Krishna and Ang Mahabharata
Bahagi ng Mahabharata ang Bhagavad Gita (o Bhagavadgita), isang diyalogo o pag-uusap sa pagitan nina Krishna atArjuna. The Mahabharata or is one of the two major Sanskrit impressives of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.  Besides its legendary story of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata containsphilosophical and devotional product, such as a discussion of the 4 “goals of life” or purusharthas (12.161 ). Among the principal works and stories in the Mahabharata are the Bhagavad Gita, the story of Damayanti, an abbreviated version of the Ramayana, and the Rishyasringa, often considered as works in their own right.
habharata, (Sanskrit: “Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty”) among the 2 Sanskrit terrific legendary poems of ancient India (the other being the Ramayana). TheMahabharata is a crucial source of information on the development ofHinduism in between 400 bce and 200 ce and is concerned by Hindus as both a text about dharma (Hindu moral law) and a history (itihasa, literally “that’s what happened”).
Appearing in its present form about 400 ce, the Mahabharata includes a mass of mythological and didactic product set up around a main heroic narrative that informs of the battle for sovereignty between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas (children of Dhritarashtra, the descendant of Kuru) and thePandavas (children of Pandu).
The poem is made up of practically 100,000 couplets– about 7 times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined– divided into 18 parvans, or sections, plus a supplement titled Harivamsha (“Genealogy of the God Hari”; i.e., of Vishnu). sinulat ang tulang epikong ito na may layuning parangalan ang mga bayani nang maganap ang paglusob ng mga Aryano (mga Aryan) sa India. Halos kapantay ng mga diyos ang mga maalamat na mga bayaning ito.
The Mahabharata tells the story of two sets of paternal first cousins–the five sons of the deceased king Pandu (the five Pandavas and the one hundred sons of blind King Dhritarashtra–who became bitter rivals, and opposed each other in war for possession of the ancestral Bharata kingdom with its capital in the “City of the Elephants,” Hastinapura , on the Ganga river in north central India. What is dramatically interesting within this simple opposition is the large number of individual agendas the many characters pursue, and the numerous personal conflicts, ethical puzzles, subplots, and plot twists that give the story a strikingly powerful development. The five sons of Pandu were actually fathered by five Gods (sex was mortally dangerous for Pandu, because of a curse) and these heroes were assisted throughout the story by various Gods, sages, and brahmins, including the great sage Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa (who later became the author of the epic telling this story), who was also their actual grandfather (he had engendered Pandu and the blind Dhrtarastra upon their nominal father’s widows in order to preserve the lineage).
The one hundred sons of the blind king Dhartarashtra, on the other hand, had a grotesque, demonic birth, and are said more than once in the text to be human incarnations of the demons who are the perpetual enemies of the devotees of the lord. The most dramatic figure of the entire Mahabharata, however, is Sri Krishna who is the supreme personality of Godhead himself, descended to earth in human form to reestablish his devotees as care takers of the earth, and who practice Dharma. Krishna Vasudeva was the cousin of both parties, but he was a friend and advisor to the Pandavas, became the brother-in-law of Arjuna , and served as Arjuna’s mentor and charioteer in the great war. Krishna Vasudeva is portrayed several times as eager to see the war occur, and in many ways the Pandavas were his human instruments for fulfilling that end. The Dhartarashtra party behaved viciously and brutally toward the Pandavas in many ways, from the time of their early childhood.
Their malice displayed itselfwhen they took advantage of the eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira (who had by now become the ruler of the world) in a game of dice: The Dhartarashtras ‘won’ all his brothers, himself, and even the Pandavas’ common wife Draupadi They humiliated all the Pandavas and physically abused Draupadi; they drove the Pandava party into the wilderness for twelve years, and the twelve years of exile had to be followed by the Pandavas’ living somewhere in society, in disguise, without being discovered. The Pandavas fulfilled their part of that bargain by living out side the kingdom, but the evil leader and eldest son of Dhartarashtra, Duryodhana , was unwilling to restore the Pandavas to their half of the kingdom when the thirteen years had expired. Both sides then called upon their many allies and two large armies arrayed themselves on ‘Kuru’s Field’ (Kuru was one of the eponymous ancestors of the clan), eleven divisions in the army of Duryodhana against seven divisions for Yudhishthira.
