...

A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya (b.1947), the author of this book is the grandson of Dr. Benoytosh Bhattacharya, once upon a time Director of Gaekward Oriental Research Institute Baroda and great grandson of Mahamahopadhyaya Haraprasad Shastri. A triple M.A. Mukhopadhyaya was a Reader in English at B.B.College, Asansol. He did his M.Phil. in Comparative Literature and he did his Ph.D in Pali literature. He has more than twenty books to his credit and he is one of the soldiers of the avant garde underground Literature Movement in Bengali literature.

i

ii

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Message from God made : A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata by Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya

Message from God made : A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Copy right : Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya

1st Published :

Cover : Chayan Chatterjee

Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya

Published by : Anjali Publishers 14, Ramanath Majumder Kolkata - 700009

Printed at : Pinto Craft 14, Ramanath Majumder Kolkata - 700009

Anjali Publishers
14 Ramanath Majumder Street Kolkata 700009
iii

ISBN :

Price :

iv

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Dedicated To Mm. Ananta Lal Thakur, A philosopher par excellence, A teacher of teachers and a Rishi

v

vi

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Foreword Gita in Sanskrit literature is a literary genre in its own right. When we speak of the Gita it is Srimad Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna speaks at the battle ground. But the Mahabharata is littered with a number of gitas besides the Gita.Taking the cue from Mm. Ananta Lal Thakur the present author seeks to read the gitas in the Mahabharata including Bhagavad Gita from the close reading context in the main. Consequently, this book has been an attempt at the comparative study of the gitas in the Mahabharata. If it provokes further discussions on the many gitas in Sanskrit literature, the author will feel gratified. The publication of the book would never be possible if Biplab Majee, an avant garde Bengali poet had not stressed the active cooperation. Om tat sat Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya

vii

viii

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CONTENTS
Introduction Vritra gita Harita gita Bodhya gita Manki gita Sadja gita Vichakhnu gita Sampaka gita Parasara gita Anu gita I Anu gita II Utathya gita Vamdeva gita Rishava gita Hamsa gita Brahma gita The Bhagavad Gita The Prakiti Three Gunas The Ahamkara Purusa The Archetype of Purusasukta SriVisnu Krishna Time The world The Individual Soul or the Jivatman Caste systems The ideal way of life Rehtoric of the gitas Different Planes of Reality Gitas compared Message of the gita-I Message of gita-II The gitas and the Mahabharata
ix

.... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... ....

11 26 38 43 50 57 65 69 71 77 105 125 129 131 135 137 139 150 155 159 160 163 165 171 172 176 180 186 188 214 219 230 235 244
x

12

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - I
INTRODUCTION Mm. Ananta Thakur argues in one of his treatises that even if we delete the Srimad Bhagavad Gita from the extant text of the Mahabharata the message of the Bhagavad Gita will be easily discernible from any and every part of what is left of the vast narrative. He further observes that there are a number of gitas besides the Bhagavad Gita scattered in the vast epic. Together they echo the message of the Bhagavad Gita only. Mm. Thakur is a Naiyayika or a logician Indian style par excellence. He employs his logic to the end of his conclusion. On one side, he proves his point with the aid of negation. Delete the Bhagavad Gita from the text and yet one can reconstruct the message of the Bhagavad Gita from what remains (Vipaksa). On the other side, he argues with the affirmative statements that there are many Gitas strewn in the vast epic (Sapaksa). They are perfectly in unison with the Bhagavad Gita. They together echo the message of the Bhagavad Gita only. One does not speak in vacuum. There must be purbapaksha or an earlier speech to any speech whatever. And surely Mm. Thakur’s observation is a response to the opinions of those critics who posit that the Bhagavad Gita is not an organic part of the Mahabharata. The latter feel that the Bhagavad Gita is but an instance of interpolation in the vast epic. Mm. Thakur however disagrees with such a view and feels that the Bhagavad Gita is part & parcel of the vast epic Mahabharata. This is not all. The whole of the Mahabharata as Mm. Thakur opines is instinct with the message of the Bhagavad Gita. This is the pratijna or the premise for our present study. We propose hereby to check the truth of ths same. When Mm. Thakur asserts that the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the part & parcel of the Mahabharata, he does not mean thereby that the

Mahabharata has had no interpolation. Because the extant version of the Mahabharata is told by Sauti. Sauti, heard it from Vaisampayana. Vaisampayana learnt it from Vedavyasa. Vedavyasa composed the Mahabharata itself. May be Vedavyasa had composed only 24000 verses which expanded into the Mahabharata as it is. Thus the Mahabharata is an instance of the epic of growth. Those who would not see eye to eye with this interpretation of the story of the growth of the Mahabharata as a narrative will agree that the same Mahabharata, was composed of 60 lakh verses to be read in heaven. It consisted of 30 lakh verses to be read in the Gandharvaloka. And it was made of 1 lakh verses to be read on the earth. Besides Vedavyasa wrote the Mahabharata consisting of 24000 slokas as well. The Mahabharata itself says that it could be read in abridged form as well as in enlarged editions. This is not all. As the Mahabharata itself testifies, one could start to read the same, beginning with the Anukramanika or the preface, or else with the Astika Parva and so on. That shows that the Mahabharata itself does not approve of any rigid text where no word or sloka or syllable could be displaced. Everybody will agree that the preface of a work is always written after the work is composed & still it precedes the text. And the Mahabharata also observes that its anukramanika has been written after the text was composed & yet the text could begin with the anukramanika itself. Thus it is evident from the admission of the text itself that the text is not an organic whole. One could read the text beginning from anywhere. Besides, any part of the text could be abridged or omitted. Consequently any extract from the text could be read independent of the text as well. and the people read the Srimad Bhagavad Gita an extract from the Mahabharata as a complete work in itself and a unique work of art. The Pratijna, however, seeks to posit that despite allowing the text

Introduction

13

14

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

every kind of flexibility as to its structure & meaning, one must admit that any part & every part of the text has a homogeneity as to its meaning and that is easily perceptible once we compare the gitas strewn in the text. Here we must pause a while to describe what a gita is. The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is popularly known as the gita. But besides the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, there are many other Gitas, widely known & read in India. They do not always belong to the Mahabharata alone. The Gorakhpur press has published the Gajendra Gita which is an excerpt from the Bhagavata Purana. Besides there is Uddhava Gita. It is also an extract from the Bhagavata. Then there is the Devi Gita, an extract from the Devi Bhagavata. Upendranath Mukhopadhyaya of Basumati Sahitaymandir published an anthology of twenty-five such gitas, as early as during the first half of the 20th Century. But that collection is no longer extant in the market. Of late, Chittaranjan Ghosal has edited a volume consisting of thirty five gitas in all culled from different Puranas and the Mahabharata as well. The gitas belonging to the Mahabharata that Mm. Thakur has referred to besides the Srimad Bhagavad Gita are 1. Vritra Gita (12/279-80) V.G 2. Harita Gita (12/278) H.G 3. Bodhya Gita (12/178) BO.G 4. Manky Gita (12/177) M.G 5. Sadja Gita (12/167) S.G 6. Vichakhnyu Gita (12/265) VI.G 7. Sampaka Gita (12/176) S.G 8. Parasara Gita (12/290-8) P.G 9. Anu Gita (14/16-9) A. G 10. Brahmana Gita (14/29-34) Br.G 11. Rishabha Gita (12/125-8) R.G 12. Hamsa Gita (13/299) H.G 13. Utathya Gita (12/90-1) U.G

14. Vamadeva Gita (12/92-4) VA.G Each gita is a kind of samvada, Samvada is often a conversation between two or more participants. But it might be a pure narrative as well. For example the tenth chapter of the Anu gita is entitled Parasuram Arjuna Samvad. It dewlls on how the legendary hero Kartaviryarjuna tormented the ocean only to learn who could be a match for him in prowess. Once again there is the Alarka Sambad in the same Anu gita which dramatises a conversation between Alarka and his senses. The gitas are also, a kind of sambad. Every Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita ends with Iti Srikrisnarjuna sambade...etc. Srimad Bhagavad Gita has set a convention and the Gita is a unique genre in its own right. Genre implies a convention that communicates to the reader what is expected from it. We never go to a post office for prayer. We never go to a church to post a letter. This is because genres in architecture are well defined. Similarly genres in literature are often well defined. The reader can go to a novel or a lyric, according to what he seeks. Let us now see into the genre called gita & learn what we could expect from it. As we have already pointed out, the gita is often a conversation between two persons, sometimes it is a conversation among six persons as in Sadja Gita. There Vidura and the five brothers—the Pandavas participate in a discourse. In other instances it is commonly, a discourse between two persons. The Vritra gita is a discourse between the demon Vritra and Sanat Kumar—the child of Brahma, the Creator. The Parasara Gita has been addressed by Parasara, the saint par-excellence who happens to be the father of the very narrator of the Mahabharata. The addressee here is the sage king Janaka. The Hamsa Gita is a conversation between the Creator in the shape of a Swan and a host of gods known as Sadhyas. Thus the two persons participating in the gita need not be men always. There might be a demon participating in it. There might be a swan as well. The latter adds to the gita a flavour of the fable.

Introduction

15

16

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The two persons could be the personas of someone’s mind & intellect as well. The Brahman gita a sub-set of the Anu gita is a conversation between a Brahmin & his wife. The Brahman is the persona of one’s intellect and the wife is the persona of one’s mind. Thus even abstract ideas participate in the conversation of the gita reminding us of the Morality Dramas in vogue during the Middle Age Europe. But the gita is not always a conversation between two persons. It could be a dramatic monologue as in the case of Manky gita. Manky a poor man fails in his economic pursuits and takes to renunciation. He speaks to himself about his philosophy of life. A listener could be present there; or may be there is none. A gita could be a decree or a sermon as in the case of Vichakhnyu gita where the king Vichakhnyu at the sight of cows slaughtered decrees that no animal be slaughtered at the altar of sacrifice. Most of these gitas have been quoted by the protagonists of the Mahabharata in response to the queries of another. Thus Bhisma quotes the Vritra gita in response to the queries of Yudhisthira, when the great battle at Kurukshetra was over. The same Bhisma quotes the Bodhya gita, and Vichakhnyu gita or the Hamsa gita on different occasions. The listener is Yudhisthira. But the Sadja gita dwells on the deliberations among the Pandavas and Vidura, their uncle, regarding the importance of the different necessities of life in dharma artha kama & moksha. Srimad Bhagavad Gita is however, directly addressed to Arjuna. Krishna is the speaker. The same gita has been however quoted by Sanjaya to keep Dhritarastra informed of the developments at Kurukshetra where the belligerent Kauravas & Pandavas assembled for a fight to the finish. Thus the gita is either a conversation among people or else it is a speech quoted by one person in course of conversation with another. Any conversation implies two persons. One of them is eager to know something on an issue of crucial importance to him. He puts forward his query before the other, whom he takes in

high esteem. The other, fully satisfied with the former’s devotion to him and eagerness to know, either answers to the query on his own or quotes someone’s speech on likely issue, spoken earlier. For example Arjuna bewildered and at his wits’ end knowing not what to do at the battleground submits himself at the feet of Krishna & says—
I am your disciple. Teach me.

Siddha, the teacher, in the Anu gita tells Kasyapa that he is satisfied with the devotion of his disciple. The teacher must be satisfied with the disciple.
I am happy with thee, oh you learned Tell me what I can do for you. You are quite deserving for what you want. And the right time is come. (A.G.-I, 42)

Yes, utterance at the right time is one of the important features of the gita. Srikrishna had earlier told the gita to Arjuna at the battle ground of Kurukshetra. The Kurukshetra battle over, Arjuna once again asked Krishna to repeat the contents of the gita once again. But Krishna says that he is now helpless. Because, the situation that impelled Krishna to utter the gita at the battle-field is no longer present. When he told the gita to Arjuna, he points out that he was yogayukta or under the spell of ecstasy. He chides Arjuna for not remembering what Krishna told him earlier at the battle field. Thus, the gita has always been uttered in a fit of ecstasy. When the speaker is beyond himself. The utterance takes place as it were for the first time and it is unique. Since one cannot say the gita. Whenever one wills, could we argue that speech reveals itself through its speakers whenever it wills. The gita like all speech has three components in the encoder/speaker, the decoder/listener and the speech or the gita itself. It has been already pointed out, the speakers and the listeners of

Introduction

17

18

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

the gita are no ordinary men and women. Yudhisthira, in quest of knowledge tells Bhisma at the outset of the Vritra Gita.
Oh Grandfather ! Though we belong to men we are born of gods, still we suffer from worldly sorrows. (VG -1, 2)

Or to one who despises me. (BH.G-XVIII, 67)

Yudhisthira is a man born of the seed of Yama, the deity that controls the world. The addressee, Grandfather Bhisma is also born of a mortal father & the goddess of the river Ganges. It is the grandfather who quotes the Vritra Gita where Vritra, a demon puts forward his queries and Sanat Kumar, the direct descendant of the Creator Brahma, is the teacher. The frame of these gitas are chiefly conversation between Yudhisthira and Bhisma or between Arjuna & Krishna. In Srimad Bhagavad Gita Krishna himself speaks the gita. In the Sadja gita Yudhisthira and his four brothers and Bidura who is also born of Yama participate in a discourse. In other gitas, there are more than one order of addressor & addressee. For example in the Vritra gita, the first order of addressor and addressee are Yudhisthira and Bhisma. At the instance of Yudhisthira Bhisma quotes the conversation between the fallen demon and Sanat Kumar and Sukracharya the teacher of the demons. That is the second order of addressor & addressee. As in Anugita, there could be a third order of addressor & addressee & so on. As we have already referred to the Siddha’s spech in the Anu gita, it is evident that any Tom Dick & Harry cannot be the listener of such gitas. In the Srimad Bhagavad Gita also Krishna observes
I tell you the most secret thing. You are dear to me. Hence I tell you for your well-being Sarvaguhyatamam bhuyah srinu me paramam vacah Istosi me dridamiti tato vakshyami te hitam. (B.G- XVIII, 64)

Krishna warns Arjuna
Never impart it to a man sans penance or sans devotion Don’t tell it to one who does not want to hear

This puts in one’s minds the reader’s aesthetics. To decode the text, it needs a competent reader. While the modern critics like Riffaterre demand of the reader certain critical faculties and certain faculties of imagination necessary to decode a text, the Bhagavad Gita, asks something more from the reader. (i) He should be adept in penance. (ii) He should have reverence. (iii) He must not despise the speaker or author. (iv) He must be willing to read or hear. But, be that as it may, Krishna spoke to Arjuna at the battleground of Kurukshetra in the open space so that quite a few of the warriors could hear him besides Arjuna. Hence the gitas are not necessarily the secret lore to be imparted to a select few. By Vedavyasa’s own admission it must be accepted that the Mahabharata & the Puranas, have been composed only to be imparted among the masses, irrespective of caste or creed or sex. And yet the Mahabharata itself argues that no one can fully decode it. Why so? It has been said that Vedavyasa the composer, at the instance of Brahma the creator invoked Lord Ganesha to take down the narrative. Lord Ganesha agreed to act as a stenographer of Vedavyasa. But if Vedavyasa faltered to dictate continuously Lord Ganesha would give up the assignment. Well, Vedayasa agreed to the terms of Lord Ganesha on condition that the latter must not write a single verse without understanding its import. Consequently, whenever Vedavyasa had to stop a while in course of his dictation, he would introduce a riddle known as Vyasa-Kuta in the course of his narration. And the Lord had to pause a while to decode the same. In this way it is said that there are some 8200 verses scattered through-out the narrative, that baffle the readers. If 8200 verses scattered all about the narrative are ambiguous, the whole of the narrative becomes ambiguous. It is claimed that Vyasa, Ganesha and Sukdeva only three persons know the real import of those verses. Consequently by admission of the Mahabharata itself the whole narrative is ambiguous.

Introduction

19

20

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Since, the Mahabharata could be read beginning from anywhere with Anukramunika or Astiks Parva as the opening, the structure of the Mahabharata and the meaning of the same is open-ended. If what seems to be the third chapter of a novel is read as the first chapter the import of the story changes. In other words, ambiguity is inherent in the very structure and language of the Mahabharata. The gitas under survey, as they stand are extracts from the self-same text and hence they are ambiguous also. Krishna himself acknowledges the ambiguity in his speech when he says, that people look upon the soul as marvellous, some others speak of it as marvellous ; some others hear of it as marvellous. No wonder that they donot understand it even after hearing about it.
Ascaryavad pasyati Kascidetam Ascaryavad vadati tathaiva canyah Ascarya vaccainamanyah srnoti Srutvapyenam veda na caiva. kascit (B.G- II, 29)

But Shakespeare has written tragedies that are time and again. Hence, there are no universal rules to judge a work of art. In fact every work of art is unique and it is a manifesto of what a work of art should be. Every work of art has in it the hidden rules of aesthetics with which we could judge it. Any work of art known as literature is language at bottom. Curiously enough the Brahmana gita, a subset of the Anu gita puts forward a theory of language which sees eye to eye with the views of modern linguisties. Since we can not think without language modern linguisties points out that language comes first & ideas next. Language, as such, however has no meaning. Language is a collection of some shared signs. We who speak English know what we mean by the word ‘chair’. We agree among ourselves to call a kind of seat as chair. The word chair is therefore a sign which has two sides in a set of phonemes or signifier and a referent or a signified. A word is therefore But the

The same could apply to describe the whole of the Mahabharata as well as to all the gitas. And of course, Empson observes that ambiguity is sine qua non with all true poetry. Indian aesthetics also values laksmana as one of the characteristic features of poetry. Kuntaka in his Vakrokti Jivita observes that elliptical speech is the life of poetry. This clearly suggests that a speech may have more than one level of meaning in vacyartha or literal meaning and laksmanartha or suggested meaning. But one wonders, if a sentence has meanings on more than one level, has it any meaning at all? There is no point in judging a work of art from some a priori notions of what a work of art should be like. Aristotlean poetics with which we could judge Sophocles fail to grasp the excellence of Shakespearean drama. The aesthetic standard which we apply to judge Shakespeare is of no avail when we appreciate the dramas of Kalidasa. Indian poetics banishes every kind of tragedy from the realm of drama.

signifier and signified are not organically connected. Another language or another culture might call kedara what we mean by chair. Once again, a signifier or a set of phonemes which was once employed to mean one thing earlier might mean something else at a later point of time. The Sanskrit word duhita.. used to mean the daughter of a household who milks the cow. Right now duhita. means simply a daughter of a household. She may shudder at the sight of a cow. Since language comes first & ideas next, the Post—moderns posit that this is a world made up of language. Since language as such has no inherent meaning in it, the world that is built with language is also without meaning. It is a virtual world—an illusion and everyone is at liberty to make sense of it in his or her own way. The Brahmana gita also observes that language is prior to mind & ideas. This is evident from the query of the Brahmani—
Kasmad vagabhavat purvam

Introduction

21

22

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Kasmad pascanmanobhavat Manasa cintitam vakyam Yada Samabhipadyate. ( Br. G.- II, 10 )

How is it that speech came fist & mind later? We know that we think out our speech with the help of our mind. Lacan, the modern psychologist par excellence posits that our minds are forged with our speech only. The Brahmana gita however goes further in its philosophy of language. It observes that there are two types of speech. One is apparently determined by the mind. But this can only describe the contingent and the sense perceptions. The supra-real or the suprasensual is only grasped by language, of which mind does not know anything.
Sthavaram jangamam caiva vindhyuthe manasi mama Sthavaram matsakase vai jangamam visaye tava Yastum tam visayam gachhenmantro varnah svaropi va tanmano jangamo nama tasmadapi gariasi ( Br. G.-II, 16,17 )

The cosmic mind or Brahma avows that both the static and the dynamic are its mind. But whatever is static or perceivable through senses is within the grasp of human mind. Whatever is dynamic as suprasensual is grasped by language alone. In other words language creates the suprasensual world. And the gitas are a language where the sensual & the supra sensual mingle. It is not a language that describes the contingent and the fragmentary only. It creates a world where senses falter. Any presence always reminds of its absence. And abhava is one of the substances according to Nyaya-vaisesika. Speech accordingly reminds of silence. The Brahmana gita however speaks of speech as of two types in speech & silence.
Ghosini jatanirghosa nityameva pravartate Tayorapi ghosinya nirghosameva gariyasi (Br. G- II, 21)

In the face of these facts about language how could we decode the text of the gitas? How could we get at their meaning? Since, meaning is not inherent in a language, it is a culture that makes sense of it. Putting vermillion on the parting of the hair is a language with women of Bengal. Other Bengali women might infer from it that a woman is married. But a Latin American woman, finding a Bengalee woman putting on vermilion on the parting of the hair might deem it to be a nice decoration. Thus a language becomes meaningful through one’s culture. The present reader has a culture of his own time. No doubt it has the traces of the past when the hymns of the Vedas & the songs of the Mahabharata burst forth. But at the same time it is mingled with the culture that is capitalism & computer. Of course one must read the gitas, from the cultural stand-point of one’s own time. At the same time one must try to read them in the context of the culture & shared language of the time of the Mahabharata. Since no absolute meaning of any text is possible we propose hereby to read each one of the gitas as unique and complete in itself, from close reading stand-point. Close-reading & explicatio de texte are very much akin to each other. Mallinatha or Sayana revelled in their respective exigesis of Kalidasa or the Vedas almost in a likely manner. Since poetry or any narrative moves in time as opposed to painting that manifests in space we will proceed reading the text bit by bit and explicate the same in its literal sense as well as in its suggestions or laksmana. To explore the laksmana we could employ different devices such as grammatical & linguistic, psychological & sociological. The grammatical device of interpreting language is perfectly in harmony with the ancient Sanskrit tradition. For example. The Devi gita of the Devi Bhagavata posits :
Svaprakasanca caitanyam na parena prakasitam Anavastha dosasattvaya svenapi prakasitam Karmakartrivirodhah syat tasmattaddipavat svayam (II, 12, 13)

And one wonders whether these gitas lead one from speech to that indeterminate realm of silence where silence is eloquent?

Introduction

23

24

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Consciousness is self-effulgent. It is not manifest by any one else. Or else there would be the fallacy of anavastha. Again, one cannot say that consciousness expresses itself. Because in that case there would be the conflict between subject & object. Again, the same Devi Bhagavata employs linguistic device and goes beyond the literal meaning.
Padarthavagatih purvam vakyarthavagatihstatah Tatpadasya ca vacyartha gireham parikirtitah Tvam padasya ca vacyartho jeeva eva na samsayah Ubhayorai –kyamasina padena procyate vudhaih (IV,20,21)

The word tat signifies the consciousness. The speaker here identifies herself with the consciousness pure & boundless. The work ‘tvam’ on the other hand signifies a limited being. The two cannot be the same. And yet the verb meaning the be verb in the form of “are” identifies the two. The identification as the speaker of the Devigita herself says is never possible on the plane of literal meaning. One must take to laksana to decode the same. Truth as Srimad Bhagavad Gita itself observes could be at least on three planes. adhibhautivika, adhidaivika and adhyatmika. The adhibhautika meaning could be the literal meaning itself. The adhidaivika and adhyatmika sense of the speech must be inferred. Well inference must have two criteria in perception as well as regular concommitance or pervasion, Gautama points out that while the concomitance is natural and lawful in verbal authority, judgements or the concommitance is based on man-made conventions. Yes, literature creates a world of its own, and it must be judged by the criteria set by itself. Vatsyayana argues that in inference the concomittance in question is between two things both of which can be observed. But verbal authority may well relate a word with a type of object never perceived or even perceptible. Jayanta further posits that authority operates through single world alone while inference requires well made propositions for its operation.

Sabda or verbal authority has been largely neglected in western philosophy. But the close reading school especially and the schools based on linguistics generally look upon language as its own referent. Poetry in general & the gitas under study fall within the scope of Sabda pramana. Nyaya admits of upamana or comparison as a source of knowledge. Often in poetry we compare the perceptible with that the perception of which is not verifiable—in other words not perceptible. Although in the 1930s the Vienna circle posited verifiability as the sole criteria for truth, can we verify everything one perceives? Dona saw a dream. Can we verify its truth? Yet did not Dona dream? When the Brahmana Gita said that language can comprehend or create the suprasensual, we must take such language as sabda pramana. By way of studying the upamana and by way of inference we will seek hereby to explore the meaning of each gita. on as many levels as possible. Finally we will take into account the recurrent imagery, or phrases or single words even, that are significant in all the gitas including the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. They will include such motifs like, Prakriti, Purusa, Jivatman, paramatman, manas, ahamkara, buddhi, pancabhuta, five senses, human body, knowledge, transmigration of soul, karmaphala & so on. We will try to understand these notions in the context of the gitas as well as in the context of modern science & philosophy, sociology etc. as well. Much of the language of the gitas speaks of the imperceptible or the unverifiable. It is not ordinary language. It goes beyond the grasp of our mind & catches the glimpse of the suprasensual. This is perhaps the province of poetry as distinguished from that of prose. Prose dwells on what we can perceive with senses. Poetry looks beyond. Hence it lies in the logic of affairs to read the gitas as poetry. The recurrent imagery that do not belong to any truth discourse need be also decoded in the aesthetic light. It logically follows thereby that we can reach our

Introduction

25

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

conclusions as to philosophy & poetry, & religion & poetry, which will form separate chapters. Looking into the gitas from all these diverse angles, cannot however distract us from our premise which was to check the pratijna of this treatise. On the other hand, constant reference to the Srimad Bhagavad Gita and searching for variations & identities among the gitas will indicate how far the message of the Bhagavad Gita is reflected on the other gitas. Let us now have a quick look at the gitas.

CHAPTER - II
VRITRA-GITA The very name Vritra gita charges us with awe & curiosity. Vritra is known to us, the Indian readers, as a great demon who overwhelmed Indra the Lord of the heavens. He put the whole existence out-ofjoints. It was he who had pent up the rivers in caves. It was he who had driven all the cows away into the caverns unknown and shut them up. The Vedas themselves dewll on his might. Indra the Lord of the gods however vanquished the king of the demons and rescued the cosmos. The story is widely known among the Indians. It puts in our mind the grand story of the fall of Satan and his comrades after a terrible fight with God the Father in Christian mythology. The devil is to be despised. The devil that lives in us must be chained and baulked. How is it that the name of the prince of devils is associated with a gita? The name Vritra gita is not an accidental super-scription on the text. Because the text itself says :
Asminnarthe pura gitam Srnusvaikamana nrpah yatha daityena vrtrena bhrastaisvaryena cestitam.

The title of the text under study has its clue in the text only. One might ask–why does the association of the word gita with the name of a devil spring surprise? The answer is not far to seek. The gita is a name universally known amongst us the Indians, as a shortening of the name Shrimad-Bhagavad Gita. Shrimad Bhagavad Gita is known as the Gita in short. The word gita might mean a song. The Gita with capital ‘G’ is however Krishna’s speech at the battleground of Kurukshetra. Krishna is the almighty in mortal frame. The addressee of his speech was Arjuna. Arjuna is the counterpart of Achilles in the Indian epic the Mahabharata. The speech of Krishna to Arjuna, in course of their conversation, on the crucial occasion of a world war,

Vritra-Gita

27

28

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

compasses heaven and beyond and unties the riddles of existence. It is an ecstatic piece of poetry cs Aarlyle says in his Hero as a poet, all great poetry is at bottom a song. Hence the name Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. It is a song withal. But could a demon give a tongue to a likely song? This query impels us to go through the text. We want to know what elevated words could flow from the lips of a mighty demon like Vritra. The Vritra gita opens with the speech of Yudhisthira.
hanya dhanya iti janah sarvesman pravadantyata na duhkhitatarah kascit pumanasmabhirasti ha lokasambhavitairduhkham yatpraptam purusottama praphya jatim manusyesu devairapi pitamahah.

blessed with super-human faculties still why should they suffer from sorrows that are wont to overwhelm the ordinary mortals. Yudhisthira is keen to give up the kingdom for a life of a recluse so that there could be no rebirth for him. Perhaps he asks for the consent of his grandfather to this end. Yudhisthira’s speech foregrounds paradoxes. Firstly he says that there is no joy in victory in battles. Secondly even super-human personages suffer sorrows to which ordinary men are subject. In response, the Grandfather Bhisma, utters another paradox.
Neither sorrow is boundless nor anything is countless Death & rebirth too not for ever Nothing is fixed for eternity here. nantanantam maharaja sarvam sankhyangocarah purnabhavopi vikhyato nasti kincidihacalam.

The speech is addressed to Bhisma, the grandsire of the Kurus and the Pandavas who revelled in the mighty battle of Kurukshetra, Yudhisthira the eldest brother of the Pandavas has come to his greatgrandfather Bhisma. But no joy of victory lights up his speech. He frankly tells his grandfather that despite the fact that people everywhere greet them, Yudhisthira & his brothers do not find any happiness in having killed and vanquished the enemy forces in the mighty battle that took place presently before. This is mightily disconcerting to Yudhisthira himself only when he reflects on the fact that he and his four brothers were all demi-gods, divine in origin. They are the counterparts of the heroes of Greek mythology, such as Achilles, Perseus, Hercules, Theseus and the like. The addresee grandfather Bhisma is also born of the divine. He was the son of king Santanu and the goddess of the river Ganges. Achilles too was the son of a river. Infact, the Mahabharata, the great treasure of ancient Indian myths is peopled with such demi-gods, both in the roles of protagonists and antagonists. Consequently Yudhisthira asks that although he and his brothers are

Does it not necessarily mean that nothing is infinite here? Is not the infinite itself finite? Sarvam sarikhyanagocarah. Yudhisthira has already expressed his intention to give up all his possessions, so that he could escape the eternal cycle of birth, death & rebirth. Bhisma however points our that posessions are no hindrance on the path of liberation from either sorrow or birth–death & rebirth cycle. Of course the owner of the body, (body being one’s possession) has to expiate the fruits of virtue & vice. Darkness resulting from the same overwhelms him (the owner of the body). When the owner of the body or the self lights the lamp of knowledge through his own endeavour, the darkness disappears and the Brahman or the Infinite is revealed at heart (sl. 11). The very word Brahman needs explication. Brahman is that which is infinitely big and which is ever expanding. Thus Brahman is a paradoxical concept of nothing-is-infinite or Nothing. Further more it is said that Brahman makes everything whatever infinitely big. Bhisma observes that this Brahman could be

Vritra-Gita

29

30

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

perceived only when darkness disappears at the instance of the light of knowledge. This involves further problems. If it is perceivable only in the light, the light of knowledge is some-thing else than Brahman. So is darkness. So is the perceiver. The perception of Brahman does not take place without. It takes place at heart. Thus the source of knowledge here is perhaps intuition. Bhisma, further adds that mere activity of any kind, however much meticulously pursued, can never ever lead one to the realisation of the infinitude called the Brahman. Here Bhisma clearly distinguishes knowledge as an activity from other activities. In other words, he posits that rituals in themselves are not enough to know Brahman. What one has to do is to worship liberated beings or the jeevanmukta. This might remind one of the sociologist Comte. He replaced the gods with great men in his proposal for the cult of humanism. This might remind one of Krishna’s speech in the XIIth chapter of the Gita where he posits that it is clever to worship him viz Krishna only instead of pursuing the Brahman. Krishna was the Brahman or the infinitude incarnate in human form. Of course, Krishna says that he possesses the infinite where he lays his seed mama yoni mahadbrahma aham biyayrodah pita. But above all this statement of Bhisma, involves another question. Is liberation in the body at all possible? With Bhisma it is possible. He speaks of the risis A Risi ( derived from root r to see) is a visionary. And there are bands of visionaries who should be worshipped and imitated. Of course, since Brahman makes everyone grow infinitely those who know Brahman are, themselves Brahman in human shape. The phrase maharsi-samghan echoes the phrase in maharsisiddhasavighah canto in XI of the Bhagavad Gita. In this context Bhisma, cites the conversation between Vritra the prince of the demons, and Sukracharyya the great teacher of the demons. Bhisma is here the narrator. But instead of narrating, he shows us

the action directly like a playwright par-excellence. There are Vritra uvaca and Ushana uvaca and so on. V. gita is by the by a part of the grand epic named the Mahabharata. The first narrator of the epic is Sauti. Sauti shows the action instead of narrating. Hence there are Bhisma uvaca and Yudhisthira uvaca. Bhisma in turn, shows the action instead of narrating. Thus there is a narrative within another narrative & so on. When we open a gate and enter into the courtyard and find another gate that opens into another courtyard,–in short when we encounter the second courtyard, the first courtyard becomes real. When, we dream in a dream, the earlier dream must have been real or else, how could there be dreaming in a dream? This narrative technique of the Mahabharata is surely time and again. Bhisma describes the context of Vritra’s speech
asminnarthe pura gitam srinusvaikamana nrpa yatha daityena vrtrena bhrastaisvaryena cestitam nirjitena sahayena hrtarajyena bharata asocata satrumadhye buddhimasthaya kevblam bhrastaisvaryam pura vrtram usana vakyamavravit kacit parajitasyadya na vyatha testi danava.

Utterly vanquished in the war with gods, Vritra was shorn of all his possessions. And yet he looked calm. This aroused curiosity in Sukracaryya, the mighty teacher of the demons and he asked Vritra— what makes you so calm & peaceful, despite the fact that you have lost your all. Vritra spoke in this context. Thus the context of Vritra offers a contrast to the context in which Yudhisthira speaks to Bhisma. Yudhisthira has won the battle and yet he lacks composure. Vritra has lost the battle and yet he is cool. While Yudhisthira begins the conversation with Bhisma, Vritra speaks only in response to the great teacher Shukracaryya’s query Now what does Vritra say in reply to his teachers querie’s. He frankly tells his teacher, that a demon though, he has already seen into the truth of coming and going of the different elements of the existence. This he has achieved through tapas (The word ‘tapas’ means heat.) It

Vritra-Gita

31

32

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

is through the accumulation of energy or heat that he has attained suprasensual perception. And thereby he sees into the truth of the world. And since the mystery of appearance & disappearance is unravelled before him, he says that he does not joy over victory & does not sorrow in defeat. Why? Vritra points out that he had conquered the three worlds on his own through penance. In other words, he feels that he had acquired merit and thereby he conquered the three worlds. And he did it for his own pleasure. Now that he has lost all his possessions, he must not blame his stars for that. He admits that his fall is very much due to his own actions. In other words, if he congratulates himself for his erstwhile conquests, he also shoulders the responsibility of his failure as well. This observation is heroic indeed on the part of Vritra. But he further observes that through he has lost his possessions, he still retains some of his knowledge earned estwhile. And he is in his calm. Thus he knows, that one reaps the way one sows. We reap our actions in time. So Vritra feels that time is all-in-all. Still he wants to know more about the truth of actions and their consequences from Shukracarya. Vritra’s queries are precise and searching. They are (1) why do lives come into being (2) why are they drawn to varied activities (3) what is the summum bonum, the attainment of which could make one immortal?(4) what kind of activity and knowledge bestow immortality upon man? These are the questions that have been asked by man since time immemorial. Vritra, a demon though, seems to give a tongue to the queries of man through the ages. Thus the character of Vritra seems to have been humanised. In reply to Vritra’s queries Sukracharya begins his speech laden with Vedic reminiscences. He speaks of the being whose prowees overwhelms the earth and the skies. It reminds one of the Vedic hymn that speaks of the thousand-headed being, sahasirsah purusah.

It also reminds of the cosmic vision that Arjuna experienced in the XIth canto of the Bh. Gita Just as Bhisma said that to know Brahman one had better worship maharsi sangha or the sages similarly instead of replying to the queries of Vritra in terms of abstract arguments, Shukracarya seems to focus on the Being that has conquered death, to dwell on what acts and what hopes could make one like that-the Eternal Being. But dramatically enough just at the moment when Sukracharyya is about to begin his discourse, Sanat Kumar turns up. He is the son of Brahma, the creator. He is a great saint. When Sanat Kumar is seated, Shukracharyya asks him to deliberate on the greatness of Visnu. Visnu could be described as one who is at the heart of all things great & small, and who is vast at the same time. Sanat Kumar asserts that Visnu is the creator and the destroyer of the universe. How is that? What is the source of this knowledge? Neither scriptures nor penance can lead one to such knowledge. The source of such knowledge is heart or intuition How could one attain such an intuition. Well, one must cleanse one’s mind of such emotions as love & hatred. To that end he must act physically & mentally. He must do it intelligently. Cleansing of the mind can not be done overnight. Because, we have been used to spouses & children through different previous lives. Thereby our minds have been contaminated with the three gunas or qualities in sattva rajas & tamas. We must free our mind from their trammels. To that end we must persevere. This poses a question. How come that man is drawn to certain things and despises certain other things? Sanat Kumar does not answer this query directly. Instead he revels in a cosmic imagery describing Visnu reminiscent of the Vedas and BH.G. Let us closely read the imagery.
Lord Vishnu, is beginningless and endless. It is he who creates the static & the dynamic. He exists in everything, destructible & indestructible. This is how he drinks the universe through his eleven

Vritra-Gita

33

34

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

types of manifestation. His feet are the earth. His head towers above the skies. The skies are his ears. The sun is his eyes. The Moon is his mind. His intellect is ever plunged in wisdom. His enjoyment is represented by the waters.

One is tempted to quote the relevant sukta in the Rg Vedas viz. Purusa sukta sloka by sloka in this context. The Cosmic being is himself the world. And he is drinking in the world with his rays. To that end he has had eleven kinds of manifestation. In other words, whatever act, good or evil is being done is performed by that Visnu. And whatever fruitious of such action are reaped are reaped by Lord Visnu alone. Those who know him, therefore do not take any responsibility of performing any activity. They surrender the results of their activity to Visnu.
Sosramanam phalam tata karmanastat phalam viduh.

(II, 24)

Action and inaction are the same. Inaction is as well that Visnu only.
akarmanah phalam caiva sa eva paramavyayah (II,24)

He is the sacrifice. He is the priest of the sacrifice. One alone presides over all the differences. When living beings realise this the Brahman is revealed to him. Thus Sanat Kumar, practically, takes an opposite stance in relation to Vritra’s stance. Vritra said that he was himself responsible for his failure. Sanat Kumar points out that on another plane of realisation, the issue of individual responsibility becomes a non-issue. The results of Visnu’s eleven types of manifestation is the world or

samsara. It is through the manifestation that there are thousand crores oflives in this existence. Some are static. Some are dynamic among them. They are in vast waters. Before one removes a drop of the water, Visnu can, create a universe & destroy it. Thus Sanat Kumar speaks in terms of symbols. The myriad lives seem to wallow in waters. The removal of the waters is absurd drop by drop. The removal of illusion gradually through activity is next to absurd. Vritra earlier posited that Kala or Time is the god, through which one reaps one’s actions. But Sanat Kumar here posits that Visnu is the lord of that Time itself. What seems ages to us might mean a twinkling of an eye to Lord Visnu. Again what seems a twinkling of an eye might mean ages to Visnu. A whole universe could be created and destroyed in a nano-second by him. Hence individual efforts (Vritra believes in individual efforts or tapas) are of no avail. One must get at the heart of the world of phenomena, where there are differences. Now Sanat Kumar forges a typology of the creatures under the sun in terms of colours. There are black ones who rot in the hell, for hundred thousand times. And finally, these black ones are transformed into smoke-coloured ones. In course of time they are under the impact of sattvaguna. And their colour becomes red or blue. Gradually in course of further births and deaths they turn into yellow ones. The process might be retrograde. The yellow ones might turn into red or black again. Then again they go higher up from black to red to yellow till they attain white colour. Even those who have white colour might fall from bliss. They are born again & over again in different planes of existence till they are wholly purged. Finally they are liberated at the hour when the universe dissolves. They may have a fall as well. Then they are born as men. After numerous births and deaths, they attain the highest state of bliss. Sanat Kumar however, cannot categorically state on which plane, the highest state is possible. But this is possible only when the being or jiva reaps all his actions that he had performed, through the myriads of births and deaths, pinning its faith on the

Vritra-Gita

35

36

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

differences in the world of appearance. In reply to the discourse by Sanat Kumar Vritra says that he has been purged of all his crudities. He now fully realises that the individuals have no personal responsibility. Lord Visnu is all in all. He runs the existence. Bhisma says that Vritra, having said thus became one with the cosmic being paramatma and gave up his mortal raiments. We must remember that Bhisma cited the Sanat Kumar Vritra episode only to exhort the moaning Yudhisthira. The name Yudhisthira is ironical. Because it means one who is calm in war. But, Yudhisthira is restless even when he comes out victorious in war. Yudhisthira, however still laments. He says that yellow and red beings might often degenerate and could be born as subhuman species. He wonders whether he would also degenerate like that Bhisma assures him that such a possibility is almost nil. And here ends the conversation between Bhisma and Yudhisthira. Bhisma and Yudhisthira are the two chief protogonists in the epic called the Mahabharata. The conversation between the two is just a mere fragment of the vast epic. But it seems to throw much light on the characteristic features of these two characters. Yudhisthira as the name suggests is one who keeps quiet even in wars. But ironically enough he has lost all his calm despite the fact that he has won a battle whereby he has defeated his mortal enemies once for all. And yet he is restless. This is because he feels responsible for the mass-massacre enacted in the battle. Here he is one with Vritra who felt that he was responsible for his own failure. But Bhisma, by way of citing what Sanat Kumar told Vritra points out that Yudhisthira is not responsible for his doings. This does not calm Yudhisthira. He deems that he is not capable of the realisation that Vritra had after listening to Sanat Kumar. He wonders whether he will degenerate into sub-human species in life to come. This speaks of the great humility of his character. He is humble even when he has

become victorious in war. The conversation between Yudhisthira & Bhisma is significant on another count. Bhisma also participated in the battle to which Yudhisthira refers. Bhisma belongs to the vanquished party in which Yudhisthira is victorious. Here the victor comes to the vanquished for exhortation. And Bhisma the vanquished speaks to Yudhisthira without any malice. He is all love. He loves his enemies as much as he loves himself. Furthermore, the state in which Bhisma speaks to Yudhisthira must be remembered. He is now lying on a bed raised by arrows. He lies on the very points of the arrows and yet he is calm. Being defeated in the war, he is one with Vritra. But exhorting the truth about Visnu, he is one with Sanat Kumar. Thus he is two in one, the teacher & the taught Vritra & Sanat Kumar of the conversation that he cites to exhort Yudhisthira. The conversation is strewn with various imagery viz. the imagery of transmigration of soul, of the Karmaphala, of the many colours that individual self attains, of creation & destruction, of the world wallowing in magic water, of time, and above all of the towering stature of Visnu and his many names like Hari and Narayana and his many forms, of Narayana (Nara-water ; ayana-abode) lying on the primal waters, of the earth and the skies and of the different planes of existence like Satyaloka and Tapaloka etc. and of the three gunas and of the many types of manifestation of Visnu and of the imagery of the Sun. Unless we, decode each one, separately, we wonder, whether we can reach at the heart of this piece of poetry which baffles our understanding. This piece of poetry of the Mahabharata transports us indeed to a world which baffles our reason and yet we feel that it is real. It is different kind of poetry indeed. How does it baffle our reason? One of the themes of this excerpt in the Mahabharata is good and evil. Reason always separates good from evil. But how is it that the prince of demons, of course, a

Vritra-Gita

37

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

personification of evil, as distinguished from good who are signified by gods, can achieve liberation through exhortation from Sanat Kumar? How is it that he was blessed with exhortation from Sanat Kumar? Was it not for the fact that he saw in a vision the white Visnu while warring with Indra, the king of the gods? Since everything is Visnu, there is nothing called good or evil. Why should then, the myriads of selves wallow in the waters of ignorance? Are not all the lokas and hues but manifestations of the same Visnu. They are all illusory. Even creation or destruction is illusory. Visnu alone is. We propose hereby to read the other gitas and see how these imageries recur in different contexts and grow into a meaning.

