Dharma vs Sampradaya

I use the word Dharma in the generic sense in this post — as a representation for Hindu religion in general — for Sanatana dharma.

And the word Sampradaya — used in the title — could very well be substituted by ‘jAti’ — caste.

In this critical juncture of Hindu civilisation — it is important to ensure that the differences in the various sampradayas of Sanatana dharma — the various jAtis that exists — the various ‘panthas’ under the Hindu umbrella — do NOT get exploited by the anti-Hindu ‘secular’ forces. While issues do exist in these various systems, they do not take away the fact that Hindu dharma as a whole is under threat in India. Nor can we allow a mindset to creep in — amongst the Hindus — where doing away with Sanatana dharma is seen as the way to escape issues within the system.

The vanguard, the leaders who will lay the foundation for the revival, therefore need to come up with a workable mechanism to harmonise the differences within Sanatana dharma into the whole. For the greater good, the differences have to be converted as tools that aid — rather than weapons that destroy.

A lack of such harmony today has meant that even the most knowledgeable Sanatana-dharmika gets triggered by even a small counter to what he believes under his/her ‘sampradaya’. Such a mindset damages the bigger cause.

I found the best approach to resolve this dichotomy in the words of Sri Ram Swarup, the great modern Hindu thinker of the past century. In his book “On Hinduism: Reviews and Reflections” — he talks about achieving the fine balance between the overall dharma vs the particular sampradaya in a powerful but short set of paragraphs. I reproduce the same below for the benefit of the readers.


Hinduism in its great fecundity and profundity has given rise to many sampradayas (orders). It is how it should be. A great truth with many facets is lived like that in all its plurality. A sampradaya makes necessary adaptations possible. But sometimes, it has also led to unhappy results. The new sampradaya forgets its larger identity. It begins to make unwarranted claims. In the process, it itself becomes rootless and begins to play a negative role. Therefore, when a Hindu joins a particular sampradaya, the following could be the part of the vow.

  • Hindu dharma has many facets; it is inexhaustible; it is a great ocean. One drop from it is enough for me.
  • The Sanatana dharma has been well explained (svAkhyAta) by a succession of great sages and teachers. It has been confirmed by them in their lives.
  • I belong in the first instance to this great unbroken tradition. Now I join this sampradaya in order to live some of its truths more intensely

I strongly feel the essence of the above proposition by Sri Ram Swarup could be a doctrine every Hindu adopts whenever there is an internal conflict that arises. Whenever there is a challenge to Sanatana dharma from an external entity, the glory of the parent-sampradaya — Sanatana dharma itself — becomes the only important goal. All internal divisions, differences, practices — become secondary — and should necessarily subjugate themselves to the larger goal.

True — there are many ills within our Sanatana dharma. But let that not become a weakness for others to exploit and harm us. We will protect our house first. The repairs inside — we shall certainly do — but not at the cost of losing the house itself.

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