21 Principles of Sanatan Dharma

By Devdutt

Published on 23rd January, 2022, in Mid-day.

Sanatan Dharma is a term used for religions based on rebirth. So it is applied to Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. These religions emerged in the Gangetic plains in the second millennium BCE, and spread across the Indian subcontinent. These have to be distinguished from monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam that emerged in the Middle East and spread around the world.

In monotheistic religions, you are born only once and have to live that one life the right way following the word of God revealed through messengers. In this world, diversity in society is the result of unjust human actions. Hence, the obsession with justice in this one and only life, and the fear of Judgment Day at the end of this life. But principles of Sanatan Dharma are different, with Jainism and Buddhism veering towards monasticism and Hinduism valuing the householder’s life.

Below are 21 points that can be gleaned out of scriptures of Sanatan Dharma:

1. All events have a cause. Causes are neutral, we qualify them as good or bad.

2. All actions have a consequence. Consequences can be positive and negative.

3. In the network of life, there is no single cause or single consequence. Hence life is tough to predict.

4. Multiple causes and consequences create diversity.

5. Diversity gives rise to hierarchy which gives rise to inequality.

6. Everyone wants to be unique and feel special, and so loves hierarchy.

7. When we are burdened by hierarchy, we see it as a problem that needs to be solved. In other words, we seek to dismantle it and speak of justice and equality.

8. Victim, villain, and hero is a construct determined by our ego. If we are beneficiaries of hierarchy, we are heroes, deserving candidates of our fortune. If we are not, we are victims, and the beneficiary is
the villain.

9. Our ego is a function of our insecurities. It makes us feel we matter, that nature should treat us differently from other organisms. It makes us feel we can change the world, alone.

10. As we go about changing the world, solving problems, we create new problems, as it is impossible to factor in every influencer.

11. No matter what we do, there are never any guarantees in life.

12. History existed before us and will continue after us.

13. Nothing is permanent. Things come together to fall apart.

14. Individuals change, not communities.

15. Diversity is inefficient. So, we yearn for standardisation, homogeneity, and equality.

16. We take care of what we believe is ours.

17. Possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, ours) are human inventions, as is the idea of debt and fair trade.

18. Justice presupposes the end of history, when account books are balanced. This never happens in rebirth cultures.

19. Rebirth is a code to explain diversity in the world, and uncertainty of life.

20. Karma makes you accept the moment and make a choice, but without certainty of outcome.

21. Good times follow bad times. Sometimes you are on top of the wheel, sometimes you get crushed. It never ends.

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