Much of the action in the Mahabharata is accompanied by discussion and debate among various interested parties, and the most famous dialog of all time, Krishna Vasudeva’s ethical lecture and demonstration of his divinity to his devotee and friend Arjuna (the Holy Bhagavad Gita appeared in the Mahabharata just prior to the commencement of the world war. Several of the important ethical and theological themes of the Mahabharata are tied together in this Gita, and this “Song of the Blessed One” has exerted much the same sort of powerful and far-reaching influence in the Vedic Civilization that the New Testament has had in the Christian world. The Pandavas won the eighteen day battle, but it was a victory that deeply troubled all except those who were able to understand things on the divine level (chiefly Krishna, Vyasa, and Bhishma the Bharata patriarch who was symbal of the virtues of the era now passing away).
The Pandavas’ five sons by Draupadi, as well as Bhimasena and Arjuna Pandava’s two sons by two other mothers (respectively, the young warriors and Abhimanyu, were all tragic victims in the war. Worse perhaps, the Pandava victory was won by the Pandavas slaying, in succession, four men who were like fathers to them: Bhishma, their teacher Drona , Karna (who was, though none of the Pandavas knew it, the first born, pre-marital, son of their mother), and their maternal uncle Shalya (all four of these men were, in succession, ‘supreme commanders’ of Duryodhana’s army during the war). Equally troubling was the fact that the killing of the first three of these ‘respected elders,’ and of some other enemy warriors as well, was accomplished only through ‘ trickery’, most of which were suggested by Krishna Vasudeva as absolutely required by the circumstances. The ethical gaps were not resolved to anyone’s satisfaction on the surface of the narrative and the aftermath of the war was dominated by a sense of horror and malaise.
Yudhishthira alone was terribly troubled, but his sense of the war’s wrongfulness persisted to the end of the text, in spite of the fact that everyone else, from his wife to Krishna Vasudeva, told him the war was right and good; in spite of the fact that the dying patriarch Bhishma lectured him at length on all aspects of the Good Law (the Duties and Responsibilities of Kings, which have rightful violence at their center; the ambiguities of Righteousness in abnormal circumstances; and the absolute perspective of a beatitude that ultimately transcends the oppositions of good versus bad, right versus wrong, pleasant versus unpleasant, etc.); in spite of the fact that he performed a grand Horse Sacrifice as expiation for the putative wrong of the war. These debates and instructions and the account of this Horse Sacrifice are told at some length after the massive and narrative of the battle; they form a deliberate tale of pacification that aims to neutralize the inevitable reactions of the war. In the years that follow the war Dhritarashtra and his queen Gandhari , and Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, lived a life of asceticism in a forest retreat and died with yogic calm in a forest fire.
Krishna Vasudeva departed from this earth thirty-six years after the war. When they learned of this, the Pandavas believed it time for them to leave this world too and they embarked upon the ‘Great Journey,’ which involved walking north toward the polar mountain, that is toward the heavenly worlds, until one’s body dropped dead. One by one Draupadi and the younger Pandavas died along the way until Yudhishthira was left alone with a dog that had followed him all the way.
Yudhishthira made it to the gate of heaven and there refused the order to drive the dog back, at which point the dog was revealed to be an incarnate form of the God Dharma (the God who was Yudhishthira’s actual, physical father), who was there to test Yudhishthira’s virtue. Once in heaven Yudhishthira faced one final test of his virtue: He saw only the Dhartarashtra Clan in heaven, and he was told that his brothers were in hell. He insisted on joining his brothers in hell, if that were the case! It was then revealed that they were really in heaven, that this illusion had been one final test for him.
