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Q. How many followers of Sanatana Dharma are there in the world?
A. There are close to one billion followers of Sanatana Dharma in the world today. The majority of these Dharmis live in Asia - India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc. Approximately 85% of the population of India are followers. However, Dharmis can be found living happily in almost every country on earth. There are about 5 million people currently practicing Sanatana Dharma, for example, living in the U.S.
Interestingly, not every American who practices Sanatana Dharma, however, is necessarily consciously aware of the fact that they are following the ancient tradition of Sanatana Dharma. At least 5 million people in the U.S. do consciously identify themselves as followers of Sanatana Dharma. Of these 5 million American followers, about 1 1/2 million are of Indian descent. The other 3 1/2 million are non-Indian American practitioners.
Q. How old is Sanatana Dharma?
A. There are several closely allied opinions on this subject. Scholars of South Asian religions are - at the very least - of the opinion that Sanatana Dharma represents one of the oldest spiritual traditions known to humanity. Most of these scholars go as far as to say that it is probably the oldest spiritual path on earth. Dharmis would certainly agree with this latter view. The oldest writings known to humanity are the Vedas, the revealed scriptures of Sanatana Dharma, which date back to perhaps 3800 B.C.E. This is when they were first put into writing; these sacred scriptures are known, however, to have been transmitted orally from generation to generation for an extensive period of time previous to even this date.
Followers of Sanatana Dharma themselves hold the view that this spiritual tradition, known in the ancient, sacred language of Sanskrit as "Sanatana Dharma," is an eternal and ever-present (even if not ever-visible) way of life. No one actually knows when Sanatana Dharma was first started. Both practitioners of Dharma spirituality, as well as all academicians, agree that there was no one specific time in known history when the path of Dharma was founded. Additionally, there was no one individual - a prophet, saint or priest - who can be claimed as the founder of the religion. As far as followers themselves are concerned, Sanatana Dharma was never actually founded. It is an eternal spiritual phenomenon that is as old as the Earth herself.
Moreover, Dharma (God's Natural Law) is the sustainer of the Earth. This is indicated by the meanings of the two words that constitute the very name of this culture: sanatana means “eternal” and dharma means “natural law or way."
Sanatana Dharma is thus: The Eternal Natural Way.
Sanatana Dharma is a way of life and world-view that is also trans-geographical. Sanatana Dharma does not pertain only to India. It is not the “religion of India.” Rather, concrete evidence of Sanatana Dharma are to be found in many of the ancient cultures of the world. We see ideas and practices that are very similar to Dharma philosophy, not only in ancient India, but also in Chinese culture, Native American, Celtic, Greco-Roman, Nordic, Egyptian, Mayan, Mesopotamian, and Persian cultures, as well as many others.
The concept of "Dharma", as the natural law inherent in our cosmos, is found in almost all ancient civilizations. In Chinese, Dharma is translated as "Tao". In Ancient Egyptian, it is known as "Ma'at". In Latin it is called "Liga Natura" (Natural Law). In ancient Persian Dharma is known as "Asha". The great Twentieth Century Italian philosopher, Baron Julius Evola, refers to this concept as "Tradition". There is a word for Dharma in almost every ancient language on earth. So when we speak of "Dharma", we are not just referring to some sect, denomination or creed. Rather, we are referring to those eternal spiritual principles that serve as the very foundation of all authentic religious experience.