CHAPTER - III
HARITA GITA The Harita gita, once again, springs from the conversation between Bhisma and Yudhisthira.
kim silah kim samacarah kim vidya kim parayanah prapnoti brahmanah sthanam yat param prakrterdhrubam.

(1)

Yudhisthira begins the conversation by putting forward the question. It is a repetition of the question posed by the same Yudhisthira earlier in the Vritra Gita.
kada vayam karisyamah samnyasam duhkhasanjakam uhkhametat sariranam dharanam kurusattama vimuktah saptabhirhetu—bhutaisca parncabhih indriarthaih gunaiscaiva astabhisca pitamahah. ( V.G-I,3,4 )

The body itself seems to be the source of all misery to Yudhisthira. The body, the 17 principles plus the 5 senses etectera seem to be the trammels that baulk Yudhisthira. Yudhisthira wanted earlier to get rid of them. In the frame of reference of the Mahabharata, they are synonymous with Prakriti. Prakriti is an elusive term as used in ancient Skt. literature. The three gunas that have been referred to in the Vritra Gita are also associated with Prakriti. According to the Samkhya system of philosophy Prakriti is mindless as opposed to purusa. The purusa is all consciousness. It is eternal, free, omniscient and pure There are myriads of purusas who get manifest or distorted through this body or the mindless prakriti. But Vritra gita speaks of one purusa Visnu, instead of many purusas. Indeed if there were many purusas who are free there is of course one purusa, who is all the purusas. Or else the hypothesis as to the freedom of the purusa would have been nullified. When the Vritra Gita posits that Visnu, drinks the world with his rays through eleven kind of manifestations the world seems to be

Harita Gita

39

40

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

---

the nonself. But when we go further into the discourse of the Vritra gita it seems the Prakriti itself is but one of Visnu’s manifestations. And ironically enough the very name Vritra implies thoughtless body. When Vritra asks questions, the body is surely the mind. And indeed according to the Samkhya, mind being one of 25 tattvas is very much the body. This is in absolute contrast to what the West posits being impelled by the philosophy of Descartes. They look upon mind as completely different from body. According to Descartes while body has extension, mind has thought. Hence mind and body are two distinct substances. God a third substance, sees to that they co-ordinate. Here also as per Samkhya, Prakriti and Purusa are different. And Yudhisthira wants to get rid of the Prakriti. The very name Vritra however stands for the mind— the body. In the Vritra gita the Body itself becomes one with the primordial consciousness. Does it not necessarily mean that all body is at bottom that Visnu who is neither mind nor body. And every body, as soon as it is aware of the One lurking in everything becomes one with the One. So when, Yudhisthira asked in the V. G. how to get rid of the trammels of flesh, Bhisma seems to allegorically posit that all flesh is at bottom the one Visnu. And the realisation of the same could liberate one from the bondage. Be that at it may, Yudhisthira seems not to have fully realised what Bhisma had said in the Vritra gita. Hence the same question recurs again. Bhisma is as patient as ever, ready to teach the inquisitive. Hence he once again alludes to another conversation which he entitles as the Harita gita.
Haritena pura gitam tam nivodha yudhisthira

Gets out of his home and becomes indifferent to profit & loss He is listless to the objects of pleasure And wanders aimlessly.

The phrase nirapeksah parivrajet speaks of a wide wanderer who has no stay, no home, no hope, no aim in the world. He is dependant on nothing He is free. He does not blame anyone with eyes, by words, or with mind. He neither blames anything or anyone in front of the same, or in absence of the same. He must not be jealous of anyone. He must move about in this wide world as a friend to everything.
He prayeth best who loveth best. All things both great and small.

One must not make enemy of anyone, once getting life He must not wander in the villages. He must live on alms. He speaks lovingly to even one who speaks unpolitely to him. He must not go abegging as long as smoke rises from the hearth. He must have that much food only which is a must for keeping alive. He must not look forward to any kind of gains or honour. He lives in a desolate place like a cave or else he lives in a forest. He will look upon requests & refusals with equanimity. He will neither embrace holy deeds, nor perform unholy deeds. He is used to perceive the transitoriness of life & world. He is not carried off by emotions or physical needs. Hence,
madhyastha eva tistheta prasamsa nindaya sama ( 18 )

(3)

According to Harita
Svagrhadabhinihsrtya labhelabhe samo munih samupodhesu kamesu nirapeksah parivrajet ( 3 ) One who has taken the vow of silence

The middle road or madhyamapantha does not mean avoiding two extremes. It means looking upon opposites with equanimity. Here Harita Gita is one with Buddhism. He is always in control of himself. He is alone. He has no home. He is always plunged in awareness. He has no rapport with those who are in worldly life or else who are in vanaprastha grhasthanam na samsrjyate kahrcit in vanaprastha.

Harita Gita

41

42

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Indeed those who have the awareness can attain liberation. Or else it will be sheer hard work and nothing will come out of it. The final legitimation of Harita is
abhayam sarvabhutebhyo dattva yah pravrajed grhat

( 22 )

Say—have no fear, to all the world and get out of the worldly life. Harita Gita is of course in harmony with the V. G. In the V. G. Bhisma observed that one had better follow the life-style of the sages But Vritra gita did not give any instance of the life-style, of a visionary. Harita gita, therefore supplements Vritra gita. It give us a model of the life-style of a jivan-mukta or a liberated fellow. Yudhisthira hungered for liberation. But he never asked what a liberated man would be like. On the other hand. Arjuna asks Krishna in the BH.G.
Sthitaprayjnasya ka bhasa samadhisthasya kesava

This is not all. As it has been already pointed out, the ideal man in H. G. will have no rapport at all with the men of grhasthasrama & vanaprasthasrama. We will seek answers to such questions as we proceed from one gita to another. The gitas we are dwelling on at the moment all belong to the magnum opus called the Mahabharata. In a sense, in course of the vast interplay of characters welded into a complex web of actions, the explicit message of the Mahabharata might be inferred from the gita where the speakers are in ecstasy and their speech is song. We want to read all these gitas one after another and see what message they conveyed to their immediate listeners and what message they left for all futurity.

(II-54)

Krishna also repeatedly dwells on the model of an ideal man. Actually man does not act from any abstract idea in his mind. He must have a model engraved in his psyche If the ideal man of the Harita could be impressed on the minds of men, the life and world about us would be different. Thus the speaker of the Harita Gita is a psychologist par excellence. Of course, the Harita gita poses a few problems. For example, some men of our time might ask whether the ideal man of the Harita gita is ideal enough? Is he not an escapist? Besides, as per the frame of reference in the the then India, chaturvarna and the chatur-ashrama are archetypal. Lord Krishna—the highest voice avows this. And everyone should keep to his station and duties And of course the four stages of life as depicted by Kalidasa
saisave abhyastavidyanam yauvane visayaisinam vardhakye munivrttinam yogenanca tanutyajam. (Raguvansa)

is inallenably woven with the structure of caturvarnya But Harita Gita is all for escape from the world.

44

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - IV
BODHYA GITA The same Bhisma is the speaker of the Bodhya Gita. Although paradox informs, all the earlier Gitas, it is an astounding work of art opening with a paradox and foregrounding paradox all through, characterised by allusion and esoteric brevity. What is a paradox? When we say alpavidya bhayankari or a little learning is dangerous, on the surface it makes no sense. In our frame of reference learning is good. If a lot of learning implies lot of good, then a little learning is a little good. So such sayings as alpavidya bhayankari are pointless. But when we peruse the story of the four foolish brahmins we know that there is deeper wisdom in such sayings. Practically paradox has a long history in western aesthetics First discussed in its formal elements in classical Greek rhetoric and in the works of the stories, paradox became widely used in the Christian mode of expression particularly in the works of Luther and Pascal. Schlegel called the paradox a basic form of poetry and linked it closely with poetry & irony. De Quincey feels that paradoxes are sine qua non with poetry since poetry reflects the paradoxical nature of the existence. And in the 20th century itself the Close-Reading School states that all great poetry is paradoxical. Because it communicates deeper truths that prose fails to comprehend and express. Our Bodhya Gita opens with the paradox—Atrapyundaharanti gitam imamitihasam puratanam gitam videha-rajena janakena prosamyata Anantamiva me vittam yasya me nasti kincana mithilayam pradiptayi na me dahyati kincana. The speech of the king of Videha is a song according to Bhisma. Why? Because he speaks in ecstasy. In an ecstatic mood mundane reasons are transcended and there is the paradox– If all the Mithila is put to fire, Janaka claims that nothing of his

possessions will be destryed. How is that? What ineffable wealth does he possess? Well Janaka, the King of Mithila says
My wealth is boundless And yet I am absolutely sans wealth.

How could that be? Actually when a paradox is introduced intellectual discussions take off, transcending the mundane emotions. But Bhisma does not linger to decode the paradox of Janaka. On the contrary he loads paradox upon paradox by way of citing what Bodhya said to King Jajati. King Jajati in quest of peace asked the sage Bodhya how to attain peace. Jajati further asked—how is it that you are in perfect peace, listless of anything in the world. Bodhya replied reluctuantly
I take advice from others. But I seldom give it to anyone myself. Nevertheless since you are inquisitive. Let me tell you with the aid of signs. I tell you, the prostitute, the vulture, the snake, the blackbee, the maker of shafts and a virgin are my teachers.

The speech of Bodhya itself is paradoxical. Because he readily learns from others. But he is reluctant to teach others. And yet he teaches & he teaches in a very suggestive way. Is it not the style of a poet who abhors statement and revels in Vakrokti. How is it that the saint par excellence could learn anything from a pingala ? How is it that he could learn from a snake or a black-bee? It reads like a riddle or a conundrum. Riddles & conundrums are part and parcel of all greet poetry and literature. The Sphinx poses riddles before Oedipus the King in Greek Literature. Dharma poses riddles before Yudhisthira and his four brothers. Actually riddle is a form of paradox. Why should Kalidasa dare describe the lives of Raghus if he is really that fool mandah & feeble in

Bodhya Gita

45

46

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

physique & poor in speech. (tanu-vag-vibhavopi san) Bhisma nevertheless undertakes the task of decoding riddles & each one of his sayings is as chiselled as a saw which could be quoted out of the context on any occasion as such and calls for explication. Asha valavati rajan nairasyam paramane sukham asham nirasham kritva tu sukham svapiti pingala. While the mundane world is ever in favour of hoping against hope, Tennyson’s Ulysses crying.
To seek, to strive, to fight & never to yield.

Bhisma posits that despair is preferable to hope. And to that end here is a microstory in the shape of an image. The imagery is that of a desolate prostitute. When she is given up & expects no client, she has a peaceful sleep. Dante’s inferno or hell has the inscreption written on its gateway Abandon ye all hope! Here Bhisma speaks of the reverse. Until & unless we abandon all hopes,we cannot enter into the kingdom of bliss. What is hope for? To possess & possess only. But every possession brings about misery in its trail. Hence Bhisma : Samisam kuraram dristva vadhyamanam niramishaih amishasya parityagat kurarah sukhamedhate. ( 9 ) Kurara is a bird of prey. When it has a piece of meat in its beaks, all the other birds of prey surround him in defiant mood. Everyone wants to snatch the piece of meat from the Kurara The Kurara is in real trouble. But once the bird gives up the piece of meat, while other birds might fight among themselves for the prize, the bird can live in peace and observe what ails the sorrow-stricken worldly life. It is a clear parallel of what happens in the worldly life. The capitalist system as such is always keen on kindling fresh desires in our heart for possession of more & more material objects. Possession is never an end in itself. We want to possess more only in relation to the possession

of others. Ask a Birla to live amidst all his wealth in the Moon, where there is no man. Will he have anything to do with the untold wealth that he has? Besides once, some one possesses anything he does it so at the cost of others. Hence everyone seeks to snatch it away from him. Now a days possession does not necessarily have any use-value. Mr. X buys a car not because it has any use-value. Because in a city like Calcutta, where traffic-jams for hours together, is usual, possessing a car is not a help but hindrance. Still he possesses a car only for status, a hollow sham, which has no content and material use value. It has exchange value only. I put on a platinum ring not for its use. I put it on because its exchange value is out of reach of my neighbours. They will say–see how rich he is. Present day sociologists like Baudrillard observes that consumerism has robbed us of our leisure hours also. If Mr. X keeps his car in the garage only, people will say–see how miserly he is! So, Mr. X must go with his family in the car for outing. How Mr. X will pass his leisure is not at his disposal. The use of his leisure is also determined by the consumerism that has infected the whole social body. The society of ours is indeed a diseased one. Bhisma, observes, once we possess anything we are at the focus of our fellowmen, who are wont to cast their longing lingering jealous look on others. We are as it were the bird, with a piece of meat in our beaks drawing jealous attention at us of our neighbours. The popular belief is that one should have a home of one’s own. And that should mean that there will be a specific place in time, where one could hide one’s head. But Bhisma opines the opposite of the same.
Griharambha hi duhkhaya na sukhaya kadachana sarpah parakritam vesma pravishya sukhamedhate

(10 )

To begin to found a house for one’s residence is singularly miserable. The snake enters into the nest of another and enjoys itself. Actually one gita explicates what another gita leaves in suggestion. The Harita Gita speaks of renouncing the home.
abhayam sarvabhutebhyo yah pravrajet griham etc.

Bodhya Gita

47

48

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Why should one renounce home? The Bodhya Gita says,
griharambho he duhkhaya

It depends from which angle one looks upon a thing. The same snake has been debunked as the type of the ungrateful in
payah panam bhujanganam prokopaya na shantaye

The word arambha is here significant.It implies initiative with some purpose in sight. In other words it is associated with hope. But hope it has been already held is a hindrance on the way to happiness. Besides, when one wants to protect oneself from untoward possibilities one is pent up in it. One loses freedom thereby. Actually home could be read symbolically. It might mean some ideology even in which one might take refuge. But once one foregoes any dogma or fixation one is face to face with the reality–the Brahman. The truly happy man foregoes his home to find home in eternity. Hence the recurrent longing for a life in the woodlands in ancient Indian literature. When Ramachandra was banished from Ayodhya he joyed over it, because he is fond of a life in the forest. Sita while childing longed for a life in the forest. The forest is the antithesis of the civilized world. While the civilized world is characterised by hierarchies the forest has none. While the civilized world is a limited one, limited by rules, the forest has none. The forest stands for the uncharted world, wide and wonderful and indeterminate. Indeed Shakespeare also speaks eloquently of a life in the forests when he sings.
Under the Greenwood tree Who loves to lie with me Come hither, come hither, come hither. Here shall he see no enemy. But winter and rough weather.

And once again here in the B. G the snake is the type of the wise. The snake might stand for many sublime ideas. For example it stands for the life-force in man as typified by the Kulakundalini. Bhisma further observes
Sukham juvanti munayo bhaikshyavrittim samashritah adrohenaiva bhutanam saranga iva pakshinah. ( 11 )

Just see, how happily do the munis live on alms. Just as the blackbee lives among the feathered ones. They need not exploit others. The word muni is itself very suggestive. Muni is one who keeps silent. And it is the munis who live on alms because, thereby he exploits no one. In the Harita Gita the role-model of a muni has been lauded. But the Harita Gita has laid down the rules of begging, only when smoke does not excelsior into the skies from its hearth.
Vidhume myastamusale vyangare bhuktavarjane atita patra sanchare bhiksham lipsyeta vai munih.

(H.G.. 9 )

In other words begging must not be a profession. But modern mind raises crucial questions on this issue. What are alms but a share in the surplus of wealth, produced by men who have joined in the economic activity. If everyone went a--begging and no one were producing wealth through economic activity how could getting alms be possible. Earlier in the Harita Gita it has been legitimated that
Abhayam sarvabhutebhyo dattva yah pravrajet grihat.

And yet sometimes one needs shelter, a mortal as he is. In that case one had better imitate the snake. The snake always hides its head in the nest built by others. In other words since the snake has no home, s/he makes home, wherever s/he finds one. The use of the snake as a role-model might seem to be a repulsive one to modern taste. But in the foests there is no hierarchy. Besides, just as language is at bottom always ambigious, so, are the things of life and existence.

one should straight away renounce the world. A number of Jataka tales dwell on how all the citizens of kingdoms after kingdoms embraced renunciation. If renunciation becomes universal, will life for man be at all possible? One might invoke an answer to it from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Here a wise courtier of Prospero, opines that if love were universal man would not need to work. Because, nature in her bounty

Bodhya Gita

49

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

would give enough roots and fruits for man’s survival. Finally the grand sire Bhisma says
Bahunam kalaho nityam samkathanam dhruvam ekaki vicarisyami kumari samkhako yatha. (13 )

CHAPTER - V
MANKI GITA All the three gitas, that we have already read are rather conversations. They remind one of the Socratic dialogues. In Socratic dialogues, however, Socrates himself puts forward the most searching questions and his motive was to bring round his addressee to his opinion. So Socratic dialogues are rather dramas of conversion. There the all conquering wit of Socrates glitters all about. Although Socrates himself seems to believe in souls and life after death, his dialogues are more directed towards how life on mundane plane could be made blithe with truth, beauty and goodness, the three summum bonums as per Greek ideal of life. These gitas are however conversations of different kind. Here, the teacher does not generally ask on his own. Somebody comes to the teacher on the other hand with sincere inquisitiveness and poses questions. The B.G. exhorted that the questioner should come to his teacher in all humility and heartfelt query. In the last three Gitas, the questioner was Yudhisthira and the teacher was his grandfather Bhisma on the surface level of the discourse. The question has never been put forward to outwit the addressee. Besides the questions have been asked in most cases only to learn the road to peace and liberation from birth and death cycle. Because in the society of the Mahabharata a priori belief in the transmigration of soul is universal. Any narrative as such either forges or represents a society which has its own value-system and beliefs. We can not do justice to such narratives unless we judge them in the context of the value-system of such narratives. At the same time we are at liberty to read them from the value-system of our own time. The teacher, Bhisma in the earlier three gitas, however, gives his replies to the inquisitive one, neither to convince, nor to out-wit him. He simply answers to questions raised before him, to the best of his knowledge and wisdom. There is no trace of arrogance on the part of Bhisma. That is why he does not

To live among many breeds quarrel. When two are together, they must speak to each other. But Bodhya’s role model is a lonely virgin who wears only one bangle. The lonely virgin has been always the theme of traditional poetry. She is sad because of her loneliness. But here the lonely virgin is the role model. And, of course, she is not sad.The lonely virgin has only one bangle on. If she had too many bangles that would clash with each other and there would be a noise. If many men lived together there would be a noise. But the muni observes silence. Hence he would move alone like a lonely virgin. Actually a lonely man is the strongest man under the sun. Because he has no dependence. God is one who has no dependence. S/he is like god. His or her aloneness is all oneness indeed. But what does the imagery of virgin stand for? Jesus was born of virgin Mary. Karna was born of virgin Kunti. Even the Pandavas were not fathered by any mortal. They spring directly from the unconscious, to put it in terms of Jungian psychology. But one wonders, whether this eulogy of loneliness strikes at the root of human society or not? Well the risis would perhaps answer that this society and worldly life is all myth and moonshine. The earlier we get rid of it the better. Bh. Gita also lauds the aniketah and the sangavarjitah as the role model over and over again.

Manki Gita

51

52

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

reply on his own. On the contrary he quotes a similar situation, where a wise man has answered a likely question. This further underlines the fact that, the Mahabharata feels that the truths of the spirit must be culled from the wisdom of the ancients. May be fresh political or economic truths are the exigencies of an emergent political or economic situation. But the truth of the spirit is the time honoured one. In this Manki Gita also Yudhisthira is the person who asks & Bhisma seeks to resolve his doubts. Yudhisthira asks—Those who can not get enough money, will be after money only. How could they attain happiness in that case? May be Yudhisthira does not ask this question for his own sake. He has been crowned of late after the battle. In the role of a king he must see to that his subjects are happy. But, they do not get enough money. How could they be happy? What does Yudhisthira mean by happiness in this context? Bhisma says that happiness does not depend upon material gains, Bhisma posits that (1) one who looks upon loss or gain with equanimity, (2) one who does not work hard for anything, (3) one who speaks the truth, (4) one who is indifferent to the worldly life & (5) one who has no desire to achieve anything is the happy man. These are the five steps to happiness. They constitute heaven and dharma. So say the wise. In other words mundane possessions do not constitute happiness. It all depends on the attitude of man towards life & things. To defend his contention Bhisma quotes the Manky Gita Bhisma first delineates the context in which Manki sang. At the outset Manki was after money, somehow he managed to get some and with that he bought two calves. He looked after the calves with great care. Thereafter he put them with a plough and set out for the field to sow. On the road, they saw a camel. Scared, they jumped off the plough and fell on the camel itself. The camel thereby got irritated and severely injured the cows. Finding the cows deeply wounded,

Manky exclaimed that personal prowess cannot undo the decree of fate. He further adds,
Sometimes personal prowess succeeds, But that is also predetermined by divinity. Hence, one who seeks happiness should be indifferent to success or failure. If one is indifferent one has no anxiety. One can sleep in peace.

The B.G. has over and over again prescribed that one had better act but one must not worry as to its results. Manki says the same thing in a very down-to-the-earth way. Of course, to sleep in peace, is all that constitutes happiness in Manki’s view (cp Bodhya Gita). There is a sense of humour in Manki’s parole. Now Manki remembers what Sukdeva, the son of Vedavyasa, the renowned risi & author of the Mahabharata said while entering the forests. One who attains all that one desires is by all means inferior to one who gives up all the objects of desire. Because, no one has ever been able to cross all the possible objects of desire. Hence the thirst for body and zest for life increase only among the fools. The imagery in Sukdeva’s speech is unique. The fulfilment of one’s desire is never possible. The landscape of the objects of desire is boundless. The journeyman along the road of life can hardly cross it. This reminiscence of Sukdeva’s speech impels Manki to a soliloquy —
Oh mind full of desire! Get rid of greed. You have failed over & over again in getting your objects of desire. Still you are not wise. If you really want to joy in me, and if I am not to be destroyed, do not link me up with greed. Oh! you greedy of wealth. Your possessions have been over and over again set-aside. Yet, you greedy of wealth, you are seldom free from greed! How foolish I am that I have been a plaything in your hands. Unless one becomes like that one would not slave under others. No one in the past has ever crossed the sea of desires. No one will do it in the future. Hence I have given up all desires and I am wise now. I am awake.

Manki Gita

53

54

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The story of Manki thus illustrates how, real life situations puzzle one. Because, man proposes, but real life disposes. At such moments of confusion, only the scriptures or the wise sayings come to our aid. Earlier Manki was keen on using his personal prowess to fulfil his aims. But now with the aid of the sayings of Sukdeva, he, all of a sudden has a revelation. He finds to his utter astonishment that what he was actually doing earlier was to live a bondman of his mind that breeds desire. Why should he direct his prowess to serve another’s whims? His master in this case was his mind only. Why should he not overpower his mind and make it a slave of his, instead of allowing it to be his master? Indeed, mind is just an organ of man. When man is overpowered by a part of his, by a belonging of his, he is crippled. Is it not a parable to tell us that instead of being masters of our possessions we are reduced to their slaves. We are slaves to our objects of pleasure—radios, TV., refrigerator and we are crippled in this age of consumerism. Capitalism and the media are ever keen on creating fresh desires in us. There is no point in blaming them—the creation of our desiring mind. Once we bauk our mind, we can contain capitalism and its consequences. This parable of Manki is time & again. It narrates a so-called insignificant tale but its suggestions are widely embracing. Similar parables are strewn all over the ancient literature of the epic age. There is the Kuddala Jataka for example. There a wood-cutter after a lot of vacillation finally succeeds to fling his axe into the waters & gives out a loud shout exclaiming that he has conquered! In this parable of Manki Gita cited by Bhisma however the importance of history in human life is explicit. Indeed the Mahabharata is a goldmine of such history & hence it has been called by its author as the prince of all history–an itihasa of prime importance that could lead us through the encircling gloom. Be that as it may now that Manki asserts himself against his own mind, he is in control of his mind. And he gives tongue to his emergent realisation. He can now look at desires from an aesthetic detachment.

Our received notion of desire is that it paves the rose-strewn way to happiness. It is tender. It gratifies all our senses. But Manki’s observation is otherwise. Desire, though tender in appearance is at heart thunder-stern. Manki is now engaged in a mortal battle with his desires. And to his awe he finds that the thunder-hearted desire is very difficult to overcome. However much desire is being attacked with power & force, it does not go asunder. Thus the humble Manki is engaged in a heroic battle with his own desires. It is more terrible, more thrilling and more engrossing than the battle at Kurukshetra. Does not Bhisma hereby, citing Manki’s case, suggest that the Pandavas though having conquered their enemies at the battle of Kurukshetra have not conquered all. They must have conquest within; the real Kurukhestra is in one’s being. This is what the BH.G. also tells especially in the Kshetra Kshetrajnayoga. Manki’s fight with his Desire puts in one’s mind Buddha’s battle with Mara and Jesus’ battle with Satan. Desire creates delusion. It never gives happiness. Manki has realised this at last. And he will no more be a prey to Kama or Temptation. Earlier he had saved money impelled by Temptation. It came to a nought. Manki’s life is arehetypal. Everyone of us has striven hard to attain some goal. But reality always fell short of our ideal. Do we not now feel that our hopes have been dupes? But desire must be destroyed at its root. The root-cause, of desire Manki discovers is sankalpa or a decision to achieve something. Manky now says that he will henceforth have, no aim no goal. He has nothing to achieve in life. No, he is not even keen to protect his body even. He has even overcome his libido or zest for life. He addresses his body & says that its five elements might go asunder. The body he abhors. Because it is the breeding ground of ego and greed. According to Freud, man is always impelled by the two opposites in eros or the zest for life and thanatos or urge for death. Once Manki gets rid of the zest for life he does not fear death. He has no feeling for death. He is now instinct with

Manki Gita

55

56

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Sattvaguna. He looks upon the opposites in the existence with equanimity of mind. He is no longer drawn to the differences in the existence. It is difference indeed of one thing from another, of one being from another that has created this worldly life, desire-lorn and strife-torn. Now Manki is engrossed with the Brahman or the Vast and wanders about perceiving the one everywhere within and without. Hence if any one hurts him or maligns him, he will not strike back. Because he does have no enemy any longer Manki addresses greed & desire and says – Go away from me; I am now firmly settled in Sattvaguna. The desire that Manki abhors is the tanha that Lord Buddha debunks. Once it is overcome, one attains nibbana, in this life according to Lord Buddha. Bhisma had earlier pointed out that instead of abstract ideals, lives of the saints should be studied and imitated. Here is a role-model for us. Manki Gita is at bottom a criticism of life getting & spending. It points out what desire has made of man. Desire is ignorant. Hence desire always falls a prey to the objects it desires. It is like fire. It has no value judgement. It burns everything whatever. It tries to tie up human being with unplumbed depths of sorrow that likens the netherworld. Desire is indeed a character in the Manki Gita. It reminds one of the Morality dramas of English Literature of the Middle Ages where abstract ideas like virtue and vice participate as characters. The Manki Gita is however significantly different from the earlier gitas at least on one count. While the earlier gitas were dialogues between a teacher & a taught, between Sanaka and Vritra, or Bodhya and Yayati, Manki Gita is a soliloquy in which Manki addresses his mind and desires in an ecstatic mood. Indeed when we can address our mind and bully it we are greater than our mundane selves and we are no longer preys to our circumstances. However much aburning

this strife-torn world might be, we could be there as if bathed in cool stream and cool water. Manki says–
I am now well seated in the Infinite. I am like a cool lake in the hot summer.

Does not Manki thereby invite the groaning humanity to come to him and partake of his peace?

58

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - VI
SADJA GITA Every Gita so far has been the conversation between Bhisma and Yudhisthira as the frame. The Sadja Gita on the other hand has the conversation between Vaisampayana and Janamejaya as the frame. Janamejaya is the grandson of Yudhisthira and his four brothers. Thus Sadja Gita is much later in time than the earlier gitas. While in course of conversation with Yudhisthira, Bhisma cites the specehes by kings and saints of yore as the gita, Vaisampayana here cites the conversation among the five brothers and Vidura—the six as the gita before Janamejaya. This shows how history is being made. While the tale of Vritra or Bodhya makes the history for Bhisma & Yudhisthira, Yudhisthira himself becomes the part of history for later generation. Thus the Mahabharata does not invoke history or myths only, it shows how mythicisation takes place. What is present today becomes past tomorrow and becomes the source of knowledge for tomorrow. We are decentred from the present of one point of time to the present of another point of time. While the earlier gitas were chiefly conversatons between two persons viz Vritra & Sanaka or Bodhya and Yayati or a soliloquy of Harita or Manki, here is a conversation among six persons, cited as the gita. Since six persons participated in the present gita it is Sadja Gita. It opens as it were posing a question in response to the earlier gitas The earlier gitas unanimously posit that renunciation is the road to peace. But the frame of reference of the age of the Mahabharata pins its faith on the varnasrama & chaturvarga as the ideal way of life. In the Harita Gita, it is said that one who has renounced must not be in touch with those who have embraced vana prastha even. Thus the earlier gitas have not paid any attention at all to the varnasrama. The varnasrama theme has been taken up here for discussion. The Sadja Gita opens with the query of Yudhisthira— Three objects impel human beings to act in life. They are dharma,

artha and kama. Which one of them is higher an ideal, and which one of them is less in importance. Vidura, the venerated uncle of Yudhisthira replies that dharma is of prime importance. Dharma with Vidura implies law that impels nature. But since men have freedom of choice, dharma constitutes, wide studies, penance, sacrifice, respect, rituals, pardoning others, kindness truth and self-control. Vidura observes that the worldly life has been crossed by the saints only through the observation of dharma. Dharma with mankind means to love one’s neighbour as one’s own self. Vidura however does not altogether discard economic pursuit. He says that the pursuit for money is next in importance to the pursuit of dharma. Arjuna, however, puts forward a different view. With him this world is meant for different economic activities such as farming, trade & commerce, industry & craft & so on. To follow such economic activity one must have money. If one has to attain the two other objects of dharma and kama, one must have money first. Arjuna uses a wonderful image to explain himself. With him dharma and kama are but the physical features of economic substructure. A modern mind is struck with surprise at what Arjuna says. It was only in the nineteenth century that the Jewish—German philosopher Karl Marx pointed out that literature, art and whatever is there in the name of culture, including the relationship between man & man have not originated on their own. They constitute the super-structure of the society of which economic forces are the substructure. Marx maintained that the literature and society of any particular age is at heart impelled by the economic forces of the time. While Carlyle & Ruskin debunked economics an emergent discipline of study in the 19th century, as the Gospel of Mammon the economists themselves defended Economics saying that what they studied was not money as an end in itself but man in relation to money to satisfy his everyday need. Arjuna seems to voice the same idea in the Mahabharata.

Sadja Gita

59

60

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

And if we take the cue from Arjuna is it not legitimate to interpret the Mahabharata and the gitas and the whole of Puranic literature and the ancient culture from economic point of view? Arjuna further underlines his point by saying—Even the recluses can not do without wealth. So wealth is of prime importance in life. The way Arjuna describes the saints as in need of money has no prejudice against the so called saints, saints only in appearance. They don their saintly robes only to keep away the wolf of hunger. Be that as it may, Arjuna’s world-view seems to contradict the world—views of Harita and Bodhya. The critics of Marx observe, that economic forces are not always the ones to impel a period’s culture. On the contrary, a particular period’s culture might determine the economic forces of the time. Nakula and Sahadeva in response to Arjuna’s reductionism of history to economic forces take an eclectic stand. They posit that every man should always seek money no doubt. But money is never an end in itself as the economists of today would testify. If money is not properly utilised in pursuit of dharma and kama, in pursuit of the well-being of the society & in pursuit of the physical and spiritual well-being of the self, it is not money indeed. Bhimasena, however posits otherwise. With him eros or Kama is at bottom of human existence. Here Bhimsena seems to be one with Freud, the psychologist par excellence. While Marx posits that every human behaviour is actuated by the hidden forces of economic want, Bhimasena observes that even economic wants are actuated by Eros or Kama or zest for life. Freud has been much misunderstood. When he says that every activity of a man is impelled by sex and sex alone he does not mean physical sex by it. The connotation of sex is as wide as that of Kama. And Bhimasena like Freud observes—Even the penance of the ascetics who are plunged in trance is also instinct with desire. Those who are engaged in rituals are also driven by desires. The different economic and artistic activities are also impelled by desires.

Desire is like oil in the oil-seed. It is the butter in the whay. Desire is the fountain head of all dharma and economic activities. In modern psyche a conflict is raging between Marxism and Psychological Interpretation of life and activity. Marxism has discarded the hypothesis of a spirit that impels all thinking things and all objects of all thoughts and replaced it with economic force. Consequently Marx finds the society as torn between the haves and have-nots. Marx is all for the latter. And his is the call for the arms on behalf of the havenots. But Freud stands in the way like Bhimasena. He argues that every human activity is propelled by desire at bottom. And since the desire of a labourer and that of the rich man is equally charged with Id, the difference between the haves and have nots is true on the surface. Actually one can not be distinguished from the other. Power corrupts man and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And every man, be it a prince or pauper, instinct with the same kind of desire, will behave in self same manner in the same objective condition. Be that as it may, Bhimsena, therefore, observes that desire should be pursued with as much zeal as the two other objects of life in dharma and artha. One thing is very clear from the speeches of Arjuna and Bhimsena, Nakula and Sahadeva. They do not want to repress the a priori instincts of man. On the contrary they want to sublimate them. Harmonising them to a particular end whereby both the individual and the society become the beneficiaries. The discourse is clinched up by the speech of Yudhistira. He frankly tells that one who is not drawn to activity with a view to getting at reward in heaven or in this life is a right doer. He gives equal weightage on stone and a piece of gold. He does not pay heed to any of the three objects of life—dharma, artha and kama. He perceives that everything whatever in this world is subject to decay and death. The ideal person wants to get rid of that. One who has cultivated affection for anything or any being in the world is miserably caught up in the net of worldly

Sadja Gita

61

62

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

life. Hence one must not be drawn to any thing or abhor anything. Finally Yudhisthira posits that since man cannot do anything on his own and since God is all powerful, there is no point in pursuing dharma, artha and kama—the three objects of life. The fourth object of life viz. moksha or liberation from this worldly life is all that man should look forward to. Yudhisthira’s speech satisfies all his four brothers and everybody else present during the discourse. The Sadja Gita as we have already pointed out is quite different from the earlier gitas in as much as more people participate in the discourse. Actually Sadja Gita taken apart from the Mahabharata likens the Interlude of medieval English drama. In an interlude there is a contest of words among its protagonists. Finally one among them outwits others and the drama comes to its close. But unlike an interlude here the participants in this discourse are highly serious in their speeches and opinions and they are keen to know the truth. Krishna himself in the BH.G. says that he is debate itself of the debators. In other words, he is all for debates only when such debates are meant for determining the truth in the face of conflicting arguments on any issue. The Sadja Gita is a model of such arguments among the seekers of truth. The arguments as put forward here seem to observe the rules of the Nyaya in the outline. Because every speaker has his or direct observation. For example Arjuna finds everyman in persuit of wealth, i.e., his pratyaksa. There is already the sabda everyone should persue wealth as a part of the caturvarga. This sabda was given by Yudhisthira. The anumana or inference is that economic force impels every activity. The thesis of Arjuna, however, is contradicted by the same of Nakula, Sahadeva or Bhima and so on; consequently their inferences differ. But there is one particular point common in the speeches of Arjuna, Bhima and Yudhisthira as well as of the 19th century modern thinkers.

All of them are reductionists. They reduce the varied and variegated world of appearance as being impelled by one single force be it economic or sex or God. This is not all. In the society of the Mahabharata they pin their faith on varnasrama and caturvarga Krishna himself says in the BH.G. that it was he who forged the caturvarna in the society. The concept of varna is associated with asrama. The first three varnas must go through the four stages of life or chaturasrama. In the childhood they must live with their teacher and lead a life in the midst of strict discipline. They will be away from the so-called comforts of life. In youth, however, they will join the worldly life and pursue dharma, artha and kama. They must earn money. They must have their object of desire. But everything should be directed towards personal peace and happiness as well as towards the peace and happiness of their neighbours. Thereafter comes the third stage. It is during old age. They give up the worldly life for a life in the forest. Finally the fourth stage turns up when each one of them is in communion with the Brahman The concept of the caturvarna and caturasrama have been very precisely dwelled on by Madalasa in the Markandeya Purana Curiously enough Yudhisthira in his discourse seems to openly discard this notion of varnasrama and chaturasrama. He posits that liberation from this worldly life is all that matters. Hence it follows that the second asrama becomes irrelevant. Or else, he observes that one might be in any stage of life, Whatever station and duties, one might be thrust into, Yudhisthira points out that since God almighty determines everything for us, we have no object in life to pursue. Let custom have its way. Let the body have its way. Man has nothing to do. So man’s fortunes are never tainted by what his body or mind does. This happens only when man is aware of it. Otherwise if he identifies his body or mind, with the self, he must undergo the consequences of the same and journey through joys and sorrow & go through births & deaths.

Sadja Gita

63

64

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

That is the contention of Yudhisthira. In other words, dharma or laws, artha or money, and kama or desire, when in harmony could make this world a better place for living, Yudhisthira feels that despite all possible joys upon earth, man had better try to get rid of the birth & death & rebirth cycle of the existence. Yudhisthira’s speech thus in a sense is revolutionary in the context of the ideals of varnasrama and chaturvarga since, Yudhisthira underlines the ideals of moksha, the fourth in sequence of dharma, artha and kama as the all in all, be it into whatever station & duties man is thrust. Moksha means liberation. It implies liberation from the rewards of pious acts as well as from the retribution of unholy deeds. Liberation means liberation from heaven & hell. No, heaven can not be the object of a man’s journey. In Indian frame of reference no external heaven is assured unlike in the Bible. The BH.G. says—Heaven is a place where one is rewarded for his pious acts. Once the reaping of the pious, acts are over, one has to come back on earth, once again to journey through its weal & woe. Since moksha is all in all for Yudhisthira, he does not pin his faith on holy or unholy deeds. He speaks of the transvaluation of values. The BH.G. itself says that the vedas are concerned with the three gunas. One must rise above the three gunas. Further more the BH.G. says—That just as waters flow into the seas, so do pleasures flow into a being. Neither the seas nor should the seer bother for that. In other words man should not act. He should know that he is always acted upon. Once he knows this he can do whatever he chooses. He will be in peace. No sin will touch him. Such a contention is perfectly all right for an individual seeker. One might womanize knowing full well that he is not doing it. It is his prakiti that does it. But from the point of view of a king such an ethics is not perhaps practicable. Practically Yudhisthira seems to discard dharma whole-sale in a

sense. The philosopher of the Mimamsa school Jaimini defined dharma as that of which the characteristic is injunction or vidhis. This means that dharma is an obligation decreed by the Vedas to perform karma or to such acts which bring of itself no reward. Only thing is that its non-performance would be that which is not dharma and enjoin upon the doer sin. Yudhisthira however does not pin his faith on any ritual as such. If the doer is fully aware of the truth of existence, according to Yudhisthira, no matter whether he performs dharma or adharma, he will be touched by no sin. So does Krishna say in the BH.G. One who sees everything in God and God in everything never commits sin do whatever he will. But the society as it is now cannot afford such truths. Socrates was given a fair trial & he was found guilty. Jesus was also given a fair trial in the light of his day & he was found guilty. And is it surmising too far, that Yudhisthira could not therefore rule the king-dom of Hastinapur for long which he earned in lieu of great expenses. He was too much engrossed with the desire for moksha to rule his newly earned Kingdom. The Sadja Gita is thus very significant an extract from the Mahabharata in the context of the plot of the Mahabharata and in the context of its society as well as in the contexts of modern philosophy, sociology and ethics.

