The eternal way of life





What is Dharma?

The definition of Dharma is illustrated in a story from the Upanishada. A sage was once sitting next to a river bank and a scorpion fell in the water. The sage picked it up and placed it on dry land. In the process the scorpion bit the sage's hand. Later on the scorpion fell in the water once again. Once again the sage picked it up from the water and placed it on dry land. Noticing this, one of his disciples asked the sage why he repeatedly saved the life of the scorpion even though it bit him. The sage replied: "It is the dharma of the scorpion to bite. It is my dharma to save lives. That is why it bit my hand. And that is why I saved its life."

Sanatana Dharma specifies the basic principles or definitions regarding different facets of life and the universe.

The Defintions

1. The one God - Paramatman or Brahaman. This is Nirakar (formless) and Akal (timeless). This is the param (greater) atman (soul). This is beyond nature or Prakriti.

2. The one Vidya - Vidya is the knowledge or understanding of God.

3. The one letter mantra to invoke God - Om or AUM.

4. The one Gotra - This is the lineage of a person which is drawn from the Rishis who composed the Rig Veda and the Yadur Veda.

5. The two periods in a solar year or Ayans - The period between winter solstice to summer solstice when the Sun heads North or Uttarayan (December 21 to June 21) and the period between summer solstice and winter solstice or Dakhsinayan when the Sun heads South (June 22 to December 21).

6. The two parts of a lunar month or Pakcha - Sukla pakcha or the period when the Moon becomes clear and Krishna Pakcha when the Moon becomes dark.

7. The three Iswaras - Brahama, Vishnu and Mahesh. Brahama is the creator, Vishnu is the protector and Mahesh (Shiva) is the destroyer. For example the Sun in the morning is the creator of the day (Brahmarupen), at noon it gives life and food to all (Vishnurupen) and in the evening it ends the day (Maheshrupen). Followers of Brahma are called Brahmo, followers of Vishnu are called Vaishnav and followers of Shiva are called Shaiva.

8. The three Iswaris - Saraswati, Lakchmi and Parvati. Saraswati is the giver of all knowledge and music and consort of Brahma, Lakchmi is the giver of all wealth and consort of Vishnu and Parvati is the giver of strength or Shakti and consort of Mahesh.

9. The three Ramas - Parashuram, Balaram and Ramachandra.

10. The three styles of life (including food habits or diet) or gunas - Satyavik, Tamasik and Rajasik. The one which is based on truth or reality, the one which clouds the mind and the one which is based on luxury of the senses.

11. The three Kriti or ways of conduct - Sanskriti, Prakriti and Vikriti. Sanskriti means acting according to culture. Prakriti means acting according to nature or instincts. Vikriti means acting in an uncontrolled manner or madness.

12. The three techniques of worship - Sravan, Kirtan and Archan. By listening to the teachings of great sages, by singing the praise of the lord and by participating in rituals of worship.

13. The three sorrows or tritap - Adhyatmik, Adhibhautik and Adhidevik.

14. The three types of samir or breeze - Shital (Cool), Mand (Light) and Sugandha (Perfumed).

15. The three instruments or tras - Mantra, Tantra and Jantra. Mantra is an instrument of mind. Tantra is the instrument of the body or tan. Jantra is a mechanical instrument such as a lock or any machinery which enhances our reach.

15. The four objectives of life - Artha, Kama, Dharma and Mokscha. Wealth, Sensual Pleasures, Spiritual upliftment and Transgression from the physical life.

16. The four stages or Ashrams of life - Brahmacharya, Garhastya, Sanayas and Vanprashta. The learning stage, the family stage, the religious stage and the stage for transgression.

17. The four types of believers in God - Arta, Artharta, Jigyansu and Gyani. The one who is hurt and seeks God's help, the one who seeks wealth or advancement and seeks God's help, the one who is curious and seeks God's help and the one who understands the principles of the universe yet seeks God.

