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Saturday, February 3, 2018

More from Shanti Parva - Maha Bharatha Series 61

Although I did not intend to review this book extensively, I find it impossible to skip some areas. For example, in Section 84, Bhishma says that the mark of a noble person is sweet speech. One who addresses others first and speaks with a sweet voice and a pleasant smile brings happiness to the heart. But, it is not possible to be in the good books of everyone.  
In the next section (85), Bhishma says that a king’s ministers should include representatives from all the four major Varnas and should have great qualities such as calmness and humility. As Bhishma saw it in those days, Vaisyas duty was to cultivate the land, take care of the cattle and trade for the welfare of all in this world. They have to be protected from robbers and excess taxation in order for them to be productive. Brahmanas' duty was to learn the Vedas and perform sacrifices to help all others to attain liberation (moksha, heaven). Therefore, it was the duty of the Kashtriyas to protect all the other varnas.

In Section 104, of Book 12 there is a conversation between a king of Kosala who lost his wealth (kingdom) and a sage (rishi). The king asks how he can live without his wealth. Some of the important points the sage makes include: “Everything in this world is impermanent. Life comes and goes. Wealth comes and goes. Destiny is all powerful. What is the use of grieving over these events we have no control over? What you can do is to renounce objects of desire. Consider your wealth as not belonging to you and use for good purpose. Be contended with what you have without worrying about what happened to the wealth you had or wondering what you will get in the future”. 
Section 109 (and 110 in another version) starts with a question by Yudhishtra who wants to know about truth (satyam), falsehood (anrtutam) and righteousness (dharma). This is the section where some of the famous quotes from Maha Bharata are taken. Since they are famous, I am also giving the actual quotes in Sanskrit.  
For example, Bhishma says that “Telling the truth is dharma (virtue, righteousness)”.  But it is difficult to define when truth becomes falsehood and vice versa. He says: “भवेत्सत्यं वक्तव्यं वक्तव्यमनृतं भवेत् यत्रानृतं भवेत्सत्यं सत्यं वाप्यनृतं भवेत्, which is translated as follows: “Do not utter falsehood if it is likely to appear to be truth. And even if it appears to others as untruth, tell the truth”.

“Dharma is that which does not injure anyone, and that which leads to growth and advancement”.  (यत्स्यादहिंसासंयुक्तं धर्म इति निश्चयः). 
Dharma was established to prevent us from injuring one another. Dharma supports all creatures. That  is why it is called dharma”.  (धारणाद्धर्म इत्याहुर्धर्मेण विधृताः प्रजाः / यत्स्याद्धारणसंयुक्तं स धर्म इति निश्चयः).  
There are also passages which define when it is acceptable to speak untruth, as for example when one’s life is in danger or to save someone else’s wealth.  He says that people who worship all gods and are open to different points of view overcome all kinds of difficulties. So do people who are not afraid of others and of whom others are not afraid of and those who see all other lives as part of themselves.

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

I would be interested to explore when it would be acceptable to utter a falsehood according to the Maha Bharatha.

You have hinted that it is OK to utter a falsehood to save somebody's life or to protect somebody's wealth. The famous incident of Yudhishtira saying Ashwathamma is dead to Drona, appears to me to fit neither. Then it surely should have been "adharma" to say it.

In a practical sense, almost everybody struggles with this in day to day life. If you expand the concept of uttering a falsehood to a broader living by one's values, then it becomes even more of a challenge. I know this is not in the current scope of your writing, but maybe sometime later if it catches your interest, I would love to have you turn to this.