66

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - VII
VICHAKHNU GITA The Vichakhnu Gita is once again quoted by Bhisma to enlighten the King Yudhisthira. The theme of Bhisma’s discourse is piety and kindness for animals. Bhisma in this context quotes what the king Vichakhnu exclaimed at the sight of a slaughtered ox lying near the site of a sacrificial rite. To his utter dismay the king found quite a number of cows awaiting there to be slaughtered. The King at once wished long life for those animals and decreed that there should be no animal sacrifice. He observed that the fools only support violence. They don’t believe in goodness. They do not have any self respect. They are never free from doubts. Their minds are always restless. The king refers to Manu and says that according to Manu non-violence is great. When people sacrifice animals at the altar they do it from greed and lowly desire only. The king admits that there are mutually conflicting decrees laid down by the different scriptures. The wise should decide which one is right in the light of the vijnana. Whatever be the different decrees, the truly pious and the authors of dharma advocate that ahimsa or non-violence is the noblest of them all. Observation of fasting or other rules are alright. But one must give up the desires for the fruitions that the Vedas advocate. The so-called rituals are simply travesty of them. They are not rules but deviations from rules. Only the miserly people, the narrow minded ones observe them to get at mundane results. If you say they cut the trees only to raise the altar for sacrifice and the meat of the sacrificial animal is not just meat ; it has been offered to the gods. Then according to the king Vichanknu this is not the truth. True religion never acknowledges such sacrilege. Wine, fish, honey, meat, narcotics & food prepared from rice and pulse—these have been introduced in sacrifices by the clever. The Vedas do not

(Cp. bhunjati te tvagham papah ye pachantyatmakaranat Bh.G. III) allow them. The clever people have introduced these things in sacrificial rites impelled by their false ego and greed. The Brahmins know it very well that Lord Vishnu is to be worshipped in every sacrificial rite. Food prepared from milk and flour are the only offerings to be made. The trees ear-marked by the Vedas are to be used in the sacrificial rites. Offerings that are prepared with sattva attitude are alone worthy of offering to gods. In reply Yudhisthira observes that one who is non-violent finds himself in a queer situation. His body and the objects of greed quarrel among themselves. And thereby to keep up the body becomes a problem. Bhisma observes that one must not let one’s body to be weak. It must not be subject to death. Unless the body is healthy, it is not possible to observe the dictates of dharma & piety. Though very brief in its compass Vichakhnu Gita is singularly significant for its message. It clearly points out that animal slaughter especially cow-slanghter at the altar of sacrifice was widely practised during the days of the Mahabharata. But the King, Vichakhnu bans it. In the official history it was the Buddhist King. Asoka who debunked animal slaughter. But indeed no one king could all of a sudden decree like that unless there was a public opinion in support of it. The Mahabharata is all out against animal slaughter. It shoots a sharp shaft of satire against the Vedic rites. The King asks them to ignore the promises held out by the Vedas. He is all for non-violence which is the essence of all religion. On the surface the Mahabharata is thus opposed to the Vedas. The Bh.G. also observes
yamimam pushpitam vacham pravadantya vipaschitam vedavadaratah partha nanyadastitivadinah

And yet VG refers to vedas as the source of religions rities.
yajnyaschaiva ye vriksha vedesu parikalpeta

Vichakhnu Gita

67

68

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

In fact it seems that the Mahabharata does not have any real antagonism to the Vedas. It strikes hard at the root of the then received meaning of the Vedic rites. Sacrifice itself means nonviolence. yajnam adhvaram. But the Mahabharata & the king Vichaknu seek hereby to revive the Vedas in their pristine purity. This speech of Vichakhnu however seems to indicate that the tantric practices were widely popular during the days of the Mahabharata. Sura matsya madhu mansam asavam i.e. wine, fish, honey, meat, and narcotic. are almost sine qua non with trantric rites. Although some of the tantric authors advocate the symbolic use of them they are very much in use materially in tantric rites. And such practice as the V. G. testifies was widely spread during the epic age. More to it. There are scholars now a days who claim that the tantras are not direct descendants of the Vedas. The Hindu tantras had their origin in Buddist esoterism. But the Mahabharata’s testimony goes against it. King Vichakhnu finds that the Vedic rites have already evolved into trantric rites during the days of the Mahabharata. And surely according to Vichakhnu this was due to the misunderstanding of the Vedas. Curiously enough although the largest number of hymns in the Rg. Vedas have been addressed to either Indra or Agni, V. G. points out that Vishnu is all that is worshipped in the Yajnas. This is not at all against the Vedas. Because the Vedas over & over again observes that whatever deity they worship represents all the other deities. But unlike Indra or Agni, Vishnu is not that important a deity in the Rg. Veda. Vishnu has been eulogised in almost all the gitas in the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita and the Anu Gita are themselves the speeches of Krishna, the Vishnu in-carnate. Thus it seems that the Vedas have been decentred in the Mahabharata. People no longer worship Agni or Indra with that frequency. The Mahabharata. People no longer worship Agni or Indra with that

frequency. The Mahabharata is all for the Vishnu form of the omnipresent. (Cp. Aham kraturaham yajna (Bh.G. ch. IX) It seems that the Mahabharata is a testimony of the rise of the nascent Vishnu cult or Vaishnavism. Be that as it may Yudhisthira’s speech in response to Bhishma’s exhortation is very significant. Sariramapadschapi vivadantyavihimsitah katham yatra sarirasya niaranmbhasya setsyate. Here is an imagery which speaks of the body engaged in strife with the object of greed. Tena tyakten bhunjithah says the Isoponisada. What He himself gives up is enjoyed by Himself only. We throw away rotten crumbs of bread. There are so many insects and micro-organisms who live on it. Actually predators live on the flesh of other animals. There are animals who live on trees and plants and mosses the graminivorous ones. How can one live without violence in this world. If some one really observes nonviolence, his body shall be at war with those things on which it could live. That way the body cannot survive. In other words Yudhisthira received the message of V. Gita in its extreme manifestation. But Bhisma observes and The Jainas also agree perhaps that extreme non-violence is not possible in the human frame for the common run of men. Here it should be noted that such phrases as Kripanah phalahetava....also recur in Bh. G. Besides, yajna the main theme of V. Gita has also been dwelled on in details in the Bh. G. of course from a wider angle.

70

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - VIII
SAMPAKA GITA Sampaka Gita opens with Yudhisthira’s query regarding the origin of happiness and misery in human being rich or poor. Bhisma in reply repeats what Sampaka sang sampakena muktena gitam santigatena cha. after he attained blliss. Well, by the by as Bhisma reports us Sampaka was hounded by hunger. He did not have enough clothes. He had a wicked wife.
Klishyamana kudarena kuchailena bubhuksaya

(3)

There is ambiguity in this image. We do not know whether Sampaka had left his wife and attained bliss, or else despite the fact that he was suffering from the excesses of a shrewish wife he was in bliss. Be that as it may the poor man’s plight has been vividly portrayed in the image of Klisyamana kudarena kuchailena bubhuksaya. A little later in course of the Gita the image of a rich man has been delineated—
Dhanavan krodhalobhyabhyamavisto nasta chetasah Tirygeekshah suskamukhah papako bhrukutimukhah Nirdasannadharosthancha kruddho daruna-bhasita Kastamichhet paridrastum datumichhati chenmahim.

punishes him. just as a hunter shoots a fidgeting deer. Sampaka says—weigh poverty and wealth in a balance. Poverty has more merit. The rich people are always haunted by fear just as a man is haunted by the fear of death. One who is poor is happy, he goes to sleep in peace. Otherwise one has to carry a great load despite oneself. One can not practise the good because of one’s restless mind. According to Sampaka greed and lust for luxury are to blame for all the miseries in life. True that they say one should pursue artha and kama along with dharma. But Sampaka observes that one should not pay any heed to such loka-dharma. One should take pre-emptive action so that misery does not take place. The mundane objects are the resource of misery. The material world must be renounced. Thus the Sampaka Gita joins issue especially with the Sadja Gita. The latter deliberated on the four objects of life or Chaturvarga. Sampaka says the renunciation is all in all. Artha and Kama do not deliver happiness.

( 13, 14 )

The rich man is engrossed with greed and anger. He loses his value judgement thereby. He always looks at things shrewdly. His face is dry. His eye-brows are always curved. He is always engaged in unholy deeds. He bites his lips in a huff. His speech is rough. Even if he wants to give away the whole of the world no one wants to see his face. Here is a vivid portrait of a rich man, the Volpone. Wealth distracts his mind. Just as the wind scatters the autumnal clouds, pride of wealth and beauty possesses him. He dreams himself to be extra-ordinary & successful and noble. His lust for luxury becomes pronounced; he exhausts all his inheritance. Then he seeks to dispossess others driven by lust. He deviates from every code of conduct. Finally the king

72

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - IX
PARASARA GITA The gita opens with Yudhisthira’s query as to the right action. Bhisma says in reply that a similar question was put forward by the King Janaka before the sage Parasara. Bhisma only cites what the sage told Janaka in response to Janaka’s query. In view of the fact that Parasara was the father of the author of the Mahabharata, the Parasara Gita has surely a special niche in the gamut of this great epic. Parasara tells that the practice of dharma is all that one can pursue in life here and hereafter.
dharma eva kritah sreyaniha loke paratra ca

class division during the Vedic and Puranic ages. The society in those days assign a particular set of duties to a particular varna. Thus the Brahmins were supposed to study the scripture and disseminate its teachings among the masses. The Kshatriya should devote himself to the needs of administration. The Vaisya should be engaged in different economic activities. The Sudra should serve all the above three classes. One must not deviate from the duties as determined by one’s station in the society. Parasara himself says :
pratigrahagata vipre ksatryo yudhi nirjitah. vaisye nyayarijitaschaiva sudre susrusayarjitah svalpapyarthah prasasyante dharmasvarthe mahaphalah nityam trayanam varnanam susrusuh sudra uchyate ksatradharma vaisyadharma navrittih patate dvijah sudradharma yadatu syat tada patati tu dvijah. (P.G- V,

1-3)

(P.G- I, 6)

The term dharma is untranslateble. It has no semantic equivalent in English Language. Therefore it is variously translated as duty, religion, justice law, ethics, principle and so on. It seems that dharma includes all these and something more. Be that as it may dharma according to Parasara implies station and duties :
asminasraminah santah svakarmaniha kurvate chaturvidha hi lokesmin yatra tata vidhiyate martya yatravatisthante sa cha kamat pravartate

(AG- I, 8, 9 )

Here Parasara takes into account the four varnas in Bramhana, Kshatria, Vaisya and Sudra. The notion of varna is rather ambiguous. It might refer to a system of colour symbolism. The Brahmins were associated with white, the colour of purity and lightness : Kshatriyas with red—the colour of passion & energy ; the Vaisyas with Yellow, the colour of the earth and the Sudras with black the colour of darkness and inertia. (P-59, An Introduction to Hinduism, Gavin Flood, Cambridge University Press, Great Britian, 1996). The same colour symbolism has been already referred too in the Vritra Gita. The Varna division refers to

By pursuing the tasks assigned by the society men perform pious deeds as well as unholy ones. As they sow, so do they reap. Parasara takes for granted the concept of the transmigration of soul and claims that our present state is the result of our activities in our earlier lives and our activities in this life here will shift us from the station and duties of this birth to those of the next birth. Thus our journey will continue ceaselessly through births and deaths and births again. And Parasara admits that no activity in this world as such could be full of unmixed piety. Hence eternal happiness is absurd in this work-a-day world where one must act. Be that as it may Parasara feels that what we do is not the point. How do we do it is to be taken into account Control of the senses, kindness, patience, energetic activity, contentment, truthfulness, shyness, non-violence and the extinction of desires, however could lead one to happiness. He will not be coloured by his good deeds or bad deeds any longer. He will be then plunged in the reality or the soul of souls. Thus Parasara asks them to perform their duties as per their station in the society. But one must perform them in disinterested manner.

Parasara Gita

73

74

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Only then according to Parasara one is never coloured by his actions. One, therefore, is spared of reaping his actions surely then. One thereby escapes the birth and death and rebirth cycle. But may we ask whether keeping to the station and duties is at all necessary provided one gets rid of all desires? In the 6th chapter of P. G. Parasara frankly tells us that men are bound by their love and affection in their family life.
prayena grihasthasya mamatvam nama jayate

( P.G- VI, 2 )

those who perform a bad deed unknowingly. There is no excape from sin; one must reap its results. On the other hand men through good acts are elevated from one varna to another, one class to another through the birth and death cycle. Actually one is coloured by the deeds he performs just as clothes contract the dye that it touches. The sudra is in the lowest rung. The vaisya class is superier to that. Kshatriyas are superior to the vaisyas and so on. But the king Janaka puts a searching question in this context.
yadetaja jayate apatyam sa evayamiti srutih katham brahmanato jato visesa grahanam yatah

And that sows in him desires and these desires propel him from one life to another contrary to the belief of the common run of men. Parasara posits that the bereavement and loss of wealth should be deemed as blessings. Because it evokes in man vairagya or indifference to the worldly life. It is at this critical juncture of life only man seeks to know the truth about the world and existence. He wants to know of himself. He studies the scriptures to that end and feels the exigency of tapasya. Tapas means inner heat or spiritual energy. It implies the control of the senses and the extinction of desire whereby the spiritual energy is generated. Parasara believes that every man in this society has the right to tapasya. Even the lowly of the lowest has the right to it :
tapah sarvagatan hinasyapi vidhiyate

(P.G -VII, 2)

If man is the child of God, why should there be difference among men? It is said that the father is in the child or reversely child is the father reincarnated. Why should there be hierarchy in that case? Parasara’s argument in this context is there along two axes. Firstly,he alludes to the Vedas and posits that the Brahmins were born from the mouth of the creator while the Kshariyas were born from the hands of the creator & so on. This reminds us of the Purusasukta in the Rg. Veda.
Brahmanosya mukhamasid vahu rajanyakritah uru tadasya yad vaisyah padbhyam sudro ajayata

(P.G- VI, 14 )

Parasara however uses the word tapasya in the wider sense of the term and says that whatever good happens to a person is the result of his tapasya. That is, performance of the good deeds as assigned by one’s station & duties result in some happiness transient though and all his good deeds are surely a kind of tapasya. But such tapasya does not liberate one from birth and death cycle. Extinction of desire, however, could rescue one from birth and death and re-birth. If bad deeds result in misfortunes, one might ask—is there no penance whereby one could expiate his sins & redeem himself? Parasara says that prayaschitta or redemption is possible only for

The Purusasuka speaks of a time when there was the creator alone. The four castes emerge from the four parts of his body. But one is apt to ask whether any part of this primordial being is inferior to any other part of his. How is that possible? Even today the brahmins, begin their rituals with the meditation of the feet of that Purusa.
tadvisnoh paramam padam sada pasyanti surayah diviva chaksuratatam.

Does it not necessarily follow that a brahmin is supposed to serve the Sudras who leaped to life from the feet of Vishnu, the Primordial Pusura. But the scriptures that hold out Varnasrama in the large are mum on the issue.

Parasara Gita

75

76

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The second line of argument that Purasara proposes is that due to meaner activity the chidlren of god degenerated. And hence there has been the hierarchy assigning them their respective station & duties. Be that as it may
yami karmani ahimsrani naram trayanti sarvada

(P.G- VII, 36)

Parasara Gita thus touches upon quite many important issues pertaining to the society of the Mahabharata such as varnasrana, transmigration of soul, karmphala, tapasya and so on. The Bhagavad Gita. touches upon all these issues from a more comprehaensive point of view which we will dwell on later.

Non-violence rescues every man. And even the lower caste men could prove themselves to be pristine pure through tapasya or penance :
rajannaitad bhaved grahyam apakristena janmana mahatmanam samutpattistapasa bhavitatmanam

(P.G- II, 12)

Although Parasara elaborately dwells on the don’ts of every man, and on the hierarchy of caste and their respective duties, it seems that he holds tapasya as the highest activity that man can avail himself of. Everyone, as it has been already pointed out, has the right to tapasya. Even the brahmin will give up the Vedic rituals and live indifferently to the world. The indifference to the world transforms one’s intellect. One’s intellect becomes settled & thereby one escapes the fruitions of one’s activities. Renuciation is thus lauded. But there are hurdles in the way. The demons try to enter into their bodies and overcome them.
tat dharmamasurastata namrisyanta janadhipah vivardhamanah kramasastatra tenvavisan prajah.

(P.G- V, 10)

They stand for ignorance :
Ekah satrurna dvityosti satrurajnanatulya purusasya rajan yenavritah kurute samprayukto ghorani karmani sudarunani.

( P.G- VIII, 28) Consequently the seeker has to join in a mortal battle with ignorance and the devils. This has been vividly delineated already in Manki Gita. One must in this context note that when Parasara says that the Brahmin should renounce the Vedic injunctions of maintaining his sacred fire :
sannyasagninudasinah pasyanti vigatajvarah. [PG VII 37]

Does he not relinquish culture thereby? He is attempting to transcend culture for a pure trans-human realm of spiritual liberation.

78

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - X
ANU GITA I As we have already observed, there are quite a number of gitas scattered all about the Mahabharata. May be there are more gitas than what we note here in our discourse. The crown and coping stone of them all is Srimad Bhagavat Gita that was told by Krishna, at the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna asks Krishna to retell the contents of the Bhagavadgita or what Krishna said earlier during the battle of Kurukshetra. Arjuna says that he has forgotten what he was told by Krishna earlier at Kurukshetra. This confession is significant. It proves that even if God himself appears in front of us in all his glory, the experience of his grandeur, the hearing of his speech does not liberate us presently. It can only leave a trace in our heart that might increase our thirst for further communication with the divine. This puts in our mind the story of Dhruva as told in the Srimad Bhagavata. He sighted Lord Visnu very early in his life. But that did not instantly liberate him. He had to undergo the worldly duties thrust upon him by the society like anyone else. Only thing is that the longing for Visnu, lingered in his heart with greater intensity than ever. Krishna in response to Arjuna’s speech chides Arjuna—
Nunamasraddadhanosi durmedhyasi Pandava

cannot take place, whenever it is asked for. Revelation visits us only at hours of crisis. We can illustrate this, from the lives of the saints and god-men all over the world. No, not even can Krishna the God-incarnate communicate the divine logos to his dearest friend and devotee whenever he wills. This is made clear through his repeated acknowledgement of his inability to repeat the Bhagavad Gita in
na ca sadya punarbhuyah smritirme Sambhavisyati na sakyam punarvaktum asesena dhananjayah [AG I.10]

Is not God himself circumscribed by the circumstances, when he is in human frame? Besides this focuses on a significant indicator of what a gita is like. It is always unique. It is always spoken in ecstasy when one is beyond one’s self. It is always as it were spoken for the first time and never to be repeated again. The phrase yogayukta implies a state of ecstasy, when one is beyond himself. Then only, one can speak of the Brahman or the truly Big. Hence all our deliberations on Brahman are word-deep only. They donot give us the truth. By the by, Arjuna had earlier said
Sisyasteham Sadhi mam prapannam I am your disciple; dictate me.

( BH.G.- II,7)

(AG- I, 11 )

Krishna says—you did not hear me with right devotion. This is bad of you. Krishna further adds that he cannot repeat what he had told earlier. At the time, when the battle at Kurukshetra was about to burst forth, Krishna says, that he was yoga-yukta or in ecstasy. (AG- I,13) But right now that ecstatic mood cannot be revived.
Param hi brahma Kathitam yogo-yukten tanmaya

Krishna had also earlier acknowledged him as a devotee. bhaktosi me sakhaceti Therefore, Krishna does not want to refuse his devotee and friend Arjuna. He calls up to memory what a realised soul of a Brahmin who had presently alighted from heaven told him in response to his likely queries.
agachhad brahmano kascit svargalokadarindama brahmalokacca durdharsah sosmabhih pujitobhavat Asmabhih paripristasca yadaha bharatarsava Divyena vidhina partha taccrnusvavicarayan. (A.G-I,15,16 )

This speech is significant. Every time is not tea-time and revelation

Anu Gita I

79

80

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

This is also singularly significant. Earlier, in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna, claimed that he is the Big, the Brahman
Mama dehe gudakesa yaccanyad drastumiccasi

paricarena mahata gurum tat pariyatosayat.

(AG-I, 26 )

( B.H- XI,7 )

He said—The whole universe is in me. But now he is as humble as a devotee who knelt before the Brahmin and asked for exhortations. The Brahmin however did not give exhortations on his own. He told Krishna, what a realised soul had said to Kashyapa, in reply to the latter’s questions. Kashyapa, by the by, was not an ordinary enquirer. He had already learnt the mysteries of life & death. What was Kasyapa’s teacher like?
Carantam muktavat siddham prasantam samyatendryam dipyamanam srya brahnya Kramamananca sarvasah antardhana gatijnanca srutva tattvena kasyapah. tathaivantarhite siddhairyantam cakradharaih saha sambhasanamekante samasinanca taih saha yadricchaya ca gacchantam asaktam pavanam yatha (A.G- 22,24 )

Until & unless one is all devotion to his teacher, one cannot learn anything from him. Besides, until & unless the teacher is satisfied with his disciple he cannot disseminate his knowledge to him. This underlines at least three significant points. Firstly, oral discourse is superior to written communication since it can convey higher truths. Secondly the addressee always determines the speech. Thirdly knowledge or language cannot be communicated at one’s will. May be knowledge disseminates itself on its own using the teacher as its tool. This is why Krishna, cannot repeat what he had said at the battleground of Kurukshetra. Indeed all the gitas were told by its speakers only to those devotees who were all humility before their teachers. Krishna exhorted earlier—
tadviddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya (

B.G- IV, 34 )

In other words a realised soul is aglow with a light that is never on sea or land. He can converse with beings invisible to the mortal eye. He moves wherever he lists, like the air. Such a description of the realised soul affirms that gross material body cannot always keep its owner confined. The owner of the material body has inmense powers to transform the same into a subtle body. There are self-conscious subtle bodies, that our mortal eyes fail to espy. Indeed as Krishna told us in the Bhagavad Gita, the subtle bodies like those of the gods and nagas and the siddhas cannot be espied with mortal eyes. Hence Arjuna was bestowed with a third eye with which he could have glimpse of the infinite.
Divyam dadami te chaksuh. [B.G. XI 8]

The attitude of the greatly accomplished Kashyapa is also note worthy
vismitascadbhutam dristva Kasyapastad dvijottamam

Learn that by way of falling at the feet of your teacher, serving him and putting forward your queries. Now begins the conversation between Siddha & Kashyapa which could be called Siddha-Gita and a subset of Anugita. Siddha says that man can excelsior to higher planes like Mahaloka and Janaloka through pious deeds. In other words there are, numerons planes of existence, which we mortals cannot comprehend. According to the sciptures there are at least seven planes of existence in Bhuloka, Bhuvaloka, Swarloka, Janaloka, Tapaloka & Satyaloka. And the very mortals who live on the earth could migrate there. Of course, they cannot migrate there with the body they possess just as one cannot fly in the sputuik in this earthly body. It must in addition don the robes of an astronaut. Siddha hereby indirectly testifies that the owner of the mortal body can get his body transformed so that he/she can inhabit other planes. Be that as it may according to Siddha pious works cannot liberate man from birth & death & rebirth cycle. In an autobiographical strain Siddha recollects the odysseus of his being journeying different births & deaths. He had to suck the breasts

Anu Gita I

81

82

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

of so many mothers. He had died so many times. Thus he was harrowed with sorrow. Consequently he took shelter in the Brahman. He is now a liberated being in human form. He can see all the worlds in this multiverse. He can survey the lives of every being in this world. He knows that from hence, he will sojourn to Satyatoka. Thereafter he will live with the creator for myriads of ages. The recounting of the past lives by the Siddha is truly poetic in its recollections of the emotions in the past. The Siddha speaks of them. Just as one speaks about one’s dream, as soon as one is awakened from it. Hence Siddha’s speech, transforms this strife-torn real world of ours and it seems to be made of the stuff of dream. In response to Kasyapa’s question, Siddha says that the self has to put on a body only as a consequence of his pious activities. One has to reap one’s pious activities. When the rewards of the pious activities are almost exhausted through their enjoyment one is drawn to evil. At once one acts differently and is driven towards death. The nearer one’s death is, the feebler one’s intellect becomes; it goes astray. Even though, one knows that certain foods are harmful, he opts for them. Thus the body contracts deadly diseases. The life force is conserved in the body, through heat impelled by air. Now this heat is excited and penetrates through the different joints in the body. Then the self suffers from pain and seeks to escape from the body. The self in the form of life-force finally gets out of the body after a lot of sufferings. Siddha by the by gives a vivid portrait of the dead body
Sariranca jahatyevam niruchhasanca drisyate Sa nirusma niruchhaso nisriko hatachetanah brahmana samparityakto mrita ityucyate naraih

Modern physiology and anatomy study body as a material object, sans life as it were. But the gita looks upon a living creatures as a body, presided over by life. As soon as the being enters into the body, the whole body is agog with vitality. Paradoxically enough, a living body becomes aware of the flow of the phenomenal world through the senses. But it is not aware of life that feeds on the objects of senses
srotobhisaivirjanati indriyarthan sarirabhrit taireva na vijanati prananahartasambhavan (AG- II, 24, 25)

(AG- II, 23, 24)

When life gives up the body, the body looks so lifeless indeed. It does not breathe. It has no heat. It has no beauty. It has no consciousness. In fact, Brahman has condemned it. They call it a dead body.

Ironically enough, the transcendental being lurks there only. Thus, there is a distinction between the body in the being or Sarirabhrit and the transcendental being or the Sanatana jiva. The latter must be distinguished from Brahman that condemns the body. It is the Sanatana jiva that goes through different birth & deaths and dons a fresh body during every new birth. When the transcendental being or the Sanatana jiva gets rid of the body, it has in it the traces of activities that it under-went while in the earlier body. Accordingly it goes to higher world like heaven or lower worlds like hell. Since life in hell is bitter, one had better try to perform pious deeds. Once they reap the rewards of their actions on earth in higher world or penalties for their actions on earth, in the lower world, they have to be born again. Rebirth in the womb is as much painful as death. It is one’s actions only that impel one to have a corresponding body. Thereby one reaps the earlier actions performed by one-self. If one acts from clean mind, one performs lot of pious deeds. One is like a tree then richly laden with fruits of sweet kernel. On the other hand if one acts with polluted mind, one commits sin and reaps its consequences.
Purodhaya mano hidam karmanyatma pravartate

(AG- III, 3 )

In other words the self–or the transcendental being, that is the soul,

Anu Gita I

83

84

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

has mind before it and acts on the behest of the mind. So mind is very important. It reminds one of Dhammapada
Manopubbangama dhamma manochhetta manomaya (Dhammapada) It is the mind that is followed by dharma.

which truth or reality has been distrorted
purvakritam karma nityam jantuh prapadyate sarvam tat karanam yena vikritoayamihagatah

(AG- III ,23 )

Once a being is caught in the net of desire, his journey through the wombs begins. The transcendental being or the Jiva has a trans-transcendental aspect. There it is Brahman. True that the Brahman-self enters into the body impelled by the activities of the Jiva, but it is nvever stained by its environment. But ironically enough as soon as Jiva is born to reap its earlier actions, it gets involved in fresh acts, good or evil. Thus no sooner than its earlier actions are reaped, it has to reap the consequences of the present doings. Hence, one had better pursue the path of liberation or moksadharma. But instead of dwelling on moksha-dharma. Siddha, digresses into Sanatana Dharma or the inmutable rules to be followed by men in the society. They include kindness, self-control, ceibacy, pursuit for knowledge ahimsa & the like. May be these are golden rules for them in any society as such. Still as Yudhisthira pointed out in V.G. if ahimsa could be pursued to its extreme, one’s body would be at war with its objects of desire. That way it would be difficult to survive bodily. So no one decree of the aforesaid Sanatane Dharma, can be carried too far. Perhaps, Siddha, surveying Sanatana dharma in this light, goes ahead to delineate mokshadharma. A traveller along the road of moksadharma is a yogin. Siddha observes that the Yogin is superior to those who follow sanatana dharma. A yogin is always happy in every situation. He expiates the works performed by him in the past. But he acts in such a way that he does not have any activity of the present to be reaped in the future. By the way Siddha defines karma as resulting from that through

The ayam or the it is the reality. It has been distorted. This distortion has manifested from action or karma. This leads us to the important question as to how karma first emerged. Of course, it emerged from the primordial desire. How did the first desire come upon the scene? Siddha now dwells on how existence came into being. Brahma is the creator of this world. At the outset he created his own body. Then he created the Pradhan. This Pradhan is the essence of all bodies. The world of appearance is pervaded by it. It is the ksara or transitory world. Transitoriness has its opposite in the eternal or all-transcendental. Hence there is the ineffable behind the show of existence. It is known as akshara. But there is a truth beyond. Siddha names it as Purushottama. The world crowded with finite things and beings is a result of the interaction among the three. One who knows therefore that happiness & misery in this world are monentary & one who greets one’s own misfortunes as the results of one’s own doings can cross the infinite sea of the worldly life. Because he will naturally be indifferent to the world. He will not distinguish one consciousness from another. He knows that One Consciousness permeating through the existence. His mind will be therefore always eager to get at the Paramatma or the soul of souls. Such a person will have neither attachment to the dos of the Sanatana dharma nor attachment to the donts of the same.
naiva dharmi na cadharmi purvopacita-hayakah

(AG- IV, 7)

He never deems himself to be the doer. He has neither ego nor any desire. He sees into the hollowness of every desire and plan of action or samkalpa. Hence, he gradually becomes calm like the dying fire that has no fuel.

Anu Gita I

85

86

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

vihaya sarva sankalpan budhya sarira manasan (AG- IV, 12) sanairnirvanamapnoti nirindhana ivanalah

atahparam pravaksyami yogasastramanuttamam yunjantah siddhamatmanam yatha pasyanti yoginah

(A.G- IV, 15)

The very word nirvana is significant here. Even in the B.G. it has been used such as in the phrase brahman irvanam. On the surface it seems to oppose the Vedic rituals of fire worship. There fire is symbolic of the representative of gods. On the other hand when the phrase nirvana is used to describe the Summum bonum of man, fire is a metaphor for desires. This metephor recurs in such slokas as
na jatu kamah kamanam upabhogena samyati havisa Krisnavartmeva bhuyah evabhivardhate

The received interpretation of Buddhism debunks fireworship and lauds nirvana. Hence the scholars might find the impact of Buddhism in the Mahabharata and especially in the gitas. But we are afraid, that such an opinion is wide off the truth. Just as language itself is always ambiguous so are all things under the sun. From which angle of view do we look upon it is the point. The Vedic tradition had this eclecticism inherent in it. The Buddhist tradition, that originated from the Vedic tradition only, may be through the negation of the Vedas in a way, has only acknowledged only one aspect of fire. Buddhism thus, did not originate the imagery of nirvana. It was a shared sign among the poets, thinkers and philosopher of ancient India during the Buddha’s period and the epic age. Presently Siddha dwells on yoga with the aid of which those who journey along mokshadharma get a first hand experience of the reality or the soul or atman. The word atman has been differently used in different contexts in the gitas & in the BH.G. also. It might mean the transcendental soul of a body or else it might mean the all transcendant soul of the existence. The latter transcends the individual souls too. Now Siddha speaks of how one could unite with the all-transcendant reality. Yoga means the union of the individual self of the seeker with the all- transcendant self.

Now I will tell you about the lore of yoga where-by the seeker sees the atman or the soul of souls. To perceive the reality, one directs one’s mind inward. His senses are drawn away from the world without. Their owner mind will be drawn to the Reality or the Soul. Thereby one will be in unison with the all transcendant soul and one can perceive it at heart. At once he is as it were awakened from dream. He finds the reality all about in the world within & world without. He however does not forget the distinction of the two levels of the existence in appearance & reality. He knows how to distinguish the all-transcendant soul from the empirical world just as one can distinguish the corn form the plant.
isikanca yatha munjat Kascinnikrisya darsayet.

( A.G.- IV, 24 )

Once, the mind is dissolved in the soul of souls, one can don and doff any body at will. When Vasudeva introduced us with the speaker Siddha he told us that Siddha could assume any body whatever at will and could move about like the wind whenever he desired. The speech of Sidhha now tells how one could be like him. Thus Siddha’s speech seems to come full circle. True that Siddha observes earlier that the seeker knows how to distinguish the body from the soul just as one distinguishes the corn from the plant. But Siddha further adds that one who realises the soul begins to look upon his teeth & tongue, that is the different limbs of the body also as the soul. Thus when the realisation dawns, there is no difference between the transitional & the eternal, though difference does very much exist on the empirical plane. Having quoted the conversation between Siddha & Kashyapa, Vasudeva comments that the road along the aforesaid moksadharma is open to all
Idam dharmam samasthaya yepi syuh papayonayah

Anu Gita I

87

88

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

striyo vaisyastatha sudrastepi yanti param gatim.

(A.G- IV, 61)

In other words, social hierarchy or the caste-system never stands in the way of liberation. Vasudeva next, quotes the Brahmana Gita. The Brahmana Gita is the exalted speech of a Brahmin addressed to his wife. This is also a subset of Anu-Gita. The Brahman Gita opens in a very down to the earth way. The wife of a Brahmin finds her husband lazy and inactive. Hence she tells him. Where could I go depending on a husband like you? I am placed with one who has set aside all activity and who has neither foresight nor alertness.
Kamnu lokam gamisyami tvamaham patimasritya nyasta Karmanamasinam Kinasa vicaksanam. (Br. G- I, 3)

It is a wonderful vignette of a family life of traditional India where the wife depends on her husband for leading her to success in life here and in life hereafter. The Brahmin’s exalted speech follows his wife’s complaint. He laughingly retorts saying that in-action is not possible in this world.
naiskarmyam na ca lokesmin muhurtamapi labhyate (Br. G- I,7)

But action, divorced from wisdom, breeds illusion only
mohomeva niyachhanti karmana jnanavarjita

Actually we are born over and overagain and pass through different images of bodies due to Karma or activity only.
rakshobhi vardhamanesu drisya dravyesu vartmasu atmasthamatmana tebhyo dristamayatanan maya yatra tad brahma nirdvandam yatra somah sahagnina vyavayam kurute nityam dhiro bhutani dharayan yatra brahmadayo yuktastadaksharamupasate vidvamsah subrata yatra santatmano jitendriyah (Br. G -I 9-11)

the self. The self-in-the-self defies all dichotomy. There burns the fire drunken with soma. This is a powerful image. The Brahmin is supposed to observe. Vedic rites. May be, the wife complained because he is no longer performing the Vedic rites which is his duty as laid down by the laws of Varnashrama. And the Brahmin has a story to tell in response to her complaint. Earlier he used to observe the rituals. But the ogres, simply put the rituals in disarray. This is a recurrent motif in the epics and the puranas. Risi Viswamitra went to King Dasaratha’s Court for help so that the ogres could be kept away from the site of sacrifice. Here the ogres simply made mesh of the sacrificial rites of the Brahmin. Since then the Brahmin stopped offering oblations to the fire. But as soon as the sacrificial rites ceased in the world without, to his great awe the Brahmin found the sacrificial fire burning ceaselessly within at heart. It was aburning with somarasa where the Brahman is. This is a note on the vedic rituals indeed. To put some logs on fire fed by molten butter is sacrificial rite indeed in the world without. But it makes no sense unless it is done in the light of the meaning of the sacrificial rite. This is ritual or work sans any import. Mere adding fire to logs is not sacrificial rite just as a wild-fire is not a sacrificial rite. But once the sacrificial rite is put in disarray, it becomes a blessing to the seeker. The sacrificial rite is already internalised within him. In other words work should be performed with right knowledge. It must not be done mechanically. In that case, the work or the ritual sacrifice will be internalised. Consequently it will be ceaselessly performed at heart. Hence, although the wife does not find her husband observing Vedic rituals, it is always being observed by the Brahmin at heart. That is why the Brahmin told her earlier.
grahyam satyam va yadidam karma vidyate etadeva vyavasyanti karma karmeti karminah

( Br.G- I, 6 )

The Brahmin says that when the ogres, destroyed the fire place where he used to pay his oblation, all of a sudden he found the self in

The internalisation of the ritual is not, however, opposed to rituals as such. Actually rituals in the physical world have to be observed as long as it is not internalised. When the ritual is internalised, there is no

Anu Gita I

89

90

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

need of observing rites in the physical world. It is this internalisation of rituals indeed, that opened up the world of Tantras which looks upon physical body itself as the site for worship. It says
The heart should be the throne of the deity The air in the body should fan it The sound vibration in the body itself should ring the bell The nectar fallen from the thousand-petalled lotus should wash its feet.

& so on. Hritpadmam asanam dadyat vayu tattvanca camaram etc. Thus contrary to many a scholar. Tantra seems to have directly leaped from the Vedic rites. The Brahman Gita in fact explicates the Bhagawad Gita in its laksana The Brahman finds the fire alight with somarasa, at his heart. This image is very significant. On the surface Vedic rites imply lighting up of fire where Somarasa is poured. A number of scholars look upon soma-rasa as a kind of herbal juice which has narcotic effect. On the surface gods like Indra are very fond of it and become high. But when the Brahmin finds soma at his own heart he understands the Vedic rituals in a different light. It is either a nectar aheady in the body or the worshipper’s devotion. Heart is indeed a cup from which the gods love to drink the soma of our devotion. But the above imagery could be read in a different way as well. The ogres might stand for anti-social elements. The site for rituals that they ransacked could be the place of economic activity ransacked by the antisocials. A modern mind might read lock-outs and closures of factory in the story of ransacking the site for rituals. No wonder that the Brahmin faces a crisis thereby. Most of the

gitas have been either told by men who either went through life & death questions. Or else they have been addressed to men who are face to face with crisis. Vritra Gita has been told to the fallen angel Vritra. Harita Gita has been told by Harita whose wife is a shrew and so on. True that enlightenment does not care how one gets there. Still it seems that it is often the blow to the heart given us by some one’s treachery, some one’s unexpected death, some one’s chance remarks or cruel behaviour. A defeat in war, a failure in worldly life, could instantly transport one to the plane where we could hear the music or the gita of enlightenment. Was it for this that Tilopa gave a slap in the face of Naropa? It transported Naropa to the plane of enlightenment. The Zen masters often beat their disciples to enlightenment. Life on planet Earth is threatened from multiple directions. Any moment, nuclear, biological or chemical warfare can break out. Pollution of the land air and sea slow-poisons us ceaselessly. Resources like top-soil, water or ozone layer are being damaged once for all. They are not renewable. Over- population endangers the biosphere. And of course they are all our own doings. There is a crisis of consciousness. One wonders whether the gitas of yore could revive us to enlightenment at such a crucial moment. Does not a crucial failure open the door before enlightened speech?
yada yadaha dharmasya glanirbhavati bharata.

assured the highest voice in the world. Now the Brahmin in his enlightenment encounters the reality or the immutable Brahman. What could Brahman be like? Well it cannot be comprehended with our senses. Life force in a living body springs from It. Life foree could be understood in terms of the five kinds of air. Prana and apana wander about in the space between Samana and Vyana in a living body. Once Prana and apana disappear Samana and Vyana also vanish. Udana is the fifth type of air which functions as the receptacle of all the other air.

Anu Gita I

91

92

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

And the Vaisvanara fire is alight there. Vaisvanara has seven tongues of flame in the nose, tongue, eyes, skin, hearing, mind and intelligence. The objects of the seven senses function as the fuel for the Vaisvanara. Who conducts the fire-sacrifice? One who smells, one who sees, one who tastes, one who hears, one who touches, one who thinks and one who understands are the ones who conducts the sacrifice. These seven priests thus offer oblations of the objects of the world of eye and ear into the seven flames. The fire transports them once again to the seven fountain heads or yonis from which the seven objects of love of the seven flames, are renewed. When destruction comes all of them remain pent up-in their wombs or Yonis. When creation begins anew they are born again one after another smell, taste, forms, touch, sound doubts and curiosity. The knower, the object of knowledge and knowledge are always being offered in the fire throughtout the existence. They are full of untold energy. Thus the imagery of the fire sacrifice has been decoded by the Brahmin on n levels. As such a Brahmin lights up the fire, at a place on earth-earmarked for sacrifice. Wood becomes its fuel. Somrasa is offered to it. The Brahmin points out that the ritual, actually reenacts the process of creation and destruction that is the wide wonderful phenomenal world. The Vedas address the Fire God and says Thou art spread all over the existence
viswatah paribhurasi

karma brahmodbhavam viddhi brhamaksara samudbhavah tasmat sarvagatam brahma nityam yajne pratisthitam

(B.G -III ,14 15 ) We moderns look upon nature as the other—external to man. But the Vedas, the Mahabharata and in short Vedic & Puranic literature, find the very performance of sacrifice that is ceaselessly being done in nature is equally being done in humans in which body & mind and intellect participate. Since body, mind and intellect are also material they are also oblations to the cosmic sacrifice pervading the Universe. Hence the knower, the object of knowledge and knowledge all three are being always sacrificed in the fire, where Brahman is. We moderns do not understand this underlying truth permeating through the opposites—mind & nature. Hence we are out to destroy nature and thereby we foolishly destroy ourselves. The Brahmin further dwells on the theme of sacrifice in the body and interprets it from fresh stand point. This is physiology Mahabharata style. The ten senses viz. the five senses of perception jnanendrya and the five senses that work karmendrya conduct the sacrifice. The activities of these ten senses are the ghee poured in the fire. The fire is also of ten kinds. They are the ten Vedic Gods, in Direction, Air, Sun, Moon, Earth, Fire, Visnu, Indra, Prajapati and Mitra. Thus the Mahabharata interprets the Vedic gods as types of energies who live in our body only. The body is the living temple of gods indeed. What is the utensil of this sacrifice? The body has in it chitta; which functions as the utensil. The sacrificial fire bestows wealth. What is the wealth leaping forth from this sacrifice? It’s knowledge. Chitta is a technical term. It should be distinguished from individual mind. The Brahmin says. Everything whatever is chitta; knowledge makes it manifest. In other words, there would be no world if there were no knowledge of it. A modern mind, might feel uneasy to understand chitta. Because,

Indeed everywhere there is combustion. The different objects of the senses are being burnt in it and go back to their sources only to be renewed into fresh life. This recycling in Nature has been dileneated in the BG as well of course, through the medium of a different imagery.
annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad annasambhavah yajnad bhavati parjanyo yajnah karma samudbhavah

Anu Gita I

93

94

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

according to modern science there are individual minds only, locked up in the living bodies. The mind vanishes when the bodies die. But chitta is transpersonal mind which is the animate and the inanimate world. This contradicts modern physics because, modern physics approves of the existence of mind in individual living being only of the higher species in the kingdom of life. Commonly as per Vedic rituals, there should be two fires one in the household garhapatya and another at the ground for ritual before the public ahavaniya. The Brahmin observes that the latter is the mind. The former on the other hand is the self which lies at a deeper layer than mind. Thus the Mahabharata distinguished the surface mind from the self that lie deeper than that. The oblations are poured into the deeper mind or self. Therefrom speech leaps forth. The mind observes it. The Brahmani–the wife of the Brahman–the addressee interprets this image as suggesting that speech emerges before mind manifests. This is apparent from the question—
Kasmad vagabhavat purvam kasmad manobhavat Manasa cintitam vakyam yada samabhipadyate But they say that speech was born after mind.