The Implications of Destiny and Dharma in the Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two great Indian epics, the other being the Ramayana. Composed in Sanskrit, it embodies the quintessential definition of the word epic with length of roughly 90,000 verses and a clearly defined hero upon whom his tribe depends. The hero of the Mahabharata is Yudhishthira, the son of Dharma and leader of the Pandavas. This hero, as is true of many epics, must fight heroic battles against an anti-hero, the role of which in the Mahabharata is played by Duryodhana, the leader of the Kurus. Complicating this struggle between good and evil is the fact that these two sides do not begin as sworn enemies but are rather kinsmen. While the conventions used are traditionally epic, the work takes on a uniquely Indian tone as the struggle between the Pandavas and the Kurus is further muddled by issues of destiny and dharma. These two themes surface repeatedly throughout the Mahabharata culminating in an exchange between King Dhritarashtra and his subjects as he requests that they allow him to resign from the kingship to live out his days in the forest. In William Buck’s retelling of the epic, his subjects accept his resignation and stand in agreement that his sons died not because he was a poor ruler, but because of the role of destiny in the battle and the righteous and strict adherence to Kshatriya caste dharma that his sons so bravely exemplified as they respond to the king, “The destruction of the Kurus…was not brought about by you [Dhritarashtra]. Such a thing could never happen without the influence of dharma. Kshatriyas especially should kill enemies and meet their deaths in battle.” The Hindu ideas of destiny and dharma arise consistently throughout the Mahabharata and often allow characters to shed responsibilities for their actions and consequences that arise as a result.The tension between the Pandavas and the Kurus is caused by the fact that the clans borne of two brothers, Pandu and Dhritarashtra, are vying for control of their family’s kingdom. Dhritarashtra, the blind and levelheaded king, intends to give the Pandavas rule over half of the kingdom in order to keep peace within the family. He plans to do so as a wedding present to the five Pandava brothers, all of whom have married Draupadi. His stubborn and heavy-handed son learns of this plan and responds with an impassioned speech regarding how unnecessary such an attempt to restore harmony would be. He enters the room and begins, “What do we need with the Pandavas? If the whole world is against you, you will keep your kingdom if that is your destiny, although you exert yourself only to breathe air! And if you are destined to lose a throne—do what you will, with all your strength, you shall fall” (Buck 75). This is one of the first instances in which a character will remove himself from all responsibility and liability for the outcome of his actions, blaming fate rather than his own poor choices. Duryodhana claims that it is pointless to give land to the Pandavas, for if war is to occur under the laws of destiny, then it will occur no matter what preventative measures are taken. It is this sentiment that is echoed when the subjects proclaim Dhritarashtra and his son Duryodhana blameless in the war that destroyed the Kuru clan.When Duryodhana travels to the kingdom given to the Pandavas, he falls into an invisible pool of water and is mocked by an unknown onlooker. In order to recover his pride, he challenges Yudhishthira to a game of dice. Yudhishthira responds, “Like a brilliant planet cast down from the sky, reason is overthrown, and man bows to his fate” (Buck 91). In this way, he absolves himself the repercussions of the dice game, may they be good or bad. He acknowledges that a throw of the dice cannot be reasoned with. The dice are subject to fate alone. It is in this game of dice, which Yudhishthira gambles away the Pandavas’ possessions, kingdom, wife, and the Pandavas themselves. Given the chance at one more dice throw, with the victor taking all the kingdom and the loser forced into exile for thirteen years, Yudhishthira says, “Success or misfortune will come to me whether I play or not…I am not afraid” (Buck 103). Once again in this final dice throw, Yudhishthira acknowledges that the outcome for the Pandavas will be the same whether he throws the dice a final time or not. This is because all outcomes, for Yudhishthira, are the result of destiny and not of his inability to stop gambling when he is losing. The dice game itself can be construed as an embodiment of destiny. Yudhishthira, with his apparent gambling problem, continuing playing even after he has bet and lost himself, is merely expressing his desire to control his fate and the fate of his clan. The fact that he fails is also significant as his attempts to control fate are unsuccessful. In addition to allowing characters to shirk responsibility for the outcomes of their actions, destiny also acts to levy a sense of hopelessness upon the Kurus and causes a general discontentment within the clan. In a conversation between Duryodhana and Karna on the current direction of the war, they discuss their failings as they continue to be defeated by their enemy. When Duryodhana claims that Drona’s affection for his