Beliefs and practices
The Sanskrit term Sanātana Dharm (Hindi: सनातन धर्म) or Dharmam Sanātanam (transliterated in Pali: Dhammo Sanatano), lit. "the way of life", is an epithet used natively in Dharmic Traditions, notably Hindu Dharma and early Buddhadharma to collectively refer to their religious practices and beliefs respectively. While Hindus use the Sanskrit term, early Buddhist texts used the Pali equivalent. Sanātana Dharm also refers to "Eternal Law" and is sometimes designed under the term "Manu Law".
In modern times Hindus also refer to their religion as "Sanatana Dharma".
The first use perhaps comes from Kathopanishad. For example, the Kathopanishad declares: "Eso's' vatthah sanatanah."
The Manu Smriti (4-138) goes on to declare:
Translation: "Speak the truth, speak the truth that is pleasant. Do not speak the truth to manipulate. Do not speak falsely to please or flatter someone. This is the quality of the Sanatan Dharma".
The Bhagavad Gita reads:
Traigunya vishaya veda nistraigunyo bhavarjuna (Gita II-45)
Translation: "O Arjun, the Vedas deal with the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas). You should transcend these three gunas."
The Bhagavata Purana reads:
The concept of Dharma being eternal is a recurrent concept in the Hindu literature and Buddhist literature from the 1st millennium BCE. It occurs in the Epics Mahabharata & Ramayana as well as in the Pali Canon and points to a common origin of the concept.
In the Vedas, the eternal Dharma is called by the name Rta, while in Old Persian and Zoroastrian scripture (in Avestan), the cognate is called Arta and Asha respectively and can therefore be taken as a continuation of a common Proto-Indo-Iranian religious concept.
The eternality (sanātanatvā) of Dharma implied also its constancy and invariability.
Subject to context, Rta- is also frequently translated as "right working" or "[that which is] right". The word then (cf. Bartholomae's and Geldner's translations as German "Recht") has the same range of meaning of "right" as in the English language: truth, righteousness, rightfulness, lawfullness, conformity, accord, order (cosmic order, social order, moral order).
The eternality of the Dharma was also an important factor as it represented the idea of an absolute truth, which had its Vedantic parallel in the concept of Brahman, the unchangeable immortal existence of absolute truth. While the eternality of Dharma was emphasized in the tradition of Purva Mimamsa, the equivalent absolutist concept of Nirguna Brahman was the preserve of Vedanta as represented by the Upanishads.
The concept of eternality and invariability of Dharma also takes into account the principle of infinity of the holy law i.e Dharma. The Isha Upanishad of the Yajurveda states that "if you remove a part from infinity or add a part to infinity, still what remains is infinity".
The essence of this verse is that the Infinite cannot be measured arithmetically - Brahman is viewed as this Infinite Eternal and holy reality i.e Sanatana Dharma.
Several Organizations have endeavored to educate people around the world on Sanatana Dharma. Starting with Vivekananda in 1800's to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1960's have spread the knowledge of Sanatana Dharma.