( Br. G- II ,10 )

This is a revolutionary statement indeed. On the surface, language is a vehicle for ideas which leaps from the mind. But can we ever have ideas without language? So language comes first and ideas next. So the mind has been created by the language itself. This is modern linguistics first held out by the structuralists. It is curious to note that these truths were discovered quite early in the annals of man to remain suspended from functioning for a millenium or so, only to be revived in the late years of the twentieth century. Taking the cue from it, are we not safe in arguing that, the worldview of the gitas and thereby the Mahabharata is created by language only. Language is at bottom ambiguous since the relationship between the signifier and signified of a word is basically arbitrary. That is why

the same sacrificial rite, has been interpreted on different levels by the Brahmin. Any ritual is as such language by the by. Those who argue that if there were no world of objects and if there were no mind to comprehend it, there would be no language to describe them, are countered by the Brahmin in a different way. He tells us a story. Once upon a time both Mind and Speech went to the Soul of the World bhutatma to know who is superior. The Soul of the World said—Both matter and mind are my mind. The senses of living being can know the material aspect of my mind. On the other hand, the mind which baffles senses is comprehended by Speech. So speech according to the World-Soul is superior to individual mind. Let us, ponder over what the World Soul says. It posits that the world soul has a mind which could be called world-mind. World mind has two aspects in the physical and the mental. The individual mind can know the physical through its senses. But speech knows the suprasensual. How can speech know the suprasensual unless speech creates the same for the mind to comprehend. Since signifiers are never organically related to the signified, speech is always ambiguous capable of meaning on different levels. In other words, the speech about the suprasensual never gives us the glimpse of the supra-sensual if any. It leads us to its opposite—the silence.
yato vaco nivartante

The Brahmin observes that speech leaps forth from the zest for life or Prana. Prana is the air that we inhale to live. Inhalation and its opposite exhalation go together. So Prana or inhalation implies exhalation or Apana. Zest for life or what Freud calls libido is the result of the tension between the two. Hence the Brahman observes that speech always sits at the meeting ground of Prana & Apana, birth and death. This is a wonderful explanation of how the speechact emerges. There are already different speculations as to the origin of language. Brahmin here gives us a unique explanation of how

Anu Gita I

95

96

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

speech-act originated, which is nowhere found in modern speculations on the origin of language. Taking the cue from the Brahmin, we can take speech-act as a biological activity that started with sounds shaped by spontaneous exclamations. The Brahmin further adds that with apana, or the air leaving the body, man’s speech becomes debilitated. Hence Prana comes to the body with gusto to rescue speech. When the Prana is in its full gusto, when the excitement is high, no wonder speech falters and there is the silence.
tasmad uchasam asadya na vag vadati karhicit

(Br.G.-II, 20)

The Brahmin distinguishes between two types of speech acts in speech and its antonym silence. Silence with the Brahmin is a kind of speech. And of course with him silence is gold.
ghosini jatanirghosa nityameva pravartate tayorapi ghosinya nirghosameva gariyasi

(Br.G.- II, 21)

Speech express itself through noise as well as through silence. Between the two, silence is nobles. According to the Brahmin while speech dwells on the mundane, silence speaks of the supramundane. And the Brahmin categorically asserts that speech is prior to mind
tatah samane pratitisthatiha ityeva purvam prajajalpa vami tasmat manah sthavaratvam visistham.

( Br.G- II, 28 )

Modern psychologists like Lacan are also of opinion that it was language that created the mind. Next the Brahmin points out the superiority of life or prana to mind and other senses. Because true there are many divisions of life. But they are at bottom the same although each division as separate eutity functions to accomplish a particular task and surely no one of them is superior to another. Science recognises four basic energies in electro-magnetism, gravity, the weak & strong nuclear forces. Prana or life force is the fifth energy. Physics is not yet aware of it. The prana or life force was self evident to the ancient all over the

globe. More than hundred names for this mysterious X energy were in vogue. The Chinese people called it chi (Ki in Japanese), the Polynesians call it mana, the Sufis call it baraka. It is yesod in Jewish cabalistic tradition and Holy Ghost in Christianity. Thus the Brahmin, dwelled on how the whole universe is sustained by sacrifice & how man is created & sustained by sacrifice. All our activities are but unknowingly impelled by an act of sacrifice, being performed as it were on its own. Since the five airs that help maintain the life which one of them appears earlier in a body? The Brahmin himself poses this question & quotes what Narada told risi Devamata in this context. Thus we could say Narada Gita follows. Narada says that the dialectics/conflict inherent in the prana or lifesustaining air manifests itself at the outset. Our science posits that the zygote forms in the womb at the outset. After some time life appears in it. But Narada observes that life-force operates prior to that or else, the zygote could not be formed. This throws light on the vitalistic interpretation of life as opposed to the conventional approach to life conducted by science. While science says that the body appears first & the mind thereafter, one wonders whether there could be any body sans mind. So mind appears before the body. And could there be a mind if life were not there. So life or prana appears first, and the mind follows it. Mind is in turn followed by body. Well this could be testified by our approach to the deadbody. A dead-body is a dead-body & not the body. We do not hug it. We do not kiss it. On the contrary we shudder from the same.
bharya vibhyati tasmin kaye

Even the wife shudders from it. All our physiology and anatomy looks upon the body as a machine and describes the functions of its constituents, as if the latter were life-less machine- parts. But unlike, a machine the body can heal itself on its own. A living body should therefore be read from holistic point of view. The five pranas or the

Anu Gita I

97

98

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

airs that sustain the body are the five priests who pour oblations into the fire which burns where prana and apana or day & night meet.
ahoratramidam dvandvam tayormadhye hutasanah

(Br.G -V,14)

This is the fire indeed which is externalised in the ritual. One might ask, how could there be different significances of the same fire-rite. The wife of the Brahman, the addressee herself asked earlier.
Svabhavat saptahotara iti me purvika mati yatha vai panca hotara paro bhavastaducyatam (

have their objects. When one enjoys it, one commits sacrilege. But when one accepts the same just as a god does, it is a sacrifice. Even if one takes poisonous food and accepts it as a god does, there will be no harm. The same idea recurs in the BH.G. also. It says,
apuryamanamacala pratistham samudramapah pravisanti yadvat tadvat kama yam pravisanti sarve sa santimapnroti na kamakami

( BH.G- II, 70 ) Let objects of desire flow into one the way the rivers pour into the seas. The sea does not ask for them, nor refuses them. Similarly the man who has attained peace neither asks for the objects of senses nor denies them. One might ask why the enjoyment of the sense-objects does not pollute the peaceful man? Because, the latter accepts the gifts just as the sea does according to Bhagavat Gita or just as the gods do according to the Brahman Gita. In other words, what we do is not the point, how we do is the point. One might enjoy whatever comes in his way, sanctioned or not by the society. But if he accepts the same as gods do, no sin touches him. The Bhagavat Gita says,
bhunjate te tvagham papah ye pacantyatmakaranat

Br.G-IV, 3)

She asks, you said earlier that there are seven priests. Right now, how is it that you speak of five priests. This shows that rituals are like languages capable of meaning on many levels & their meanings are perhaps never exhaustive. What is the fire like that burns at the place where the prana and udana the two airs meet. Narada says fire stands between sat and asat. Sat means that which exists. Asat means that which does not exist. The fire is therefore neither sat nor asat neither not-sat nor notasat neither not-not-sat nor not-not asat. It can not be comprehended by mind because mind can only recognise the jada or fragments. This could be suggested by vak or speech only that could dwell on the jangama or the supra-sensual. But words become silent when there is surplus of vitality in the body. Well, speech as it has been already posited is of two types in loud and silent. It is this silence where the poetry of the Brahmana–gita reaches us. Brahmana, further explains the fire sacrifice from another angle. There are four priests in—the instrument for the sacrifice, the act of sacrifice, the doer of sacrife and salvation. The three gunas in sattva raja and tamas are the instruments of sacrifice. The BH.G. has dwelled elaboratery on the different kinds of sacrifice. A sacrifice is different due to the fact that one or another guna is more pronounced in it. How is the sacrifice performed in the body thereby? Well the senses,

(BH.G- III, 3) (BH.G- III, 3)

Those who cook for themselves, eat sin. On the other hand.
yajnasistasinah santo mucyante sarva-kilvisaih

Those who live on whatever is left after a sacrificial rite is liberated from every sin. The Brahmana Gita points out that once we offer our food in the fire of the life it is a sacrificial rite. Thus two men could do the same thing. Sin or purity does not lie in the act itself. Everything depends on the motive behind the action. This further points out that not only language, but the world of eye and ear is also capable of meaning on many levels. The same act of eating might be a sin. It might be a sacrifice also.

Anu Gita I

99

100

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The Brahmin further observes that Narayana Vishnu is the presiding deity of every sacrifice. Earlier, they sacrified the senses at the altar. The beasts earmarked for sacrifice were but the signifiers of the senses only. The Brahmin further observes that there is only one ruler in this existence. He is the trans-trans-personal entity. He lives in every heart. It is he who is our friend. It is he who is our enemy. He is good. He is evil. The Brahmin says that he does not act on his own. He just flows like water going down. He cannot help it. In Bhagavat Gita Krishna said that the whole world turns on his wheel.
yantrarudhani mayaya

So each one of the different entities is Om. That is, the same Brahman or infinitude is read on many levels. Om is a signifier without any signified. Or else infinite are its signified. One who lives in this awareness of the infinite leads the life of a Brahmachari according to the Brahmin. The Brahmachari is one who lives in Brahman or the infinite. Though living in this world of differences he knows that this is full and that is full.
purnamadah purnamidam

And he exhorts Arjuna to become nothing more than a means in the hands of God. The Brahmin knows the truth. He has completely surrendered himself to that trans-trans-personal being. He is a mere means in the latter’s hands. Once gods and the snakes went to the Creator for listening to his sermons. The creator told them only one word, Om which is a monosyllable and signifies Brahman or the Infinite. Naturally Om meant many things to many people. The snakes understood Om in their own way and thought that the creator exhorted them to bite others. This parable is very significant. It suggests that no text (the whole existence is a text for us to read) has a definite meaning. There are as many texts in the same text as there are readers Where is the text? The text is not there without. The reader reads his own mind in the text. The text is what we half perceive and half create. This is why Abhinavagupta pointed out that the right reader would commune with God while reading a text. This is not all.
omitye—kaksara brahma

Thus the Brahmin does not approve of puritanism. Restraint of senses or celibacy is not always the road to the realisation of the real or the infinite. The Brahmin observes that he has already entered into the great forest having crossed a whole lot of hurdles.
Sankalpadamsamasakam sokaharsahimatapam mohandhakaratimira lobhavyadhi vinasinim visayaikatyayadhvanim kamakrodha virodhakam tadatitya mahadurgam pravistosmi mahadvanam

(Br.G- VIII,1,2)

Om is the infinite. The infinite is all the differences in the existence.

He has got rid of motives & intentions that are the mosquitoes. He has transcended the summer & winter of joy & sorrow. He has come past the deep darkness of illusion. He escaped the bites of the serpents of greed. He has brooked the opposition of lust & anger, only to reach the forest. The Upanisad pointed out that the poets & the wise men opine that the road to liberation is as a sharp as razor’s edge. It is difficult to pass through. Ksurasya dhara nisita duratyaya durgam pathastvat kavayorvadanti Here is the Kavi who gives us a vivid description of the dangerridden road. The whole journey reads like a passage from romance. But while in the Middle Age romances in Europe we find erotic love at the destination often symbolised by a rose as in the famous Romance

Anu Gita I

101

102

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

of the Rose, here, the journeyman, comes past the hedges of lust & love and reaches the vast forest. Is not the forest lorn with hungry beasts and poisonous snakes? Are not the mosquitoes more frequent in the forest itself than in the road. Yes, there are beasts but no hungry ones. There are snakes. But they do not bite. There could be mosquitoes. But they do not hurt.
tatravisya socanti na prahrsyanti ca dvija na ca vibhyati kesancit tebhyo vibhyate kevala

(Br.G-VII, 6)

This is the vision of a world beyond sorrow & happiness. Here everything of the world exists sans their grossness. This is a forest where bliss and fearlessness reign supreme. May be the forest is the archetype of Eden where the first parents of man according to the Bible, lived. The Brahmin dwells on the forest in all details. The pointedness of his description reminds one of Pre-Raphelite poetry. The Brahmin, however, points out that the forest is here on earth only. The same world strife-torn and beast-lorn could be the forest, provided the pilgrim journeys inward and crosses the barriers of motive & intention, hindrances of lust & hunger & so on. Only the wise know of it. May be the vanaprastha is setting out for this vana or forest. The Brahmin observes that he being the denizen of this vast forest, participates in the worldly life and yet he does not partake of its fruits. He takes the smell & he does not take it. How is that? The Brahmin quotes a dialogue between a priest who observes fire sacrifice and a saint. The saint pointedly observes that the ritual of fire sacrifice is self contradictory. On one side it is being said that firesacrifice is ‘adhvara’ or an instance of ahimsa or non-violence. And still animals are sacrified at its altar. The priest in retort says that even the most non-violent man cannot live without killing others. The saint says that this is true. Actually the reality has two aspects; one is subject to decay & death or Ksara, another is deathless aksara One who lives in the light of the deathless commit no sin. In other words the

priest should observe the rituals of sacrifice in the light of this indestructible or aksara. This is the legitimation of the Bhagavad Gita also. The Bhagavad G.ita says that one who sees Krishna in everything and everything in Krishna can do whatsoever he chooses. No. sin touches him. The Brahmin also leads his life in this world the self-same way. This however gives a reply to the thesis of Vichakhnu Gita. The Brahmin now dwells on how one could set out for such a state or for the forest. To that end he dwells on the story of Parasuram & Arjuna. If the earlier story of journeying for the forests could be compared with romances, here is a story which is heroic in essence. It opens with Kartavihjyarjuna hungering for war. He ravaged the sea in quest of a match for his heroics. The sea being forced directs him to Parasuram. He at once goes to Parsuram & angers the latter. In a rage Parasuram not only kills Arjuna, but also may—hems the Kshatryas or the warrior class for twenty one times to avenge his father’s death. This story of blood and horror likens the revenge dramas of Seneca & of the Elizabethan period. The dead fathers of Parasuram now intervene. But Parasurama is not yet calm. So they tell him the story of Alarka of ancient times. The same Alarka figures in Markandeya Purana also. Alarka conquered the world. But to his utter dismay he found that although he was the master of the world, he was not the master of himself. This directed him inward. But the arrows & swords that kill the enemies in the external world are of no avail. The senses themselves spoke to Alarka telling him about the futility of warring with them with conventional weapons. So Alarka plunged into penance in search of the weapon capable of conquering the senses. When he went deeper into meditation & when mind became calm, the senses were conquered indeed. Thus a single arrow of meditation could conquer the senses which all the arms of a king’s arsenal cannot conquer. This goaded Parasuram to penance. Earlier the Brahmana told us about the hurdles on the road to

Anu Gita I

103

104

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

realisation. Now he reduced them to three basic gunas. All the hurdless are their manifestations. The Brahmana observes that all these three gunas must be over-come. The Bhagavad Gita also says :
traigunya visaya veda nistraigunya bhavarjuna

maya vyaptamidam sarvam yat kinicit jagatigatam. (Br.G- XIV, 2)

This reminds one of Krishna’s speech in the B.H- Gita.
Avajananti mam mudha...etc.

(B.G- II, 45)

The Brahmana describes how the gunas overcome us through desire. The pilgrim must observe their manifestations and thereby get rid of them. The Bhagavad Gita dwells on these three gunas especially in the Gunatraya-Vibhagaygo. The notion of me & mine stand in the way of the conquest of the three gunas. The Brahman tells us about an interesting debate between a brahmin & the king Janaka that explores the notion of me & mine. The king says that on one level he owns nothing. Even his body is not his. On another level, since he does not desire anything for his own sake, he feels that he is the monarch of everything that he surveys. This speech is singularly significant. Because it explicates the earlier speech of Janaka in the Bodhya Gita.
My riches are endless Yet I do not own anything worthy of name If the whole of Mithila is aflame I will not lose a single copper.

Or else. Brahmin states that such a state could be attained through communion with the cosmic intelligence. Just as during the conversation between Janaka and the Brahmin it was found out that the Brahmin was death in disguise, so do we find in course of the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna that the Brahmin is the intellect and his wife is the mind or field or body where the knower is Krishna himself. In other words Krishna has externalised a conversation between his intellect and mind to exhort Arjuna. But this gives us a clue to an aesthetics. Any character or action as depicted in a narrative is the externalisation of the author’s mind. So, a psychological interpretation of a work of art is always relevant. By way of analysing the gita are we not trying to unravel the mind of Vedavyasa, the author therefore?

Ironically enough the brahmin who led the king to realise such truths in course of the Socratic manner of discourse was Death in disguise. When Janaka finds it out he exclaims : Now I understand, Death, you are the pilot of the cycle named the attainment of the infinite or Brahman. Sattvaguna forges its spoke. The Brahmin now adds that he himself is like death or fire
ye Kechijjantavo loke jangamah sthavarasca ha tesam mamantakam viddhi darunamiva pavaka

(Br.G- XIV, 3)

Because everything in this existence is in him. I am not what I appear to be.
nahamasmi yatha mam tvam pasyase ca subhasubhe

106

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XI
ANU GITA II The Brahmana Gita quoted by Krishna, spurred the curiosity in Arjuna to know the Infinite or Brahman since the infinite or Brahman is all that one needs to know. In reply Vasudeva Krishna again refers to a dialogue between a preceptor & a disciple on the same issue. The preceptor points out that knowledge is all in all and renunciation is the best kind of penance to that end.
gnanam tveva param vidmah sannyasam tapa uttamam. (A.G- V, 16)

What to know? Well the structure of this existence is all that one must know. The existence is like a tree. Its seed is unmanifest avyakta From there the trunk of intellect springs. And the whole tree is permeated by Ego or Ahamkara. The senses are holes in it. The five constituents of the world in earth, air, fire and water are its branches. And the tree is always laden with flowers that bear lovely fruits. This tree recurs in the Bhagavad Gita. There it is described as inverted with roots up in Brahman and the trunk and branches & leaves constituting the world. In the Anugita our world laden with weal & woe however has been represented as the tree, where every flower will bear great fruit. Thus, seen from a detachment sorrows are also lovely flowers bearing lovely fruits indeed
Sadarpanah sadapuspah Sada subhophalodayah

told a few enquiring sages of yore. The creator Brahma pointed out that be it inert matter or conscious life, everything has sprung from the Truth. Thus the unmanifest seed of the plant mentioned earlier is surely the truth. And the myriads of things in the world of eye & ear, be it living or inert live through penance indeed. Any act whatever is a kind of penance. And every thing inert or alive maintains its uniqueness through action or penance. And of course through action or penance one is different from another and the same truth turns into differences that constitute this world. This necessarily means that the more we act, the more we move away from our true self or the truth from where we come. But we cannot stop work. Since there are four stages in human life, there are four institutions for each stage in Brahmacharyya etc. The fourth institution sanyasa or renunciation is the road to freedom. It is this stage where the knowledge of the spirit dawns. Unless this knowledge is there no one can understand the real import of ths skies and the wind and the light and the deities. Curiously enough while other gitas have pointed out that the right to renunciation is universal, irrespective of caste and creed, the fourth stage of life according to the creator is ordained only for the upper three castes.
vanaprastham trijatinam trayanamupadisyate (A.G- V, 43)

(A.G- V, 21)

In other words the preceptor here tells us that sufferings whatever in the world are mere appearances. They are sweet in their kernel. And still, the preceptor says that one recognises the tree and fells it. Thereby one conquers death and escapes death & rebirth cycle. To explicate his speech, the preceptor quotes what the creator

One need not find any conflict here with the exhortations of the other gitas. Perhaps while renunciation is a must for the upper three castes, the same is optional for the rest. Why is not the same law prescribed for every body? Because there are differences between man and man. Well the difference is not there between man and man only. It is everywhere in the existence. The existence has come into being through differences manifest from the same non-manifest truth. At bottom, these differences are due to the difference in the proportion of the three gunas in the different

Anu Gita II

107

108

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

constituents of the existence. There is tamas. It is pronounced in the inert masse. Also there are men who are greatly influenced by tamas. They are reluctant to give up. No wonder, that they are not fit for renunciation. One cannot ride an unwilling horse. But the creator himself says that exceptions are there. Even men with a priori tendency can transcend limitation. They must reap the results of their unholy deeds. Once they are exhausted, they can have more of sattva guna. They might excel a Brahmin also. Often men are born in lower class to reap their earlier actions. Once it is over, if one is cautious, one might attain higher castes or varnas. This reminds one of the career of king Harish Chandra. He expiated his actions by becoming a scavenger. Presently after, he was alight with spiritual light. The 2nd guna is rajas.Unlike the men of tamas quality, men with pronounced rajas are always active. But if their activities are directed towards more & more pleasure they degenerate. He who is aware of the tendencies of the rajas can transcend them. The third quality is sattva. One who has more Sattva is free from greed & hatred. He knows that knowledge is futile profession is futile, service futile, labour is futile.
mudha jnanam mudha vrittam mudha seva mudha sramah

manifestations. The creator’s description of the urdhasrota recurs in the teachings of Bhagavan Buddha also. The creator, however, observes that these gunas are not separate from each other. The existence of any one of them implies the existence of the other two. They are a continuum.
avichhhinnani drisyante rajah-sattvam-tamastatha.

(A.G.- IXI )

One wonders what is the source of three gunas? Well the creator observes that it was the great soul mahanatma from which all the gunas sprang. The Great Soul has its synomyms in
mahanatma matirvisnuh jisnuh sambhusca viryavan vuddhih prajnopalabdhisca tatha khyatidhritih smritih

It is the intellect, referred to earlier. The creator describes this mahat with telling imagery.
sarvatah panipadam sarvato—ksisiromukham sarvatah sruti malloke sarvam vyapya sa tisthati. His hands and legs are everywhere. His eyes and ears are everywhere.

(A.G- VIII, 4 )

This is however not nihilism. While tamas is averse to work and rajas is vibrant with activity, sattva knows that all work is futile. Because the latter does not want to have anything worldly. Quite naturally the sattvika flow upward away from the mundane world and curiously enough they attain super-natural powers with which they could enjoy the pleasures of the world and nature. The creator says, one who knows these characteristics of sattva might enjoy its fruits at will but he is never carried away by these super natural powers. Thus the creator has delineated on the three gunas and their

This is the mysterium tremendum before which we are awe-struck and tongue-tied. Once we are aware of this Panopticon, we know that we can do nothing without being noticed. And our life style changes. Of course this mahat is in every heart. From mahat sprang the Ego. It was from the Ego indeed that the five elements in earth, air, etc. showed up. Every living being is always linked with them and their respective qualities like smell & sound. This ego is of three types in tamasika rajasika sattvika. The first one creates the five elements. The Second creates the senses. The third one creates the senses that work viz. Karmendrya & the fire that constitute the life-force. The senses that spring from the Ego are twelve in ear, eye, skin,

Anu Gita II

109

110

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

nose, tongue, legs, hands, speech, anus, sex organ, mind and intellect. We perceive with the aid of the five of them. So they are the senses with which we perceive jnanendrya — The next five help us to work. They are the senses that aid us to work hence karmendrya. The creator next dwells on the relationship between human body and the world of matter by showing how the same thing exists on three levels vix. adhibhautik, adhidaivik and adhyatmik and also indicating their corresponding deties.
adhidevata Presiding Deities Dik or Space Lightning Sun Moon Wind adhibhautik Physical Level Sky Air Fire Water Earth adhidaivik Abstract level sound touch form taste smell adhyatmik Spiritual or human level ear skin eye tongue nose

aware of that premise. What benefit will spring from such knowledge? In our society one could be a physicist or a doctor or an engineer and earn lot of money, as the consequence of his studies. But the Mahabharata through the lips of Brahma says that once one is aware of the truths of sciences, one would be aware of the impermance of everything physical or mundane. They will no longer be engrossed with the pleasures & their minds will wane.
Ksine manasi sarvasmin na-janmasukhamisyate (A.G -XII, 42)

True that desire burns in every heart. And still the creator observes that indifference to worldly things also lurks in every heart. It may be very much pronounced in some and faintly visible in others.
nivrittim sarvabhutesu mriduna darunena ca (A.G- XII, 43 )

All these elements exist in either earth or water or sky. These elements manifest in four kinds of life.
Kind I Kind II Kind III Kind IV Hatches from eggs Born in Sweat Springing from the earth Springing from the womb snakes & birds worms trees & plants a man & an animal.

Knowledge of science will focus on the one indeterminate behind the show of things. Thereby indifference to the differences that constitute the world will be inculcated. Indifference to pleasures or to differences will make one detached from the world of getting & spending. His senses will be checked from going after pleasures.
tathendryanirodhena mahanatma prakasate (A.G- XII, 48)

The creator observes that one should know this story of creation.
Sarvanyetani sandhaya manasa sampradharayet (A.G -XI, 41)

In other words, one should know physics, chemistry, life science and other sciences properly. Ancient India always encouraged the study of sciences. But while, with the gita all the sciences are interlinked, in the world today each science is separate from another, and the mutual link among the sciences, if any, is not under-lined. True that physics observes that hills and mountains are masses of the same energy which constitute man or a Kangaroo. But the students of biology or Zoology do not begin with that premise. They are seldom

Once the senses are withdrawn from the world the Great Soul reveals itself. One finds the world within himself. The light within becomes finer and more finer in course of time. The body & the world will be revealed transformed in this light. How would the body look like then?
agni rupam payah sroto vayu sparsanameva ca mahi pankadharam ghoram akasam sravanam tatha rogasokam samavistam pancasrotah samavritam pancabhutasamayuktam navadvaram dvidaivatam

Anu Gita II

111

112

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

ragasvalamathadrsyam Trigunanca Trigunanca tridhatukam samsargabhiratam mudham sariramiti dharana (A.G-XII,50,52)

dhruvam pasyati rupani dipad dipasatam yatha sa vai visnusca mitrasca varunognirprajapatih

(AG- XII, 60)

Fire is the form of the body. Blood is its stream. Wind is its sense of touch. Earth constitutes its flesh and bones and marrow. The sky is its ears. The five currents lorn with disease flow through it. It is made of the five elements and it is a city with nine gates. The city is made of three gunas and three constituents in, pitta, vayu, and kaf. It is the seat of two deities–viz the individual soul & the cosmic soul. And this body is locked up in time. Time is like the vast ocean which can be transcended. It however makes them aware of the gods. As soon as one looks upon a body in time, the imagery of the body is transformed into a river flowing in time.
pancendriya mahakulam manovegomahodakam nadim mohahradam tirtva kamakrodhavubhau jayet

As soon as a single lamp is lit, thousand other lamps are lighted. Similarly the same soul, is all the Vedic gods. Thus the Mahabharata seeks to resolve the riddle of many gods as depicted in the Vedas and answers the question of the Rg Veda
kasmai devaya havisa vidhema

To which God shall I offer my oblations? Face to face with the world soul, the brahmins, the gods, the whole existence is prostrate before it.
tam hi viprasanghasca surasurasca yaksah pisachah pitaro vayamsi raksogana bhutaganascha sarve maharsayascaiva sada stuvanti

(A.G- XII, 62 ) (AG- XII, 57) The same vision recurs in the the XIth canto of the Bhagavad Gita Poetry seldom becomes more sublime. Kant defined sublime as that which fancy fails to grasp. The vision however suggests that although in the world of appearance, everything is oblivious of the world soul and remains discrete, when we see into the heart of them, we know that each particle of existence is aware in its depth of mind that it is a part of the world soul & hence they lie prostrate before the world soul. This is the paradox of existence . Next the creator dwells on the functional difference of the different classes. The notion of kingship, he reminds, is not among men only. It is there in inanimate kingdom as well as in the animal kingdom. Just as a Ksatrya rules the human society, the sun rules the stars and the elephant rules the domestic animals that serve as mounts and the lion rules the beasts. Instances are multiplied from different spheres of existence. This reminds us of the Vibhutiyoga in the Bhagavad Gita. The creator however points out the function of the Brahmins or wise man in the maintenance of the society. While the king sees to that order prevails in the society so that people are lighted up, it is the wise

The five senses are the banks of the river named body. Mind is the lake of illusion, tossing terrible waves. The imagery of the body here is time and again & superb poetry. Body is often the theme of modern poetry also. But there in the name of realism, body is the object that generates illusion. Here body has been depicted sans illusion. Its limits have been well-defined. Hence the reader dares imagine that he can transcend it. Once he transcends it,
sa sarvadosanirmuktastatah pasyati tatparam mano manasi sandhaya pasyannatmanamatmani

(AG- XII, 58)

He probes into mind with the aid of mind and finds the world soul in his individual soul. Once, the truth behind one form is revealed the truth behind the whole show of existence is revealed.
ekadha vahudha caiva vikurvanastatastatah (AG XII 59)

The creator further adds

Anu Gita II

113

114

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

man or the Brahmins who are the bridge between the mundane world and liberation.
dharmakamasca rajano brahmana dharmasetavah tasmad raja dvijatinam prayateta sma raksane (A.G- XIII, 17)

pravrittilaksanam yogo jnanam sannyasalaksanam (AG -XIII, 26)

And the creator casts his vote for the latter. Awareness alone can transport one from the dichotomies of the existence.
Sannyasi jnanasamyuktah prapnoti paramam gatim atito dvandamabhyeti tamo mrityu jaratigah (A.G- XIII, 27 )

Since the King longs for liberation of his own self and of his subjects he should maintain the bridge—the Brahmanas or the wise who could let them cross the worries of worldly life. Such was the notion of administration in the days of the Mahabharata. Even today the states like the United States of America always consult the best scholars in policy-making while the developing countries do not. Hence they lag far behind the developed countries. The symbolism of bridges as structure enabling one to pass from one side of some thing to the other is one of the most widespread in world cultures. The transition may be from Earth to Heaven, from the human to supra-human state, from contingency to immortality, from the world of the senses to the world beyond. Here the creator calls the Brahmin as the bridge between the aforesaid two sides. It is interesting to note that the title of Pontiff which is applied to Pope, implies that the Pope is the same bridge for mankind in the Christendom. Pontiff derived from pontifex means bridge-builder “The Pontiff is simultaneously the builder of bridge and the bridge itself.” Now the creator dwells on the indicators of order or dharma. He points out that ahimsa or non-violence is the indicator of order. We know everything by its indicator. We know the sky for example through sound. And we are aware of mind because it thinks. This reminds us of Descartes who pointed that thought is the indicator of mind while extension is the indicator of the body. When mind is confused, intellect comes to play. It is intellect which decides. And of course there are two roads to liberation in yoga & sannyasa. While yoga implies action with supra-sensuous goals, sannyasa implies awareness.

With our existing capabilities though being pent up in the world of desires, we can be aware of the world upto the ken of our intellect. But the beyond we cannot grasp. Because the individual soul has no such indicator. Its only indicator is awareness. Once we are aware of such awareness we know the knower of the field which lives in the field of the body.
alingagrahano nitya ksetrajna nirgunatmakah tasmadalingah ksetrajnah kevalam jnanalaksanam

(A.G- XIII, 36)

Once we reach the notion of ksetrajna or the knower, at once the earlier descriptions of the body are revised in the sense that the body becomes the field—the object of knowledge of the knower. Nay body is not the field. The invisible substratum of the body is the field which is known as avayakta or Unmanifest. In course of his discourse the creator himself becomes the knower. With a wonderful magic of poetry the knower & the knowee are locked in an eternal relation.
avyaktam ksetramuddista gunanam prabhavapyayam sada pasyamyaham lino vijanani srinomi ca (A.G- XIII, 37 )

The gunas that are manifest die in the Unmanifest. I see them and hear them always. The death of the qualities their mingling with the Unmanifest is as it were heard. The knower is as it were listening to the endless monotony of the waves rising & breaking down in the indeterminate sea. Such imagery speak of what Shri Aurabindo calls the overmind rhythm. The knower knows the waves of gunas. But gunas cannot know the knower since they are so short-living.

Anu Gita II

115

116

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

One who gets the glimpse of the transient gunas etenally rising & breaking down in the seas through the speech of the creator which is poetry withal will naturally be indifferent to the gunas that wear the world of appearances. He will not bow down before anyone. He is not bound by any ritual as such
tasmat gunansca sattvanca parityajyeha dharmavit Ksinodoso gunatitah Ksetrajnam pravisyatyatha nirdvando nirnamaskaro nihsvahakara eva ca [AG XIII 41, 42]

The Creator, once again dwells on the nature of appearance. Earlier it was compared with the ocean where the waves of the gunas rise & fall. This happens surely due to time. The Creator now takes into account the wheel of time and portays once again the world of appearance in its context.
The wheel of time rushes at a great speed. Intelligence is its essence. Its axle is mind. Its ties are the five senses. Day and night impel it. The circle that it forges consists of summer & winter The wheel is controlled by the three gunas. If it is dominated by Tamas It speeds towards hell. The wheel is alight with Ego. Mental anxiety is its tyre. Attachment is the breadth of its rim. Greed and grumbling make its motion irregular When it is influenced by Sattvaguna It evokes knowledge. And the wise man does no longer Play the fool of time. [AG. XV 1-16]

in the worldly life. He also dwells on brahmacharyya the stage preceding life of a family man and vanaprastha the stage when man renounces worldly life for a life in the woods. What are forests but natural shrines? In many parts of the world, they look upon forest like that. “In the early period there was a strict semantic equivalence between the forest and the shrine in Celtic speech. In Japan they look upon forest as a natural shrine. In China a mountain top capped with forest is the site of temple. In India, the hermits retire to the forests. Buddha said “forest is happiness in” Dhammapada. The Creator further adds that renunciation is the way and the goal is Brahman which is knowledge. Once again the Creator falls back upon the imagery of the tree.
This body is as it were a vast tree. Ignorance is its roots. Intelligence is its trunk. The senses are hollows in it. The five elements make it vast with many branches Good acts and evil acts are its leaves. It is a flowing tree. It springs from the Brahman or Infinite. Two birds always sit here close to each other. One is the soul of an individual. The other is the world soul. (A.G- XVII ,12,16)

Thus, everyone, can impress time in his own way with sattva or rajas or tamas. Human life exists through time & it should pass through the phases of chaturashrama. There, the worldly life or garhasthya is the most significant one. The creator dwells on the dos & donts of a family man

This is surely the inverted tree with the infinite at the root & the world as its manifestation (B.H- XV). The symbol of tree is so widespread all over the globe and it calls for interpretation along so diverse lines, that even volumes of books cannot grasp them. Be that as it may the inverted tree recurs not only in the Mahabharata, but also in the Upanishads and the Vedas. The asvattha true, indeed represents the clearest possible manifestation of Brahman in the Cosmos, represents in other words creation as a descending movement. “The same notion is found in Jewish esoteric lore where the Zohar speaks of the Tree of Life as stretching from the

Anu Gita II

117

118

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

upper to the lower regions and all of it illuminated by the Sun. In Islam, the tree of Bliss is rooted in the highest Heaven and the branches stretch above & below the world. In Icelandic and Finnish folklore the same tradition was firmly present in the annual sacrifice of an ox in honour of the vegetation–God and at the same time a tree was set up close to the altar with its branches in the ground and its roots in the air, Schmidte records that the medicine men of some Australiam Aboriginal tribes had a magic tree which they planted upside down (Dictionary of Symbols, P.1029) By the by the Mahabharata in which gitas that we discuss figure is itself likened to a tree. It is in the tree that the creator Brahma speaking in the Anugita has found two birds. They are also rather unconscious beings as opposed to one consciousness which is beyond our grasp.
dvavimau paksinah nityan sanksepau capyacetanau etabhyam tu paro yonyascetanavan sa ucyate (A.G-

Some look upon the tree where Brahman is immanent; some again look upon it as a forest of infinitude, some others find it as a joiner between the infinitude and the Non-manifest Prakriti. Others argue that the tree springs from Prakriti and goes upward to Brahman. This is realistic. Because reality cannot be described. The creator points out that one must know the tree. Once one knows the nonmanifest at the root of the tree, one is easily detached from the same. That provokes sattvaguna in him. Because some say Brahman is sattvaguna only which implies kindness, perseverance, truthfulness, simplicity etc. Some however posit that Sattvaguna is different from Brahman just as a mosquito is different from the fig although they look as one when a mosquito sits on a fig.
masakodumbare caikyam prithaktvamapi drisyate (A.G- XVIII, 11)

XVII, 16)

This motif of two birds perched on the world-tree recurs in the Upanishads. One eats the fruit of the tree while the other looks on without eating. While the one is the individual soul the other is the collective soul. But the Creator posits that they are also material in relation to what he calls consciousness. The bird is also widely venerated all over the globe. Often it is the symbol of the soul. Some times again it serves as the messnenger from heaven. (Dictionary of Symbols, P. 86 ff.). No doubt the number two symbolises dualism. It hints at the dichotomy lying at the heart of appearance. The Creator observes that when the knower of the field, viz., the individual soul in the body grasps the indeterminate consciousness that transcends the body it is liberated. One of the most interesting points regarding the style of the gitas and perhaps of the whole range of ancient Indian thought is that it is never logocentrie. It always questions itself. Thus the creator questions the image of the inverted tree, as posited earlier—

Or else sattvaguna is the same with & yet different from Brahman just as a fish in water is. Clearly thus fish is on one level identical with water or sap of life or knowledge. Or else, ins the light of psycholanalysis it is the symbol of untold treasure lying in the depth of the unconscious In Indian mythology as elsewhere fish has a very significant role. The fish as the incarnation of Lord Visnu saved Manu. In Kashmir, there is the myth of Matsyendranath—the fisherman who was a great yogi. It is said that he attained yogic knowledge when he was in the shape of a fish (Dic. of symbols, P-383 ff.). Curiously enough the creator classes fish with mosquito and water with fig. The mosquito is the symbol of sucker. The mosquito lives on fig just as the fish lives on water. similarly sattvaguna lives on Brahman or the knowledge of the Infinitude. With the creator, nothing is trifle or ignoble, not even a mosquito. In response to the Creator’s speech the rishis mention almost all the possible ways of life and asks which is the best way to truth. The mention of all the possible ways of life based on all the possible world– views at once makes the discourse very relevant to modern readers.

Anu Gita II

119

120

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Because the risis themselves play the role of the modern reader when they ask.
urdhvam dehad vadantyeka naitadastiti capare

Some say while the body dies, the soul lingers. The soul dies with the body only assert the others. Such opinions of diverse world-views multiply in the query of the risis. The Creator tells them straight-way that non-violence is ideal for animals. The seekers on the other hand should seek knowledge. Thus the Creator’s answer in response to the queries of the risis is rather open-ended. What he points out is that one should try to know the reality. That is all. As knowledge grows the confusion will die. He again falls back upon the imagery of the mosquito and the fig. The mosquito is the knower. The sattvaguna is inconscient. It does not know the knower just as the fig does not know the mosquito. The fig-tree, is also a widely used symbol. It is often symbolic of religious knowledge or sattvaguna on which the world feeds. Curiously enough although the Creator uses the same image twice, its meaning varies from one context to another. Earlier it were sattvaguna & Brahman, represented by the mosquito & the fig. Now they are the knower & the object of knowledge. The knower here may not stand for Brahman. It may stand for the individual soul pent up in the body. The Creator employs another imagery to explain his point. Just as the lotus-leaf enjoys the water on it so does the purusa know the sattvaguna. But the water does not know the leaf. And sattvaguna does not know the purusa. Similarly, the true seeker will know the gunas. But he will not be influenced by them. He will not be influenced by sattvaguna. In other words, he will have no duties not even the duties that are associated with sattvaguna. Sattvaguna is like the lamp that shows the road to the world-soul. The lamp lingers only as long as there are objects such as the oil and their gunas such as the flame. In other words once the world-soul is realised, one is no longer

influenced by the world. The symbol of lotus is recurrent in ancient Indian literature as well as in Chinese & Japanese. It is the first of all flowers, generally blossoming on stagnant & murky waters. Still it is so imperious in beauty. Hence lotus stands for the purusa who is not touched by the pollution of the worldly life. The search for truth has been likened to a journey. If one does not have the money of pious works performed in earlier births, one cannot journey to truth. One must know the road or else one will be in trouble.If one intelligently drives a chariot, one will reach one’s destination easily. Where the chariot does not go, the intelligent man gets down from it and walks, instead of cursing his lot. In case there is a river on the way he must not try to swim across it. He should go by boat. In that case he must know the currents in the river. He must ride the boat. But he must not be enamoured by it. Or else he will never cross the river. Because he will be in the waters only. He should know what is right action. He rides the chariot when it is a road. He boards on a boat when it is a river. Once the destination is reached one need not look back. Once the mountain top is reached no one, looks back to the uphill road that reached him there. Thus the journey theme repeatedly recurs in the gita. In Bodhya Gita, the speaker moves about all alone like the single bangle on a virgin’s hand. The Brahman of the Brahmin Gita has spoken of a journey acrosss numerous dangers on the road, Journey theme is always associated with quest theme. It is the quest for truth peace or immortality & it is the search for discovery of spiritual centre. Journeys abound in the myths all over the world, such as those of Odysseus, those of the Jews across the Red Sea, those of Ram Chandra or the Pandavas. Journeys give expression to a deep seated desire for internal change and a need for a fresh range of experience rather than location. They are evidence of a want of satisfaction which prompts the search for and discovery of new horizons. Now the road inward has been once again delineated by the Cre-

Anu Gita II

121

122

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

ator. Whatever one meets during one’s journey inward has its corresponding image in the journey outward since, both the world within and without are made of the self-same stuff. just as we make a chariot from steel, and put it behind the trained horses, similarly in order to set out for journey inward one has to set right his chariot of the body. The senses are the horses. They must be tamed. One who rides the chariot is Kshetrajna; with him the chariot is made up of the stuff of Brahman. And the Chariot sojourns in the wilderness which is Brahman. The wilderness that is, Brahman is not in the least different from the world of ours. The Creator describes the world.
Everything ranging from the unmanifest to the particular the living and the inert, the world agog with life & life force lit with the Sun and the Moon, dazzling with stars & planets decorated with rivers and hells, decked with the water-flows is the eternal and vast forest. The knower sojourns in the vast forest.