clansmen clouded his judgment as he failed to capture Yudhishthira, Arjuna rebuts, saying, “Where is the wonder in that? Seeing how destiny defeats us whatever we do, how many have not died or left us?” (Buck 287). Once again, the main characters are blameless as it is the role of destiny that resigns them to failure. In this worldview, it is not the fault of the Kurus that they have failed to achieve victory up to this point but the fault of destiny, which has consigned unto them a war full of defeats.In addition to the role that destiny plays in the Mahabharata, another strong, equally important Hindu theme is reflected not only in the subjects departing words to their well-loved king but also throughout the epic: the role of dharma, specifically the dharma of the Kshatriya, or warrior, caste. This, too, gives men cause to shed the outcomes of their actions by claiming that in order to act according to dharma, they have no choice in most matters because to make one choices acts in accordance with dharma while the other is forbidden by dharma. The use of dharma to excuse one’s poor actions is first seen in an exchange between Duryodhana and Krishna, in which Krishna tells Duryodhana that he will lead a richer life if he simply returns the Pandavas’ land. Duryodhana, in his usual stubborn way, responds by saying, “Krishna, what need of many words? Have you never heard the Kshatriya Dharma: Stand straight and never bow down, for this alone is manliness. Rather break at the knots than bend” (Buck 242). In addition to destiny, Duryodhana is also acting according to dharma, neglecting whatever complications may arise as a result of his actions. In his view of the world, one should act solely according to their dharma and leave the rest to destiny for the outcome will be the same anyway.Another shift away from the individual’s choice to the choice demanded of them by dharma comes as Sanjaya is relaying to the blind King Dhritarashtra what is occurring on the battlefront. He begins his description of the brutality and carnage that warfare has brought to the Pandavas and the Kurus by saying, “Kshatriya Dharma is cruel, Dhritarashtra, for in the blink of an eye those two armies had rushed together in hopeless confusion” (Buck 265). This once again removes blame from the individual soldiers who have chosen to kill their own kinsmen and from Duryodhana who has ordered them to do so, and places it squarely on the soldiers of Kshatriya Dharma, personified by Sanjaya as a “cruel” force. Once again, this absolves all of the main characters of any wrongdoing, much in the same way that the personified force of destiny allowed them to make poor or unreasonable choices with no worry of the eventual consequences.A final example of the Kshatriya Dharma acting to absolve a character of moral responsibility for their actions comes in the Bhagavad-Gita, a long discourse between Arjuna and Krishna that is notably removed from Buck’s translation of the Mahabharata. In this conversation, Arjuna is conflicted as to whether or not he should take the lives of his fellow kinsmen in battle:Annihilate a family, and with it/Collapse the eternal laws that rule the family. /Once law’s destroyed, then lawlessness/Overwhelms all [we know as] family. /With lawlessness triumphant, Krishna, /The family’s [chaste] women are debauched;/From debauchery of the women [too]/Confusion of caste is born. (Zaehner 318).Krishna spends nearly the entirety of the Bhagavad-Gita trying to communicate to Arjuna in various ways that it is okay to kill your brethren in time of war, especially if you are in the Kshatriya Varna. While Arjuna sees murdering his kin as the catalyst to caste confusion, Krishna sees it as an action that not only will leave the Kshatriya caste intact but also help to preserve it:Consider thine own (caste-)duty (dharma),/Then too hast thou no cause to quail;/For better than a fight prescribed by duty/Is nothing for a man of the princely class. /Happy the warriors indeed/Who become involved in war, —/ [A war] like this presented by pure chance/And opening the gates of paradise! (Zaehner 323).Krishna’s argument to Arjuna is that there should be no greater desire for a man of the Kshatriya class than to be forced to fight in a war. The only wrong that can be done in this situation, is failing to live up to one’s own caste dharma. By refusing to fight, Arjuna would be “casting off both honour and (caste-)duty” (Zaehner 323). Therefore, the consequences of his actions no longer rest with him, but with his dharma, allowing him to shift responsibility from himself onto his caste.The Mahabharata may seem like a traditional epic story of good versus evil, but the elements that give it a uniquely Hindu perspective also make it extremely interesting and complex. Without the roles of dharma and destiny, both of which allow the characters to sidestep responsibility, surely the subjects would not have been so understanding and willing to except the losses and destruction that came at the hands of Duryodhana. However, because these forces are continuously invoked and personified, many of the poor, rash, and stubborn decisions that led to war and countless deaths are excused as they were in accordance with the Kshatriya Dharma or were destined to occur by the ways of fate.
