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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bhima and Nahusha - Maha Bharatha Series 17


In Book 3, Section 161, Yudhishtra is conversing with Kubera. Kubera says: “Patience, ability, proper timing, proper place and strength are the five requirements for success”. He then gives his assessment of Arjuna and Bhima. Kubera thinks that Arjuna has self-control, charity, strength, intelligence, modesty, energy and a will. Bhima on the other hand is “like a child, fearless, haughty and therefore forgets his duties and unforgiving”. Therefore, Kubera advises Yudhishtra to keep Bhima under check!

In a description by Arshtisena of the Sun revolving around a celestial mountain called Meru, the stars are said to revolve around this Meru giving the 6 seasons.  Here, Sun is called ‘the wheel of Time, cyclic, unerring and moving without rest”.

In Section 166 and 167, Arjuna is on his journey acquiring celestial weapons from Indra, Rudra and Agni. Arjuna defeats Daityas and Danavas. When, Arjuna is away on this quest, the rest of the Pandavas are on a pilgrimage to holy rivers, and holy places. Two areas mentioned in those wanderings are: China (?) and a desert close to the river Saraswati. During the stay in Kubera’s land, Bhima encountered a huge snake which got hold of him and would not let go. In spite of his enormous strength, Bhima could not extricate himself. So, he asked the snake who he was (Section 178).

The snake told Bhima that he was cursed to take the life of a snake and that his curse will end when someone who knows the relationship between the soul and the supreme can answer his questions. Bhima told the snake that happiness and misery are sometimes in our hands and sometimes it is not. Destiny is more powerful and therefore one should not fret. He himself is not so sorry for himself becoming a food for the snake. But he was concerned for his brothers and his mother.

At about this time Yudhishtra got anxious not knowing where Bhima was. He went in search and found Bhima in the grips of the huge snake. Yudhishtra requested the snake to release his brother. The snake said that whoever comes into his territory is his food. Life is precious for every living being and “I need the food. Since you are also in my territory, if you stay longer, I am entitled to you also as my food for tomorrow”. Yudhisthra asked what would satisfy the snake to release Bhima.

The snake said that he is Nahusha, one of the ancestors of Pandavas and that he is under the curse of Agastya and the curse will fall off if Yudhishtra can answer his questions. Then comes an interesting conversation.

Snake: “Who is a Brahamana?”

Yudhishtra: “A Brahmana is one who practices truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence and mercy and one who practices proper rites”

S: “I see all those great qualities in sudras also. If Brahmana is known by character alone, and not by birth, the idea of Varna does not arise, if character is left out”

Y: “Sudra is not a sudra by birth alone. Nor does a Brahmana becomes a Brahmana by birth alone. The wise ones recognize a Brahmana by the qualities in them. If a Brahmana by birth does not have those qualities, he will be called a sudra”. Besides, men tend to be promiscuous. That is why the caste of the individual is uttered aloud at the beginning of yagnas. That is also why the natal ceremony is performed even before the umbilical cord is cut, with mother officiating as the savitri and the father as a priest. Everyone is a sudra until he learns the vedas. I myself consider those of pure and virtuous conduct as a Brahmana”.

S: “What should be known?”

Y: “Brahman, which is beyond misery and happiness is the one to be known”.

S: “But, I have not found any such entity”.

Y: “And, as for your other objection, just as cold cannot exist in heat and heat cannot exist in cold, there cannot be an object in which both cannot exist. So goes the argument for happiness and misery. There has to be something which is beyond both”.

The snake is pleased and lets go of Bhima.

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