Once we connect the world with the fancy of its creator, the everyday world of ours seems to be made up of the stuff of dream and we are players in the dream. Once some one knows the secret of the same, one is no longer drawn to the sham tinsel world of dream and is withdrawn to one’s self which is nothing but the Prajapati the creator itself. How could one withdraw oneself into one’s own self. Simply by resisting oneself from possessing anything which is created by dream. Because, any article created by dream is evanescent indeed. The best way to get rid of the dream world is to say no to its articles for consumption.
dvaksarantu bhavet mrityustryaksaram brahma sasvatam Mameti ca bhaven mrityur(A.G- XXI, 29) na mameti ca sasvatam

(A.G- XXI,7,9) Decked with everything ranging from the Unmanifest to the manifest particular, the living & the inert, the rays of the Sun & the Moon the stars & the planets, the rivers & the mountains & the waters, is the forest that is Brahman. Thus the reality is not anywhere away from where we are. Once we get at the reality, the apparent world itself is transformed plunged in a light that was never on sea or land. Consequently the message of the gita is not escapist. If the sadhaka withdraws from the world without, it is for the sake of coming back to it with fresh sensibilities strengthened with the joy of perceiving harmony & chaos that he espies in the world. The world is a forest that is Brahman. Since it is a forest it stands for neither order or nor chaos. Chaos only exists where man forces upon reality some order. The Brahmavana or the vast forest is the figment of imagination of the Prajapati.
prajapati idam sarvam manasaivasrijat Prabhu (A.G -XXI, 14)

The two syllables in mama or mrityu implies death. The three syllables in na mama or Not Mine implies everlasting life or Brahman. So the message of the Anu gita is to dispossess. If everybody were enlightened that way the world would remain what it is and would it not be a different world? Thus the gitas impress upon our mind a vision that would make much loved earth of ours lovelier. Political or sociologicial ideologies cannot lead us there. But one might posit that dreams are not in our control. They are the eaprices of the unconscious. True, our dreams are not ours but Prajapati’s. Hence they are not in our control. But is not Prajapati in control of his dream? If it is yes, then, Prajapati does not dream. We must remember that this conversation between the Creator and the sages, is quoted by a preceptor while talking to his disciple. The preceptor’s discourse has been quoted by Krishna while talking to Arjuna. Arjuna now wants to know the identity of the preceptor & the disciple. Krishna in reply says that he himself is the preceptor & his

Anu Gita II

123

124

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

mind is the disciple. Earlier Krishna’s mind had taught the intellect in the disguise of the Brahmin teaching his wife. Now, Krishna the Kshetrajna has taught the mind in the same lore. It seems that the mind was taught first and the intellect later. But here the narrative sequence has displaced the same. Perhaps in the interest of the readers who are aware of their minds and intellect, but who are not aware of the Kshetrajna in them. Once the intellect is taught by the mind and delves deeper, it finds the mind being taught. Besides, when the preceptor Krishna himself says that his mind taught his intellect in such & such way and he himself taught his mind in such and such way, he teaches us how to conduct our minds and intellect & what tough inner struggle is needed to lift up ourselves. Krishna has externalised the conversation within himself. Every fiction is like that and is not the world a fiction? Krishna’s speech to Arjuna has been quoted by Vaisampayana while addressing Janamejaya. Vaisampayana says that Arjuna was enlightened at the instance of Krishna’s speech. He was happy. He nostalgically recollected how Krishna’s speech had earlier helped the Pandavas at the battle of Kurukshetra. He recalled the cosmic glory of Krishna that he had seen while listening to Krishna at Kurukshetra. He paid his homage to Krishna. He recalled the battle, blow by blow, and remembered how Krishna helped Arjuna’s side. Thus we are reminded of the Kurukshetra battle in its details. Kurukshetra. battle has a specific function. It points out that the present gita has not been uttered on its own. It has been pronounced in a particular context which needs be understood to understand the gita. In other words we must read the gita in the context of the world of the Mahabharata peopled with gods, nagas, gandharvas, raksasas, demigods men and women and sages. The repetition of the Kurukshetra motif brings forth the symbolic import of the same. Kurukshetra could be construed as the battle

ground where the virtues are engaged in mortal battle with the vices like pride, jealousy & lust, in every man. There everyman’s mind & intellect must be stimulated by the notion of right action & right contemplation.

126

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XII

UTATHYAGITA
Bhisma recounts what Utathya told Mandhata, in response to his queries, to exhort Yudhisthira. Even though Bhisma doesnot explicitly call it as gitam, the speech of Utathya to Mandhata was surely an inspired one. Hence it has the claim to be deemed as a gita. The conversation between Utathya & the king Mandhata dwells on the Rajadharma or the virtues of a ruler. Ironically enough, it is a Brahmin who gives the laws of Rajadharma. Rajadharma has its counterpart in the modern discipline called the political science Political Science dwells on the impersonal rules of state-craft. It doesnot give much weightage on the virtues of the ruler. The constitution defines the prerogatives & obligations of a ruler. And it is assumed that, come who may, the constitution will work through him. This scientific attitude is most unscientific in a way. Because we know that there are good prime ministers & bad prime ministers. Sociology & Management take into accout the qualities of leadership. Max Weber speaks of the charisma of a leader. But these are studies of the society rather in fragments. Rajdharma however looks upon the statecraft steadily & as a whole. It underline the essential qualities that a Raja must have or that a Raja must inculcate. The Raja or the king must understand the inexlorable law operating through the existence and the society. He must understand the law through which people obey their king. As philosopher Green has pointed out—It is will and not force that is the basis of the state. Hence the king is the king only through a law immanent in the society. The king should realise that & rule in harmony with this impersonal law. He must be a tool in the hands of this impersonal law or dharma. If he doesnot do that and rules arbitrarily there will be anarchy. The

ruler is the role model whom the people will emulate. If the king is arbitrary, the people will be unruly and an archy will take over. In such a state, human rights will be in jeophardy. In the so-called written constitutions of today, fundamental rights have been enshrined. But they never probe into why & how fundamental right should be protected. In a state of chaos, the people are puzzled like old men. The king should understand this and follow the laws that keep up the society & its order. The laws constitute dharma. Virtue need not be followed for its own sake. Dharma is rather a term which defies translation in English. Dharma are the laws that keep up order and brings about prosperity. Hence dharma is that which produces & amasses wealth. The king must follow the rules or dharma and his personal whims must not stand in its way. Hence Utathya exhorts the king Mandhata—Follow dharma, without being influenced by desire or anger. Utathya adds that the king must obey and patronise the enlightened ones or the Brahmins in the society. They are the light to guide & rod to warn. While in the so called democracy of ours, every man is equally inportant, no state can run without its economists, scientists and jurists. But, modern political science does not explicity acknowledge the truth of their necessity unlike the Rajadharma in the Mahabharata. The Rajadharma on the contrary acknowledges the necessity of a kind of meritocracy to rule the country. Uthathya in this context recounts a parable. It dwells on how the king of demons neglected the elite or the enlightened ones of the society and thereby lost all his glory or lakshmi. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth & beauty and all that worldly men might ask for, Utathya observes that adharma drives one away from Lakshmi. This is quite natural. Every word has its antonym. Every concept speaks of its absence. Adharma gives way to pride Utathya says that a king is one who can rule over pride itself. On the contrary if he becomes a slave to pride he will put the society out of joints.

Utathya Gita

127

128

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The ancients never looked upon man as different from nature. On the contrary man is very much the part of the environment. Hence, Utathya argues, that if a king fails in his duty, Nature becomes angry and the state that he rules, suffers from untimely winter or drought & & duties. People who have innate aptitudes for certain jobs must be allowed to pursue their love. Or else there would be no job-satisfaction on the part of the doer and the country will suffer from lack of production. Especially, in the third world countries today, people who donot have the knack for business activity and for taking financial risks are promoted to businessmen because they have influence in the coridors of power. But this results in further decadence of the economy of a state. If the ruler is thoughtless and if the social hierarchy is not maintained things go asunder in the state. Utathya further observes that the king has been raised only to protect the weak. This might put in our mind the social contract theory that stated that the institution called the king was raised through contract in order that the society is kept in order. The concept of contract is absent in the political philosophy of Utathya. But what Utathya is about is that, the institution of kingship is there only in the need of law & order. But mere law & order cannot be the end in itself. Hence according to Utathya the function of the king is to give a hand up to the poor. If this were the views of modern statesman, no philosophy like Marx’s that seek economic emancipation of the labourers would be necessary. Utathya categorically states that the king in league with the rich & strong must not accept money from the weak. In our societies as such, the government in league with the rich & the strong prey on the weak & the poor. Utathya has very harsh word for such governments. He opines that if the king’s men,or bureaucrats exact money from the poor, the king must shoulder the responsibility for that. The king however must not neglect the merchant class. Utathya says that the king must treat them as one treats one’s children. The Mahabharata

as a whole doesnot debunk the world. It doesnot despise economic wealth. On the contrary it exhorts the king that he must look after those, who create economic wealth. The king must punish those who stand in the way of dharma or the rules that sustain the society. The king however must not glory in that. Utathya categorically states that he is the king or ksatrya in the right sense of the term who is capable of changing the characters of his men. The king is their father as it were. In every activity as such the king must be aware of his position in the society. The king is like Indra to them. His word is law to them. So the king must not give in to single irresponsible moment in his life. These notions echo very much in the Bhagavadgita as well when the latter says that the common men always follow those who are in power. This does not mean that the law is the command of the sovereign. Because the sovereign must follow the inexorable law or dharma. But with the common people, the king’s words are commands. Hence the gitas warn those who are in power in the society to behave lest their followers are led astray.

130

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XIII

VAMADEVA GITA
Yudhisthira, in the role of a king, consequently asks how should he behave to keep up dharma. In reply Bhisma recounts Vamadeva gita. Thus Vamadeva gita elaborates on the theme of Utathya gita. The Vamadeva gita refers to the speech uttered by Vamadeva who gave advise to king Vasumana—the son of king Nahusa. Vamdeva, asserts that dharma is the gateway to economic prosperity. The king should implement it with the aid & advice of the experts in this subject. The king who flings the laws of egalitarian society & economics & collects money by force loses both dharma and wealth at the same time. The intelligent ruler, who runs a welfare state grows in strength by degrees. There are five pillars of statecraft in dharma, economic strength, desire, intelligence and allies. So the king should not be satisfied with partial attainment of these five things. He must act in league with his counsellors. Or else he will be arbitrary. And of course, he must be careful as to who becomes his counsellor. The king who acts according to the advice of a sinful minister should be killed. Thus, in ancient Indian political thought the king is in no way absolute. He is not above law. The king must obey the tradition. Thus, the customs of a country are one of the sources of law according to Vamadeva. The king should behave with his enemy who has been outdone in war. This is not merely a pious maxim. This is very practical an advice. The victors behaved ill with the victim during the Versailles treaty presently after the 1st great war. The merciless torture that they let loose on the Germans, brought about a higher & the 2nd great war. The king must stand by his people in times of crisis. The king who seeks the welfare of his people can permanently rule the kingdom. In other words, it preempts the possibility of any mass

uprise against the king. Though we do not have any instance of mass uprise in the Mahabharata Vamadeva’s exhortations show that mass uprises were not unknown in the society of the epic. Tax system must not be arbitrary. The king must not betray whom he detests or whom he favours. He must not neglect the weak. The king must out do the enemies, even if they are too weak to act. But Vamadeva, feels that war is not the right means to out-do one’s enemy. Victory in war is hateful. He feels that the king should see to that his kingdom is prosperous. The people should be happy. The soldiers should be deft in the art of hoodwinking the enemies. Once the king is strong in this way he should proceed to conquer the world. The exhortations of Vamadeva on the surface serve as a contrast to the message of the BH.G. While the latter says—do not shudder from war, and war opens up the lion gate of heaven for the heroes, Vamadeva observes that conquests through war are hateful. But, the Bhagavadgita, in fact cries to arms only when war is unavoidable. The message of Buddha is however, very different. He observes that enmity between two parties is never of any avail. He asks to love one’s enemies. Vamadeva on the contrary does not ask to love one’s enemy. He asks the king to act as it were he is in love with his enemy. Friendly attitude towards one’s enemy is a tactical stance with Vamadeva.

132

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XIV
RISHABHA GITA
The Rishabha gita is the inspired speech of sage Rishabha addressed to king Sumitra. The name Rishabha is of singular importance. Rishabha is worshipped as the first of the Tirthankaras. Mahavira the historical personage who preached was the twenty fourth Tirthankara in Rishabha’s line. We donot know whether the Rishabha mentioned here is the same as the first of the Tirthankars. The Bhagavata Purana also mentions one Rishabha as the incarnation of Vishnu. Be that as it may, the context in which Sumitra asks his question & Rishabha answers him is interesting. King Sumitra went ahunting and entered deep forests. This hunting is a recurrent motif in ancient Indian literature. It is always a sport with ksatryas and a means of livelihood for professional hunters or vyadhas King Dasaratha went ahunting & made a mistake. It resulted in both a blessing & a curse on Dasaratha. Dasaratha was childless. He had a child. But he had to die grieving for his child’s retirement to the forest. Even lord Rama rushed to kill a golden deer. It was the reason for his whole misfortune. That however resulted in the killing of the demon Ravana. King Dushyanta reached the asrama of Kanva where he met Sakuntala, in course of pursuing a deer. It caused lot of misfortune for Sakuntala. Of course, Sakuntala was blessed with a son after whose name India was christened as Bharatvarsa. Instances could be multiplied. Sumitra hurt a deer with his arrow. Despite that the deer fled. Disheartened, the king took refuge in an ashrama, where many a saint were present. Sumitra asked them as to the limits of hope. He opined that since hope springs eternal in human breast hope seems to have no end. The space also doesnot seem to have any end. Hence, Sumitra asked—which is greater, hope or the

space or skies? In response, Rishabha the sage smiles and says that he once met a very thin sage at Vadarikasrama in course of his pilgrimage. The sage was eight times taller than the average man. And there was no one more slender & thin; Rishabha sat near him. Right at that moment a royal father, accompanied with his army & wives reached there. The king was out in search of his lost son. The king told the sage—since I donot find my son, I think that he is lost for good. Still, how come that my hopes do not leave? I am hoping against hope that I shall get back my son. Overwhelmed with grief the king further asked what could be greater than hope and what is rare in this existence. A little later the king changed his mind & asked who is more thin than a man who is haunted by hope? What is rare in the world ? The king asked further—Is there any one more thin than you? The sage said in reply—There is no one more slender than one who cherishes hope. The most rare thing in this world is to get things in harmony with one’s expectation. The sage further said—The hope that expects a lost son to come back, or the hope that moves all women to try to beget children, is more thin than me. Hope, according to the sage is always hoping against hope. He added, people expect from people who donot keep their word, who are ungrateful, merciless, and lazy. People also expect from men who serve others. Such hopes & expectations are really more thin than me. Indeed, a man, who does never ignore a person seeking something from him is very rare. But at the same time the sage doesnot forget to mention that men who seek with patience & perseverance are also equally rare. The king appreciated the sage’s point & observed—One who is trammelled by hope is thin. One who has conquered hope is strong. Thus, the theme of hope has been dwelled on with great power and force in the Rishabha gita. In fact hope is a recurrent theme in the

Rishabha Gita

133

134

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

gitas of the Mahabharata. In Bodhya gita, Manki Gita & Harita Gita, as such, hope has been debunked. Hence renunciation has been preached. But Krishna in the Bhagavadgita asks everyone to act very much in this worldly life according to one’s station & duties in the society. The only thing that the doer should is not to expect anything in return for the actions one undertakes. The Rishabha gita, however, is significant in another context also. Firstly the kings, are impelled by their experiences and became curious to known the truth. Secondly the sage Krisha also tells us how he changed his life, when he had bitter experiences. Once he asked for some alms from one prince. But the latter didnot oblige. Henceforth the sage, refrained from asking for anything from anyone. Ironically enough the prince who turned down Krisha was no other than the prince who was lost in the woods. In course of seeking the prince his royal father Viradhyumma met the sage Krisha. The sage however with the aid of his supernatural power brought back the prince to his bereaved father. This story is significant. First of all it points out that the prince was lost only as a consequence of his misbehaving with a sage. Thus every one has to reap his action. So no matter whether one expects or not, one has to reap one’s actions. So why hope? Why expect? Besides, the way we expect from our action doesnot agree with what we reap from our action. This is due to our ignorance. There is no harm in hoping from an action, provided, one knows how to read one’s own action. If this theory of action is agreed upon, could we not argue, that the sage Krisha also reaped his earlier actions, no doubt, that have not been mentioned here, when he was refused by the prince. If one reaps one’s actions through getting help from others, or not getting help from others, why blame others. The philosophy of action is really too deep to be deciphered properly. But another point must be held. It seems that whatever be the results of an action, a sage can redeem a wrong-doer and undo the

latter’s misfortunes, with the aid of his supernatural powers. One wonders, whether god will undo the functions of the wrongs that we have already performed and the wrongs that we are prone to perform.

136

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XV
HAMSA GITA
We have already come across Brahma gita, where the gita has been chanted by Brahma, the creator. The Hamsa gita is another gita where Brahma is the speaker. But here the creator shows up in the guise of Hamsa or the Swan. Swan or Hamsa is creator’s mount. Hamsa has been later analysed as Ahami. Sah. This phrase tells us of the mystry of creation perhaps. The indeterminate one became this multiverse through the awarenees of Me and He—theself & the nonself. Once again the awareness of the self as the nonself dissolves the multitudinous existence into the indeterminate one. Thus the swan could be the symbol of the elevation of the unformed towards knowledge. That is a journey on the wings of the swan. It was this knowledge that created the varied & variegated unverse where we live & die. It was this swan indeed the Holy ghost of christianity that brooded on the world egg.The creator himself is the mount. The creator appears in the shape of Hansa or knowledge. Yudhisthira asked Bhisma whether, truth, control of the senses, mercy & wisdom are at all important for man. In reply Bhisma, recounts what the creator himself in the shape of a swan told the sadhyas in this context. Now, since the gita under review has been told by a swan it is a fable. The swan is Brahma’s self no doubt. The swan is knowledge. The gita is spoken by the swan, at the request of the sadhyas. The sadhya’s asked, what could liberate the soul from the world? In other words there is a parallel between two situations viz Yudhisthera query & Bhisma’s reply, & the query of the sadhyas and Brahma’s reply. But there is a slight variation between the two queries. While the Sadhyas asked as to how to attain freedom, Yudhisthira query is not

concerned with the freedom of the soul. But when Bhisma, in response to Yudhisthira’s query recounts the query of the Sadhya’s does he not thereby mean that whatever attainment a man should aspire for should be directly related to the goal in human & life and the right goal of human life is to attain freedom. Furthermore doesnot Bhisma, points that truth fulness, control of senses & the like are essential for liberation.

138

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XVI
BRAHMA GITA
Kingship must keep an eye on the exchequer of the state. Hence in course of his discourse on how to earn money for the exchequer, Bhisma quotes what the wise say. The wise claim, that Brahma the creator himself sang and dwelled on the financial policies of the state. Let us read the Brahmagita. Brahma says that the king must not impose taxes on those who are Brahmana. Brahmana means the infinitude. Those who are plunged in the consciousness of the infinitude or the Brahmanas are world souls So every act of theirs is for the welfare of the society. And they deserve exemption from tax. Bhagavadgita has dwelled on the meaning of yajna on numurous level. Yajna doesnot necessarily mean lighting of the fire. On one level at least yajna means paying homage to the world & nature, for sustenance of mankind. Those who are used to such end should be exempted from tax also. Because their every action is in the interest of the well-being of the world. So how could they be taxed. Brahma, however points out that the ksatryas or the caste from which a king comes, has the right to all the wealth of the world. This assertion is singularly unique. It suggests that ksatryas are the highest caste in their own way. They are supposed to lord over the mundane world. Seen in another context, it means that whatever wealth and possession could be there is owned by the state only. Thus the right to the property of an individual is not sacrosanct. When Mrs Indira Gandhi scrapped the right to property as fundamental right and posited that in the interest of implementing the Directive principles as enshrined in the constitution individual right to property could be abrogated she was right theoretically in the light of the Mahabharata. Brahma says that the royal exchequer must be used for the com-

mon good. If the men with altruistic temperament are exempt from tax, where should the king find money. Well Brahma says that the king should dispossess the wicked & expropriate their wealth. Those who amass wealth for themselves only, instead of for the welfare of their fellow men, amass wealth for nothing. The same notion echoes when Krishna says that those who cook for themselves only devour sin. Brahma says that the king will grab the wealth of the wicked by force and patronise the good in the society. This puts forward a question in ethics. Does the end justify the means? Should not ahimsa be an end in itself. Perhaps the Mahabharata, doesnot prescribe any universal truth for every one to pursue. War is always bad. And still doesnot Krishna goad Arjuana to war? Actually, unlike in the west, philosophers of the Mahabharata speak of different duties as per different ethical standards for each caste. While showing prowess doesnot become a Brahmin or a Vaisya or a Sudra, it is all right with those who are born as ksatryas. Brahma says that the king should see to that the wicked are banished from the kingdom. This is the road to heaven for the kings. Thus, the Mahabharata doesnot prescribe any one road for all to pursue. Everyone must act according to his station & duties. We must not worry whether our explication of what Brahma says is in the right direction or not. Because Brahma posits that such discussions on dharma are welcome. The more we deliberate on dharma from different perspectives, we begin to realise its subtleties.

140

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XVII
THE BHAGAVAD GITA On the surface level the main action, of the Mahabharata, revolves round the conflict between Kauravas & Pandavas. While the other gitas with the exception of Sadja. Gita harks back to the speeches of sages told in the past, Srimad Bhagavadgita was sung in the bleeding present of the action of the Mahabharata at the crucial hour when the battle at Kurukshetra is raging. Krishna–the Purushottama in human flesh tells this Gita, addressing Arjuna. Arjuna is the greatest warrior present at the battle-field. He belongs to the Pandava side. He is the Indian counterpart of Achilles in Homer. Just as Achilles all of a sudden withdraws from the Trojan War, so does Arjuna. Achilles was angry with Agamemnon the leader of the Greek army because, the latter took Achilles’s bedmate by force. The reasons of Arjuna’s withdrawal are different. But once Arjuna gives up fighting the enemies will get a walk-over. Because, there is no other match for the warrior heroes belonging to the Karuravas, among the Pandavas. With baleful eyes Arjuna observes all those who have assembled at the battle field and exclaims.
Oh Krishna, I cannot fight these enemies, Becauses they are, all of them my kins. What joy is there in killing them. To destroy one’s own race is sin.

And then attains old age & senility. Death is a phase in human life like that only. True that the body decays thereby. But the soul, that owns the body does not die. That’s why the wise donot lament When some one passes away. Just as we change our clothes. So do the souls doff the worn out bodies. And don new ones. The deathless soul is beyond our grasp You cannot perceive it with your senses. To perceive it one has to withdraw one’s senses from senseobjects & plunge into the deeper reality. Those who see into the heart of things also do act. They however act in a disinterested manner.

Arjuna is confused. Whether to know the reality or to act in the real world is his question. Krishna observes that it was Krishna himself who had preached the two roads to salvation in times past. One was the path of knowledge. The other was the path of disinterested action. Actually, man cannot but act as long as he lives. But this action should always be in the greater interest of nature & universe. Man is no more than a means in the hands of the cosmic mind. Hence Arjuna should fight since fight he must. Consideration of victory & defeat weal & woe must not bewilder him. He is born a warrior & he must act accordingly.
What you say baffles my understanding—Arjuna tells Krishna. Krishna answers-+Just as fire is often hidden in smoke. So is human knowledge shrouded with emotions like love & hatred First, one should get rid of such emotions and know himself.

Arjuna flings away his bow and laments. Krishna in response points out.
What you say is true. No doubt, the heroes on either side will be killed. But what is death? Man is born as a baby. He passes through childhood, youth adolesconce.

The Bhagavad Gita

141

142

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Only then, the true knowledge will shine on its own.

Krishna adds that it was he who had taught the sun-god, the way to wisdom. Krishna remembers his past lives while Arjuna does not. Krishna says,
I reincarnate over & over again at will. Only to rescue the righteous and destroy the rascals. I am alone, and yet I am many. He who knows my supernatural self. Attains salvation. To know me, one must revere me One must trust me. Hence you follow me. Without any word.

Cannot touch him then. Truth dawns in his mind in all its effulgence. All this could be achieved through ceaseless practice. If one, however, fails to pursue the road to its end. No penalty is to be paid, In the life to come, he will be either born in a rich family Or else he will be born in a family of a yogin.

Arjuna however asks,
If truth is one why do men worship so many gods? Krishna says in reply I give away my all to one who worships me with all his heart. But such men are few, very few. And indeed, even they can hardly know me. The multiverse is in God Just as the gems are woven into a garland. The taste that is in water is in God. The brightness that are the Sun & the Moon is his. He is the fragrance that the wind carries. He is the glow of the fire. He is the life of life. But no one can espy him. Because he hides in the charms that are his own. The souls are born only to realise this cosmic self. To keep them ever on the move the three gunas sport. The three gunas are exerted by his charms. And he hides in every heart, hidden from the eye, by these three gunas. Man must rise above these three gunas & meet his God. To transcend these three gunas is a Herculean task. One can solicit God for that. God is all-kindness. He often removes the veil from our eyes. Men often worship different gods. Their longings & leanings determine the particular god for

Krishna points out that
Those who know the Brahman or the Reality act & yet they are not engrossed with their action. They offer the fruits of their action to God only. Hence they do not suffer their actions. They look upon the high & low, the sublime & trifle with equanamity of mind. One who does not play his part in the world. Can’t be called a sannyasin or yogin. The sannyasin acts without any end in view. He acts because, act he must The Yogin conquers his senses. He is hardly swayed by joy or sorrow, loss or gain, or honour or dishonour. To see a friend & a foe as equal is his wont. One must be seated on a mat and meditate. That is Yoga. One should then follow the middle path. and avoid the extremes such as over eating or over sleeping & self abnegation The yogin has his mind settled and he plunges into samadhi Sorrows & sufferings, the vanity fair of the world.

The Bhagavad Gita

143

144

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

them. Whichever god one worships, is but my self.

Arjuna asks—What is god? What is Brahman? What is spiritual? What is yajna? When death is impending how could one call up Krishna. Krishna saya—
One’s dying th oughts determine one’s next birth, If one thinks of me at the hour of death. One attains me only in the life to come Hence, remember me & fight.

Hence, offer me everything that is yours I will save you from weal & woe, sin & sorrow If the greatest sinner loves me with all his being. I deliver him from sin.

Krishna further adds,
Yoga is the short cut to truth Rajayoga is the easiest among the Yogas Just as air pervades the skies So do I pervade every living being. With Pralaya, everything wears out. I only remain ever. I do not wear out. I am death-less & indestructible. Fresh life spings from me only, When creation begins anew. The sports of creation thus continue through death & resurrection. I am alone true and eternal in this ever changing world as such. Men are overwhelmed with simple sorrows & the fear of death. But I am indifferent to such emotions The wise know me. They are also tranquil in the face of worldly change Some people do penance to get at me. Some others serve me. If one, worships me with simple offerings such as a flower and a little water, Gladly do I accept them. I receive one with joy who gives me away everything that is his

Krishna posits that Arjuna must not take him for an ordinary man. Krishna has donned the human-frame on his own. He is the God. He is beginningless & endless. He is the supreme being. Joy & sorrow, birth & death, whatever we find here, have been created at his will. He is himself entangled with them. But men do not understand that. Hence Krishna asks Arjuna to leave all anxiety with Krishna only & act. Arjuna wants to know the special aspects of Krishna’s supernatural self. Krishna saya,
The deathless soul that inhabits every being every living organism is Me They are born and they die I am their anchor. I hold them. I am deathless. I am Visnu among the adityas. I am the Sun among the luminaries. I am the Moon amidst the star. I am the Samaveda among the Vedas. I am Indra among the gods. I am consciousness among the myriads of beings. I am Siva. I am Jupiter. I am the phoneme Om. I am the yajna called chanting the Name. I am the peepul tree among the trees. I am the Himalayas among the hills. I am the wish-cow among the cows. I am Vasuki among the serpents. I am death the leveller. Wealth & fame, memory & intelligence, patience and mercy, prowess & initiative.

The Bhagavad Gita

145

146

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

are my self only. I am the law that the conqueror decrees. I am the punishment that visits the wrong-doer. I am the knowledge supreme. This world is manifest only through. a small fragment of my powers.

Arjuna wants to see the grandeur of god in Krishna. The mortal eyes cannot espy that, hence Krishna bestows the third eye on Arjuna. And at once Krishna’s cosmic self is revealed before him. Arjuna says— Oh God of gods! I find the gods, yakshas & ogres, the sages & the mankind, the birds & animals–every one in thee. Your hands & feet & eyes are countless. The finest heroes at the battle—field hang from your teeth & mouth. Countless flames of fire blow out from your mouth. Just as the numerous streams mingle with the sea so do the heroes of the battle field rush to thee. The worlds seem to leap into the flames of your mouth just as the flies speed to the lamp. The terrible energy that emanates from you seems to put the worlds afire. Such sights send terror into the heart of Arjuna. He trembles. Krishna says—I destroy the universe, in this fearsome shape. I have already killed everyone who flourish at the battleground. Be thou no more than my means, in this battle. Fight. Arjuna says, Oh Lord! I mistook you for my friend. I have often pulled you & slighted. I could not understand your greatness. Have mercy on me. Be kind to me. Just as a father pardons his son & a husband pardons his wife so do you pardon me. Krishna now appears before Arjuna in his pleasant godly appearance & says. Those who are my devotees. Those who have given up every other association. Those who work only in my interest. Those who have no enemy under the sun do get me. Arjuna asks—

There are men who meditate on the indeterminate reality or Brahman. There are others who worship you. Who is better of the two? Krishna says— Those who meditate on the indeterminate Brahman also reach me. But to meditate on the indeterminate is difficult. To worship a god is relatively easier. To deem every act as an act decreed by God is not difficult. Such a mind-set can be easily cultivated through practice. If one cannot develop such an attitude, one could jolly well act in his own way. But he must not have any expectation from it. He had better lean on God for any eventuality. God loves one who does not scare or hurt anyone. God caresses one who loves all things great and small. God protects one who is non-violent and active. God is pleased with one who has no attachment to happiness & good fortune. God is satisfied with one who is always contented. God takes care of such a person. Arjuna now wants to learn the mystery of existence. What are Prakriti & Purusa? What are Kshetra & Kshetrajna? What is to be learnt? What is knowledge. These are the questions. Srikrishna answers that Everything whatever in the World is created through the contact between Prakriti–The Primordial materiality and Purusa–The Primordial consciousness. Krishna himself is the Purusa. Prakriti is the manifestation of his charm. He has made Prakriti instinct with the three gunas. Every living being is caught up in the net of Prakriti. The three gunas are like apron strings with which the living beings are tied to Prakriti. Sattvaguna is full of calm, purity, wisdom and bliss. Thirst, desire, happiness and lust are the indicators of rajaguna. Laziness, sleepiness ignorance, delusion are the indicators of tamaguna. Sattavaguna leads man to peace. Rajaguna drives man to activity Tamaguna stunts the powers & good will of a man. This body is known as the Kshetra or field; just as crops shoot up in the

The Bhagavad Gita

147

148

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

field, so do the senses mind, life weal & woe grow in the body. One who directly perceives this being seated in the body is the knower of the field or kshetrajna. God is the supreme knower, who resides in every Kshetrajna. The light which helps man discover the Kshetra & Kshetrajna is knowledge. The being that pervades everything and yet remains unseen ; the being that pervades time is the object of knowledge. He is very near and yet he is far away. Earlier the three gunas have been mentioned. Man must rise above them and get at knowledge. Sattvaguna is sublime. Still it is also a binding. One who seeks freedom must tear it asunder as well to know the unknowable. God is the knowledge supreme. Sri Krishna further adds. Oh Arjuna! I am the supreme being coordinating Purusa & Prakriti. The wise know that the tree of worldly existence has its roots in Brahman or the Vast. They are upward. The three branches of the tree in the three gunas, make the twigs of the tree green. Men do not see the root of the tree of worldly life. Those who have the notion of the tree fell it and get the glimpse of its roots—the feet of supreme bless. Those who pass along the road of self knowledge those who have baulked their desires & lust, those who are tranquil in weal & woe, reach the root of the tree of the world. They attain freedom. There are two purusas in the World. While one changes ceaselessly—the Kshar Purusa, the other remains changeless—the akshara Purusa. God, the soul of souls presides over both. Krishna observes that there are two types of men in this world in the godly & the demonic. Men are so due to their activities during earlier lives. The godly men are fearless. They are happy in giving away only. They joy in sacrifice & penance. They are truthful and free from anger. Self-sacrifice kindness, pardoning others and like qualities characterise them. They are courageous and stern. On the other hand haughtiness, anger, ego, are the constant companions of the devilish. They do not follow any rule that distinguishes the right

from the wrong. They do not believe in god. They are given to lust. Whatever there is on earth, they think, could be consumer’s goods. They get angry at the instance of giving away. They are always fond of showing off. Even when they worship, they worship only to show off. They do not have even a trace of the emotion called bhakti in them. They insult others. What to talk of men. They even insult gods. After death they go to hell. After a long term in hell, they are once again born as men. Krishna says that the shastras revealed to the rishis are the road to happiness. Arjuna, however, asks as to what happens to those who do not observe the shastras & yet whatever they do, they do with devotion or bhakti. Krishna points out that blakti could be either sattvika or rajasika or tamasika. Those who enjoy the world with restraint, take healthy food and live in joy are sattvika. The rajasika people love to have rich & spicy food. The tamasika people do not mind to have rotten food. The latter love to put on dirty clothes. One who observes sacrifices with a view to attaining some tangible results and fame as a religious man is certainly rajasika. Those who observe rituals paying no heed to the rules thereof and without any reverence, are tamasika. Penance is of two types viz. physical & mental. Worship, purity in manners & behaviour, brahma-charyya and non-violence are the penance of the body. Truthfulness, contentment without satisfying desire, simplicity and restraint of mind are the penance of the mind. Those who go for penance without any eye on its consequences are sattvika. Those who pursue penance for name & fame are rajasika & tamasika. Those who are sattvika give away without any hope for returns. The rajasika person gives with a hope of getting a likely turn from the donee in times to come. The tamasika person gives away mindlessly without any regard. Arjuna now asks Krishna as to the true nature of renunciation Krishna says, that true remunciation does not mean giving up of all

The Bhagavad Gita

149

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

activity. On the contrary giving up of all hope for fruitions of the activities undergone or undertaken is the true renunciation. Every person must play certain roles. And play he must with sincerity devotion and bhakti. One who plays his role with disinterested attention is never in chains. Chains mean the bonds of action. The right observation of one’s station & duty frees one from the bonds of Karma or action. No matter, whether the role assigned is noble or ignoble, one had better play it. That is dharma. That is worship. Another man’s role could be on the surface more respectable than one’s own assigned role. But one should not opt for another man’s role. Even if the role assigned to one is ignoble, one should act it. There is no earthly activity which is not tainted. So, one had better offer the results of every action to god and act in the living present, in perfect disinterested attitude. If one, however, gives up all activity & submits oneself to God, God liberates. Krishna’s speech, dispels the depression of Arjuna. He does not worry anymore over the consequences of war. He lifts up his bowGandiva.

CHAPTER - XVIII
PRAKRITI The Bhagavadgita in the XIIIth chapter observes that there are the two fathers that are independent of Time & Space. That the Prakriti cannot be described by language is clear from the many names of the Prakriti attributed to it such as Tamas, Unmanifest, Well-being—Home, Rajas, Source—The Primordial, Prakriti, Distortion—Destruction—. The most important— Fountainhead—Motionless—Amnihilation—Grand—Unwavering— fixed—Existing—Non-Existing—Unmanifest—and Having three gunas. In other words Prakriti is the source as well destruction. It exists and yet does not exist. It is fixed & motionless and yet it is the self of distortion. Opposite meet in Prakriti. It is beyond philosophical arguments. Prakriti must be however understood in the context of Purusa. Prakriti is at the same time the doer, the means of action & the action itself. Purusa is the primordial cause of the enjoyment of Prakriti’s activities. The Purusa, seated in Prakriti enjoys the gunas of Prakriti. As we have already observed, the Prakriti is the fountain-head of the three gunas. And whatever activity, we perceive in the nature, human society or in men, are being done by Prakriti. And Prakriti is the first tattva of the 24 tattvas that constitute the phenomenal world for the enjoyment of the Purusa. They 24 tattavas are 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Primordial materiality of Prakriti. Intellect or Mahat Ego or ahamkara Mind or manas Hearing or sruti Touching or Tvac

Prakriti

151

152

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24.

Seeing or Caksus Tasting or Jihva Smalling or Nasa Speaking or vac Grasping or hasta Walking or pada Excreting or payu Procreating or upastha Sound or Sabda Touch or Sparsa Form or rupa Taste or rasa Smell or gandha Space or akasa Air or Vayu Fire or agni Water or ap Earth or Prithvi

The primordial materiality or Prakriti is inherently generative. It has been itself however not generated. Hence it will not dissolve. The twenty-three subdivistion are described as being generated. They are therefore apt to dissolve. They are temporal spatial and unstable. Seven of the subdivisions of Prakriti are generated and at the same time generative. They are mahat, ahamkara and the five subtle elements or panca tanmatra. The Intellect is born of Prakriti. It generates ahamkara. The ahamkara generates manas. Ahamkara also generates the panca Jnanendriya five Karmendriyas and the five tanmatras. These five tanmatras in turn give rise to the five gross elements or pancabhuta. The manas, the five bhutas, the ten indriyas however do not generate such divisions. Because they take part in the theatre of the phenomenal world. It should be however remembered that the ear, nose, eyes that are

dwelled on here are not the physical ear, nose or eye. Nor is the sound or touch, the physical sound or touch. There are different types of noises in the world. The sound tanmatra is the generic sound among them. Similarly there could be various touches. But here one generic touch has been suggested. If there were no generic receptivity of touch there, various types of touch-sensations world not be possible. That is the argument. The manner in which gross elements are derived from the subtle elements known as panchatanmatra has been dwelled on in Anu gita. The subtle sound element or sabda tanmatra gave rise to akasa or space. The subtle sound+the subtle touch element (sparsa tanmatra) gave rise to vayu or air. The subtle sound+subtle touch+subtle form (rupatanmatra) made the gross element fire (agni). The subtle sound+subtle touch+ subtle form+subtle taste element (rasa tanmatra) generate water or ap. The subtle sound+the subtle touch subtle form subtle taste+subtle smell element produce the earth. Hence earth has all the five elements in it viz sound, touch, form, taste & smell. The twenty four tattvas beginning with Prakriti could be arranged as follows :
Prakriti Intellect Ego or Ahamkara (Undifferentiated ego) Vaikarika or Sattvika ego Tejas ego or Rajasika ego Mind hearing touching Seeing Tasting Smelling speaking Grasping Walking excreting procreating Tamasika ego Sound touch form taste smell Space air fire water earth

Prakriti

153

154

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The above fattvas could be further understood in terms of the two sets. While mind, intellect & ego constitute the internal organs, the rest constitute the external organs as well as the world out there.
Adhyatma Mind Intellect Ego The internal organs Adhibhuta Samkalpa Vikalpa To do or not to do To decide To suffer from ego Adhidevata Chandra Brahma Rudra

The concept of adhibhuta, adhidaiva and adhyatmika is a universally recagnised paradigm to analyse and comprehend things in the world. The adhibhuta is what we perceive or act. The adhibhuta is perceptible. The adhyatmika is the tool with which we do so. The adhidaivata is the presidising deity of each tool or act. That way we could interpret the symbolism of the different gods. For example the Sun or Surya is the adhidevata of the eye and seeing. Indeed, if the sun were not there, we could not see & there would be no use of the eye organ. And surely, each Jnanedrya or Karmendrya is linked with one or other of the five Mahabhutas. The internal organs however are not related with the Panchamahabhuta. They only act through the Jnanendryas & Karmendryas in the world made of the Panchamahabhutas. The Panchamahabhuta in turn exist in the three worlds of land water & sky. The Panchamahabhuta give rise to four kinds of life in the birds & snakes (those which are hatched from eggs) the worms (that are born from mud & the like) the plants (that spring from the earth) & the orgnisms that spring from the womb.

156

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XIX
THREE GUNAS The three gunas are a recurrent motif in the gitas, especially in the Bhagavadgita and the Anugita. It occurs at least once in the Hamsagita (Sl. 23) & once in the Vritragita (al-46). In the Parasaragita also it recurs once (VI-2) The three gunas recur not only in the gitas under study but also in the whole range of Puranic literature. The word Guna could mean (1) cord or rope. Besides (2) it could be used as ‘secondaries’ to something. Thirdly it might imply ‘attribute’ or ‘quality’ of a substance. Moreover it might mean outstanding merit. When the Hamsagita says
Na tatha vaktumichhanti Kalyanan puruse gunan

Here body should mean every physical body in the universe. Every body has its functions. And whatever activities are there in the world functions under the spell of the three Gunas. Bodies exist in time. Every act takes place in Time. The Anugita describes the wheel of Time as created by the three gunas. Even the very tattvas that constitute the World or the wheel of Time, own their creation to the three Gunas. The eleventh chapter of the Anu gita observes that the ‘I’ or Ego was the first born from the indeterminate Reality. This Ego has created everything in the world. He has created the world. This ego has three kinds of manifestation in Tamasika, Vaikarika & Taijasa. In other words the whole existence is permeated with the three gunas. The Chapter XIV of the Gita observes. Sattva guna is light and it exposes everything. Rajas is activity. It has thirst for achievement. Tamas implies ignorance. It puts everything under spell. These three qualities are not discrete. They are however a part of the continuum. In other words everything consists of the three gunas. In some, one or other of them dominate. That is all. Actually Sattva and tamas are the two poles of the same continuum Sattva implies openness. Tamas hides everything. Rajas moves to and fro from one pole to another. It implies restlessness and activity. These three qualities dominate the living & the inert. For example tamas dominates among the inert, the animals, the worms and the mean people among us–Men. (A.G-II, 25 also A.G-IX, 20,22) No wonder that man has been also classified under four castes, in the light of the three gunas. It should be remembered that one acts impelled by the a priori guna, that dominates him.

guna has been used in the sloka as ‘outstanding merit’. But otherwise it is secondary to Prakriti The Srimad Bhagavad Gita dwells on the gunas in details in the Gunatraya Vibhaga Yoga Chapter XIV and the Chapters following, so does the Anugita dwell on it in the 6th Chapter onwards. But if we just see into the allusions to the gunas dispersed in the rest of the chapters of the Bhagavadgita we find that guna has been used both as a rope and an attribute. Indeed the Gunas are secondary to Prakriti. They are the attributes of the Prakriti. They act as the rope. Man and World are both overpowered by it. Indeed the guras function as the rope that binds the owner of the body in the body.
Sattvam rajastamah iti gunah prakriti sambhavah nivadhnanti mahavaho dehe dehinamavyam. (BhG-XIV, 5)

Three Gunas

157

158

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The qualities of a man dominated by Tamas are, lust, ignorance, reluctance to give up, irresponsibility, day-dreaming, arrogance, fear, greed, finding fault with others, forgetfulness, heedlessness to consequences, atheism, characterlessness, incapability to judge the right from the wrong, blindness that deems ignorance as knowledge and evil as good, unfriendliness, ugly notions, faithlessness, frolishness, crookedness, feigning not to understand, to perform unholy acts, laziness, lack of reverence, want of self-control, tendency to perform profane acts etc. (Ag-II,12,18) Anxiety, beauty, effort, joy & sorrow, wealth, war & peace, causality, discontent, mercy, prowes, strength, arrogance, anger, exercise, quarrel, jealousy, attachment, finding fault with others, love for tourneys, affection, killing, limitations, grief, buying & selling, to torture others, repentance, to brood over useless things, exhilaration, excitenent, rape, self-centredness, slaving for others, lust to be at another’s disposal, to show off oneself, prodigality, slandering, acceptance of gifts—all these characterise the people who have more rajas. (A.G- VII, 1-8) Joy and happiness, progress, to express oneself, unmiserliness, fear-lessness, contentment, kindness, perseverance, non-violence, equanimity of mind, truthfulness, simiplicity, without anger, without jealousy, cleanliness in every aspect, skill, prowess — these characterise the people who have more Sattva. (A.G-VIII,2) Consequently, Lord Krishna characterises different activities of men, such as making gifts, observing rituals and their attitudes on the scale of the three gunas. This classification of men & all that we survey in this phenomenal world is not based on any arbitrary view point at all. We human beings are five sensory animals. The approach of our science is quantitative & not qualitative. Our scientist can show how hydrogen and oxygen mingle to make water. But can it explain how the oxygenness of oxygen

& hydrogenness of hydrogen give rise to the thirst—quenching power of water. As long as, science does not explain it, it can not have any claim to hundred percent truth. We know each thing through its difference from another thing. And the difference is perceived through difference in their respective qualities. The cup on the table has a unique shape ; it has solidity ; it is white and so on. These qualities of the cup, distinguish it from saucer or from a pan. The approach of the gitas and the ancient Indian literature is to focus on this distinguishing quality of an object, be it inert or living. Take away sugarness from sugar, will it remain sugar anymore? The many qualities that we perceive in the world have been reduced to three primal ones in sattva rajas and tames by the ancient Indian seers. Whatever we perceive in the world is a combination of these three. The world view of the seers is that these gunas being facades of the same continuum are one-trigun. They are not the tattvas that constitute the world. They are not entities. But they become the entities. Since, the same Triguna work through mind as well as matter, according to the seers of the gitas there is no ontological distinction between matter & mind. The Cartesian dichotomy of mind having thought as its quality and matter having extension as its quality holds no water in this light. The subjective flow of experience is simply another way of describing the objective primal material energy that manifest in a continuing process of spontaneous activity, rational ordering & determinate formulation. In other words the subjective dilemma is but the inherent dilemma in the world.