18. The four original classification of varnas or professions - Brahamin, Ksathriya, Vaisya and Sudra. The Brhamin is close to God and devotes to intellectual pursuits including the work of priests. The Ksatriya is the warrior and practices the martial arts. The Vaisya manages the affairs of the state including administration and commerce. The Sudra is the artisan class which takes care of various skills including making leather goods or pottery.

19. The four types of yogas or the approach to God - Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga, Hatha yoga and Raja yoga. Bhakti yoga is the pursuit of God through beliefs or by following a Guru. Karma yoga is the pursuit of God through actions. Hatha yoga is the pursuit of God through penances or strict discipline. Raja yoga is the pursuit of God through the combination of all the systems including the intellectual understanding of God.

20. The four books of science or Vedas - Rigveda, Samveda, Yadurveda and Atharvaveda. The Rigveda is the oldest book written by man (written around 3000 B.C).

21. The four Upavedas - Rigveda has the Ayurveda or the knowledge of Life or Health. Samaveda has Gandharvaveda or the knowledge of Music. Yadurveda has Yuurveda (Dhanurveda) or the knowledge of warfare or Yuddha. Atharaveda has Shilpavidya or the knowledge of crafts.

22. The four yugas - Kreta, Treta, Dwapar and Kali. Religion and human virtue stand on four legs during Kreta, three legs during Treta, two legs during Dwapar and on one leg during Kali yuga. The present yuga is Kali yuga. According to the Vishnu Purana during Kali Yuga, "property confers rank, wealth buys virtue, passion the only bond between husband and wife, sex the only means of enjoyment, falsehood the source of success and ceremonial trappings are confused with reality". Kali yuga began about 3000 B.C. and it will last for 427,000 years after which Kreta yuga will dawn again.

23. The four states of mind - Awakening, Dreaming, Dormant and Active.

24. The four forms or Akar or birth - Pindaj, Andaj, Swedaj and Udvij. Pindaj are mammals which are born directly from the body such as humans. Andaj are born from an egg such as birds. Swedaj are born from the water such as corral reefs. Udvij are born from the ground such as trees and plants.

25. The five letter prayer: Om Namoh Shivaya.

26. The five principal elements - Chiti (Earth), Jal (Water), Pavan (Wind), Gagan (Sky or Ether) and Samira (Fire).

27. The six Shastra - Vedanta, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimansa, Nyaya (Law) and Vaisheshta (Physical nature).

28. The six angas or pieces - Vedas have six pieces: Shikcha, Kalpa, Vyakaran, Nirukta, Chhanda and Jyotish. The language and learning is called Shikcha. Kalpa is the procedure such as how to perform yagna. Vyakaran is grammar. Nirukta is the dictionary of words. Chhanda is the system of writing or syntax. Jyotish is the knowledge of past, present and future or the science of Astrology.

29. The six seasons or Ritu - Vasanata (Spring) during the months of Chaitra and Vaisakha (the beginning of the year), Grishma (Summer) during the months of Jyashtha and Asarh, Varsa (Rain) during the months of Sravan and Vadra, Sharad (Autumn) during the months of Asardh and Kartik, Hemanta (Fall) during the months of Aghan and Paush and Shishir (Dew or Winter) during the months of Magha and Phalgun.

30. Seven Rishis (philosophers) - Kashyap, Atri, Vashishta, Viswamitra, Bharadwaj, Janadagmi and Gautam.

31. The eight letter prayer: Om Namoh Narayana.

32. The eight Siddhi - Anima, Mahima, Laghima, Garima, Prapti, Prakatya, Iswit, Vashitwa.

33. The eight directions - Uttar (North), Ishan (North-East), Purva (East), Agneya (South - East), Dakschin (South), Nairitya (South - West), Paschim (West) and Vayu (North - West).

34. The eight guardians or Dikpal - Indra (Thunder) for Purva, Agni (Fire) for Agneya, Nairiti for Nairitya, Yama (Death) for Dakschin, Varun (Sky) for Paschim, Vayu (Wind) for Vayu, Kubera (the guardian of wealth) for Uttar, Ishan for Ishan.