For Love: A Comparison of Revelation of Love and the Mahabharata
In the year 1373 A.D., thirty-year-old Lady Julian lay on her deathbed in Norwich, England, after suffering for weeks from an unknown illness (Julian VII). Around the year 3100 B.C., the war of Mahabharata broke out in India, leaving villages in devastation and the people of India in despair (Gita IX). These two events, separated by thousands of years, seemingly have little in common. However both events led to deep, theological texts that have been read for centuries: Lady Julian’s Revelation of Love and the Hindi Mahabharata. These texts seem to be as different as the events that produced them. Lady Julian shaped her work as a devout Christian in the Middle Ages; her ideas would seemingly never be comparable to the holiest text of a Middle Eastern religion. However, Julian’s views on the transcendence of God’s love and the drive beyond human suffering continually parallel the ideas and values expressed in the Mahabharata’s most famous book, The Bhagavad Gita. Both Revelation of Love and The Bhagavad Gita deal with human suffering and the necessity of God in moments of despair. Julian focuses on God while she is in great pain: “… I felt my body was dead… [but] I thought to myself that I was well, for my eyes were set [to God and] heaven, where I trusted to come…” (Julian 6). She expresses, however, that “…left to myself with all the heaviness and weariness of life- I was burdened with myself so that I barely had patience to live” (34). Without God, she clearly states, her despair would have defeated her. In The Bhagavad Gita, a warrior named Arjuna turns to Krishna, a human manifestation of the Hindu God Vishnu (essentially the Hindi equivalent to Christ), seeking help through his desolation in life and in his metaphorical war between soul and despair:Arjuna was overcome with great compassion and sorrowfully spoke these words: O Krishna… my limbs fail and my mouth becomes dry. The bow slips from my hand, and my skin intensely burns, O Krishna… It would be far better for me if my cousin brothers kill me with their weapons in battle while I am unarmed and unresisting. Having said this in the battlefield and casting aside his bow and arrow, Arjuna sat down on the seat of the chariot with his mind overwhelmed with sorrow and despair. (Gita 1:30-47)By throwing down his bow, Arjuna is not just giving up his mortal life, but is giving up his faith for despair. Neither Julian nor Arjuna, however, is truly overcome. Both are granted visions from God, Julian in the form of Jesus, Arjuna in the form of Krishna. To Arjuna’s grief, Krishna responds, notably by laughing, “You grieve for what is not worthy of grief. The wise one grieves neither for the living nor for the dead. There was never a time when these monarchs, you, or I did not exist; nor shall we ever cease to exist in the future… therefore, why grieve, Arjuna?” (Gita 2:11-15). Krishna continues to state what is now a characteristic Buddhist and Hindu saying: “Life is dukkha [a Hindi word that is loosely translated as despair or sorrow]” (Gita 4). It is said in both of these Eastern traditions that our great goal in life is to rise above this sorrow. However, the term is really more than simply a type of grief. Many translators have defined this as a deep angst in life, which is usually associated with mortality or a separation from the Lord, an idea that is reflected many times in Julian’s revelations. In one of Julian’s visions of Jesus, he says to her, “Where now is there any point in the pain or your grief?”- “[w]hatever you do, you will have sorrow. Therefore I want you to understand… that all this life is a penance that is for your benefit…” (Julian 45; 168). Besides the troubles of despair being comparable in the texts, both Krishna and Jesus point to love as being the key to the end of their disciples’ suffering. Both Julian’s revelations and Krishna’s teachings focus on the theme of universal love between God and His creations. Julian states: “For before he made us, he loved us; and when we were made, we loved him… and thus the human soul is made of God and in the same point knit to God. All the souls… without end are knit in this knot and oned in this oneing, and made holy in his holiness” (Julian 118-19). This absolute love is equally expressed in The Bhagavad Gita, as Krishna states: “Brahman [the Ultimate Spirit] is equally present in all beings. There is no one [that is] hateful to me. But those who love me with love and devotion