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XX
THE AHAMKARA The tenth & eleventh chapter of the Anugita dwells on Mahat which sprang first from the primordial materiality or Prakriti. The Mahat manifested into ego when differentiated. The Ego of those types were dominated by one or another Guna. The tamasika ego manifested itself into the five elements in Eter, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. The Vaikarika ego caused the Jnanendryas to be born. It is dominated by Sattva. The Taijasa ego caused the five Karmendryas and the five prauas or life-breaths to emerge.
Mahat Ego Tajasa Speech Hand Leg exeretion Sexorgan

CHAPTER - XXI
PURUSA The concept of Purusa; must be understood in terms of Prakriti and Purushottama. Prakriti & Purusha are both primordial. Prakriti according to chapter XIII Bhagavad Gita presides over causality. Prakriti is the fountain-head of ego, intellect & mind-in short antah, karana as well as the body and the physical nature consisting of earth air fire and ether. In other words mind is made of the same stuff as physical nature. The West under the impact of Descartes however has been suffering from mind-matter dichotomy. Physics cannot explain mind. Science has developed a theory whereby life & mind have evolved from matter. The theory of mind as per the gitas seem to see eye to eye with that of modern science on the whole. But the notion of Purusa as different from Prakriti is quite absent in Western science & philosophy. The concept of Purusha is unique. If mind is Prakriti and nothing else, Purusa is different from what Prakriti is. Purusa is mindless, egoless and sans intellect. And still it is what enjoys the fortunes of Prakriti. It is not merely a witness. Prakriti is everything that we perceives Purusha is what Prakriti is not. Thus Purusa is nothing. It is this nothing that not only witnesses the change in Prakriti, but also has empathy for the changes in Prakriti. Thereby it undergoes the fortunes of Prakriti and transmigration. How does the Nothing undergoes the fortunes of Prakriti and transmigration. The one nothing is conceived by the intellect. Intellect is limited by the body. And the one nothing becomes pent up in myriads of bodies as myriads of nothings. Nothing has no content. But when the limited intellect conceives it, nothing appears as what it is not. It passively takes on all content, whether subjective or objective as a transparent witness. A double negation occurs, whereby that which has nothing & that which is nothing appears to have content and

Tamasika Sky Air Fire Water Earth

Vaikarika Ear Skin Eye Tongue Nose

The five breaths

Purusa

161

162

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

conciousness. Consciousness is always consciousness of something. It is thereby limited. It cannot grasp the infinite. The nothing makes intellect what it is, that is conscious of the self of intellect & body. At the same time, the one nothing being coloured with the consciousness of the intellect which is always limited becomes fragmented and each fragment of nothing thereby becomes conscious. This is how the one purusa becomes many purusas or the individual souls that undergo transmigration of the soul. The avyakta and the vyakta.
vyaktah sattvagunastesam purusovyakta ishyate. (AG XX-16)

The nothing and everything or Prakriti, (Ag-20-16) are sublated under the notion of Brahman. Hence Brahman has been described as is and is not. It is the function of Purushottama to preside over Brahman and Prakriti both. Brahman is his residence, Brahman is his higher charm. Prakriti is his lower faculty. The Visnu, the Purushottama, through the nothing, distorted in the body donning eleven senses, viz, the five sense of awareness, jnanendryas, five senses with which one acts viz Karmendryas and mind drinks in the Prakriti with their rays. Indeed, if there were no Purusa, no individual soul viz. the nothing fragmented in myriads of bodies to enjoy the world, would there be any world as such? He is always in control of himself. He is alone. He has no home. He is always plunged in awareness. He has no rapport with those who are in worldly life or else who are in Vanaprastha. Indeed those who have the awareness can attain liberation. Or else it will be sheer hard work and nothing will come out of it. The final legitimation of Harita is— say—Have no fear, to all the world and get out of the worldly life. Krishna also repeatedly dwells on the model of an ideal man. Actually man does not act from any abstract idea in his mind. He must have a model engraved in his psyche. If the ideal man of the

Harita could be impressed on the minds of men, the life and world about us would be different. Thus the speaker of the Harita Gita is a psychologist par excellence. Of course the Harita Gita poses a few problems. For example some men of our time might ask whether the ideal man of the Harita Gita is ideal enough? Is he not an escapist? Besides, as per the frame of reference in the then India, chaturvarna and the chatur-ashrama are archetypal. Even Lord Krishna — the highest voice under the sun asserts that he founded the four castes on the basis of station and duties And everyone should keep to his station and duties. And of course one should obey the four stages of life as depicted by Kalidasa.

164

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XXII
THE ARCHETYPE OF PURUSASUKTA SRI VISNU Vritra claims he has seen the Vaikuntha purusa Visnu. He is the only deathless eternal entity. He is white. His hair is grey. He has grey beard & moustache. He is the grandfather of the existence. He lives in Vaikuntha or freedom. Such a portrait of Visnu is perhaps not found anywhere else in the Purunic or Vedic literature. The Vritra gita points out that it is he who creates the universe, sustains it and destroys. It is he who is the changing & the changeless in the existence. It is he who drinks in the fountain of the manifest world with the eleven senses. His legs are the earth, his head is the heaven. His four hands are the four directions. The skies are his ears. The sun is his eyes. The moon is his mind, his intellect is wisdom and his tongue is the water. The planets shine where his eyebrows meet. The stars have leaped from his eyes. He is the world. He is its lord. The Vedas are the hair of his body. The deathless sound OM is his speech. He is everything what is & what is not. He is the sacrifice. He is the gods who are addressed during a sacrifice. We have already noted how Lord Visnu is the universe & how his different limbs are the different aspects of the same. It reminds of Prajapati. This imagery of Lord Visnu reminds one of the Purusa-Sukta in the Vedas. The Purusa-Sukta speaks of the purusa, who had thousand heads & thousand legs. The same imagery recurs in sloka 14 Ch.-XIII (Bhagavat Gita).
His palms & legs are found everywhere. His eyes and head & mouth are everywhere. His ears are everywhere. He exists covering everything.

(Also compare Anu gita Ch.II 49. Here it is attributed to Brahman). The same sloka recurs in the Ag. X 4 as well. But the Anu gita attributes this myriad limbed purusa to Mahat, which has sprung from the Avyakta or Prakriti. This Mahat is known as Visnu. In the Purusasukta, the Virat, sprang from this myriad headed purusa and the four castes sprang from four parts of his body. In the Parasara gita, on the other hand the fountain head of the four castes is the body of Lord Brahma (VII 5) himself. Thus while the Purusa seems to have been derived from the Avyakta, and is identified with Visnu, Brahma has been derived from Visnu according to the myths and could be identified with the Virat. Bhisma, however observes in the Vr. Gita that Krishna one of the protagonists is himself the higher self or Visnu.
Turiyamsena tasyemam viddhi Kesavam achyutam

166

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XXIII
KRISHNA Let us now see how Krishna describes himself. In the XV the Chapter of Brahman Gita, Krishna describes himself as the Kshetrajna who sees the conversation between the intellect & the mind in a particular body. One wonders whether the individual soul is identical with the Kshetrajna or not. The words Kshetrajna must be understood in contrast with Kshetra. Ch. XIII of the Anu gita points out that the avyakta, wherefrom the gunas spring and where they vanish, is known as Kshetra. Brahma says that it is he who knows it and sees it. It is he who is Kshetrajna. The three gunas cannot recognise him. But he knows them. He is beyond avyakta and the three gunas. The word Kshetra could mean, any body whatever. It could be the body of man. It could mean the body of the universe as well. And each Kshetra has it Kshetrajna. When Brahma in the Anu gita Ch. XIII states that he is the Kshetrajna, he is the Kshetrajna indeed in every body be it an atom or the universe. Thus he is one and yet he is the many Kshetrajnas in the myriad bodies; no one knows him; he knows them. Thus when Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita Ch. XIII observes.
Ksetrajnancapi mam viddhi Sarvaksetresu Bharata.

darkness too in tajjyotistamasah paramucyate And of course this Kshetrajna is the Purusa and Kshetra should be identified with the Prakriti. Prakriti is the doer. Hence the world as a fleeting show occasioned by ceaseless action, cause & effect, pertains to Prakriti. The Kshetrajna or Purusa is conscionsness that enjoys the beauty of the same.
Purusah bhunkte hi prakritijan gunan

Now this is very ambiguous. It seems that each self has a Kshetrajna in its soul which not only enjoys the fortunes of the self but also the fortunes of the soul that undergoes transmigration. But on another level the Kshetrajna which includes all the Kshetrajnas is the seer. To see is to become. That is what Brahmasutra announces. The Kshetrajna is the panopticon through which the existence reveals itself. If there were no seer, there would be nothing there to be seen indeed.
Ksetram Ksetri tatha Kritsnam prakasayati bharata.

The Kshetra could be identified with the Kshara. Kshara is what is subject to decay & death.
Odhibhutam ksaro bhava

The substratum lurking behind the phenomenal world is adhibhuta. It is Prakriti no doubt. It is characterised by spending of energy or activity which creates & destroys.
bhutabhavodbhavakaro visargah Karmasanjitam.

he means that he is in every heart as the Kshetrajna. He is in every cell of the body as its Kshetrajna. He is in the heart of the universe as its Kshetrajna. In short he is the many Kshetrajnas residing in the many that constitutes the world. When these Kshetrajnas are taken together as one he has myriads of heads & legs. He creates and destroys Even though he lives in every heart he lives in the world beyond

Its presiding spirit is Purusa or conscinness that perceives it, Brahman must be understood as different from the Purusa as because he is aksara as opposed to Ksara. He is the changeless. The ever changing panorama of the world suggests its antonym the aksara or the unchanging. Purusa is in between them. It is the Ksherajna. It is the virat of the Vedas. When Krishna in the Bh. Gita or Brahma in the Anu gita identifies himself with Kshetrajna, he identifies himself with a lower self in hier-

Krishna

167

168

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

archy of the many selves in the existence. Krishna is actually the Purushottama. In the chapter eight he describes himself as the adhiyajna. The Vedas claim that the sacrificial fire pervades the whole existence And Krishna is the presiding deity of all activity or yajna Activity as it has been already pointed out is Prakriti itself. When activity is looked upon as yajna, its presiding deity is Krishna. In other words Krishna presides over Prakriti too. The whole existence lives through him through yajna. And Krishna is adhiyajna. He says in chapter XV BhG. that the energies that embody in the sun or moon or fire, are his. The energies that digest food for the living body are his own (S-1,12,15). The same idea Krishna presents in third person in Chapter VIII.
Purusah sah parah partha partha bhaktya labhyastvananyaya yasyantasthitani bhutani yena sarvamidam tatam

The Purusa here should be identified with Krishna. Himself. And Sanjay sees the Purusa through the eyes of Arjuna in Chapter XI.
tatraikastham jagat kritsnam pravibhaktam anekadha

The whole world is there and yet it is an endless chaos of countless fragments. Arjuna finds the future as present in Krishna. Even though Krishna is Visnu or Mahat that has sprung from Prakriti, Krishna claims that Prakriti is his own. It is of two types in para & apara. The world of appearance is but the manifestation of the lower self of Prakriti. It constitutes, the five bhutas as well as the internal organs like mind, intelligence & ego. The Para Prakriti on the other hand holds all the existence in it. (Chapter-III, 4,5). The three gunas, that constitute the Prakriti Krishna claims, has kept the world engrossed (Bh.G, Ch-III,13). And this is Krishna-maya (Bh.GVII,14). Thus Maya or illusion seems to be the power of the Prakriti on the existence.

Besides it seems that there is another kind of charm exerted by Krishna which is Yogamaya. It is Yogamaya that hides Krishna from the view (Bh.G -III,25). Thus just as Prakriti is of two types in Para and apara, Maya is also two types in maya and yogamaya. While the maya is responsible for the manifestation of the external world, external to Krishna, the yogamaya’s function is to hide Krishna from the view. How is it that the very Prakriti which gives birth to Krishna or Visnu is itself owned by Krishna. The duality of cause & effect, & sequence of events, exist in time & space. But here the discourse belongs to a realm, which is beyond time & space or beyond the world that we perceive. When one seeks to express such things which are beyond time & space in terms of human language which is itself created with the stuff of time & space, the reality beyond cannot but be expressed in terms of sequence in time. Language moves in time. So while expressing something which is beyond time. We have to make this prior to that or vice versa. Thus functionally sometimes Prakriti is prior to Purusa & sometimes the opposite. Sometimes, the purusa and Prakriti are discrete. Some times one is dependent on another or vice versa. In Chapter XV of the Bh. Gita Krishna dwells on three types of Purusa in kshara, akshara and purushottama. The Kshara is one which changes ceaselessly. It is the world It could be identified with Prakriti. The akshara is that which does not change. This could be identified with Brahman. And there is a third one in Purushottama. Krishna identifies himself with this Purushottama. It is superior to both kshara and akshara. It is he who pervades the three worlds and maintains the same. He is immutable. And of course he is not the world. The world is in him. He is not in the world.
tatraikastham jagat kritsnam

Krishna

169

170

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The Purusasukta says Sa bhumim sarvato vritva atyatisthat dasangulam These many terms Purusa, Prakriti, adhibhuta, adhidaiva, adhiyajna, adhyatma, kshara aksara Brahman and Purushottama, on the surface scem to confuse us. But in fact, while, Prakriti, adhibhuta and ksara could be identical, akshara, Brahma and adhyatma are identical. The Purusa is one which lives in every form. He is the formless lurking in it. He is the consciousness lurking in it. Thus there are many purusas perhaps that are distorted into individual souls. The purusa, that sublates both the Brahman and the Prakriti is Krishna the Purusottama. The Purushottama is sometimes described as Purusa e.g.
Pranayamairathae pranan samyamya sa punah punah dasadvadasabhirvapi caturvimsat param tatah.

(A.G- XVIII, 4) Brahman as, we have already observed is neither is, not is not.
Na sat na tannasaducyate

(Bh.G-XII, 13) On the other hand there is prakriti or the Phenomenal world which is subject to ceaseless change. Krishna the Purushottama seems to be the principle that co-ordinates the two opposites. The relationship between Krishna & Brahman as dwelled on in the BhG is curious to note. In Chapter XIV-3,4 Krishna says :–
Mama Yoni mahad Brahma Tasmin Garbha dadamyaham Sarva Yonisu Kaunteya murtayah Sadbhavantiyah. Tasam Brahma, mahad yoni aham vijaprada pita.

who is Krishna. The phenomenal world which is ceaseless action and change, has been likened to yajna and Krishna is adhiyajna. In other words he is adhi-prakriti. Krishna identifies himself as the father of the universe giving seed to Brahman and superior to Brahman. This is overtly patriarchal. It should not be however presumed that ancient Indian seriptures are wholly patriarchal. The Devi Gita, an excerpt from the Devi Bhagavat Purana is the speech of the Primordial Mother. There she says that she is, the primordial reality which has two aspects in Brahman and Maya. Maya neither is, nor is not. Brahman undergoes change and becomes the world being enmeshed in Maya. In this context Maya seems to be associated with female principle where Brahman is the seed. The reality is neither male nor female, but two in one. It is the Holy Mother. Arjuna finds the whole universe in Krishna in cants. XI of BhG Krishna also claims over & over again that the whole universe is in him. This suggests womb imagery. Thus the primordial father of the existence is its mother too. Visnu is the fountain head of creation. He is instinct with Brahma (A.G-XIV, 16). The Brahmapurusa is superior to Pradhana (A.GXX).

The notion of yoni or the container is always associated with the feminine. In other words Brahman has been depicted here as the primordial mother. If Prakriti is action, the first action, that is, giving seed to the Brahman, has been performed by the primordial Purusa

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XXIV
TIME Prakriti is action & cause & effect. It is change itself. Action, change, cause & effect presuppose time. Time in turn presupposes action. One is always the child of the other. The father is the son, so says the New Testament. The Anugita describes change as a wheel. The essence of the wheel that moves in time & space, is intelligence. Mind is its rod. The senses bind the wheel with themselves. It is made of the five elements. It is covered with ignorance. It is born with senility & sorrow. It is the fountain-head of disease and death. The sound that it gives could be described as hard labour. Day & night drive it. The circle it creates comprises of summer & winter. Weal and woe are its joints. Hunger & thirst are its nails. The wheel is subject to the influence of the gunas. When rajas dominates, the wheel creates, when tamas dominates the wheel destroys, when the Sattva dominates, the wheel gives rise to knowledge. It is the knowledge of the wheel indeed that helps one to get rid of time . In the XIIth chapter of the Anu gita, the wheel of time has been dwelled on. The wheel of time is a substance . It is a vast sea. Its depth is unplumbed. It expands & contracts. The gods recognise it thereby. In the Chapter XI of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna identifies himself with time. I am time itself. I destroy the worlds. Actually, the pisgah vision that Arjuna espied in the body of Krishna is his time-self in which time past and time future are as it were in eternal present. That is how Krishna is adhiyajna indeed. He is at the heart of all actions.

CHAPTER - XXV
THE WORLD Krishna himself says in the Bhagavadgita ,
Avyaktadini bhutani Vyaktamadhyani Bharata Avyaktanidhannyeva Tatra Ka paridevana.

In other words, the existence is a mystery. Its origin is unmanifest. It passes away into the unknown or the unmanifest. The interregnum between the two is what our existence is. Hence it is inscrutable. It is a mystery. The avyakta could be construed as the premordial matter as well, which is also unmanifest. Be it whatever it may, in the World that we witness everything from the Brahma or the creator to the myriads of the world revolve over and over again as it were along a wheel. Thousand yugas (Satya, treta, dvapara & kali together make a yuga) together make a day for the creator. Another thousand yuga together make a night for the creator. With the day break of the creator, the unmanifest starts flowering. With the advent of the evening of the creator the worlds droop. With the dawn of the next day, they again revive. So apparently it is in Time that the World is manifest and then it is in Time only that the creation is hidden from the eye. So how did the creator forge this world. Anu gita chapter III observes, that the creator himself forged his own body at his will. Thereafter he created the Prakriti. Here one might ask as to how is that Prakriti was created. Because earlier it has been posited that Prakriti & Purusa were two primordial entities. The concept of infinite is relative. From our stand point Prakriti & Purusa are primordial. They were never created as

The World

173

174

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

it were. But when our imagination, stretches beyond, from the creator’s stand point Prakriti was created. The Anu gita in Chapter X observes that Visnu sprang from the primordial Prakriti on his own. He is the Mahat. Ego evolved from its. Ego gave rise to the creation that is the phenomenal world. Hence Ego is known as Prajapati. It was Prajapati’s mind that created the World (A.G- XXI,14). It was from ego that the five elements were born and hence the variegated creation. Brahma says in the Anugita that during Pralaya or becoming non-manifest, they go back to their sources (Ch- XIII,4) and remain in unmanifest state only to resurrect during creation. Thus creation & destruction & creation rolls on as a cycle, like the flow tide & ebb tide. And it seems that the five elements take shape in four kinds of life during creation. (A.G, Ch- XIII, 33). If our interpretation of the sloka is correct then, it is in agreement with the position taken by the modern science regarding the emergence of life from matter. The first kind is that which is born from eggs such as the birds & the snakes. The Anu gita classes the birds & snakes together. The myth created by Darwin also, posits that snakes could fly in earlier times. The second kind were worms that were born in polluted water. They are Svedaja. The third kind were the entities that sprang from below the soil and shot up penetrating the soil. They are Udvijja or trees & plants & creepers. Besides there was the fourth kind which spring from uterus. They include men and animals. But this is not all. The rishis look upon the inert also as a some form of life.
Samsaraviksepa sahasrakotistithanti jivah pracayanti canye

And they cannot be exhausted or counted. Vapya jalam Ksipyati valakotya tvahna sakriccap na dvirtyam Tasam ksaye viddhi param niargam samharamekanca tatha prajanam Within a fraction of a second, the creator, can create & destroy the lives. The risis, however, donot deem the body as the self. Or else they would not have argued that souls undergo transmigration. They might don the shape of gods. At the same time, the gods might degenerate into inert things. The Vritra Gita says, With the passage of time, the soul degenerates into the lowest state that is the inert state. Thus in other words, inert things are not also what they seem. Something else, call them souls, preside over them. They do not die with the change of their state. It is assumed that every water drop has a soul in it. When it becomes vapour, the soul lurking behind it does not die. It only dons a new form. May be it may be a particle of vapour. Or else it dons some other material shape. This kind of imagination springs from the perception of certain facts. Do we ever look upon a dead body, with the same love & passion, that are directed towards a living body. (A. G-II, 23, 24 ). Sariranca jahatyevam niruchhasasce drisyte Sa nirusma niruchhaso nihsriko hatacetanah Brahmana Samparitykto mrita ityucyate naraih If we had assembled all the material ingredients that constitute a body would there life appear at all? Our popular belief is that when a man & wife meet there is reproduction of life. In the fifh chapter of the Brahmana Gita Narada observes that life appears before, the semen and ovum unite. Sukrat Sonita Sashristat purvam pranah pravartate (A.G-V, 6) And we could take the cue from it and argue further. If mind were not there, life could not be directed to form a zygote. Mind has been

(Vr. G- II, 30) Lives in this world are numerous.
Prajavisargasy ca parimanyam vapi sahasrani vahuni dai tyah

The World

175

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

directed by intelligence in turn. The intelligence could not be there if there were no ego which sought to decide. This ego is a part of a cosmic ego indeed that springs from Mahat. Thus, while science observes that mind manifests from matter, the gitas posit that matter is the epiphenomenon of mind. Indeed body is a concept of mind. If there were no mind, there would be no notion of body. But at the same time mind cannot exist without a body. The two, mind & body are therefore mere concepts. One knows not which one is prior to the other. The same argument could be stretched & we reach the notion of the primordials—purusa and pradhana. But since what looks inert has also purusa lurking in it, no body is body. And Pradhana is itself mind, born of Purusa. Or else Purusa is at bottom body or sprung from Pradhana. In other words the notion of mind body dichotomy is functional only. There are both mind & body. There is neither body nor mind. There are Purusa & Prakriti. There is neither Purusa nor Prakriti. There is neither notPurusa nor not-Prakriti. The reality sublates both. The reality is beyond both. The reality is Brahman. Brahman as the Nasadya Sukta affirms, neither is nor is not. The Purushottam Krishna, however, coordinates the reality with the appearance. He has thousand eyes and thousand heads. We can worship him everywhere and anywhere.

CHAPTER - XXVI
THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL OR THE JIVATMAN The Reality neither is nor is not. The appearance is, however different. It consists of innumerable bodies. They exist through difference from one another. The plant is different from rocks. The rocks are different from the animals. Man is different from other animals. More to it. One man is different from another. One rock is different from another. One orang-otung is different from another orang otung. They however seem to exist only in the contingent. Because, they are born. They grow. Finally they are subject to decay or death. From nowhere do they spring & into nowhere do they vanish. Or else, they leap from the indeterminate, and they mingle with the indeterminate after an hour’s stay here on earth—the realm of appearance. But the gitas posit that these appearances are the vestiges of a higher reality which is the individual soul. These individual souls are as numerous as the smallest possible particles in the existence; they constitute everything & every being from the highest gods who appear in the meditation of the most mighty risis to the lowest particle that defies our microscope. And the soul does not die or wear out with the wearing out of its vestige. Since the proper study of mankind is man, the Mahabharata dwells on its theory of individual soul in the context of man. The Bhagavad gita says that just as childhood, youth and old age are different stages of the human body, so is death. One must not mourn over that. The owner of the body is the soul which does not die with the death of its apparel—the body. The body in the context of the gitas implies body & mind both. In the light of Indian world=view mind is as much material as the body. One is apt to ask why these individual souls put on bodies. The answer is that, each one of them have special leanings for the world of appearance and they don bodies or are born in this world of appearance accordingly. For example man is born into particular station

The Individual Soul or The Jivatman

177

178

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

& duties in this society as per the leanings of the particular soul-in-the body. Yes being born as man presupposes human society. Each soulin-the-human-body is born in a particular station accompanying certain set of duties. A teacher for example has his duties to teach. And, of course, the human society as such has different hierarchies and the soul-in-the-body is placed in one or another station there, in harmony with its desires. How did desires spring? This is very difficult to answer since the texts of the gitas are silent on the issue. The Parasaragita however, observes that Brahma, the creator gave birth to the Brahmins. It were from the Brahmins that other castes emerged. King Janaka asks why should men be so different from one another if they are children of eternal fire. The Brahmins who sprang from the creator, we may interpolate, were born in human form only to enjoy the sights & sounds of the appearance. They however, pursued penance. But in course of time their eagerness for penance waned. Parasara gita chapter V narrates how the devils were jealous of these first inhabitants of the earth. It were they who entered into men and evoked in them pride. Pride begets anger. And the human society consequently became nahsty & brutish. Of course this corresponds with the fall of man, through the machinations of Satan as depicted in the Bible. Man and Society go together. One does not exist without the other. And the body of society has its mouth, hands & feet. The Prasaragita echoing the Vedic Purusa Sukta classifies mankind into four classes as per their functions. The Brahmin is its mouth. He gives the language to the society. Accordingly the Kshatrya is the arm of the society. He keeps up law & order. The Vaisya is the thigh. He creates surplus wealth for the society through trade & commerce. The Sudra is the leg. He is the producer of goods. The society stands on the work done by the Sudras indeed. The mingling of these four castes brought about other castes in the society. Now the soul-in-the body as per its leanings is born in a particular

caste and has his corresponding duties. At the same time other bodies in the world attract him or repel him. The different values are the construct of the society. The soul-in-the body reacts to them in his own way. Thus he develops his samskara or leaning. When the body wears out, the soul lingers. It carries with it the leanings for earth. The Bhagavad Gita states that the hopes and desires, cherished by the soul-in-the body accompany the soul when its body wears out just as fragrance accompanies the winds. So, the soul is born again in the body impelled by the desires. The Anugita dwells on elaborately as to how the soul doffs the body when its lease of the body is over. The winds that constitute the life-force are pent up in the body by heat. This heat shatters the joints of the body. And with great pains the soul exits from the body. The soul is born again in a fresh body. It is equally painful an experience for the soul. Because, it must gather about itself the five elements while in the womb. Ordinary mortals cannot espy the soul. The Anugita chapter II observes that the wise can only perceive it when it comes out of the body. It shines like a fire-fly before their eyes. The Parasaragita observes that the soul that leaves the body is not necessarily born-inthe-body presently. For a time it floats in the air like a cloud (PG. VIII). Finally to reap its leanings it is born again in the womb earmarked for it. The Anugita chapter III argues that the soul-in-the body comes to reap its pre-natal leanings borne from the earlier birth or prarabdha. In course of fresh actions he develops further leanings or fresh prarabdhas to be reaped in another birth.. Thus the soul moves along a never-ending cycle being born in the body and dying in the body. We ordinary men see the body. But we cannot see the soul that presides over the body. It is the soul that alights the body with individual consciousness just as a lamp that illuminates the whole room. This is a perception that reverses our common sense biology. With

The Individual Soul or The Jivatman

179

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

us the body comes first & then life & then mind. But what is a body without life? It is a dead-body which we detest. So if there were no a priori life, there could be no body. Life in a body consisting of the different winds, must have the zest for life. So mind must precede the body. The mind must have the intelligence and ego where by it could will to live. Hence ego or ahamkara and intelligence or bodhi must appear before the mind. Ego springs from consciousness or awareness of itself. This consciousness springs from the individual soul. While mind & body die, the individual soul does not die. And yet it is not the reality. It is itself the universal soul that differentiates itself through many moulds of fragmented desire. Desire itself is desire for something. Hence desire always implies fragmentation. The Parasaragita observes that just as the same molten iron takes different shapes in different mould so does the universal soul takes different shapes as the individual souls in different moulds of desire. The individual soul coloured with desire is instinct with the three gunas. Kshetra is that which changes ceaselessly. The body is the Kshetra. Kshetrajna is that which observes the change. Thus the individual soul is the Kshetrajna. And yet it is itself the Kshetra in another context. And there is another Kshetrajna in that context.

CHAPTER - XXVII
CASTE-SYSTEMS The Vritra Gita Ch.-II gives a vivid description of the odysseus of the soul-in-the-body in terms of colour symbolism. Souls, it says could have either of the six kinds of complexions—black, smoke, blue, red, yellow & white. How do the souls develop such complexion is nowhere explicitly said. Perhaps each soul has affinity to a particular dye in consonance with its desires. The Vritra Gita points out that black, smoke and blue souls are just average. The red ones have great tolerance. The yellow ones are pleasing. The white ones give joy to every one. The black ones are apt to sin. They are destined for hell. They sojourn in the hell for million times. Thereafter they attain smokecolour. When sattvaguna seems to dawn upon them, their intellect controls the tamas in them. Then they attain red complexion. If sattvaguna is less, they are born as men having blue complexion. Thereafter for ages & aeons they suffer in the worldly life through births & deaths. Then they attain yellow colour & become god-men. Still they are not free from longing. So such a soul has to be reborn as man again. He goes through births & rebirths & degenerates into black again. Once again he ascends from black to red & then to yellow. Thus after such ascends & descends the soul takes on white complexion. They are as white as the sages such as Sanaka. They are born over and over again in that robe. And finally they ascend to Brahmaloka once for all. Vritragita dwells on the complexion of each soul. When Sri Krishna says that chaturvarnyam maya srstam gunakarma vibhagasah, he perhaps raised the castes on the basis of their inherent qualities as well as colours & on the basis of their a priori fondness for the type of work in the society. The gitas observe that everyone should perform his duties befitting his station in the society. The gitas broadly divide the society into four

Caste-Systems

181

182

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

castes viz. Brahmin, Ksatrya Vaisya & Sudra. Let us now consider the duties associated with each one of these castes. It is commonly supposed that the duties of each caste has been ordained by immanent law of man’s existence in the society. This is true. The duties of each caste are not prescriptive only. Because they are born with a priori affinity for them. This affinity for them has been attained by the soul only through experiences, gained through numerous earlier births & deaths. Although the Bhagavadgita dwells on the rationale behind the caste system, it does not say much on the duties of each caste. It however exhorts Arjuna to fight, because he is born in the warrior-caste. To take part in war is his a priori nature. And one must not go against one’s nature and a priori inclination.
Svadharme nidhanam Sreyah Paradharmo bhayavaha.

One had better die pursuing one’s a priori inclination than to live against innateinclination aping others. Thus the Bhagavad gita asks everyone to be in his elements. If the Bhagavadgita is reticent as to the duties earmarked for the different castes, Parasaragita dwells on it elaborately. The fourth chapter of the P.G observes that if the Sudras do not have any other hereditary occupations as such, they had better serve the three castes Brahmin Ksatrya & Vaisya. The Vaisyas should pray to Parjanya & pursue cultivation, and animal husbandry. Thereby they should enrich themselves. The king should protect them and their wealth. The Brahmin should offer sacrifice to the gods & the ancestors. The task of the sudras is to help them in their pursuit. Here it should be noted that the Sudras belong to the lower hierarchy in the society. But it does not necessarily mean that the souls of higher capability are never born among the Sudras. In ch VII Parasara posits out that even great souls, are born in the womb of a sudra mother. The risis often lifted up their children born of sudra mother to great heights. One wonders whether he refers to his own son Vedavyasa, the author

of the Mahabharata in this context. Teaching, observing sacrifice, and accepting gifts are the duties of a Brahmin. The warrior class should protect other members of the society. Peasantry, animal husbandry & trade & commerce are the duties of a Vaisya. Sudras should look after these three castes. The three castes other than Sudras will degenerate if they do not perform their prescribed duties. The Sudras have no such chance of fall. On the other hand Parasara says that he deems the truthful Sudras as the self of Visnu–the high god who protects & sustains the world. Although Parasara admits of the hierarchy of the castes he observes that men belonging to the higher caste is not always venerable. A man belonging to lower caste could be a god-man as well. Such a man never commits a sin. The caste system as prescribed by the gitas is not that rigid. The Parasara Gita, straight-way observes that impelled by economic exigency, a Brahmin could take to the occupations of a Kshatrya & Vaisya. And yes, Dronacharyya acted as a Kshatrya, though born a Brahmin. Thus we could surmise that a society structured by the four castes in the main were no doubt deemed to be ideal by the Mahabharata. But there is no reason to believe that the society is raised on a rigid system of castes. Surely, the society as depicted in the Mahabharata was not a whit better than ours. There also economic exigency might drive men to occupations which were against their a priori inclination (P.G. IV-3). In others words, equal economic opportunities were not there even for the Brahmins in those days. Heredity has great importance in the then society. People had better follow their hereditary occupation. That is all. But the law-givers have provided for exception. A child born of a Brahmin father and a lower caste woman is not to be debunked. Indeed quite a number of finest saints, enshrined in the Mahabharata are born of lowly mothers. Needless to say, the composer of the Mahabharata-Vedavyasa himself is one of them. The Sudras, however, have been debarred from performing the rites earmarked

Caste-Systems

183

184

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

for the other three castes. He can however opt for commerce, animal husbandry & other arts & crafts. But it does not necessarily mean, that the sudras were deemed as lowly for that. The caste system still continues in India, May be it is no longer in its pristine purity, as some might opine. Be that as it may the present author belongs to the Brahmin caste & he once happened to meet the Sabars—men of a so called lowly caste in Midnapore only to learn that the Sabar people look upon the Brahmins as their son-in-law. They recount a myth in which a Brahmin married a sabar woman. King Santanu, Bhisma’s father had to pay respect due to his father-in-law, a fisher-man, when he wedded his daughter. Be that as it may, as per the gitas, one has to admit that the soul-inbody, through its activities in the society and longings born thereof must excelsior higher & higher from one caste to another. In other words hierarchy on the basis of caste system in the society was very much advocated. Krishna says that the hierarchy is based on two axes, one is guna & the other is karma. Well the Brahmin hereditarily attains a love for sacrifice and abstract thinking. Heredity is no longer an outdated concept now-a-days. The Kshatrya has an hereditary aptitude to fight. The Vaisyas hereditarily acquire a taste for trade and commerce and so on. Rajaguna dominates the characters of Vaisyas & Ksatryas. The Sudras do well when they help other castes to pursue their goals. The guna that dominates them is tamas. The second axis on which the caste hierarchy stands is Karma or the mode of activity. Well the Vaishyas devote themselves in agriculture animal husbandry & trade & commerce. It is they who produce the wealth. Hence the society must see to that the mafias or political parties do not stand in their way. They must be protected. Their wealth must be protected. Hence maintenance of law & order is of prime importance. Who maintains the law & order of the society? The Ksatryas.

Man however cannot be happy with bread alone. Who will give the language to the society so that it can meditate on higher values? They are the Brahmins. And surely there must be men to help all these higher castes in their pursuit. And they are the Sudras. If we reflect a little, we find that all these four castes in the large, based on Karma could be found everywhere in the civilized world. But since a priori inclinations are not always judged, one who could be a successful banker often happens to serve a college as a teacher and one who was fit to be a teacher perhaps serves a multinational company as a manager. That is why most of us do not have jobsatisfaction. More to it. It is often like a round screw in a square hole. And consequently we are in a blunder-land while Alice chanced to visit a wonder land. Here we donot have the required out-put & the govt clamours for work-culture. Ours is indeed a queer society. Here money is at the centre. If one is a tomfool and still if he has money, he can have a Socrates as his private secretary. If one has money, & if he is the ugliest person under the Sun, he can jolly well marry the most beautiful woman in the world. May be such instances could be found in the society of the Mahabharata as well. But the chief value in the society as depicted in the Mahabharata is self-lessness. Brahmins impelled by sattvaguna are selfless by nature. Hence they are at the highest rung of the society of the Mahabharata. Next in prestige are the Kshatryas. The rich viz. the Vaisyas are next in social prestige. Since money is at the centre of our society, one can rob another of his/her wealth and become rich and thereby he can purchase any elevated office in the society. Often mafias are the members of the parliament in India. They are, the law givers. But in the society of the Mahabharata the Brahmins, who are by hereditary nature disinterested in worldly gains are the law-givers. One cannot rob one of one’s character. So character & selflessness are the chief values. The person who is truly disinterested in personal gains can look upon the society steadily & as a whole rid of any bias. He can

Caste-Systems

185

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

best advise how the society should run. Hence Brahmins are the lawgivers. The Ksatrayas rule the kingdom; but they must not deviate from the law given by the Brahmins. May be the society in the days of the Mahabharata, was not exactly like the pattern of the society as envisaged by the gitas & Puranas. The gitas, however, here put forward a vision of an ideal society where heierarchy in the society could be based on the two axes of guna & karma. One might still argue that the soul-in-the body, as the gitas observe, go higher up from one caste to another. Yes, if the law of transmigration of soul is acknowledged, they do. The truly Brahmin may have been recognised in the society of the Mahabharata. He may go unsung in the world today of getting & spending. So what? Self-lessness is the signifier of a Brahmin. A Brahmin is always a Brahmin whether the society recognises it or not. The goals of the world today are quite different from the goals set for man in the Mahabharata. The society today might find a Brahmin as a good-for-nothing. But the Mahabharata’s standards are different. The Mahabharata deems him to be very privileged. Because he might excelsior higher up in life to come & acquire yellow colour—the colour of gods as Vritragita testifies. The Srimadbhagavad Gita however does not give much importance to caste system. The caste-system is there. The gitas take it for granted. What occupies the gitas mostly is the way how man could be happy, no matter, whether he belongs to this caste or that caste. Hence the Parasara Gita speaks of the ideal way of living for every one. It is expected that the Brahmins are the personification of this ideal way of living & they are the role models for all other castes. In this light, every caste has been given equal weightage by the gitas. No caste has been debarred from the right to live the life of an ideal man.

CHAPTER - XXVIII
THE IDEAL WAY OF LIFE Though Srimad Bhagavadgita & Parasara gita, in the main and other gitas, too accept that each caste has its own corresponding duties, the performance of which is a must for one who belongs to a particular caste, the gitas are of the opinion that irrespective of caste, every man has certain duties. They are, as per Anugita Chapter III sloka 15 to 18 1. Dana-practice of giving away. 2. Vrata–to take vows 3. Brahmacarya–to live in the truth of the Brahman or the Infinitude. 4. Dama–or restraint of senses 5. Contentment 6. Kindness for all beings 7. Fighting shy of taking wealth of others. These dos and donts, are meant for the well-being of all men under the Sun, no matter to which, station and duties he or she belongs. Indeed these dos and donts are nothing imposed upon man. Every man in the society has to observe those dos & donts or else he or she cannot live in the society. If the majority of men do not pay heed to those dos & donts, the society will go out of joints. But what the gitas emphasise is the spirit in which these dos & dont are to be observed. Hence, there is the Sraddhatraya vibhaga yoga in the Srimadbhagavadgita. If we minutely observe the details of what a man does or does not in life, we will find that every man’s activities are more or less the same. There is for example, no man who does not give away something to others. Even the miser amasses his gold to bestow the same upon his off-springs. The self-seeking king also distributes wealth in his zenana, among his queens. So what a man does

The Ideal Way of Life

187

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

is not the point, but how a man does is the point. The attitude of man behind what he does counts. And men are of three types. The man with sattvika attitude has reverence for all things both great & small. Naturally he worships the gods. On the other hand the man with rajasika attitude wants to achieve something, at the cost of other things. Hence he worships the yakshas & the ogres. The men with tamasika attitude worships the ghosts. May be, all of them worship the same deity. But, each one reads his own mind in the deity. Penance is also a socially acknowledged institution. Some people revel in hard penance, being impelled by vanity, ego and desire. These persons are as it were demons. They inflict great pain upon the universal mind that lurks in their heart. Men with sattvika leanings are fond of healthy & pleasant food. Men with rajasika attitude are fond of hot & bitter foods. Those who have tamasika attitude enjoy rotten & unclean food.

