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Friday, November 10, 2017

Vidura consoling Dhrithrashtra - Maha Bharatha Series 52



In Book 11, Section 2, Vidura is trying to console Dhrithrashtra after the loss of all his sons, grandsons and the army in the battle. Vidura says: “Every living thing has to die. What is the use of grieving over the inevitable? Everything that is put together ends in destruction. Anything that goes up has to come down. Union is bound to end in separation. Life is sure to end in death. The ultimate destroyer will drag down the hero and the coward.”

Living creatures are not existent before they appear, exist for a short period and then become non-existent again. What is the use of grief? You cannot meet with the dead just by grieving. All creatures are like members of a caravan bound to the same destination. But no one knows who will meet with death first. For the Ksahtriya, death in the battlefield is glorious.

“Birth and death are common and universal. There are many reasons for fear and sorrow. But the wise do not get carried away. Time does not favor one over another. No one is dear or hateful to Time. Time is indifferent to none. All get dragged equally by Time. Time causes everything to grow and then destroys everything. Time is awake when everything else is sleeping. It is irresistible. It causes the end of youth, beauty, life and possessions. A wise one therefore is not attached to anything and does not grieve over anything. By indulging in grief, one gets weaker. Grief does not lead us to enlightenment. If grief grips you, counteract by not indulging it. One cannot lessen grief by dwelling on it. It only grows with indulgence. One loses purpose and goal in life by excessive grief”.

“You know that this grief was brought on by your own faults. You were too attached to your sons and did not control them when you should have. There is no use grieving now. Get up and do what you can to appease the souls of the dead”.

Going further, Vidura tells Dhrithrashtra a parable of a man who runs hither and thither in a wilderness and enters a forest at the entrance to which stands a large and gruesome-looking woman. The forest is full of beasts of prey. The man runs and falls into a pit. There is an elephant with 6 heads and 12 feet at the entrance to the pit. The man falls into the pit and hangs upside down on the branches of a creeper. The creeper clings to a tree whose roots are being chewed by rats. There are snakes all over. There are bees swarming to drink the honey from the flowers. The flowers spew honey which the man licks but it is not able to quench his thirst. (Amazingly, Tolstoy uses this fable in his book on “What I believe”!)

Dhrithrashtra asks for the meaning of the parable. Vidura says that the wilderness represents this world of ours. The forest stands for one’s limited life. The beasts of prey are the diseases which afflict man and the ugly, large woman is decrepitude which destroys one’s body. The pit is the physical body and the snakes stand for Time, the ultimate destroyer. The creepers on which the man was hanging stand for one’s desire for life. The elephant is the year (time) with 12 feet or months and 6 faces or seasons. The rats gnawing through the roots of the tree of life are the days and nights which diminish the duration of our lives. Finally, the bees are our human desires and the honey is the transient  happiness we obtain through gratification of desires. Vidura says that one should understand these facts of life, birth and death, diseases and desires and go beyond this impermanent life.   

Vidura compares the body to a car and calls its driver as the Living Principle. The senses are the steeds. He says that people who let the horses run without control have to come back again and again into the cycle of samsara; but those who know how to control the horses attain liberation. The man who restrains his senses, controls his passions and who is contended and truthful attains liberation.

Vidura uses an interesting metaphor in Sloka 19 of Section 7 (Book 11). He says that dama (self control), tyaga (letting go) and apramaada (heedfulness) are the three horses that lead the car of Brahman. If you equate “heedfulness”” with “mindfulness”, this is what Buddha also taught.

The next sloka is also interesting. It says: “The “self” is dear to every one of us. None of the creatures wish to die. Therefore, we should be compassionate to all creatures”.  This is absolutely simple logic. Why is it so difficult to practice? If your life is precious to you, why is it so difficult for you to understand that my life is precious to me? Why do you wish to hurt me?

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