are very close to me and I am close to them” (Gita 9:29). This idea, while common in Eastern religions, is rarely mentioned in Western Christianity. Usually, God is separated as “other,” and not in connection with oneself. However, this conception of God or the Spirit (Brahman) being present in all is wholly expounded on in both The Bhagavad Gita and in Julian’s revelations. Moreover, there is the theme that God/Brahman is in every action and is, in fact, the “true doer” of that action: “One beholds one and the same Lord exiting equally in every being… The one who perceives that all works are done by the powers of such a Nature truly understands, and thus does not consider oneself as the doer” (Gita 13:28-29). In fact, according to the Krishna’s verses: “The wise one who knows the truth thinks: ‘I do nothing at all.’ In seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, breathing; and speaking, giving, taking, opening and closing the eyes, the wise know… this is all Brahman” (Gita 5:08-9). Likewise, Julian says: “…I saw that [God] is in all things… I saw clearly that God does all things, even the very least…It is easy to understand that the best things are well done: yet as equally well as the best and highest deed is done, so too is the least thing well done; and all because it belongs to the order God ordained… for he is the only doer” (Julian 26-7). Seeing this highly Eastern concept in a Western text is unexpected and rather astonishing. Julian expresses a highly intuitive and open mind and soul, accepting this highly foreign ideology and putting it to her own beliefs. Julian continues with this idea, stating: “…I saw no difference between God and our substance, but as it were all God… We are enclosed in the Father, and we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. And the Father is enclosed in us, and the Son is enclosed in us, and the Holy Spirit is enclosed in us…” (120). God being present in all things is important to the idea of love in both The Bhagavad Gita and Julian’s Revelations. For instance, whenever there is love between people, there is love of God, because God is in those people. Therefore, for the love of God, we love all of His people. This idea is the link to a universal peace and also makes the love of God much more personal. By worshipping God as a person, The Bhagavad Gita explains: “…the wise are able to assume human-like relationships with Brahman” (Gita 9). D. Platt, in his introduction to The Bhagavad Gita, expounds on this belief, saying that there are : “[many roles of] God as parent, devotee as child; God as Lord, devotee as servant. It is also much easier for many people to develop love toward God when He is regarded as a person. Such love is capable of triggering a spiritual awakening once it is a pure, selfless love” (Gita VI). Julian expresses this as well, in her mention of Jesus as Brother, Mother, Savior, lover, both Lord and Servant, and dear friend (Julian 121-29). This personal love makes one’s devotion to God much more natural and open. It is this sense of love that pulls both Julian and Arjuna out of despair and pain, and it is the point of the Revelation of Love and The Bhagavad Gita. The amazing similarities between Julian of Norwich’s spiritual revelations and the text of The Bhagavad Gita still amaze me. It is hard to comprehend that centuries have passed since these texts were written, and that the division between the ideas of Christianity and Hinduism has grown to such an extent. Now there is barely any semblance between the two, even though both of the fundamental ideals are so similar. Though I saw merit in the ideal before, I now more than ever believe in the transcendental unity of all religions. It is just as Julian stated in her final revelation: “Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well: love was his meaning. Who showed it you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Wherefore did he show it you? For love. Hold yourself therein and you shall know and learn more in the same; but you shall never know nor learn another thing therein without end” (Julian 181). While these two texts are far from the same, their messages are corresponding. Their message is Love. Their message is to turn to that Love in times of despair, and to believe in that Love of God.Works CitedJulian of Norwich. Revelation of Love. Trans. Skinner, John. New York: Doubleday. 1996.The Bhagavad Gita. Trans. The American and International Gita Society. Khapara Mohal: Bhavan Books. 1992.