Dharma and the
Religions of the World
religions of the world, to the extent that they represent a higher
path, represent different dharmas or approaches to Ultimate Truth.
The different religions can be viewed as aspects of Sanatana Dharma
or the Universal Truth. The great sages of all lands have been aware
of a universal tradition of Truth, beyond name and form. Without
such an awareness no real wisdom, which requires going beyond
personal or social limitations, would be possible.
The religions that
have their origins in India have always emphasized Dharma. Buddhism
is called Buddha Dharma, the law or truth taught by the Buddha or
the enlightened one, the Dharma of Enlightenment. Jainism is called
the Jain Dharma, the truth or teaching of the Jina or the one who
has conquered his own nature. Sanatana Dharma, or the Universal
Dharma, is the basis of Hinduism and explains why it is the most
comprehensive syncretic of all religious traditions. The great sages
of India have never regarded themselves as limited to a belief that
we would call Hindu, people following a particular ethnic religion
limited to the Indian subcontinent.
They have looked upon
themselves as followers of Sanatana Dharma, the universal tradition
of Truth. The term Sanatana Dharma can be found in Buddhist and Jain
teachings as well, as the movement toward universality is part of
the spirituality of India and the Himalayan region as a whole.We
could say, therefore, that there are two basic types of religious
teachings in the world. The first are the belief-oriented systems
that predominate in organized Western religions, which emphasize sin
and salvation leading to either hell or heaven. Their idea of cosmic
law is something imposed from above by the will of God, which may
appear to be arbitrary or even vengeful.