The real name of Vedic Dharma is Sanatana Dharma, which literally means the “eternal or universal truth.” Sometimes it is translated as the “perennial wisdom.” Sanatana Dharma is a set of principles that comprehends Universal Life and Consciousness, including religion, Yoga and mysticism, philosophy, science, art and culture, as parts of a single reality. This universal tradition is the religion we know as Hinduism; therefore, whenever we say Hinduism we refer to Sanatana Dharma or Vedic Dharma. The name Hinduism is a misnomer and of a foreign coinage. Indeed the term Hindu is found nowhere in the Vedic scriptures, nor can it be found in any classical texts of Sanatana Dharma.
The beauty of Sanatana Dharma is that it is a religion open to the universal truth and not closed in any exclusive system of belief. For example, it is not centered on any single figure like Christ, Mohammad or Buddha. It has no standard creed or practice. It is an open tradition of spiritual search that accepts all true human aspirations regardless of their names and forms. It maintains our connection with the universal tradition through all worlds and all time to the ancient past and the distant future in the vision of a timeless Brahman (Self-renewing reality).
In fact, recall that Sanatana Dharma begins with the statement from the Rig Veda “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti,” meaning “That which exists is ONE: Sages call It by various names.” Sanatana Dharma is a way of knowledge without limits, yet it possesses unchanging principles. It recognizes the great laws of nature and consciousness such as the law of Karma. It offers us practices that enable us to discover the truth for ourselves rather than merely telling us what the truth is supposed to be. Such practices are quite diverse and are not limited by a set formulation.Yogic postures, breathing exercises, ritual, mantra and meditation all permit the individual to directly perceive the Universal Truth. Sanatana Dharma also shows us ethical disciplines necessary to employ these tools correctly, such as the practice of nonviolence (ahimsa), truthfulness and the Brahmacharya system.
It directs us towards our own spiritual practice and realization as the true goal of our lives and does not leave us with a mere belief to save us.
Sanatana Dharma, therefore, cannot be defined in a simplistic manner because it contains all the mystery and complexity of life itself. However, without understanding it, we cannot claim to know what religion really is. Religion means “to unite,” which refers to the unification of the Atma (the self), the essence of our being, with Brahman, the Supreme Universal Principle.