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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Maha Bharata - Gems between Stories 11 - Bhima and Yudhishtra. Book 3

After, Draupadi, it is Bhima’s turn to disagree with Yudhishtra and tell him that the Pandavas should go to war with the Kauravas and get their land back. He says: “Sometime forgiveness is mistaken for incompetence and weakness. Virtue itself can become a source of weakness.  Virtue (dharma) has to be practiced for a purpose. It should be the basis for the acquisition of wealth (artha) and objects of desire (kama).  He that practices virtue for virtue's sake always suffers, because he does not know the purposes of virtue, like a blind man incapable of perceiving the solar light”.

"One should regard virtue, wealth and pleasure one after another, in that order. One should ever pursue all three. The scriptures ordain that one should seek virtue in the morning, wealth at noon, and pleasure in the evening. The scriptures also ordain that one should seek pleasure in the first portion of life, wealth in the second, and virtue in the last. One should pursue all three, namely virtue, wealth, and pleasure dividing their time duly”.

There is a discussion on what pleasure is and how one gets it.  Bhima says: “Pleasure may be derived from the possession of various objects of enjoyment.  The joy that arises from the senses, the intellect and the heart when directed to the object of desire is called pleasure. But, once obtained the acquired objects do not remain the same. They undergo changes. At their loss or disappearance, or in the case of happiness involving people, when they get old and disabled or when they die, we experience distress. We are, at present, in this state of distress. Why not go and fight to get the land back?”

Yudhishtra acknowledges his mistake and says that he should not have played dice with those whom he knew were better at it than him and whom he knew may also cheat. But having given a promise that the Pandavas will go into exile if he lost, he had to keep the promise. He owns up to his mistake and apologizes to his brothers and to Draupadi for putting them into this distress.

He says: “O Bhima, you do not know how much I am hurting for all this, particularly to the insult heaped upon Draupadi. Having, however, given that pledge in the midst of the Kuru heroes, I am unable to violate it now. Wait, O Bhima, for the return of our better days. You can take your revenge at a suitable time.  But for now, O Bhima, my promise can never be untrue. I regard keeping one’s promise to be paramount”.

But, Bhima continues: “Only they who have unlimited life or know for certain how long they are going to live can wait for the right time. If we wait for thirteen years, our life will be that much shorter. As Kshatriyas we should fight for our kingdom and get it before we die. If we do not chastise our foes we are useless burden on earth. You are loath to violate your pledge out of weakness of disposition. Besides how are we going to be incognito for one whole year? Everyone knows us all everywhere. We should fight now”.

Yudhsihtra replies: "One cannot succeed with courage alone. In order to succeed one should think through and approach the task with well-directed energy, and all necessary implements. We know that all those kings we defeated and those who are already under Dhrithrashtra will be on the Kaurava side. In addition, Bhishma, Drona and Kripa are obliged to him because of the fact they are supported by the king. And then there is Karna. How do you expect to win the battle with such a formidable enemy?”

At this time, Sage Vyasa comes there and speaks with Yudhishtra alone and tells him that good times are ahead. He asks Yudhishtra not wo worry. He then gives him a special mantra called Pratismiriti to be taught to Arjuna. Vyasa says that Arjuna is none other than Narayana and that with the mantra in his possession, Arjuna should go the land of the Gods and obtain celestial weapons from Indra, Vayu and Yama. Vyasa also says something very inteersting: “Since you have a large retinue, continued residence here might exhaust the deer of this forest, and be destructive of the creepers and plants. Therefore, plan on moving to a different place” and then disappears. Yudhishtra gets the mantra and moves from Dwaitavana to Kamyaka forest near the river Saraswati.

In another episode, Arjuna is sent to obtain celestial weapons. In the section describing Arjuna entering Amaravati, there is a statement that “eaters of unsanctified meat are not fit to enter that town”. That suggests that “meat eating” was prevalent at that time particularly among the Kshatriyas. This statement also talks about “sanctified meat”. It probably means that meat offered first to the Gods, in the homa fire, and the left-over. The sanctification of meat is practiced in other traditions too.

Later, when Bhima and others are sad at the absence of Arjuna, a rishi by name Brihadaswa arrives and narrates the story of Nala-Damayanti. 

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