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The myth of sanatan dharma or the single truth

Chanchal Kumar

I had the opportunity to attend a talk by a Brahmin professor on the topic “The place of law in human life”. It, as it may be guessed, drew on Hindu dharma shastras and such books as the Manusmriti, and the best audience to his oration could be assumed to be those living during the time of kings and queens, since he spoke not about present times but more about the erstwhile days of (Brahmin) monarchs. At the end of the session when it was time for queries, I asked him the relevance of his talk in present times, thinking it would be hopeless to ask him about his decision to quote from casteist texts since it would fall on deaf ears. His response to my question was classic brahmin snobbery. He said “… Some things remain unchanged and are not affected by the passage of time.” In other words, the favourite term of the Brahmin caste in the country, i.e. “sanatan”. In this write-up, my attempt will be to investigate how the coinage “sanatan dharma” is oxymoronic and does not refer to Hinduism but rather refers to the status of Brahmins as they would want it to be in Indian society.

I believe the term “sanatan dharma” and what is taken as a stand-in for Hinduism: the religion which leads to a single truth (Brahminism), are interlinked or at least corollary. The reason for this is that “sanatan” relates to unchanging, or gives the idea of unitary, or something other than, even the opposite of, a duality. Here, I will try to prove how, first of all, the very words taken together “sanatan dharma” for Hinduism is a contradiction in terms, therefore non-existent and secondly, the idea of single truth being philosophically difficult to broach, leading not to any religion whatsoever other than Brahminism.

Sanatan dharma, both by a liberal translation and a meaning embraced by Brahmins, relates to a religion which is unchanging in nature. The first question then arises is whether Hinduism is an unnatural religion? I say this because existing as beings of nature, we are inherently changing. The oft-repeated statement “Change is Nature” is supposed to be one of those sayings heard from our elders in any society. I’m not stressing a novel point here as it has been repeated by anti-caste scholars that what is known as Hinduism today is only an attempt made by Brahmins to rename Brahminism.

If Brahmins then stopped relating Brahminism to a “religion” it would both be honest and relieve them of much hypocrisy because what is actually unchanging is their hold on the top rank in their business scheme (calling Hinduism for what it is). It is hypocrisy, for they attempt to call a bundle of lies “a way of life” and try to pass off opaque metaphysics as wisdom. The idea of an afterlife is pure conjecture, but Brahmins calling themselves Brahmans or the ubermensch and through Brahminism, securing their bodily lives on the Earth, is a form of politics not found anywhere else. What they do is hang the promise of a better afterlife within reach for non-Brahmins all the while making sure that they have the best material, comfortable lives for themselves. Isn’t this a sly way to operate? It’s known that culture flourishes only when a household is economically sound. Through all these years, Brahmins have prospered materially on the expense of marginalized Dalit lives and not only they show no guilt or remorse they actually try their best to have the same cycle repeat itself.

Those who have interacted with Brahmins on social media will attest to the fact that not only are they remorseless of the pain they inflict, they actually show pride in it. Toni Morrison, the Black novelist and scholar once said “If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And my feeling is White people have a very, very serious problem, and they should start thinking about what they are going to do about it. Take me out of it.” She believed that “People who practiced racism are bereft. There’s something wrong with their psyche…” The same holds true for casteists. Brahmins suffer in the hate they peddle and it is time they recognized this and did something only they know to rid themselves of the hate. Until then, nobody can help them and the other savarna people who align with their mindset.


Chanchal Kumar is an award-winning poet and writer from Jharkhand and Delhi. He currently teaches at Vinoba Bhave University, Hazaribag in Jharkhand. 

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