In the last article it was learnt that sanātana dharma is not a religion but a supreme eternal law that governs the entire universe. It’s fundamental philosophy of the ‘oneness of all existence as divinity’ (sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma) is the most ancient way of life practised in the Bharath Varsha – Indian peninsula, for much longer than the recorded modern history. vedas are its fundamental texts and vedānta, the philosophy. The twin principles of ‘reincarnation’ (punarjanma) and ‘action-reaction’ (karma) are the rules within which this law operates. 

Today let’s understand the idea of God from the point of view of sanātana dharma

While ‘God’ is a non-existent entity to atheists, a mystery to the seekers and a living experience to the believers, God has always been the most debated topic from the very beginning. Ever since the first man opened his eyes and looked around in wonder at the suspended stars in the night sky which twinkled and shimmered eternally, the golden disc at the dawn which never missed its appointment with the earthlings, the soothing silver moon in the night that waxed and waned rhythmically, the mother earth with all her myriad inhabitants, animate and inanimate, minuscule and mighty, and the crest jewel of it all the human kind with its endless enterprise and enquiry, he asked within himself; Where did all this come from? Who governs this? Where does it all go at the end? 

The first man wandered wide-eyed in the wilderness, seeking answers to these questions, and when he could not find the answers outside, he turned within, in deep contemplation. That’s how seekers and sages evolved out of ordinary beings, just like a caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly. The answers were more of intuitive revelations than experimental conclusions, call it serendipity if you may. 

The first understanding that emerged from this process of deep enquiry was that definitely there is a power, ‘a creative force’ that exists, and all this has come out of it. The second inference was that this power or force is not mechanical but ‘conscious and creative’ for this kind of distinctive variety and intelligent detailing isn’t possible by a dead unconscious power, and thirdly that this power has no beginning or end, for everything in the creation is cyclic, be it days or nights, seasons or situations, even life and death on this planet. Just that some are shorter cycles and some are longer. Upon keen observation, a student of science can easily draw striking parallels between this intuitive understanding of the sages of yore and the scientific conclusions of the modern scientists, who said that all matter is energy (e=mc²) and energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can only be transformed from one form to another! 

The first understanding that emerged from this process of deep enquiry was that definitely there is a power, ‘a creative force’ that exists, and all this has come out of it.

Thousands of years ago, much before all the modern scientific studies, taittirīyopaniṣad described these three aspects of that supreme creative force as  – satyamjñānamanantam, which is to say that this power has three attributes of – Existence, Consciousness and Perpetuity. Simply put it  means that it exists, it is intelligent and that it can never be created nor destroyed, which is what scientists say now, well almost, except that they are still debating whether it is a conscious energy or an unconscious force of nature. 

However, with the newer frontiers of quantum mechanics and unified field theory, the idea of a ‘field’, a substratum to the entire universe is gaining rapid acceptance. This field consisting of four kinds of forces, namely, gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force, seems to have an intelligent way of its own, leading to creation of newer materials, sustenance and destruction of it as well. Let’s not forget that once upon a time people thought that the earth was flat, till they discovered that it wasn’t! So science is yet to discover what sages have already done. 

Though electric current does not have any attributes such as lighting, heating or blowing, yet its interaction with the various appliances transforms its essential electrical energy into all these apparently diverse and different kinds of energies.

In sanātana dharma, the term given to this power which exists and is conscious as well as eternal, is ‘brahman’. brahman is considered as one without name and forms, without attributes and qualities, without dualities and differences, though paradoxically all the variety, beauty and apparent differences in the creation are all due to that one, eternal, non dual, unchanging Brahman. How is that possible? Let’s take the example of the electricity, which by itself is nothing but a force generated by the flow of electrons in a wire. But, when the same electric current passes through a bulb, it turns into light energy, when it enters a heater, it becomes heat energy, when it enters a fan, it becomes wind energy and so on. Though electric current did not have any of these attributes like, lighting, heating or blowing, yet its interaction with the various appliances transformed its essential electrical energy into all these apparently diverse and different kinds of energies. Similarly brahman’s conscious intelligent energy interacts with nature and generates everything, sustains them and finally even destroys them. The subatomic particles interact to form atoms, which form molecules, elements, compounds, matter, plants, birds, animals and humans, and when humans die they disintegrate back into the same subatomic particles and energy. The cycle continued perpetually! Based on this cyclic nature of work of brahman, three functions have been attributed to brahman, which are creation – sṛṣṭi, sustenance – sthiti and dissolution- laya

Thus, this one changeless brahman, essentially energy appears to manifest in all the changing things or masses of the universe.  But just as all ornaments, be it bangles, rings, necklaces are nothing but modifications of gold, and though known by different names which are attributed to their different forms, they are essentially gold only, everything and everyone is essentially brahman, is what sanātana dharma preaches. 

This brahman in sanātana dharma is the supreme Godhead, and though for the sake of it we often refer to that brahman as ‘He’ and not ‘She’, however the truth is that brahman is neither ‘He’ nor ‘she’ and not even ‘It’! brahman is brahman!!

Then one may ask, what about all this variety of Gods that we worship, some masculine, some feminine and some even stranger like half human- half animal, how can these be brahman? How can we also know brahman like the sages of the past? 

We will learn about it in the next article

The supreme creative force has been described in the taittirīyopaniṣad  as:

satyam

Existence

jñānam

Consciousness

anantam

Perpetuity

Three functions have been attributed to brahman:

sṛṣṭi

Creation

sthiti

Sustenance

laya

Dissolution