[Advaita-l] The purport of the mahAbhArata

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Tue Dec 11 09:29:09 CST 2007

The mahAbhArata is one of the greatest epics in the world. At the beginning
of the work the author, sage VyAsa, claims with confidence: "What is here
may also be found elsewhere, but what is not here will not be found anywhere

    The mahAbhArata is full of accounts of battles in which kinsmen kill one
another and of many deceitful practices indulged in by them. Because of all
this a belief has grown that if this book is read in a home it will lead to
strife within the family. That there is no basis for any such fear is
evident from what Anandavardhana, one of the greatest names in Sanskrit
poetics, says about this epic in his work on poetics known as DhvanyAloka.
This is what he says:--

"In the mahAbhArata, which combines both the elements of instruction and
poetry in one, it will be seen that its conclusion in a note of despair
consequent on the miserable deaths of VRshNis as well as pANDavas, as
constructed by the great sage, reveals his primary intention of preaching
the moral of renunciation through his work and throws light upon the fact
that he intended final emancipation as the foremost of human values and
Peace as the most predominant sentiment in the whole work. The description
of the exploits of the pANDavas is meant to produce a sense of renunciation;
renunciation, in its turn, is the very basic instrument of final
emancipation; and final emancipation has itself been shown in the
Bhagavadgita and other works to be a sure means towards the attainment of
the Supreme Reality. In the Introductory chapter the sage says:--

 'Herein, forsooth, will be glorified

  Lord Vasudeva too, the Eternal'.

       Hence we are justified in saying that the purport implied by the sage
by the above sentence in the Introductory chapter is the perishable nature
of everything with the single exception of the supreme Lord and that the
mahAbhArata as a whole is intended by him to convey the highest human value,
namely, final emancipation, when the work is regarded as a scripture, and to
delineate the sentiment of Quietude (shAnta rasa)—whose nature is of
heightened tranquility and happiness at the cessation of desire--- as the
predominant sentiment in the work when it is regarded as a poem".

Thus the real purport of this epic is to convey the means to liberation. In
fact this is the purport of all our epics and purANas and not only of the
upanishads. Without knowing this, some people look down upon the purANas as
meant only for illiterate villagers and uneducated old women. They do not
realize that  from the point of view of real knowledge, para vidya, the most
brilliant scientist or economist or scholar in any field is as ignorant as
the illiterate villager, if not more. Sri Sankara addresses people as
'mUDha' in his Bhaja govindam. This word does not mean 'fool' or 'one
deficient in intelligence'. It is derived from the verbal root 'muh' which
means 'to be deluded'. Every one who looks upon the world as a reality is
deluded from the point of view of advaita, however intelligent and however
brilliant he may be in his chosen field. That is why Sri Sankara addresses
every one as 'mUDha'. Only the enlightened is not a mUDha in this sense.


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