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Sanatan Dharma and Yuga  Dharma
By Swami Vivekananda

From the Manu Smrti (1.85):

From The Mahabharata, Santi Parva

Duties change according to the Yugas (ages)
From The  Mahabharata

Sanatan Dharma and Yuga  Dharma
By Swami Vivekananda, 
The foremostt disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa

Dharma or spiritual tradition has two aspects:

1. The Sanatan Dharma (sruti), tradition eternal which is not subject to change.

2. The Yuga Dharma (smritis), tradition valid for only an epoch or an age responding to the urge for change. Yuga Dharma are limited, temporary and relative in their scope and authority.

The detailed workings, the minute points which have been
worked out through centuries of social necessity, little
ratiocinations about manners and customs and social well-being, do not rightly find a place in the category of religion. We know that in our books, a clear distinction is made between two sets of truths. The one set is that which abides for ever, being built upon the nature of man, the nature of the soul, the soul's relation to God, the nature of God, perfection and so on; there are also the principles of cosmology, of the infinitude of creation, or more correctly speaking, projection, the wonderful law of cyclical procession, and so on; these are eternal principles founded
upon the universal laws of nature.

The other set comprises the minor laws, which guide the working of our everyday life. They belong more properly to the Puranas, to the Smrtis, and not to the Sruti. These have nothing to do with the other principles. Even in our nation (India), these minor laws have been changing all the time. Customs of one age, of one yuga, have not been the customs of another, and as yuga come after yuga, they will still
have to change.

From the Manu Smrti (1.85):

"There is one set of (yuga) dharmas for man in the krta yuga; a different set for each of the treta, dvaapar and kali yugas; the dharmas change according to the change of the yugas."

The Mahabharata, Santi Parva
Section   CCLX                                       

Yudhishthira said:

Then again the proof of what I say has been furnished by even those that are well conversant with the scriptures themselves, for it has been heard by us that the ordinances of the Vedas disappear gradually in every successive age. The duties in the Krita age are of one kind. Those in the Treta are of another kind, and those in the Dwapara are again different. The duties in the Kali age, again, are entirely of another kind.

It seems, therefore, that duties have been laid down for the respective age according to the powers of human beings in the respective ages.

[For detailed exposition of Yudhishthira's conversation with Bhishma, read the Page 'Righteousness'. < Click here]
The  Mahabharata
Santi Parva, Section CCXXXI
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan ganguli

Duties change according to the Yugas (ages)

In the Krita age, all the duties exists in their entirety, along with Truth. No knowledge or object came to men of that age through unrighteous or forbidden means. In the other yugas, duty, ordained in the Vedas, is seen to gradually decline by a
quarter in each. Sinfulness grows in consequence of theft,
untruth, and deception. In the Krita age, all persons are free
from disease and crowned with success in respect of all their objects, and all live for four hundred years. In the Treta, the
period of life decreases by a quarter. It has also been heard
by us that, in the succeeding yugas, the words of the Vedas,
the periods of life, the blessings (uttered by Brahmanas), and
the fruits of Vedic rites, all decrease gradually.

The duties set down for the Krita yugas are of one kind. Those for the Treta are otherwise. Those for the Dwapara are different. And those for the Kali are otherwise. This is in accordance with that decline that marks every succeeding yuga. In the Krita, penance occupies the foremost place. In the Treta, Knowledge is foremost. In the Dwapara, Sacrifice has been said to be the foremost. [Note: See Page ‘Mantras- Sacred Fire’]. In the kali yuga, only gift is the one thing that has been laid down.

The learned say that these twelve thousand years (of the
deities) constitute what is called a Yuga. A thousand such
Yugas compose a single day of Brahma. The same is the
duration of Brahma’s night. With the commencement of
Brahma’s day the universe begins to start into life. During the
period of universal dissolution the Creator sleeps, having
recourse to Yoga-meditation. When the period of slumber
expires, He awakes. That then which is Brahma’s day extends for a thousand such yugas. His nights also extends for a thousand similar Yugas. They who know this are said to know the day and the night. On the expiry of His night, Brahma, waking up, modifies the indestructible Chit by causing it to be overlaid with Avidya. [See Page ‘Maya’]. He then causes Consciousness to spring up, whence proceeds Mind which is identical with the Manifest.

[Note: The external world is nothing but Mind transformed.
Mind, therefore, is spoken of here as that which is manifest.]
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