CHAPTER - XXIX
RHETORIC OF THE GITAS Any speech whatever must have an addressee. One does not speak to a stone or thunder unless one deems it to be alive sharing the speaker’s language. When one speaks to one’s own self only, there are two selves in one. There the self speaks to the non-self. So all poetry is a social act. Every speech is a kind of persuasion. We speak to have power over ourselves & over others. Rhetoric is the tool, of the language, whereby we could be persuasive through language. Since language is always employed to have power over others, language is inseparable from rhetoric. So rhetoric is sine qua non with language. The gitas in the Mahabharata are very much instinct with rhetoric, since they are conscious attempts at persuading others. The Bhagavadgita is an address in the public indeed. Hence, it will not be out of place to probe into the rhetoric of the gitas to get at the heart of their meaning. Thus the Vritragita says.
Yatha-njanamays Vayuh Punarmanah Silam rajah anupravisya tadvarno drisyate ranjayan disah Tatha Karmafalai dehi Ranjitastamasavritah. Vivarno varnamasritya Dehesu parivartate.

(I -9,10)

Just as the colourless or black wind, takes different hues being in contact with the dust of the mind-stone of different colours, so is the soul coloured with darkness & paleness impelled by the results of its actions through its body. Here the word manahsila is itself opaque, capable of different

Rhetoric of the Gitas

189

190

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

meanings. It might be a kind of stone, which is easily eroded by wind. Or else it might be a metaphor of mind itself, too brittle to with-stand the gusts of winds called desire. The wind is thus a metaphor for desire. These two metaphors are sublated into the large simile where, the soul is compared with the wind and the dust with the consequences of one’s action. Thus the simile radiates a number of meanings. The soul has been likened to the winds of desire. In other words the soul has the intention to be born in human flesh. To live in human flesh is to act. To act implies to interact with nature which includes mind also. Nature is the manahshila. The consequences of the act are the dusts that colour the souls. The souls are thus not altogether invisible to the eyes. The visionaries find it in different colours white, red and grey. This speaks of Preraphaelite art in which abstract concepts are presented in concrete visual terms. Indeed much of the Vritra gita is peopled with visions of souls in different hues. They make the hues of the souls convincing. Sanat Kumara, the divine sage dwells on elaborately how the souls acquire different colours. Of course it corresponds to the notions of the mystics who speak of the astral body of man. Vritra gita has much in common with Paradise Lost. Paradise Lost opens with Satan the fallen angel, in the after-math of the battle between God & the rebel angels– The main body of the Vritra gita also opens with Vritra after his defeat in a battle with gods. Just as Satan harps on lost glory & lasting pain, Vritra also remembers his earlier glory. I grew larger than the three worlds & extracted their flavour & taste. Fearless I used to fly in the skies armoured with effulgence. The image of Vritra deeked in the armour of light bestriding the three worlds is a magnanimous word painting. But unlike Satan Vritra doesnot blame God for his defeat. He blames himself for his fall. He says that it is due to his actions that he has fallen & lost his lustre. His memory of the battle with gods is not altogether sad. He found

Visnu lurking behind the gods.
Vaikunthah purushonanta Suklo Vishnuh Sanatanah Munjakeso haritswasru Sarvabhutapitamaha.

The imagery is telling in its conception. The word purusa implies one who fills up the gap. Visnu,–the one who pevades the universe & who lives inside every particle in the universe is the purusa of the purusa. It is he who fills the whole universe. He is the archatype of the purushas. He is vaikuntha. He is ever expanding. When modern science speaks of the expanding universe, it reminds us of Vaikurtha purushottama. And lo, this infinite and indeterminate lurks behind the gods. His beard is brown. His hair is brown. We see the image of Visnu lurking behind the gods as it were in a canves. Sanathumar further observes Vishnau jagat sthitam sarvam. The word jagat itself is a metaphor. It stands for all that changes. The world of ohange is firmly anchored in Visnu. This puts in our mind the first two fyttes of the Ishopanisada.
Isavasyam idam sarvain Yat Kincha Jagatyam jagat.

Whatever there is in this world of flux is covered with and inhabited by God. So the world of change or the phenomenal world is not altogether unreal. They are not like bubbles in tha air. They are the home for the eternal & the deathless. Empirically we experience the flux of the universe. We neither know its source, nor its destiny. But the divine seer Sanatkumar sees beyond.
Srijatyesva mahavahau bhutagramam caracaram Esa caksipate kalekale Visrijyate punah.

Rhetoric of the Gitas

191

192

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

It is Visnu who is the fountainhead of the whole existence. It is he who destroys the world & creates it over again. Thus the seer Sanatkumar makes us visualise how the infinite universe emerges from the Purushottam and merges in him only. But how could we know him? That is the question. The answer is
Yatha hiranyakarta vai rupyamagnau Vishodhayet, Vahushoti prayatnena mahatatmakrtena ha. Tadvat jatisatairjivah Sudhyatete anena karmana.

yet there is difference. Dusting one’s body is easy. But dusting one’s self is tough. It requires lot of care. Thus there is an antithesis lurking in the simile. The self & the body are not identical. Cleanliness and godliness must be distinguished from one another. Cleanliness could be next to godliness. But to become clean is not to become godlike. To become godlike, to cleanse one’s self from all crudities is very difficult. The word rajah could mean one of the gunas and in that case, it could be one of the elements of crudities inherent in the being. Simile follows simile :
Yatha calpena malyena Vasetam tilasarsapani Na muncanti svakam gandhaih Tadvat Suksmasya darsanan.

The simile is curious. A silver-smith puts silver afire to purify it. He takes lot of pains to that end. In the same way the beings are being purified through hundreds of births & deaths. A lot of care has to be taken to that end. The simile posits that we do not die with out deaths. We are substances which do not wear out with death. We are born and we die again & again. This notion is known as the transmigration of soul. What is the purpose of rebirths? Sanat Kumar says that every being is purified through such births & deaths. Surely the worldly life is no bed of roses but wild fire. But, put in the flames of such wild fire of life & world, we wreathe in pain & grow purer & purer than ever. Of course, we are not base metals. But we are in crude form like silver ore. We must burn in the fire of life to become pure. Earlier Sanat Kumar has pointed out that the realisation of truth needs a priori purity of being. How could we purify ourselves? Well.
Lilayalpam yatha gatrat Prayujyadatmano rajah. Vahuyattnena mahata. Dosanirharnam tatha.

People brush off the dust sticking to their body easily. After lot of care, indeed, one can get rid of one’s crudities. Well just as we dust our body so could one dust one’s self. And

Just as a little supply of flowers cannot change the smell of the mustard oil or til-oil, so the perception of the subtle cannot be effected easily. There is a gap here to be filled up by the competent reader. In order that bad odour could be dispelled, flowers need be pressed on oil. In order that mind could be cleansed, fresh throughts must be impressed upon it. When the bad odour is dispelled, there is perfumed oil. Similarly there could be perfumed mind. Just as fragrance could be sensed from perfumed oil, similarly, the subtle could be sensed from one’s cleansed mind. The imagery could be interpreted on another level. May be the subtle truth lies lurking in the mind. But since it is full of dust, it cannot be described. But it is as difficult to cleanse the mind, as it is difficult to convert oil into a perfumed one. Mind is like oil perhaps. It has no stability. And the bad odour of it could be attributed to samskara or habits of the mind. The next slokas read
Tadeva bahuvirmalyair Vasamanam punah punah Vimuncati svakam gandham

Rhetoric of the Gitas

193

194

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

malya-gandhe ca tisthali Jatisatairayukto gunaireva prasamgisu, budhya nivartate dosho yatnenabhyaseva ca.

The bad odour of our mind is not inherent with it. They have been aquired through hundreds of births & deaths. This could be dispelled if we try with intelligence to do so. This imagery points out that life does not end where it seems to end. And the way we act is very importand. It forms certain habits of the mind whereby it misses the subtle truths of existence. But one wonders how is it that beings have to go through births & deaths to get their minds distorted? Well, the following slokas seek to interpret it.
Anadinidhanah Sriman Harirnarayana prabhuh Sa vai sarvesu bhutesu Ksharascaksara evaca. Ekadasa Vikaratima jagat pivati rasmibhih.

Mahi means the earth. Mahi also could mean the great or the vast. His hands are the many directions. The skies are his ear. His prowess is the sun. His mind is the Moon. His intellect is awareness. Water is his tongue. (S1 21, 22). The whole cosmos is identified with god. And man is the microcosm of the universe. This imagery only reminds us that each one of us is a smaller edition of the universe and the universe is the larger edition of each one of us and we are one with the universe. We are awe-struck and dumbfounded before such cosmic imagery. We are face to face with the greater self of ours. S1. 24 adds that Sri Hari is all the phases of life and all the harvests of our action.
Sosramanam phalam tata, Karmanastat phalam viduh.

The world is lorded by Hari. He has neither any beginning nor any death. He himself is both the ephemeral and the eternal in the world. It is he who drinks in the world with the rays of eleven distortions of himself. This is an imagery which is time and again. It posits a being who is both the phenomenal world & the noumen behind the same. It is the imagination of the seer only which can weld the relative & the absolute, the phenomenal & the noumenal into one. But this is not all. The same being which is the world drinks in its fountain with the aid of eleven types of of distotions, the distortion of mind being one of them. This gives us a curious view of the world. God is himself the world. Once again God enjoys the world through us. The word rashmibhihl, is reminiscent of the Vedas. The seer now proceeds to portray Sri Hari. His legs are mahi.

He is himself the harvests of inaction too. The Vedas are his hair. And the aksara is his sarasvati. The dharma with countless faces (Vahumukhodharma) is laden at his heart. He is Brahman. He is the dharma of dharma. He is tapas or penance. He is sat as well as a sat. The imagery of this cosmic being has wide connotation. The Vedas might mean the scriptures. But at the same time it stands for knowledge & awareness. Awareness is his hair, why does the imagery focus on hair? Does it mean that the hair stand at their end. Is the cosmic being ever thrilled. Is awareness a kind of sensation? Once again, akshara is his Saraswati. Akshara means that which is changeless and eternal. Saraswati also stands for knowledge. So his wisdom, with which he is thrilled is concerned with the absolute. Or else akshara might mean the primordial sound. That is his Saraswati or knowledge. May be cosmic being is thrilled with the very sound that rings in him. And it is his knowledge. May be aksara stands for Om. Dharma could be translated as religion, derived from latin re ligare viz. to bind. But dharma has countless faces. In other words

Rhetoric of the Gitas

195

196

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

there are numerous—ways of life. Numerous ways could give schema to life. There is no one dharma and they all reside at the heart of the cosmic being. In other words, whatever religion or way of life could be there constitutes a face of many faced Dharma that lurks in the heart of the cosmic being. He is Brahman. He is big. He is always expanding. He makes everything big. He is sat as well as asat. That is, neither does he exist, nor does he not exist. In other words, he is beyond words. Because every words whatever has its antonym. And as per Aristotlean logic the same thing cannot be white & black at the same time. This is true of the mundane world where every thing exists through its difference from other things. But the cosmic being is unique. He neither is nor is not. Because he has no other, form which he could be distinguished. He is everything. He is all in all. He is the Vedas, the scriptures, the sacrifice & its priests. He is all the gods (S1, 27-28). the grandeur of the cosmic being must be understood in the context of the vastness of the creation. The vastness of the creation has been described through the telling imagery of the following slokas.
Samsara vikshepa sahasrakotis Tisthanti jivah pracayanti canye Parimanyam vapi sahasrani vahumi daitah Vapyat punarjojanavistrtrtastah Krosaca gambhiratayavagadah Ayamatah pancasatasca sarvah Pratyekaso Yojanata pravtiddhah Vapya jalain kshipyati valakolya Tahna Sakrtcapyatha na dvityani Tasam kshaye viddhi param visargam Samtaramchanca tatha prejanani.

In our common parley, we imagine that the world of man, with families littered in it as the samsara. But that which slips moment by moment could be understood as samsara. Samsara has been derived from the verb sr. i.e. to slip. The ever changing existence stands

for samsara. And it has many planes. Each plane of existence could be described as 500 Yojanas each in length & breadth. And each one is one krosa in depth. And there are countless lives that are inert. Besides there are lives too that move. Thus, whatever inert or moving do we perceive is living in the light of the Vritra gita. The lives created in the universe amounts to many such containers. And curiously enough, one cannot remove water from the pond more than what a hair can do. Within the fracton of time that a hair takes to remove a small drop of water, the whole story of creation & destruction could be enacted. Thus, the mighty expanse of time that covers the period of creation & destruction (Modern science cannot predict when the universe will be destroyed) is a mere fraction of a second with the cosmic mind. Once, again, what is a fraction of second with man might witness the creation & destruction of a universe. Each container of life could be likened to a universe. And the Vritragita posits the image of a multiverse with countless containers of life. The grandeur & vastness of the imagery of the creation & the creator evokes awe & terror in us. How tiny and helpless we men are in this vast world created by God. And when we take account of man’s life in this multiverse, we are like a physicist tracing the life-cycle of a tiny atom indeed. And yet the Vritra Gita takes account of human life. which is plunged in immeasurable vastness. And Vritra gita, describes beings passing through births & deaths attaining different colours such as black & smoke, & red, & yellow, & white. The samsara or the world as such thus grows into an ambivalent entity. It is as vast as waters in the pond 25000 cube yojana in area. We men are but tiny insects there. We are born here and we die here again & again. We cultivate our bad odours or samskaras through our repeated journeys in the Samsara which is like boundless waters. The same samsara is once again likened to fire that burns us and purges us till we become white hot like gods.

Rhetoric of the Gitas

197

198

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

It is only the imagination of the seer that unites the opposites fire & water. The colour-symbolism used in the Vritra gita is singularly unique. It speaks of five complexions of the living beings. The living beings here include, what we call dead matter as well. Everything is living in this world whatever. And the living in this world could be black, smoke, blue, red, yellow & white. The foremost characteristic of the symbolism of colour is its universality. This is not merely geographic. It applies to every level of being & knowledge. It applies to cosmology, psychology, mysticism & so on. For example, the psychologists have distinguished warm from cold colours. The warm colours like red, orange & yellow stimulate. The cold colours like blue indigo & violet give relaxation. The same principle has been applied in many a flat, offices & office buildings. According to Jalaluddin Rumi one rises through blue, red, yellow white green & pale blue until one reaches colourless white. The Vritra gita also points out the beings who have black, smoke or blue complexion are partly happy. Those who have red complexion have great power of tolerance. The yellow colour speaks of happiness. The white colour stands for perfect bliss & happiness. The Vritra gita dwells on the odysseus of a being through births & deaths acquiring one after another colour, till they reach final bliss. Language as such is an ensemble of shared signs Words as such are not what they are. That is, a word is an ensamble of one or more phonemes. They stand for something else and they might be of course direct representation of a thing. For example a map is a direct representation of a landscape and the painting of a tree directly represents the tree. Similarly the word tree directly represents what we mean by tree in common parley which has roots penetrated into the depths of the soil and stem and the branches and leaves seeking to embrace the sky. The word has simply representative value to English men, that is,

to those with whom the word tree is a shared sign. But at other times a word could be a sign that is factually linked to its object such as a p ointer or a weather-cock. This is called an index. Harit gita uses this indexing power of language with great force in Sloka-9. The mendicant must go abegging only when no more smoke rises up from their kitchen ; and when ovens will be free from ashes, when the grinding machine will make no sound any longer, when their dinner is over and their utensils washed. This is a vivid penpicture of life in village hearth in our land. It at once suggests smokes rising from the kitchens. We see it before our eyes. Similarly we hear the utensils washed. Grinding machines to crush paddy is not altogether an anachionism in our country. And we hear it thump. But the imagery tells us of an hour when all these activities have come to rest. The house where smoke no longer rises from the kitchens does not represent itself. It suggests us something which is causully connected with-in our culture. It speaks of an hour when household chores are already accomplished in the morning. They worked and they have consumed the food already. Hence there is a lull. It is this atmosphere that has been indexed or pointed by this imagery. And the mendicant must go abegging at this hour. The legitimation is that he must not be greedy for alms & he must be satisfied with whatever he gets. The Bodhya gita has employed the symbol with great effect. When one thing stands for another arbitrarily & is meaningful to a culture it is a symbol. For example when the signals at the street square is red, the vehicles become stand-still. When it is green the vehicles rush. On its own, however, Redness neither represents anything else than itself nor does it point at anything with which it is causally related. The sage Bodhya observes that a woman named Pingala a bird likening the vulture, a snake a blackbee, a maker of arrows and a virgin–these six are his teachers Bhisma however explicates those symbols & they become indexes.

Rhetoric of the Gitas

199

200

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

What do these six teachers point at? Well Pingala turned hope into despair & could sleep in peace. The vulture gave up the meat when other birds tried to snatch it from him. The vulture thus became happy. The snake lives in other men’s house and is in peace. The black-bee simply lives on begging honey from flowers. It does not participate in any productive activity. It is happy. The maker of the arrow is so attentive to his production activity that he does not care even to look at the king when he passes by. And the virgin woman wanders all alone. She wears only one bangle. So the six teachers are the role models exhorting that one must not hope. One must not build a house. One must not join in any economic activity. One must be all attention to his pursuit like an artisan. One must not look up to a king even. One must not live in any company. The message is thus opposite to what we preach to make our society a better place. We hope against hope. In capitalist system we vie with each other for a prize. We build our house. We have our family. We write books on how to win friends. We long for company. We try to discover the law of success. We enjoy distractions when the cause of the distraction is some one’s power or vain glory. Curiously enough the Pingala refers to a colour which could be translated into English as grey. Composed equally of black & white, grey is a Christian symbol of the resurrcetion of the dead. Grey is the colour of ashes and of mist. The Jews covered their heads with ashes to give a tongue to the poignancy of grief. It is often said, however, that human beings are the product of opposite sexes & they too stand in grey centre between the opposing colours which make up a harmonious chromatic sphere. The grey area in English usage often means the indeterminate & unknown. And here Pingala might stand for the mind itself of which we know very little & which is always drawn to things other than itself. When Pingala gives up all hoper there is perfect peace, for it. And sleep the boon friend of peace takes possession of it.

The vulture in Greek and Roman tradition was a kind of augury. Romulus saw twelve vultures alight on a spot. Romutus set up the city of Rome there only. Here in the Bodhya Gita vulture is that aspect of mind which gives up the object of its greed. The serpent recurs over & over again in Indian mythology as Ananta Nag that holds the world or as coiled energy or Kulakundalini or libido lying in every human and so on. It lives in the realms below the earth & is often symbolic of the wisdom latent in us. Here in Bodhya gita the snake is the type of the wise who never builds his own house. We may argue here that the serpent stands for the ego of the mind that is devoid of the will to possess & that readily accepts whatever comes on its way. The bee or the black-bee might here stand for the spiritual side of the mind that draws the nectar from a whole field of flowers. In the metaphorical language of Bektashi order of Dervishes, the bee stands for the Dervish & honey for divine reality. The bee could be the soul seeking the pollens of knowledge. Plato declares that the souls of the righteous are reincarnated as bees. The arrow could be the arrow of light. Arrow could aim at the heart of reality. No wonder, one who is busy chiselling his mind to make an arrow of it to hit the truth, will be drawn to no diversion. The King is the symbol of hollow worldly pride & worldly power over others. One who seeks to make a shaft of his being to fly to truth will pay no heed to worldly glory. The virginal state means the latent & the unrevealed. The soul itself could be a virgin unburdened of the worldly matters. Only then god shines in it. This is not only the message. Of Vaisnavism, but also the message, of Eckhart. If man remained for ever virgin he would bear no fruit. To become a virgin one must become a woman,. This is the noblest description one can give the soul. It is good that man should receive God into himself & in this receiving he is virgin.

Rhetoric of the Gitas

201

202

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

The opening of the Bodhya gita could be termed as Janaka gita or the language of enlightenment spoken by the King Janaka. The Janaka Gita however consists of only one sloka
My wealth is boundless Because I own nothing If Mithila is put to flames Nothing that I have is burnt,

apt to apply when one is away from human society and becomes introvert. Manky revels in apostrophes in his soliloquy. Manky addresses Kama or desire,
O Kama, your heart is as hard as thunder Or else why don’t you break asunder despite hitting you hard hundred times I wished you best & yet I never found happiness. Now I know, that you are born of Sankalpa Or the will to attain something. I will never will anything. And you will be destroyed at your root.

This is a paradox that shatters all our cherished values. It posits, that one might own boundless wealth when one owns nothing. The same motif has been put forward in another paradox in the Manky gita— One who gives up all desires, attains all that one could desire. The gitas revel in paradoxes. On the surface they do not have any meaning as such. But on deeper thought, they open up vistas of meanings and sensations. Manky gita as we have already noted enshrines in it a soliloquy of Manky. It is autobiographical. It dwells on how Manky himself having failed to succeed in material life, has opted for a life sans desire. He addresses the mind & says
Alas! how foolish I have been I have been a plaything in thy hands. Or how could be one another man’s slave (Sl 21).

(Sl. 23, 24, 25). Clearly here Kama has been likened to a tree which springs from the seed of Sankalpa. Manky compares the world of human hopes as the sea of desire. He claims that no one has been able to cross it in the past. He has given up all hopes of the seas naturally. The sea is a recurrent imagery not only in ancient. Indian poetry & mythology it is everywhere in ancient and modern myths. It is the sea upon which Vishnu rests when the creation dissolves. There are images of the sea of beatitude. There is also the sea of passions & worldly life. Often they become heroic crossing it. The sea stands between us & the indeterminate. In Manky Gita however the speaker gives up all hopes of crossing the sea. Abandon ye all hopes is the message. Or else peace will remain ever elusive. Manky however compares Brahman as a cool lake. He wants to remain immersed in it in the hot summer of worldly life (Sl. 50-51). In other words, the world that serves as antitheses to Brahman likens to burning heat of summer. The Srimadbhagavad Gita opens with two belligerent armies in bettle array assembled at the dharmakshetra called Kurukshetra. The

Here Manky finds himself as plaything in the hands of his own mind only. We talk of our mind, as it were we are owners of it. But, mind defies our control. The paradox of our existence is that we are ourselves the slaves of what we own. Since consciousness cannot remain without any content as such, mind is always drawn to matter or the other. And we play fools to the material world. The rhetoric, here employed is apostrophe. Apostrophe is a figure of speech which consists of an absent or dead person, a thing or an abstract idea as if it were alive. Perhaps apostrophe is the figure of speech that one is

Rhetoric of the Gitas

203

204

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

war itself could be read as an Armaageddon between the good & the evil, between the self & the evil passions. The war takes place at heart which is the sacred place where such great wars against passions could be enacted. This is best illustrated when Krishna said—conquer your enemy called desire. But that is the interpretation of the gita only on one level. On another level it is very much a speech on the occasion of a mortal conflict. Bhisma sounds the conch. Presently, all the other heroes present at the battle field blow their horns to show their readiness for war. The earth & the sky reverberate with it. The sound imagery here reminds us of the cosmic sound. In the first chapter only Arjuna dwells on the ravages of war. War brings in its trail the notion of death. The notions of life & death go together. Krishna in the 2nd chapter points out that death is only a phase like adolescences, youth & old age. This is not factual comparison. It reveals an unexpected likeness between adolescence, age, youth on one side & death on the other—two seemingly disparate motifs. The simile naturally suggests the existence of self that lingers through both life & death. Krishna next revels in antithesis
The false has no real content. The reality has no lack of content.

In other words Krishna brushes aside our temporal experiences like weal & woe, as unreal & sans content, because they donot last long. Thus momentary happiness has no significance for the Gita. Next Krishna observes that
That with which everything whatever is made is indestructible.

That with which everything whatever is made baffles our perception. But Krishna by way of positing that our perceptions are false evokes in our mind the indeterminate which is absolute.

Hence, mortal battles are also illusory. Killing & to get killed are all myth. The indeterminate substance behind the show of reality is neither born, nor dies. Then how is it that men are born & then die. Krishna puts forth an imagery to explain the same. Just as men reject worn out clothes for new ones, so does the purusha change its body. This is a singularly unique imagery which fingers at three levels of reality. Because the purusa or the self might be an individual self that dons & doffs the clothes of flesh. Besides it might be the absolute which is always changing its clothes, without being changed even a bit. Besides, it speaks of the mundane reality that we experence where change is a category of all that we perceive. The changeless reality, no matter whether it is the individual self or the indeterminate substance that is the world, Krishna observes, always remains the same. The weapons cannot tear it. The fire cannot burn it the water cannot wet it. The winds cannot dry it. The indeterminate, call it the substance that is the universe or call it individual is thus described by negatious. It is not an obstruction but a nonrestrictive presence. In front of this presence time vanishes. And readers are as it were denizins of a timeless existence, looking upon the battles for life with curioisity to understand it. Tennyson asked us to seek to strive, to fight & never to yield. But Krishna observes that one had better apply one’s intellect to get at the heart of the battle. Since it is nothing real, one had better take part in it for its own sake. Does it not suggest that Krishna exhorts Arjuna to play his part only, at the Kurukshetra. He is not worried as to whether he can convince Arjuna or not. He is not worried as to whether he speaks the truth or not. Every work of art is an example of what a work of art should be like. It is the manifesto of an aesthetics always. Seen from this per-

Rhetoric of the Gitas

205

206

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

spective we could say that the Bh. Gita very much underlines the importance of intellect in a work of art. Because it is our intellect that moulds our perception of the world. Those who mean business, Krishna says have a total view of life. Those who are otherwise, have their intellect diverted into numerous branches. They waver from to be or not to be, to do or not to do. Krishna uses a telling metaphor to describe them.
vahusakha hyanantasca vuddhayo vyavasayinam

Now on the surface those who mean business do not revel in ambiguities while the others do. But, Krishna actually means the other way round. He observes that those who do not mean business can not grasp the polyvalence of the existence. With them heaven and fulfilment of desires are all in all. To that end they revel in flowery speech intent on what the Vedas say. Modern literatures that dwells on utopia and prescribe the paths to it, could be likened to those idiots who revel in flowery speech
yamimam puspitam vacam pravandantyavi pascitah

True intelligence that is meant for the samadhi must grasp the reality as indeterminate & capable of meanings on many levels as Krishna does. Since there could be infinite meanings of the existence, any meaning of the same is as much true or as much false as any other. Hence Krishna, says
Sidhyasidhyo samo bhutva samatvam yogo ucyate

Yoga or the skill to live implies that one had not better weigh one meaning of the world or of a work of art or of the Gitas, as more important than any other of its meaning. The Bh. Gita discards the knowledge of the particular which could be attained only through the efforts of conscious mind. It puts forward an imagery of the flood. When there is flood, the utilities of the reservoirs (II, 46) do not exist Similarly once wisdom is attained through samadhi or inwardness, the knowledge of the particular becomes su-

per-fluous. The imagery of flood has been over and over again used in ambivalent terms. It is the tool with which God destroys the world laden with sin. The Hindu sciptures as well as the Bible testify it. Once again flood could mean a flood of bliss and wisdom where particulars lose their significance unless as the parts of a whole. The BR. Gita does not distinguish action from the pursuit of knowledge. They are the same. Hence when people do things for the sake of it only they are on the right road. Those who do a particular thing for some end in view have been likened to the miserly people (II, 49). In other words those who go for penance to the end of god realisation have been also debunked here. Why should one have an end in view behind one’s activity, be it penance or devotion to god? Moha is to blame for that. Life has been compared to a journey. Life’s road is lorn with insurmountable mud of moha or illusion. Moha or illusion could be explicated as the pursuit for a particular (II, 52). The true seeker has been likened to a tortoise. The tortoise appears as a symbol throughout the world across different cultures. It is said that the tortoise holds the world on its shoulders. The tortoise is the incarnation of Vishnu. The tortoise held the Mandara mountain during the churning of the occan. Here tortoise is the type of the wise who withdraws himself from the world of eye and ear. The tortoise does not mind the waters without. Let the waters have their flow tide and ebb tide. Let them be themselves. Let the senses work as commanded by their instinets. The senses have been likened to powerful brigands who enslave others and drag them by force. (II. 60). In other words the Bh. Gita posits a conflict between the self and the senses. Thus the battle of Kurukshetra becomes the externalisation of the inner battle in a being. With great power and force the Bh. Gita dwells on how the senses gather in strength and overwhelm the self. (II. 62-63). Here the figure

Rhetoric of the Gitas

207

208

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

of speech known as climax has been used with great dexterity. The mind has been likened to a boat. Just as the gale leads a boat astray, similarly the senses might lead the mind astray (II. 67). The Bh. Gita further observes that the wise keep awake when it is night to the rest of the world. They look upon the day of the worldly men as night itself. Thus the Bh. Gita deconstructs our notion of the day and night. The night would mean the unconscious mind which the wise probe. They withdraw from the conscious mind that is active in the day. Night might mean the emptiness where the wise are plunged. The worldly day stands for actions with definite ends in view. It stands for desires impelled by the senses. The night means extinction of every desire. Then action and inaction lose their distinction. (II. 69). The wise have been likened to an ocean. The ocean refuses nothing. Let every river flow into it. But the ocean remains ever tranquil. Similarly the different passages of the senses could pour into the self, whatever be their cargo. The self neither welcomes nor refuses the gift. In other words, the Bh. Gita does not prescribe curbing the senses and dulling their perceptions. The self must be above them not to be overwhelmed by their gifts (II. 70). The self in its fiesh must act. It can not but act. But the very concept of action has ambivalence in it which the Bh. Gita explores. The Bh. Gita speaks of two types of Karma or action one is to the end of yajna and the other has different ends from that (III. 9). The very word yajna lights before us the Vedic fire into which wood, ghee and soma rasa are offered among other things. The Bh. Gita however looks upon yajna as a symbol. The Bh. Gita observes that it was through yajna that the world was created and it is through yajna that the people should enrich themselves. It is through yajna that the people should be creative (III. 10). The Bh. Gita here seems to allude to the Purusasukta in the Vedas. There the Virata sacrificed himself to create this world. The Bh. Gita says that the Virata should be the role model. The Vedas over and over again pray for the fulfilment of their

desires. To that end they observe sacrificial rites and chant prayer. The symbolic meaning of the sacrificial rites has been retrieved by the Bh. Gita. True fulfilment of one’s desire, the Bh. Gita posits, takes place through the sacrifice of the self (III, 10). The Bh. Gita further observes that the gods bestow upon mankind many a gift in the spirit of sacrifice to be consumed. Those who enjoy the gifts without giving something back to the giver are thieves (III. 12). Here the imagery of the devas or gods must be properly understood. With our sense perception we observe that Nature in its bounty gives us light, air, fire, water and food. The forces of nature that make possible this grand fair laden with life-sustaining articles have been worshipped by the Vedas as gods. And the Bh. Gita exhorts us that we must give something of what we consume to the end of revitalising Nature or the gods that preside over the different forces of nature. Thus the relation between man and nature should be symbiotic. Modern man mad with his knowledge of so-called science and technology looks upon nature as ‘the other’ which should be raped and ravaged. He does not have any sense of responsibility to keep up the nature which sustains him. In the light of the Bh. Gita the modern man drunk in the alcohol of capitalism is none else but a thief. The Bh. Gita says that one who cooks for himself cooks poison (III. 13). The capitalist attitude towards life impels us to act only in our own interest. This is not merely theft. What we consume thereby is poison. This imagery of Bh. Gita spoken thousand years back has been prophetic. Man is fast destroying his environment. Impelled by his service for the self attitude thereby he creates the very hemlock which he shall have to drink. The right kind of activity should be yajna itself. The right kind of activity creates yajna (III. 14). And it is through yajna that the clouds gather in the skies. It is from the clouds that the earth is filled with crops. The crops in turn let us live. Thus the gita posits that man should not look upon nature as the other. On the contrary he is an inalienable part of the inexorable cycle of creation that rolls through the exist-

Rhetoric of the Gitas

209

210

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

ence. The imagery of the wheel in Bh. Gita (III. 140) sublates man in it. But man does not understand this truth. He always cooks for himself and eats sin. He always acts with narrow end in view like a miser. The miser is one who cooks for himself only. But why should one cook sin for one’s own consumption. Desire is to blame for that. Desine veils the truth from the view. The way smoke veils the fire, dust veils the mirror, and the placenta covers the foetus (III, 38 & 39). Hence the Bh. Gita points out that the desire is the demon to be persecuted. The battle of Kurukshetra hereby contains a different level of meaning. In the ancient Indian system of language dharma is polyvalent in its meaning. On one level dharma implies the inexorable law that works through all existence. It is the operation of the wheel. When there is any dysfunction in its operation. I truth is veiled from our eye. Earlier there has been the imagery of flood which undermines every source of water. It was the flood of bliss. But perhaps the same flood imagery has been employed surreptiously when the Bh. Gita posits, that whenever the law of existence is disturbed or truth is on the wane, God reincanates himself (IV, 8). This reminds us of the ten avataras of the puranas as well as the other avataras in the different religions of the world. It reminds us of Noah of the Bible. The speaker of the Bh. Gita says that the road he takes is pursued by every one (III. 23) & (IV. 11). Thus the speaker himself is the rolemodel for all men. But at the same time does it not argue that no one commits sin, no one can stand in the way of the inexorable law of nature? The sacrificial fire returns again as an imagery. It stands for the fire of knowledge. Just as the sacrificial fire burns wood and ghee, similarly the fire of knowledge destroys every initiative in man. When man deems himself to be a part of nature, propelled by the laws of nature that wheels, when man grows with nature, all his activities have been destroyed (IV. 19). Hence every action should be deemed as a yajna.

The meaning of yajna could be construed in many levels. It might mean to some as sacrifice to the different gods, who impel the forces of nature. Some others might feel that the sacrifice is addressed to the infinitude or to the Brahma. Some others might sacrifice the pursuits of their senses to the fire of self- control. Another band of seekers might sacrifice the objects of senses to the senses themselves. Thus they look upon their body and the senses as the other, or the part of nature as distinguished from the self. They do not restrain their sense from any offering that the world provides them. On the contrary they look upon the gratification of senses or the deprivation of the same as a kind of offering or sacrifice. This puts forward apparently a very different view of life. It exhorts that let men have their sense-objects, have their sex, and have all that a life of lust and luxury could afford, but they must feel that these are all but the observation of the rituals of sacrifice addressed to the senses. In other words the self must not be the beneficiary of the same (IV- 26 , 27), (Also V- 80,9). The Bh. Gita also speaks of giving up of worldly belongings as yajna. Those who conserve the heat energy in themselves also reenact the primordial sacrifice of Virata. Those who revel in yoga also observe sacrifice. So do also those people whose quest impel them to follow knowledge like a sinking star (IV. 28). The Bh. Gita assures us that whatever kind of Yajna one observes one reaches the ineffable infinite or Brahma. Just as the physical fire burns wood, so does knowledge burn all activity that have definite ends in view (IV. 37). Knowledge is not merely likened to fire. It is also the sword that cuts off every thread of doubt and vacillation (IV. 69). Here the reader might remember the portrait of Arjuna in Chapter-I and in the beginning of Chapter-II. There he is the animated bust of vacillation personified. To do or not to do was his question. To be or not to be was his question. The battle of Kurukshetra could be inter-preted consequently as an attempt at shattering all doubts with the sword of knowledge.

Rhetoric of the Gitas

211

212

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Knowledge impels one to understand oneself as a part of eternal cycle and he is not troubled by the cravings of the senses. As we have already seen such a person lets the senses feed on their objects of attraction. Let the eyes see, let the ears hear, let the nose smell, let the mouth eat, let the mind dream, let the heart breathe, let the tongue speak non-sense, let the body excrete. Let the body have what it chooses. Let the eyes twinkle. But the person having these senses is least influenced by them. He is like a drop of water on a leaf of lotus (V. 7-10). The self according to Bh. Gita resides in the body and the body likens a city which has nine doors (V. 13). And one wonders whether the battle of Kurukshetra takes place in that city only. If the self can annihilate ignorance in that city, knowledge appears before him with all the glory of the Sun (V- 16). The trldy wise is not at all distracted by the varied allurements of the city. Their self burns like a lamp which does not tremble. The lamp is as it were in a place where there is no wind (VI. 19). Or else in other words the air is there tranquil. The mind likens the wind in its restlesnes (VI- 34). But the truly wise has his mind controlled. The speaker distinguishes himself from his Prakiti or nature. He, however, speaks of two different aspects of his nature. One is aparaPrakiti the other is para-Prakiti. The former is mundane whereas the latter is supra-mundane. Ths speaker calls them as yonis or the womb. It is these two wombs that hold the universe and yet everything in the universe is woven into the string that is the speaker himself, just as the gems are woven into a thread (VII- 6 , 7). Once we closely read into the above two imageries. I, We find certain very significant things. Firstly, the multitudinlous particulars of this existence are not trifles but gems. They have been woven into a thread which is God. So everything is hallowed here when looked upon as a gem adding glory to God. Besides, God and God’s nature are different and yet the same. Because is not it that the Prakiti holds the gems?

The speaker describes himself as the seed of everything whatever in the existence (VII- 10). He is hidden from the eye through his maya or illusion (VII- 25). Thus the speaker identifies himself with the fire that hides in the smoke and with the foetus that hides in the placenta. The speaker externalises himself and describes himself as the poet par excellence. This poet par excellence is the law giver. He is the primodial being. He is smaller than an atom. It is he who sustains everyone. He is unthinkable. He is like the Sun beyond the sphere of darkness (VIII- 9). In our sense perception days follow nights and nights follow days. The Sun rises in the east only to set in the west after the livelong day leaving the world to darkness. But here is a vision of a world alight beyond the sphere of darkness. That is a world where the Sun never sets. Once again the body has been likened to a house. The truly wise has its doors shut. He confines his mind in the heart and chants Om (VIII-12,13). Such a person is liberated from the body which has been likened to the house of sorrow (VIII- 15). Earlier the wheel of in-exorable law that operates through the eixtence has been referred to. It suggests the recurrance of birth and death of the self but the inexorable law could be also defied once one attains the speaker who is identified with truth and knowledge. In this context the rotation of the wheel has been referred to (VIII. 16). There has been already a reference to night and day. What is night or day to man is quite different from the night and day to the creator. Aeons constitute his night and aeons constitute his day. With the daybreak the creation begins. With the dusk of the creator the creation seems to wane and disappear (VIII-17,18, 19). The speaker though very much existing in the contingent world of ours, claims that his home is beyond the existence which is subject to creation and destructon. Once someone reaches there, he must not come back to the world of life and death. In other words the home of

Rhetoric of the Gitas

213

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

the speaker is a plane where neither life nor death can intrude (VIII. 21). A person who is not aware of this plane beyond the sphere of sorrow must sojourn along the road of death and samsara. Samsara is a highly suggestive word. It speaks of a plane where everything eludes one’s grasp (IX. 3). Be that as it may whatever is there in the everelusive sansara including death are made up of the indeterminate and unmanifest stuff that is the speaker (IX. 4). Thus the Bh. Gita contradicts itself over and over again. The sojourner along the road of death is very much the self of the indeterminate and eternal stuff. Death is not death when it is made of up of the stuff of the deathless. The speaker observes that many of the seekers worship him kindling the fire of knowledge. Some others again worship him as their own self. Others again worship him as the other–their God (IX. 15).

CHAPTER - XXX
DIFFERENT PLANES OF REALITY
Our contemporary science & philosophy seek to decode the existence as it is. Physics or biology seeks to unlock the truths, if any, no matter, whether there is man to perceive it on not. But, the gitas put man first. The Hamsa Gita—na manusat Sresthataras he kincit. There is nothing superior to man. And gitas, deliberation on life & world begins with human perception of the same. The 2nd, chapter of the Bhagavad gita clearly points out the different planes of reality confronting man. Firstly there is the social reality where mundane achievements are lauded and failures in the mundane world are decried. Face to face with the battle at Kurukshetra, Arjuna vacillates like a Shakespearean hero. To do or not to do is his question. To fight or not to fight is his question. Krishna points out that if he backs out from the war, they will decry him. Besides Krishna points out that in this phenomenal world one need not shrink from killing others or getting killed by others. This is simply because of the fact that nothing remains forever in this world. That which is doomed to die, can die any moment. Dying an hour before or an hour later makes no difference.
Gatasunagatasumsca Nanusocanti panditah

But, even if it were true, it is not human to think like that. Since nothing is permanent in the world, is it at all wise to destroy the world with nuclear bombs? Well Krishna says that not a single molecule is destructible. This he does not observe in the light of such theories that say that energy is indestructible or the quantum of energy that is the existence is constant. Krishna points out that everything unique that we find has its uniqueness which is indestructible. Well, men may come & men

Different Planes of Reality

215

216

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

may go but man remains. Flowers bloom & flowers wither away. But flower is indestructible. No Krishna does not posit the uniqueness as indestructible in that light. On the contrary, he points out that every flower is unique, every man is unique and every kangaroo is unique. This uniqueness of a kangaroo is different from the Kangaroo. The uniqueness of a man is different from the man we perceive. The uniqueness puts on the varied shapes & forms. The man or kangaroo that we perceive is not the man or the Kangaroo. It is the mask that its self has put on. Hence the world that we perceive—the world as it is, is a masquerade? The owners of these masks do not die. They doff and don their masks.
Vasansi Jirnani yatha vihaya Navani grihnati naroparani Tatha Sarirani Vihaya jirna— Nyanyani samyati navani dete.

And of course there is a fifth plane referred to in the Bhagavadgita. Which is the plane of Krishna. Let us now observe how Brahman has been dwelled on in the gitas. The third chapter of the Gita say
Karma brahmodbhavam viddhi Brahmaksara samudbhutam Tasmat sarvagatam Brahma Nityam rajne pratisthitan. What is Yajina is a motif to be dwelled on later. In the context of the Bh. Gita, the existence is agog with action. It is action. It is as it were cosmic yajna or sacrifice. And the Brahman is present everywhere in the sacrifice. It is born of akshara or that which is indestructible. It is indestructible itself (C/o. Aksharam Paramam Brahma– Bh. G. Chapter VIII, 41).

This is not all. Brahman is every thing in the sacrifice.
Brahmarpanam Brahma havi Brahmagnau Brahmana hutam. Brahmaiva tena gantavyam. Brahma Karma Samadhina. Brahman is itself the oblation. Brahman is the butter poured into the fire. Brahman itself is the fire. Brahman itself offers the oblation. Brahman is the destination of the oblation. Brahman is attained by one who performs the act of sacrifice being absorbed in Brahman.

