Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Essence of The Mahabharata According To Vyasa


Almost towards the end of the Mahabharatha, in the Swargavarohana Parva, there occurs four shlokas [vide Chapter 5, Shlokas 60 to 63] of profound importance, extreme beauty and terseness for which the immortal author Maharshi Vyasa has given the title ‘Bharatha Savitri’.[ The word ‘Bharatha’ here refers to the Mahabharatha]. In the next shloka following these four. The poet adds that who reads these four shlokas every morning will reap the benefit of having read the entire Mahabharatha and realizes the Supreme Brahman.

It is one of the great achievements of Vyasa that in these four verses he has established the entire essence and the moral of the great epic. Even the name ‘Bharatha Savitri’ is pregnant with significance. It is well known that the word ‘Savitri’ is only another name for ‘Gayatri’. Etymologically, Savitri means the hymn that is dedicated to the worship of Sun [Savita]. Just as the Gayatri is par excellence the mantra dedicated to the Sun god, it has appropriately come to be known as Savitri also. It is also well known that the Gayatri Mantra has been declared as the very essence of the Vedas. Hence the name ‘Bharatha Savitri’ means the very essence of the Mahabharata and these four shlokas have the same significance and sanctity as the Gayatri Mantra, since the Mahabharata itself has been recognized as the Fifth Veda. The sanctity of ‘Bharatha Savitri’ can be gauged by the fact that in certain parts of Western India the recitation of the four shlokas in Bharatha Savitri is included as a part of the Pratah Smaranam [Morning Prayer ]. The four original shlokas which are in Sanskrit may be translated in English as under:

1. Thousands of fathers and mothers and hundreds of sons and wives were known and had gone, are going and will go in the future, in the course of Samsara [Shloka 60]

2. Thousands of occasions for joy and hundreds of causes of fear engross the mind of the ignorant but not that of the man of wisdom [Shloka 61]

3. With uplifted arm I shout but none hears me: From Dharma result Artha and Kama Why then is Dharma not observed? [Shloka 62]

4. Not out of passion or fear or avarice, not even for the sake of life, should one ever abandon Dharma. Dharma is eternal. Happiness and misery are not eternal. The Soul is eternal. That which embodies is not eternal [Shloka 63]

From the impassioned way in which the poet speaks about the supreme value of Dharma in the third shloka, it is abundantly clear that Dharma is absolutely necessary for the welfare of the world and that it is the central essence of his teaching in the epic. He also emphasizes that the other two Purusharthas namely Artha [material prosperity] and Kama [enjoyment of desire] result from the observance of Dharma and it is therefore essential for man to follow the dictates of Dharma. Vyasa boldly declares that eternal Dharma alone sustains the soul of the man which is also eternal while Artha and Kama pertain to the impermanent and decaying human body.

While the great bard lays so much emphasis on the observance of Dharma, it is better to understand the further significance of the word. This can be better appreciated if we study the etymology of the word ‘Dharma’. The derivation of the word Dharma, its meaning and purpose are pointed out in the Karna Parva of the Mahabharata in the following shloka.

“Dharanath Dharma Ityahuhu Dharmo Dharayate Prajah

Yah Syath Dharanasamyuktah Sah Dharma iti Uchyate”

It is explained here that the word ‘Dharma’ comes to form from the root ‘Dhr’ [to hold or uphold] and that all human beings are held together by Dharma. The test of Dharma is this holding together. According to Vyasa, therefore, the purpose of Dharma is the stability and the general welfare of the society and mankind and whatever conduces to the fulfillment of this purpose is called Dharma.

It may be observed that in all our religious literature, the word Dharma is generally found in conjunction with associated with two other equally important words namely Rta and Satya. All these words Rta, Satya and Dharma have a very ancient history going back to the days of the Rigveda. Explaining the meaning of the word Rta, Vidyaranya [Sayana], the learned commentator of the Rigveda, says that Rta is the mental conception of truth. Explaining the meaning of the other two words Satya and Dharma, , Acharya Shankara in his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says that Satya is the speaking of truth while Dharma is the observance of truth. On an analysis of the significance of these words Rta, Satya and Dharma, it could be concluded that Rta denotes the mental perception of truth while Satya connotes the accurate and true expression in words of what is perceived and Dharma is the observance in conduct of the truth perceived in thought and words. In short, Rta is truth in thought, Satya is truth in word and Dharma is truth in deed. These actions alone contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of mankind.

The concept of Dharma is spiritual and moral and comprehends the entire gamut of man’s duties towards God, to his fellowmen and to the society in general. That is why ‘Bharata Savitri’ declares that Dharma is the pivot of life and exhorts man never to abandon it, even though avarice, greed and attachment to their mundane life may dictate otherwise. Vyasa is therefore very fond of often proclaiming “Where there is Dharma there is always Victory”


Created: Friday, June 18, 2010 9:35 PM


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home