis are reminders of what’s dear to us
Through kirtans we chant, praise and open our hearts
Through rituals, lights and incense we create an atmosphere of beauty and divinity
Through our readings of scripture and stories, we remind ourselves of our connection with the divine.
So while you see many with the two eyes, we see the one that can only seen with the heart.