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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Markandeya’s Advice to Yudhishtra on Raja Dharma (virtues of a king)  - Maha Bharatha Series 19

Markandeya (Book 3 Section 190) advises Yudhishtra “to love all creatures and be merciful to them; to always speak the truth; to renounce pride and vanity and be humble; to keep passions under control; not to be overcome by the current calamities because they too will pass; to respect the ancestors and the gods; and to be virtuous in thoughts, words and deeds”.

In section 192, there is a discussion between Indra and Vaka, an ascetic. Indra asks Vaka: “O Muni, you have lived 100 hundred years. What are the problems of people who have a long life-span?” The answer is amazing: “They may have to live with a disagreeable person and put up with a wicked company for a long time. They may have to separate too soon from a companion who is agreeable and likeable. The death of the spouse, children and friends and the pain of dependence on others will be unbearable. There is a possibility of loss of wealth and thus of dignity and of being insulted. They may have to witness good people suffering and worthless people enjoying. They who lead deathless lives are destined to look at all these and thus suffer”.

In section 193, Narada appears on the scene and recites three poems. They say that a wicked man will behave wicked to a humble man, but a humble man will act with humility even to a wicked man. An honest man will behave honestly even to a dishonest man. A mean person should be won with charity; an untruthful one with truth; a wicked one with forgiveness and a dishonest one with honesty.

The story of Sibi starts in Section 196. We learn that the pigeon in that story is Agni and the hawk is Indra and they took the forms of the birds to test the truthfulness and virtues of the King. This was part of an earlier blog post. The only new point is a dialogue in which Sibi says that he does not do anything for fame, wealth or for acquiring objects of enjoyment. He does what his heart says is virtuous and not sinful.

There are several passages on the duties of a brahmana and the responsibility of a king to protect the brahmanas and give them respect. Many punishments are listed for those who disobey these responsibilities. All these passages are distractions to me. Compared to the lofty ideas expressed in several episodes which elevate one’s thinking, these parochial remarks lead only to rituals and superstitions. Yet, these passages are the ones which get attention and not the thought-provoking and profound dialogues.

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