[Advaita-l] Re: Thanks

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 15 09:13:20 CDT 2006

Re: eating vegetarian food, there is no single injunction that is binding on 
all people. Generally speaking, the vast majority of human beings (even in 
India) eat meat of one kind or other. It is only recommended that to give up 
tAmasika and rAjasika elements, one should also withdraw from meat eating 
and move towards sAttvika vegetarian food.

The mahAbhArata is a marvel of the complexity that can arise in deciding 
questions of dharma. Additionally, bhIshma's personal situation in the 
mahAbhArata is most complex. When he took the vow to renounce his claim to 
the kingship in favor of the children of satyavatI, he also undertook to 
protect the kingdom of hastinApura as long as he lived. As such, there was a 
very strong reason for dhRtarAshTra and his sons to call upon bhIshma to 
fight on their side in any war.

The other thing to note is that at the time of the war, the situation was 
such that much could be said on both sides, on the question of who should 
have been the rightful king. The ideal situation was that the eldest son of 
the king would succeed to the throne. duryodhana being the eldest son of 
dhRtarAshTra, who was the elder to pANDu, had a very strong claim to 
becoming the king. On the other hand, as pANDu was the one who was crowned 
king, yudhishThira, his eldest son, also had a very strong claim to the 
kingship. This ancient rule of succession did not say anything about the 
character of the eldest son - all that was needed to inherit was the primacy 
of birth. It was because of this very complicated scenario that bhIshma and 
vidura had advised a partition of the kingdom with the pANDavas ruling from 
indraprastha. However, bhIshma's original vow still bound him to protect 

In fact, if one traces the history for a few generations before the kauravas 
and pANDavas, the eldest son had always been set aside for one reason or the 
other. Santanu, father of bhIshma, was the second prince. His elder brother, 
devApi, had renounced the world at a young age. bhIshma was the youngest son 
of Santanu and gangA, but the oldest surviving son. He too renounced the 
throne in favor of the sons to be born to Santanu and satyavatI, citrangada 
and vicitravIrya. Here again, citrangada, the elder son, was killed in a 
battle and vicitravIrya, the younger son became king. In the next 
generation, the only reason for not formally crowning dhRtarAshTra was that 
he was born blind, so pANDu was named king. After this long history of 
complicated succession, a war was perhaps inevitable within the kshatriya 
norms of the day.

bhIshma had a very tough choice, but in the end, he had to honor the vow he 
had taken of protecting hastinApura. So also with droNa - although he knew 
that yudhishThira was a better person than duryodhana to become king, and 
arjuna was also his favorite student, he was indebted to the court that had 
given him patronage. He also felt duty bound to fight on the side of 
duryodhana. Take the case of Salya, uncle of nakula and sahadeva. He was 
essentially tricked by duryodhana, because he originally came to kurukshetra 
to fight on the side of the pANDavas. However, he was bound by his word, 
althogh it was originally given in an ambiguous manner. It was a matter of 
personal integrity and honor, at a time when people did what they said and 
said what they meant.


>Namaste Kathirasanji,
>        Thanks for pointing out the book on vegetarianism in the Hindu
>dharma. I could not reply earlier as I was away on a trip.
>Could you also (or someone else) point out a good analysis of the episodes
>in the mahAbhArata for learning about issues of dharma  -- reasons why
>bhIShma did fight with the kauravas, whether it was dhArmic or not, etc.

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