Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Question number three. "It is said that the greatest strength of Hinduism is its catholicity, or breadth of outlook, but that this is also its greatest weakness, in that there are very few common prescribed religious observances which are obligatory for all, as in other religions. Is it necessary and possible to outline certain basic minimum observances for all Hindus?"
Śrīla Prabhupāda: So far as the Vedic religion is concerned, it is not simply for the so-called Hindus. That is to be understood. This is sanātana-dharma, the eternal and universal nature and duty of every living being. It is for all living entities, all living beings. That is why it is called sanātana-dharma. That I have already explained. The living entity is sanātana, or eternal; God is sanātana; and there is sanātana-dhāma, the Lord's eternal abode. As Kṛṣṇa describes in the Bhagavad-gītā [8.20], paras tasmāt tu bhāvo 'nyo vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ: "Yet there is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal." And in the Eleventh Chapter Kṛṣṇa Himself is described as sanātanaḥ. Do you remember? He is described as sanātanaḥ, the supreme eternal.
So actually, the Vedic system is called sanātana-dharma, not Hindu dharma. This is a wrong conception. This sanātana-dharma is meant for all living entities, not just the so-called Hindus. The very term "Hindu" is a misconception. The Muslims referred to the Indian people, who lived on the other side of the river Sind, as "Sindus"—actually, due to the peculiarities of pronunciation, as "Hindus." In any case, the Muslims called India "Hindustan," which means "the land on the other side of the river Sind, or 'Hind.'" Otherwise, "Hindustan" has no Vedic reference. So this "Hindu dharma" has no Vedic reference.
The real Vedic dharma is sanātana-dharma, or varṇāśrama-dharma. First of all, one has to understand this. Now that sanātana-dharma, or Vedic dharma, is being disobeyed, distorted, and misrepresented, it has come to be misunderstood as "Hinduism." That is a fake understanding. That is not the real understanding. We have to study sanātana-dharma, or varṇāśrama-dharma. Then we'll understand what the Vedic religion is.
Every living entity is eternal, sanātana. God is also eternal, and we can live with God in His sanātana-dhāma, His eternal abode. This reciprocation is called sanātana-dharma, the eternal nature and duty of the living being. So Vedic religion means this sanātana-dharma, not "Hindu dharma." Read the verse from Bhagavad-gītā that describes Kṛṣṇa as sanātanaḥ.
tvam akṣaraṁ paramaṁ veditavyaṁ
tvam asya viśvasya paraṁ nidhānam
tvam avyayaḥ śāśvata-dharma-goptā
sanātanas tvaṁ puruṣo mato me
"You are the supreme primal objective You are the ultimate resting place of this universe. You are inexhaustible, and You are the supreme eternal. You are the maintainer of the eternal religion, the Personality of Godhead. This is my opionion." [Bhagavad-gītā 11.18]
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This understanding is wanted. Kṛṣṇa is eternal, we are eternal, and the place where we will live with Him and exchange our feelings—that is eternal. And the system which teaches this eternal system of reciprocation—that is called sanātana-dharma, the eternal religion. It is meant for everyone.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: How can people follow sanātana-dharma on a practical, daily basis?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: How are we doing it? Is it not practical? Kṛṣṇa requests, man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru: [Bg. 18.65] "Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me, and offer your obeisances to Me." Where is the impracticality? Where is the difficulty? And Kṛṣṇa promises, mām evaiṣyasy asaṁṣaya: "If you do this, you'll come to Me. Without any doubt you'll come to Me." Why don't you do that?
Later Kṛṣṇa requests, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: [Bg. 18.66] "Give up all varieties of concocted religion and simply surrender to Me." This is practical religion. Just surrender to Kṛṣṇa and think, "I am a devotee of Kṛṣṇa, a servant of Kṛṣṇa." Take this simple approach. Then everything will be immediately done. Real dharma, real religion, means dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: [SB 6.3.19] what God says, that is dharma. Now, God says, "give up all this concocted dharma and just surrender unto Me." So take that dharma.
Why don't you take Kṛṣṇa's instruction? Why do you go outside His instruction? That is the cause of all your troubles. You do not know the difference between this sanātana-dharma, the real, eternal religion, and your concocted dharma. If you take to some false religious system, then you suffer. But if you take to the real religious system, then you'll be happy.
Of course, nowadays India, like the rest of the world, has also given up the real religious system—sanātana-dharma, or varṇāśrama-dharma. In India they have accepted a hodgepodge thing called "Hinduism." So there is trouble. Everywhere, but in India especially, people should know that the real religion is this Vedic system. Vedic religion means varṇāśrama-dharma. Kṛṣṇa says—God says—cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭam: [Bg. 4.13] "For spiritual and material progress, the four occupational divisions of society have been set up by Me." So that is obligatory, just as the state law is obligatory. You cannot say, "I don't accept this law." No. You have to accept it if you want to have a happy life. You cannot become an outlaw. Then you'll not be happy. You'll be punished.
Now, God says, mayā sṛṣṭam: "This varṇāśrama system is given by Me." So how can we refuse to follow it? that means we are denying the real religion. Dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītam: [SB 6.3.19] real dharma, real religion, means the order given by God. And God says, cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭam guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ: [Bg. 4.13] "For the proper management of human society, I have created these four social divisions, based on people's qualities and actions." So you have to accept it.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: This would be the prescription for all people?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: For everyone. At the head of the social body there must be the intelligent class of men, who will give advice; then there must be the administrative and protective class, the farming and mercantile class, and the laboring class. This is all given in the Bhagavad-gītā: brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra.
But when you fully surrender to Kṛṣṇa, you can give up all the regulations pertaining to these four social classes. That is why Kṛṣṇa says, sarva-dharmān parityajya: [Bg. 18.66] "In the ultimate issue, My instruction is to give up all religious formularies"—including even Vedic formularies—"and simply surrender to Me." "Brāhmaṇa-dharma," "kṣatriya-dharma,""Hindu dharma," this dharma, that dharma—give all these up and simply surrender to Kṛṣṇa, because the ultimate aim of dharma is to come to Kṛṣṇa. "You directly come to Me; then everything is all right."
Disciple: So many people concoct their own system and say, "This is the way to go to God."
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then let them suffer. What can be done? If you don't accept the laws of the state and you manufacture your own laws, then you'll suffer. The state says, "Keep to the right." But if you make your own law—"No, I will keep to the left"—then you'll suffer. It's a fact.
Kṛṣṇa is personally advising: sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: [Bg. 18.66] "Give up all your concocted religions and surrender to Me alone." take His advice and be happy.