35. The nine ways of devotion - Sravan (Listening), Kirtan (Singing), Smaran (Remembering), Charanseva (Worshipping at the feet), Archan (Puja), Vandan (Praising), Atmanivedan (Offering ones service), Dasatva (Slavery of the Lord), Satya (Truth).

36. The twelve forms of Vishnu are called ‘vyuhantara’ - Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudana, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Hrshikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara.

37. The twelve months of a lunar year or chandra varsa - Chaitra (March-April), Baisakha (April-May), Jyashtha (May-June), Asardha (June-July), Sravan (July- August), Vadra (August-September), Aswin (September-October), Kartik (October- November), Margashirsha (November-December), Pausha (December-January), Magha (January-February) and Phalgun (February-March).

38. The twelve months or periods of a solar year or saura varsa - from July 14-August 13 Karkata (Cancer) and the sign is a Crab, from August 14-Septemeber 13 Singha (Leo) and the sign is the Lion, from September 14-October 13 Kanya (Virgo) and the sign is a young girl, from October 14- November 13 Tula (Libra) and the sign is the weigh scale, from November 14- December 13 Brischik (Scorpio) and the sign is a Scorpion, from December 14- January 13 Dhanu (Sagittarius) and the sign is Bow and Arrow, from January 14-February 13 Makar (Capricorn) and the sign is a sea monster, from February 14-March 13 Kumbha (Aquarius) and the sign is a Pot (Kumbha) of nectar (Amrita), from March 14-April 13 Meena (Pisces) and the sign is Fish, from April 14-May 13 Mesha (Aries) and the sign is a Lamb, from May 14-June13 Vrishava (Taurus) and the sign is a Bull and from June 14-July 13 Mithuna (Gemini) and the sign is a couple.

39. The fifteen days of Sukal Pakcha (first half of a lunar moant) - Pratipad, Dwitya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Saptami, Ashthami, Navami, Dashami, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Trayodashi, Chaturdashi and Purnima (Full Moon).

40. The fifteen days of Krishna Pakcha (second half of a lunar moanth) - Pratipad, Dwitya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Saptami, Ashthami, Navami, Dashami, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Trayodashi, Chaturdashi and Amabashya (Moonless night).

41. The Sixteen ways of a Woman's toilet or sringar - Anagasuchimazzan (Beautifying the body), Amalvasana (Wearing clean clothes), Yavak, Kesha (Hair), Sindur (Red vermilion), Tilak (point on the forehead), Tila (beauty spot), Mehndi (colour of hands and feet), Agraje, Bhushan (Makeup), Pushpa (flowers), Sugnadha (Perfume), Danta (Polishing the teeth), Adhar (Lips), Kajal (Kohl in the eyes).

42. The 21 Puranas - The books of history containing five elements - Swarga, Pratiswarga, Madhyantara, Vansa and Vansanuchitra. The Puranas which contain ten elements are called Mahapurana such as the Bhagwatpurana.

43. The thirty Muhurta in a day - A Muhurta divides the day in thirty sections which includes a full day and night cycle called Ahoratra (24 hours). Each Muhurta has 30 Kalas or 48 minutes. One Kala is 96 seconds long. There are 30 Kashtas in one Kala. A Kashta is 3.2 seconds long. There are 18 Nimesha in one Kashtha. One Nimesh is 17 seconds long or as long as it takes to blink an eye.

44. The thrity days of a lunar month - Pratipad, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Saptami, Ashthami, Navami, Dashami, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Trayodashi, Chaturdashi, Purnima (Full Moon), Pratipad, Dwitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shashti, Saptami, Ashthami, Navami, Dashami, Ekadashi, Dwadashi, Trayodashi, Chaturdashi and Amabashya (Moonless night).

45. The significance of the number 108 - The basic ten digit numbering system developed in India has one to nine numbers and a zero. The final digit is nine which when multiplied by any other digit gives a series of numbers which add up to the number nine. For example the addition of one, zero and eight is nine. This is the significance of 108 which is a multiple of nine or nine times twelve to be exact. Generally a set of prayer beads contains 108 beads. It is also auspicous to offer 108 flowers in Puja or in multiples of 9.