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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Odds and Ends from Book 5 - Maha Bharata Series 32

              Vidura neeti and Sanatsujateeyam are parts of Book 5 and I have covered them already elsewhere. A few other points follow.  Vidura says that self-restraint is great virtue. Self-restraint in turn leads to several other virtues and therefore, it is recommended for all modes of life. Forgiveness, firmness of mind, abstention from injury, an equal regard for all things, truthfulness of speech, simplicity, control over the senses, patience, gentleness of speech, modesty, steadiness, liberality, mildness, contentment, and faith follow self-restraint. Self-control also gets rid of avarice, pride, wrath, sleep, boastfulness, self-esteem, malice, and sorrow. Purity and absence of crookedness and fraud, are the distinctive marks of a man of self-restraint. Such a person has no fear of other creatures and no creature is afraid of him. He is a universal friend and devoted to peace, he rejoices in this world.

While reading Book 5, I also realized that every time someone leaves town, he (or they) is followed by the hosts for a short distance before the final “good-bye” is said. We read this in Ramayana when Rama leaves for his 14 year life in the forests. I remember reading such an episode in Kalidasa  when he describes Shakuntala leaving with her son to Dushyanta’s country.

In Book 5, Section 81/82, we are told about all the lavish preparations Dhritrashtra makes for Krishna’s arrival as an envoy of the Pandavas to make peace. Vidura tells Dhritrashtra that he is wasting his time. Vidura points out that they are insincere gestures made to show off his wealth and to impress his guest. Instead what Dhritrashtra has to do is to listen to Krishna and control his son, Duryodana.

There are several teachings by Krishna and Vidura during the unfolding of events before the war at Kurukshetra. Kurukshetra is still there in India on our way to Chandigarh from Delhi. All indications are that this big town is located in a vast area mentioned in Mahabharta, occupying several  square miles.

Krishna tells Vidura that he will not give up virtue (dharma) for the sake of desire, due to anger, for the sake of argument or personal gains or out of temptation. Vidura tells Krishna that talking to the Kauravas is a waste of time – “it is like singing to a deaf person”. Krishna then tells Vidura: “ I am aware of the intentions of Duryodhana and his followers. But, even when one knows that one’s efforts may end in failure, one should do what is right to the best of one’s abilities. I wish to bring peace between the brothers. If I fail, the world will know that we tried our best to avoid war and people will not blame the Pandavas”.

There are stories after stories as part of the advice given by the elders to Duryodhana not to go to war. The story of Garuda is to teach that pride is not worthy of a good king. The story of Gavala is to teach that being obstinate can lead one into trouble.

In Book 5, Section 124, in the midst of a rambling story about Yayati and how his pride got him thrown out of the celestial sphere, there is a story of Yayati’s grandsons through his daughter. They saved him from the hell of put to which elders without male heirs go to. In other words, the sons of daughters are also important in some of the ancestral ceremonies.

Later, when advising Duryodhana, Krishna tells him that virtuous people are always associated with dharma, artha and kama – virtue, profit (wealth) and desired objects. Those of middling character go for dharma and artha. Lowest class go after desired objects (artha) only and let go of virtue. Wealth and desire should not be dissociated from virtue.

In Section 129, Gandhari is advising Durydhana. Two interesting points: She says that before one can get control of a kingdom and of one’s friends, one has to develop self-control and follow the dictates of virtue. The other is to point out that Bhishma, Drona and others on whose prowess Duryodhana depends, may fight on his side out of loyalty but their full energy will not be there. She says: “ Bhishma and others will not be able to glance an angry look at the Pandavas”.  Psychologically this is an important point. Sometimes, anger is the driving energy for success.

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