Hence whether the masks are shattered in course of a fight or on their own through old age or senility does not matter. That undying uniqueness that puts on the masks is known as Jivatman or individual soul. In other words, the individual souls exist and the show of things are peopled with these myriads of souls. Thus there is a third level of reality. It does not change. But undergoes changes. But Krishna speaks of a fourth level of reality.
Avinashi to tad Viddhi Yena Sarvamidam Hatam. Know that as changeless with which the panorama of existence is created. This is Brahman

Clearly thus there are the following levels of reality 1. Social Life 2. Human Life 3. Plane of the individual Soul 4. The Plane of the Brahman.

Krishna describes Brahman as aksara or indestructible and changeless as contrasted with kshara or changing. The world made of sky, earth, wind, water and fire is the kshara or the phenomenal world which is subject to ceaseless change. But besides the kshara and akshara, two other categories are introduced in the Purusa which is adhidaivata, and Krishna himself who is adhiyajna. Brahman is the single syllable OM Omityakasara Brahma (Ch 813) On the surface, Krishna does not distinguish between, the Prakriti and Avyakta

Different Planes of Reality

217

218

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Avyaktoksara it-yukta mahu paramam gatim.

The unmanifest is the indestructible. It is the summum bonum for every one. It is the goal.
Arjuna identifies Krishna as Brahman. Param brahma paramdhama Pavitram paramam bhavan

How come that the infinite and the indestructible could be a mortal breathing through a limited frame of a human. Well the Almighty and Infinite could not be the Almighty and Infinite if it cannot incarnate in the finite. Brahman is indeterminate, unmanifest, omnipresent, unthinkable secret, changeless and constant (Bh.G. Ch.-XII 3). And surely Brahman which is beginningless as neither is nor is not.
Anadimat param brahma na sat-asadasnute (Bh.G. Ch. 13)

attributless. It is uncaused. I tell you how the Kshetrajna partakes of the essence of Brahman or perhaps I cannot tell. The Brahmin says that the Kshetrajna partakes of the Brahman who espies rightly. Others might look upon it as wisdom’s self. This is a very ambiguous statement. It suggests that the same self appears in two colours. To the ignorant it is the jivatman or the individual self that lingers though the body is subject to decay or death . But with the wise it is the Brahman that exists in the form of Kshetrajna in every heart. Whether the Kshetrajna is superior to Brahman or whether it exists through Brahman remains unanswered. In the Brahmana Gita Krishna introduces himself as the Kshtrajna.

The same Brahman has myriads of heads & feet. It enjoys all sense objects & yet does not have any sense-organ. It exists without & within in every being. It is indivisible and yet it appears in fragments. It is the light of light & exists beyond the realm of darkness. The Brahman is the receptacle in which the seed is sown by Krishna himself-Krishna the presiding spirit of sacrifice. Thereby the creation is possible. And the Brahman must be distinguished from the person who is destroyed and the individual soul which lingers. It is the soul of the souls (Ch. XV–16-17). The Brahmani in the Anugita (Chapter XV, Sl-4) asks— How is it that the Brahman which is indeteminate becomes the Kshestrajna. The Kshetrajna exists through the Brahman. And yet how could the Kshetrajna partake of the essence of Brahman. The Brahmin in reply answers.- Brahman is indeterminate and

220

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XXXI
THE GITAS COMPARED Now that we have surveyed the gitas in the Mahabharata, we find a clear structure visible before our eyes that links them into a pattern. Firstly unless it is the Sadja gita or the Srimad Bhagavad gita, all the other gitas, are recollections of the inspired sayings of the past. For example, Bhisma recollects what Sanat Kumara had exhorted to the demon Vritra, aeons back in Vritra gita. On another occasion, in response to the queries of Yudhisthira Bhisma, recounts what Harita, the sage had exhorted on the self-same question. Manki Gita, Vichakhnyu gita, Rishabha gita, Brahma gita, Hamsa gita–each one of them is a recollection of inspired talks uttered in the past. Even Anugita is recollection of the past. Here Krishna himself is the speaker. But he speaks the whole gita in the third persons. Either a Brahmin or a Siddha or a guru or Brahma the creator, is the speaker there. May be Krishna projects himself in those characters or they are masks through which Krishna speaks. But Krishna here seems to recollect his emotions & thoughts that occured to him in the past. The two gitas that have been in course of the main action of the Mahabharata are the Sadja gita & the Srimad Bhagavadgita. While Sadja gita is a debate among the five brothers viz the Pandavas and Vidura as to what should be the sunmum bonum of human life the Srimad Bhagavadgita is Krishna’s speech at the battle field of Kurukshetra just at the moment the war starts. Krishna’s speech is recounted ad verbatim by Sanjaya at the court of King Dhritarastra. Sanjaya has television as well as tele-audition. Curiously enough, though each one of the gitas is an inspired speech by a sage mind (Vidura of Sadanga gita should be deemed as a sage) or by Krishna the god-incarnate, each one of the gitas is unique in its style and thoughts. For example the Vritra gita or the Hamsa gita, are

discourses taking place among super-human beings. The Hansa gita is a fable. The Vritra gita harks back to a time when gods & demons were engaged in mortal battle. The Vritra gita, revels in colour-symbolism to classify the different beings and things under the skies. It focusses on the transmigration of soul and the theory of karma. The Harita gita is a collection of pithy & terse sayings on what frame of mind one must attain, in order that one might renounce the world in quest of bliss. Bodhya gita revels in conundrums that are decoded by Bhisma. They exhort us to abandon all hope & move about in the world all alone. Hope is a recurrent theme in the gitas. Manky gita is autobiographical. It dwells on how the personal experiences of the speaker proved that hopes stand in the way of man in his quest for bliss. Hope is equally the theme of Rishabha gita. Here a King while a-hunting was led to the digs of the sages. One of the sages then recounts, how a king had set out in quest of his lost son and reached a hermitage. There, in response to queries of a king, Krisha the sage par excellence exhorts that hope makes the world weak & feeble. It is the only block on the way of peace. The Rishabha gita is in its own right a short story par excellence. The Sage Krisha here speaks being wise from his own experiences in the worldly life. Ironically enough the prince that was lost had refused the sage earlier. This refusal taught the sage the right road to peace. Of course the prince had to pay for his rudeness. He was lost to the world. The sage Krisha however conjured him back to worldly life. We do not know, however, what happened to the prince really, when he seemed to be lost to his parents or the world. While Sadja gita is an interesting debate among six men, the Parasara gita is deliberation on a number of themes like the inevitability of reaping one’s actions, the benefits of good manners the station & duties of men, the efficacy of penence & ahimsa & many other

The Gitas Compared

221

222

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

sundry topics related to the dos & donts for man. The Hamsa gita is a fable. Here the creator in the shape of a swan exhorts as to the secret of human bondage & how to get rid of the same. Thereby Hamsa gita dwells on the ideal way of life. Anu gita is a master piece in its own right. It is a montage of apparently discrete dialogues, between a Siddha and his disciple Kasyapa, between a Brahmin and his wife, between mind & the senses, between the personified different aspects of our in-haling & exhaling of air and so on. It also recounts the speech of Brahma the creator. Thus the Anu gita is a wonderful collage of numerous paroles that touch upon myriads of themes from creation itself down to the do’s & donts of every man in the society in search of happiness. While Brahma dwells on the three gunas, the creation of Mahat, ahankara & the five senses the field or the Kshetra & the knower of the field, the evanescence of the world, the wheel of time & so on, from a cosmic perspective, the Brahmana speaks from the point of human existence. The Brahmana’s speech touches upon a whole range of themes in such as the world as a mighty forest or life as a grand sacrifice & so on. Often the Brahmana touches upon the themes that Brahma touches upon from a different perspective. Besides the Brahmana’s speech quotes dialogues taking place on different planes among gods and sages and snakes and so on. The author of the Mahabharata as a narrator, prefers showing than telling. Hence such episodes like that Parasurama & Kartaviryarjuna or that of Alarka seem to take place before our eyes. We have a direct experience of them. Srimad Bhagavad gita is however, addressed to Arjuna. Krishna--the god-incarnate is the speaker. Krishna the speaker in Anugita is not omniscient. He recounts discourses on different issues that took place earlier. In the Srimad Bhagavad gita, however, Krishna does not refer to any one else to support his ideas. He is in his omniscient self & speaks on everything that pertains to life & the world, in his own parole. And every word of his, is authentically his own.

Thus the variation among the gitas are wide. While the shorter gitas, dwell on a single theme in the main. (The Bamadeva gita, or Brahma gita for example dwells on the duties of a king) the Anugita or the Srimad Bhagavad gita or the Parasara gita compasses a wide range of themes in their own way. And of course, all these gitas shine like satellites centring around the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. And since, most of the gitas, were told earlier than the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, all the earlier gitas seem to merge in the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita just as rivers merge into the sea. Curiously enough though Srimad Bhagavad gita was told last, in point of time & it is an organic part of the main action of the Mahabharata, other gitas have been recounted only after the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is spoken in course of the action. Thus the gitas other than Srimad Bhagavadgita recounted at later time than the Bhagavadgita impel the reader from time to time to dwell on the different themes of the Bhagavadgita in retrospect. Thus a wonderful tension has been created between the clocktime & the narrative time. It is interesting to note further that the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is an organic part of the main action of the Mahabharata. When Arjuna all of a sudden drops his bow & arrow & says that he will not participate in the war it is a case of peripeti or complete reversal of the tendency of action. If Arjuna really gave up fighting there would be a walk over for the Kauravas. The Pandavas, one & all, would be butchered. Because, all the great warriors, next only to Arjuna, were in the Kaurava ranks. Krishna’s speech-the Srimad Bhagavad gita saved the situation on behalf of the Pandavas. On the contrary no other gita has any such direct link with the main action of the story of the Mahabharata. So their only function is either to foreshadow the Bhagavad Gita or to remind one of the Bhagavad Gita. In other words, when we read the gitas, taken together, we could read them in two ways. One way could be, to read the gitas other

The Gitas Compared

223

224

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

than the Srimad-Bhagavad Gita as the preludes to the latter or else one could read them as the reminders of the latter. Now if we read the other gitas as preludes to the Bhagavad Gita, we find the following salient features. Firstly, the Vritra gita gives us a vision of the ineffable Vishnu, with grey beard. Sanatkumara testifies that the whole existence lives in Vishnu only. Vishnu is the world, and Visnu feeds on the world. Bhisma says that Krishna is the incarnation of Visnu’s crown or turya-amsa. The Vritra gita also refers to time that devours up everything. The Vichakhnyu gita points out that it is Visnu only who, is the object of worship in every sacrifice whatever. The Brahmana gita ch. VI confirms the view. The Parasara gita observes that Visnu maintains the world. The Anu gita refers to the purusa with myriads of legs & hands & eyes in every direction (A.G- IV,49). Besides, the inscrutable reality, which is ineffable seems to serve as the a priori background of the disccourses in the Parasara gita & Anu gita & in almost every gita as such either explicitly & or implicitly. The Srimad Bhagavad Gita seems to be the voice of this very Visnu, or the great Purusa who has donned human shape. Thus while all the other gitas evoke curiosity as to the god--head, call it Visnu or Krishna. Krishna himself appears in mortal frame & speaks in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Thus here is the apotheosis of all the gitas indeed. While the other gitas seem to speak of life & universe in different aspects only, Krishna’s speech at the battlefield seems to look upon the reality steadily & as a whole. In his speech all the different aspects of the revealed truths as testified in the other gitas remain through their differences and yet seem to be woven into a whole. But the whole is never the aggregate of its parts. The whole is always something more than its parts. True, Vritragita gives us a glimpse of Visnu. But, it finds its crown in the eleventh canto of the Bhagavadgita. Here Visnu is no more a vision. The Purusha having

myriads of hands & feet, the Purusha who is time itself flashes before our eyes in all his dynamicity. Time past, time future become eternal present. Creation, preservation & destruction of myriads of worlds have been telescoped in the eleventh canto of the Bhagavad Gita. It is time and again. But there is more to it. Krishna, the human being becomes the myriad headed & myriad handed purusa. The myriad headed & myriad handed purusa appears in the being of mortal Krishna. Thus Krishna deconstructs the purusa & the purusa deconstructs the man Krishna. The world is in the man & yet the man is in the world. This is a site in the Mahabharata where logic & man’s reason fail to hold out. Hence, when Mm. Ananta Thakur, says that the message of the Bhagavad Gita is spread all over the Mahabharata in the guise of different gitas, he is true & yet he is not true. Because, the appocalyptic vision that we experience in the Srimad Bhagavadgita canto XI can hardly be guessed or imagined, if we keep aside the Bhagavad Gita & read the other gitas. The experience of the purusa seems to animate the a priori premise of the other gitas. Here is a vision of the truth or the reality which other gitas seek to evoke in our mind. There are thousands of descriptions of the Niagra falls. They will naturally differ from one another. But they are no substitute for the experiencing of the Niagra falls with one’s eyes & ears. True that if there are two visitors to Niagra, they will not experience Niagra in the same way. Each one will have his own Niagra, no doubt. Similarly the pisgah vision in the eleventh canto of the Bhagavad Gita will be perceived by each viewer or reader in his own way. For instance in the Gita itself, while Arjuna is terrified & awe—struck at the sight of Purusa in man & of man in the purusa. Sanjaya another viewer is tranquil. His description of the purusa is loaded with the recurrent word divya or divine. Besides it is all light, brighter than thousand suns. It strikes awe in us, but it does not strike terror unlike Arjuna’s description of the cosmic purusa in man. Mahamahopadhyaya Ananta Thakur is, however, right that the

The Gitas Compared

225

226

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

messages of the other gitas are indeed summed up in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Almost every theme such as purusa prakriti brahman, triguna, individual soul, transmigration, the four castes & their duties, the four stages of life, the four goals of man, the individual soul & its relation with the reality, the different planes, of reality yajna,—that have been dwelled on either in this gita or in that gita, recurs in Srimad Bhagavad Gita, and surely they have been welded into a pattern. But this does not mean, that the messages of all these gitas are the same. They are not always the same. Each gita, even though has affinity to other gitas in their intuitive knowledge of the ineffable reality behind the show of things, each gita is unique through its difference from other gitas. For example, while the Vichakhnyu gita debunks every kind of violence Krishna in Srimad Bhagavad Gita has a different view altogether. He does not say merely that when war is a must, it is a must. He goes to the length of saying that war opens up the heaven’s gates for the warring class. Vichakhnu gita opens with a horrid spectre of slaughtered cows here & there. Deos it not remind one of horrors of war. Srimad Bhagavadgita opens with Arjuna’s sharp attack on war. But, it has not been a mere theoretical denunciation of war on the part of Arjuna. Here the horrors of the impending war has been seen through a personality. Hence it is all poetry and known as the laments of Arjuna. While the Manky gita, Sampaka gita, Bodhya gita and the like prescribe renunciation, Krishna, asks them to live in the world. One must act, act, in the living present without any expectation as such in the contingent. One has the right to work because one cannot but work. But, according to Krishna, one has no right to realising the fruitions of one’s work. The Rishabha gita denounces hope. So does Bodhya gita. Krishna observes that one must act because act one must, but one must not hope for any reward for the act. Thus the gitas, differ from each other & yet they seem to have

some underground harmony hidden from the eye. For example, Vichakhnyu gita thunders against the slaughter of animals even at the altar of sacrifice. On the other hand, true that Krishna goads Arjuna to war. But over & over again he uses war as a metaphor. He asks Arjuna to butcher ignorance with the sword of knowledge. He asks Arjuna to fight the enemies called desire. Thus there is always a tension between the varied meanings of war in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Still why do these gitas differ from each other on the surface? We can easily account for these differences when we remember the addressors, the addressees, & the contexts in which the gitas have been sung. That the context always determines a speech, is amply shown in the Anugita. When, Arjuna asks Krishna to repeat what he said at the battlefield, Krishna declines. Because, the context of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita no longer exists. The context is of two kinds viz. material & linguistic. By material context we mean the physical context in the course of the action in which a gita has been sung. But by linguistic context we mean the query, in the context of which the gita has been sung. Well, while all the other gitas have been recounted in times of peace, Srimad Bhagavad Gita has been spoken in the face of impending war. Unlike the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, most of the gitas are recounted, when the battle of Kurukshetra has been lost & won, when the massmassacre at Kurukshetra has been complete. Arjuna’s question, at the battle-field of Kurukshetra is regarding whether to fight or not. Arjuna’s query at the battle-field of Kurukshetra is whether to act or not. He is already there in the battle-field. And should he give up arms in the face of raging war which has just begun? Yudhisthira’s queries are on the contrary different. They are— How to get rid of births & deaths? (Vritra gita) How to build up

The Gitas Compared

227

228

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

oneself so that one could attain eternal bliss (Harit gita) What happens to man if he is engrossed with wealth (Manky gita). How do happiness & misery come to man (Sampaka gita). What actions in this world lead one to the attainment of the ideal in this life as well as in the life hereafter? (Parasara gita) They speak highly of speaking truth, self-control, having mercy on others & wisdom. Are they really important? (Hamsa gita). The queries of Yudhisthira are thus more theoretical. He wants to know the dos & donts of life whereby man attains peace in life & life hereafter. The theme of discussion in Sadja gita revolves round what should be the object of human life. In the case of Anu gita, Arjuna asks Krishna to retell the Srimad Bhagavad Gita in times of peace. But in a changed context. Krishna fails to do so. Instead he speaks a different gita which is known as Anugita. Anugita also dwells on metaphysical and worldly issues only to inform Arjuna’s mind about the truth of the existence. Thus, while all the other gitas seek to inform the mind, the Srimad Bhagavad gita impels Arjuna to act. Hence there is a qualitative difference between Srimad Bhagavat gita & other gitas. The addressers are also different. Krishna who speaks the Bhagavadgita is the charioteer of Arjuna the hero of heroes. On the worldly plane a charioteer always acts at the biddings of the hero who rides the chariot. On another plane however, it is the charioteer at whose biddings, the chariot as well as its rider should behave. Krishna the charioteer exhorts Arjuna the rider of the chariot at Kurukshetra during the wake of war. The Srimad Bhagavadgita is a call to arms indeed, seen on this plane. The war over, the same Krishna, in the role of a friend & brother, exhorts Arjuna as to the riddles of the existence. Thus, when a man puts on different roles, he speaks differently.

Bhisma, the addressor speaks while resting on a bed of shafts or arrows. He is a vanquished hero at the battle. But no one can kill him. He can die only at his will. He is waiting for the auspicious hour of death to come. And it is he who advises Yudhisthira on the dos & donts of life & road to freedom at the instance of Yudhisthira himself. Bhisma’s speeches are the speeches of a man, who has lived long & now who is ready to die. The view of a man, who drank deep in the fountain of life and who readily goes to death with no foreboding or fear, is singularly interesting. And of course it is an addressee who determines the speech of an addressor. In Srimad Bhagavad Gita Arjuna is the addressee. He is the greatest hero at the battle-field. All of a sudden he drops his bow and says that he will not fight. He does not fear to lose his own life. But his baleful eyes are full of tears, at the imaginings of the horrors of war and their effect on the society. He is at the rock-bottom of despair and he needs a revelation. Krishna stands up to the situation and sings the Srimad Bhagavadgita, that bursts into revelation accompanied by paens of admiration from Arjuna and Sanjaya. Finally the song is wound off with metaphysical discourse as a sequel to the revelation. In the Anu gita the same Arjuna is the addressee. But he is no longer in the role of a warrior. His query is not concerned with any life and death question. Hence Krishna’s speech in the Anu gita does not climb the heights of revelation that we experience in Srimad Bhagavad gita. Yudhisthira is preoccupied with dharms. Hence his queries are more impersonal. And Bhisma’s speeches have been that of a wise teacher. On the other hand, Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is beyond himself while speaking. He is more than a teacher there. He calls Arjuna as his most intimate friend. He tells Arjuna that he is Arjuna and Arjuna is he; the addresser & addressee merge. The world & the purusa merge. The self & non-self merge. And yet they are two, the

The Gitas Compared

229

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

addresser & the addressee, the self & the non-self and the purusa and the world. Thus the Srimad Bhagavad Gita stands out as a singular song which seems to come out from the very heart of the existence both phenomanal & noumenal and comprehends the whole. The other gitas, though many of them told earlier, throw light only on aspects of the same. And surely the whole is always greater than the sum--total of its parts. Hence if the Srimad Bhagavadgita were not there, we could not reconstruct it from the other gitas. But When Mm. Ananta Thakur asserts—get rid of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita; still we could reconstruct them from the other gitas scattered through the pages of the Mahabharata, he is very true, though not in the literal sense. He points out that the message of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita is not an interpolation in the Mahabharata. The other gitas throw light only on some spects of the reality. They always evoke in the reader the curiosity to know the reality as a whole. And hence the speech of Krishna that comprehends all the possible aspects of life is always a demand on the part of the reader. The whole action of the Mahabharata calls for a kind of revelation that might resolve the contradictions. Even if the other gitas are read after the Srimad Bhagavadgita, they help us to ruminate on what Krishna Bhagavan told at the outset of the battle of Kurukshetra.

CHAPTER - XXXII
MESSAGE OF THE GITAS I As we have already seen the gitas littered here and there in the vast wilderness of countless narratives that is the Mahabharata is in a sense organically related with the epic. They are like the skies that occasionally peep into the leaf fringed forest and give us the glimpse of the reality that baffles language and descriptions. But perhaps the significance of the gitas goes deeper. They have an uncanny grasp over what human life is, what are his objects when he is in the society and what human society is like. Every man has to pass through four stages or four seasons of human life. They are roughly childhood, adolescence and youth, old-age and beyond that. This is the lot of man everywhere under the sun. Shakespeare and Keats also divided human life into similar stages. In our country as such childhood and old age have been determined by law. When they say there should be no child labourer or no child marriage or child abuse they determine the time-span of childhood. Once again, the govt. has defined the retirement age for its employees. Thus the time-span of youth and middle age has been also determined. A human life cannot be conceived of without man being in the society. No wonder, therefore that childhood and adolescence as well as the middle age entail with them their corresponding duties. Without performing these duties man cannot live in this society. Hence these duties are rather the rights of man to survive in the society. In our materialistic world today we prepare ourselves in childhood and adolescence so that we could join in the rat-race for survival in the middle age of life. It is during this period of time that we marry and beget children. We have our family responsibilities. To shoulder such responsibilities we need money.

Message of the Gitas I

231

232

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

To earn money we have to join in some economic activity. The sole aim of our education system has been to build ourselves up for participating in the economic activity. The society to-day however does not take into account the responsibilities of the old age. Hence ageism has now become a problem that the society faces. The old people thrown away from livelihood are real sufferers. The society is not mature enough to enrich itself from the experience of age. Be that as it may, the truth of the four stages of human life has been taken into account by the gitas and the ancient Indian thought. On the contrary the society today doesnot have any comprehensive view as to the four stages of life. Gitas look upon life steadily and as a whole and put forward an integrated view of life. Gitas take into account the reality of death. In the childhood itself they simultaneously teach the child the means of livelihood as well as the transitoriness of life. Then the child passes through the youth and participates in the economic activity of the worldly life. Finally the age of his retirement comes. The old men in the materialistic world today seem to have no end in view. Thrown away from the economic activity they all of a sudden discover that they are alienated from the society. But the ancient Indian thought as embodied in the gitas prescribes the old men to embrace the alienation suo motu. How could they face alienation? Well they have done their part to help their families and the neighbours–when they were young men. Now they must give up their small world in quest of the larger world or Vana. In this stage of life, they should continuously meditate of the well being of all things great and small in the universe. Earlier also their education taught them to cherish altruistic ideas. But their family responsibilities stood in the way. Now that the family responsibilities have been clinched up, they are no longer with their families; they now belong to the world. At the same time they will meditate on death. Man is born to die only. The true heroic of a man lies in how he faces death. The readiness for death entails with

it the proper nyasa or placement of the worldly desires that are associated with the zest for life. In Western literature also we find the echo of similar thoughts. King Lear wants to crawl to death unburdened. Hence he wants to settle his kingdom on his heirs. Prospero flings his magic wand into the depths of the waters and says that hence-forth his every third thought will be grave. But unlike any culture in any society in the world, the ancient Indian culture looked upon the four stages of man as a whole and sought to prepare man in this light. This implies chaturasrama. The ideals of the chaturasrama have been dwelled on elaborately in the speeches of Madalasa in Markandeya Purana. The gitas do not dwell on them directly. But when they talk of the duties of a child or the duties of a house holder, they take chaturasrama for granted. When the Parasara Gita Chapter-III sloka-9 says that every man is born with a priori indebtedness to gods, to relatives, to guests and to one’s self, it points out that no man is born free. Since we are born in the society, we are born with a priori indebtedness to the society and its prevalent culture. When the Parasara Gita says that one’s duty is to pay back the creditors, it chiefly underlines the duties of a man as a householder. Man in the society has always four goals to pursue. He needs foods and clothes. Or else he cannot live. This impels him to economic activity. He needs sex. That is his biological activity. But society will never allow one to have food and sex in a reckless manner. Man is different from other animals. In case of many animals and birds, there is a mating season. But every time is tea time for man and he can have sex more frequently than the animals in general. So if these biological impulses are let loose untrammelled the society will go out of joints. If the society does not exist, man can not survive. Hence certain laws have to be observed so that the individual and the society both could survive. These laws could be called the dharma. Thus every society whatever sets the three goals

Message of the Gitas I

233

234

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

for every man in dharma, artha and kama. Unless artha and kama are controlled by dharma, they go to shatter the society. So in every society whatever, an individual has to inculcate some or other kinds of self-restraint. The self-restraint of man is his dharma. If we ever deviate from the same the general will in the shape of society or state imposes social control on him. Thus positive law and punishment are the epiphenomenon of man’s urge for self-restrain. And they are the manifestation of dharma indeed. In fact artha and kama cannot be imagined without dharma. Neither economic activity is possible when man is left alone. In an island where Alexander Selkirk rules supreme and where no second man inhabits no mating is also possible there. So for the gratification of sex and hunger society is sine qua non with man’s existence. Hence social control will be imposed on man in the need of man only. Man loves himself and at the same time he loves the society. The conflicting values of altruism and egoism is resolved in dharma. Modern thinkers have devoted lot of their energies to dwell on whether sex or economic activity is at the foundation of the society. While Freud, the Austrian psychologist underlines libido as the impelling force behind human activity, Karl Marx the German jew emphasised that economic force propelled history. The same debate has been properly handled in the Sadanga Gita. Both Marx and Freud pondered over how these a priori inclinations of man could be sublimated. Freud as a psycho-analyst dwells on how, the cravings of the Id that lurks in the wilderness of unconscious could be sublimated Marx also showed how an ideal society could be forged on the basis of equal distribution of wealth. His watch-word waseverybody according to his need. Thus neither of them could discard dharma in their discourses. Both of them are rather partial in their views of life. Ancient Indian social psychology as put forward by the gitas however take into account all the three in dharma, artha and kama. And besides that they add a fourth dimension to the goal of man. No man can be enough materialist.

So Karl Marx envisions a world rid of exploitation. In that communist state of civilisation man will be warring with Nature–he posits. Nature is within and without. Human nature is itself to be conquered and there once again the philosophy of Dr. Freud is relevent. Marx thinks in terms of the society. He thinks that unless the social force is sufficiently changed, man’s quest for the infinitude can never be fulfilled. But Freud points out that every individual must help himself sublimating his unconscious. Thus while one focuses on the individual the other focuses on society. Ancient Indian thought and the gitas on the other hand take both individual and the society into account. And it pins on the fact that every man is born with his a priori inclinations even in a socalled uncongenial society. So men could aspire towards absolute freedom from every bondage–even from the bondage of sex life and economic activity, even from the bondage of dharma. In every society whatever there have been people who renounced the world. President Roosevelt deserted America for Afric shores. The young French poet Rimbaud left poetry once for all. Hence this urge for getting rid from the bonds of life is also universal. Or else, why should there be the quest for democracy and liberalism and laissez faire economy. Everywhere law is the condition of liberty and yet the urge for liberty often goads man to go further and renounce life. Ancient Indian world view and the gitas prescribe the cultivation of the culture of renunciation in the third stage of life. The renunciation must imply the renunciation of ego. Compassion for the whole existence naturally follows. Then it seems to man that everything is right with the world and he abandons all hope. He pays the world its dues that is sannyas and he is ready to meet death. Thus dharma, artha, kama all together lead man to surpass them. And his urge for moksha or liberation is also a facet of dharma. Thus dharma, according to ancient Indian thought and the gitas, is a bull with four legs in dharma, artha, kama and moksa.

236

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

CHAPTER - XXXIII
MESSAGE OF THE GITAS II Every society has its hierarchy. There are engineers and doctors and professors, labourers, cultivators, scavengers, politicians, police in the society to-day. In the primitive society also there is hierarchy along similar lines. Broadly speaking such hierarchies are founded on the function of different classes of people. When Marx says that there should be a classless society, he posits that there should be no rich men or poor men in the society. But in any society whatever the different functions viz. that of a teacher or that of a doctor will exist. And one’s activities often determine one’s outlook. So in the same society it is apt that there should be different classes. If there were no such different classes, the society will cease to exist. When Marx posits that in the ideal society everybody must get according to his need, there would be difference in the possessions of men belonging to different occupations. While a college teacher will need a big library according to his need, a merchant must need to possess ships and store-houses. Very naturally there will be difference in the riches of persons of respective occupations. Therefore Marx actually pointed out that in his utopia there will be no awareness as to the difference in personal possession. No one will be jealous of an administrator who owns a helicopter to survey a whole region that he governs. A teacher will walk down to his school. At best he may ask for a bicycle. He will not need a car. Because servicing a car every three months will tell upon his supply of time.Instead of wasting his time for the car, he could meditate on issues of more crucial importance to him than that of the breakdown of the car. In other words Marx would also have to consent to the notion of station and duties. Broadly speaking in every society whatever there is some one who gives the language. They are the philosophers, economists, scientists, jurists. There are also people

who rule the state accordingly. They are the hands of the society. There will be people who will add to the wealth of society by way of exchange between one society and another. Besides there will be the producers of wealth. Even if as Marx conceived, states were abolished and even if there were the Federation of the World and the Parliament of man, no one can abolish the difference among many societies. Just as the earth could not be made one uniform flat land, there will always be the land and sea, the hills and the dales, the stars and the earth. If the environment itself were abolished, the creation would be destroyed. The ancient India and the gitas perceived it as an obvious fact. Hence Krishna says that I have created the four castes and yet I have not created it. This serves us the basis of caste system. There are brahmins who give the language to the society. There are Kshatras who protect the law and the order of the society. There are Vaisyas who revel in the production system of the society and there are sudras who help all the three classes in their activity. Since Renaissance in Europe, the notion of humanism has come to the foreground in the of human thought. Man, they said, is the crown and coping stone of the creation. So does the Mahabharata and the Hansa Gita assert repeatedly. M.M. Ananta Thakur points out that the message of the Mahabharata and the gitas are embodied in the phrase :
Na manusat sresthataram hi kincit

And there has been the concept of Man that consists of the whole mankind as such. It is the Virat Purusa as envisioned in the Vedas. Brahmins are its month. Every one from Buddha down to Socrates, Milarepa, Jallauddin Rumi and Bertand Russel belong to this class. The hands are Kshatriyas. Every one including Alexander, Chengis and Timur and Napoleon belongs to this caste. Chand Sadagar and Henry Ford belong to the class of Vaisyas who constitute the thighs of the Purusa whereas the engineers and the labourers belong to the

Message of the Gitas II

237

238

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

class of the sudras. Perhaps no one has any dispute with this thesis. but the ancient Indian society and the gitas made these classes hereditary. That is, each class has its own duties and corresponding privileges. This will devolve unto the children and the grand-children of each class. This has been singularly distasteful for the Western thinkers. In England kingship is hereditary. In the West also the off-springs of the rich are rich. But exceptions are there. Under no social system, there has been equal opportunity for every body. But this is not all. Since in the West every one lamented for this man’s scope and that man’s talent, they cried for fair field and no favour. Hence they found the caste system singularly dehumanising. Because it defines the station and duties of a man as soon as he is born. This was due to the fact that the western science influenced by Darwin felt that there is no truth in heredity. The theory of Mendel remained unattended to. But in the 1930s Weissmann and Devvries pointed out that there is truth in the notion of heredity. Of late researches in the fields of genetics show that much depends on heredity. However it is a myth that a brahmin’s child should be taught in the lore of brahmin and a bureaucrat’s child should be taught the art of bureahucracy. Caste system has never been that rigid through-out the history of the country. In the Mahabharata Dronacharyya a brahmin, is a great warrior. It has been pointed out in the Parasara Gita that impelled by the economic exigency, a brahmin could choose some other occupation than the brahmin’s own. Once again the highest voice in the Mahabharata is that of Krishna. Bhishma is also one of the greatest philosophers in the world of the Mahabharata. All the gitas under study are either quoted by Bhisma or spoken or quoted by Krishna. Both are Ksatriyas. Besides there is a third philosopher in the Mahabharata. He is Vidura. Vidura figures in the Sadanga Gita. Vidura has not been acknowledged as a Kshatriya. Because he is born of a Sudra woman. So when a brahmin is used as a deputy to beget children, the children retain their mother’s caste.

This is a queer situation. That is, in the society of the Mahabharata patriachal system and matriarchal system co-mingle. Be that as it may Vidura or the Khatta though being a sudra is allotted the highest position of a philosopher. Thus the non-brahmins could also give language. If the brahmins are deemed as the elite in India, despite the castesystem, the society is capable of the circulation of the elite. For example in the middle ages there was one great saint in Kabir. He was a weaver by birth. But he is greatly acclaimed as a godman all men all over the country in India irrepective of caste and creed. Such instances can be multiplied. The Parasara Gita points out : a sudra also could be a godman if he is in touch of a philosopher. Yathodayagiran dravyam sannikarsena dipyate totha satsannikarsena hinavaruopi dipyate. Since Indian society has been capable of the circulation of the elite, Indian society has never undergone any revolution like the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution that have been witnessed in the West. Let change come as it may, still there has been a kind of social ethos in India since the days of the Vedas till date that is found nowhere else in the world. Thus the Gitas and the ancient Indian society found what was natural in the society and they legitimated them by making codes. Thus since the brahmin gives the language, he should be taught in the art of language. He should be taught the scriptures so that the language he gives is imbued with an altriuistic attitude. The Kshatriyas conduct the body politic in the light of that language. They should know the importance of the philosophers as well as the merchants & the producers and of the service sector. From here emerges the raja-dharma. Rajadharma has been dwelled on in the Utathya Gita and the Bamadeva Gita. There it has been pointed out that the possession of those who are rich by fraud should be confiscated by the state and distributed among the poor. But this must not be confused with the so-called

Message of the Gitas II

239

240

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

Robinhoodism of the welfare State of today. The Rajadharma sees to that there are really rich merchants in the state who produce through honest exchange. Because state must not stand in the way of individual’s spirit of enterprise or entrepreneurship. The merchant should do his job and the service sector should do its job. The Parasara Gita points out that when men do their job according to their station, they are all honourable :
amena sobhate viprah Ksatrya vijina to dhanena vaisyah sudrastu nityam daksyena sobhate (Ch-IV, 21)

In other words in the ideal society as such depicted by the gitas, everyone should respect his fellowmen irrespective of his caste and creed. But such a society is neither found in the Mahabharata nor in any time and any period of the history of man that we know. Deviations from the ideal is always there. Every kind of social act could be performed largely by three different types of action. There are four kinds of social act in eating, tapsya, yajna and dana. In the larger sense of the term tapsya could be termed as the efforts of an individual to acquire something, be it spiritual or material. Because in the eyes of the Bh. Gita, the difference between the spirit and the matter is functional and not real. Because matter is always informed by the spirit. Matter can not exist without spirit. Matter is itself spirit. And spirit is always matter. May be the spirit is also that kind of matter which was never born to die. So tapasya to repeat is an effort of an individual to acquire something. Then this energy is spent in yajna. Yajna can be construed as a social activity whereby wealth is produced. And it is followed by dana, which implies cash flow. That is the wealth is spent. In the 17th chapter of the Bh.G. the three different attitudes in the performance of such acts have been elaborately delineated. Those who perform these acts in pride, and in self interest do not add to the

social wealth. Actually when we spend the whole of our income to meet up our liabilities we do not add anything to our assets. When our assets wear out, our income also dwindles. And the chief liability of a man is his pride and ego. When we spend money for status symbols, we waste our assets. And an economy based on expenditure as it is in America or Singapore to-day is foredoomed to die. Practically we earn to consume as well as to give away. Along with dana, there must be eating. Eating could be understood as consumption. The Bh.G. points out the three different kinds of consumption. Some are all for consumption of exotic things for example TV, Video Camera & similar other kinds which do not have any use value for most of us. We buy them to enhance our status value. Neither Marx nor any social thinker can admit of it. The Bh.G says that such wastages are reflected only due to rajasika attitude. The Bh.G, however, points out that these three attitudes are in hermony with the three gunas that constitute the world. Thus the Bh.G over and over again emphasises that man is but a part of nature. The gitas find no harm in the diversities of attitude. If a ruler is angry with a person who breaks the law, he is not wrong. But if anyone else being angry takes the law in hand, he is in the wrong. But what happens is this that the right attitude at the right situation is not always found. Hence there is dysfunction in the society. According to the gitas, people are born with such attitudes a priori. True that on the surface they are hereditary. Hence a brahmin child has a priori more of sattva guna in him. But just as the three gunas exist in every thing in nature, so do they exist in every man. Only thing is that a brahmin child has the sattva guna dominant and raja and tama subdued. But no man is a monad with its eyes and ears closed to the world and the society. The society has different opportunities and the latter might fan to the foreground the raja or tama or both in a brahmin child. The law of causality as put forward by the gitas is very very com-

Message of the Gitas II

241

242

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

plicated. Our common sense view of the world distinguishes between self and the non-self matter and mind, nature and man. Along the self same line the gitas distinguish between the individual soul and the individual. The individual’s aspirations in this life goad the individual soul from one birth to another. The individual soul or jivatma could be a king in this life and a priest in another life and a clown in the third life only impelled by his attitude and way of karma in life here in this world. Now the gitas exhort that every man should live in the light of this knowledge and perform his duties as per his station without any hope for fruition. That is, the Gitas ask us not to pouder over the possible consequences of our acts. This is known as Karmaphala tyaga. But this is karmaphala tyaga only in the contingent. So that we could reap our karma in our lives to come. So that we could climb higher still and higher the blue deep till we meet with our real self—the infinitude and merge into it. The gitas over and over again say that we are not minds, we are not bodies, we are souls that put on mind and body. So death is nothing but change in the course of the soul’s sojourn along the road of life. But ultimately none-not even the gitas can think beyond death. The gitas say that the death of the bodies is not enough; the mirvana is all in all. Nirvana means the extinctions of our desires and union of our souls–with the indeterminate reality. Every society ancient or modern has its myths. The gitas have set certain myths which are more subtle than any other and which are larger in compass than any other. Roussean points out that man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. But the gitas wonders that how come that man is born free. He is a bondsman of his body and the five senses. This bondage he has acquired through his habits of longing through the different births and deaths. As soon as he belongs to the society, he is a bondman who must obey the laws of the society. No matter whether they are decreed upon man by the General Will or

by an arbitrary ruler. The true liberation with the Gitas is nirbana where the vagaries of life and the society lose their hold upon one’s consciousness. And the gitas not only seek to prepare a man to become an ideal member of the society but also it wants every journeyman who walks along the road of life towards nirvana. Whether nirvana is at all true or false is a different question al-together to be deliberated on by the philosopers & mystics. But the myth has enlarged our vision and horizon. In the light of this myth, the gitas address our individual consciousness and remind us that we are neither body nor mind, nor the senses. The body mind and the senses have their own cravings. Because they are part of the nature. Nature has its own crarings. Let them be fulfilled-if fulfilment comes. But one’s conciousness must not be involved with it. Only then one is wise. The gitas do not impose upon men certain dos and donts. they do not ask us to restrain our senses. But once one does not get involved with the senses, restraint of senses will come upon him on its own. Bramhacharya does not mean celibacy. It means mentally living in Bramha though physically one must sojourn in the mundane world. The gitas ask us to look upon every human activity and social activity as a part of the cycle of nature : The sense of identity with nature is singularly refreshing to the civilisation to-day. Every day we are getting away from nature under the impact of science and technology and emergent egoistic values. Could we inculcate the myth of the gitas, we would not have destroyed the environment only to make our lives impossible. But the gitas do not have one prescription for every body. There are men with different inclinations and different a priori attitudes. For each one of them different mode of thinking has been prescribed. For those who are intellectually prone have Jnana-yoga for them to pur-

Message of the Gitas II

243

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

sue. Those who are fetishistic should pursue Bhakti-Yoga. The BhG has spoken of the different types of yogas namely karma-yoga, Bhakti-yoga, abhyasa-yoga and the like. Many other yogas could be derived from the Gitas which have not been named but included in either of the yogas. This is not the prescription for every one. In some people there are two opposite instincts in the instinct to obey and the instinct to order. These people should be under the restriction of positive law. Them the Gita exhorts to control their senses consciously. Because habit is often the second nature. When we control our nature we no doubt have an alternative nature.

CHAPTER - XXXIV
THE GITAS & THE MAHABHARATA True that each one of the gitas has its own perspective of the reality. Hence one is in no way a repetition of another. They differ from one another on various points. But once we read them in the context of the Mahabharata, they seem to be voices set against the society of the Mahabharata. To prove our point let us have a hurried look here and there into the society of the Mahabharata. Here fraud, dominates over truth. Kadru proves through fraud that the horses of the Sun are black and not white. Consequently Vinata becomes Kadru’s bondswoman for ages and aeons till her child Garuda is hatched from the egg. Then all the ingredients of the revenge drama take place. Garuda liberates her mother from the throes of the bonded labour. And snakes who are his cousins and the children of Kadru become his food. King Parikshit blinded with rage and audacity puts a dead snake around the neck of a saint who was plunged in meditation and who paid no heed to the prayers of the thirsty king. No wonder that the son of the hermit cursed the king. Consequently the King died of snake-bite. The snake Takshaka which bit the King was nothing more than a means in the hands of the fate that was king Parikshit’s own doing. Janamejaya however seeking vengeance lights up the sacrificial fire where all the snakes of the world are drawn to be burnt. Thus, the yajna in the Mahabharata has not been employed to the end of salvation of the soul. Sacrifices are activities to personal end. Brahmins aid and abet such horrid deeds. The main action of the epic revolves round the conflict between the five brothers or Pandavas on one side and the hundred brothers or Kauravas on another side. The bone of contention is regarding inheritance of paternal property. All of

The Gitas & The Mahabharata

245

246

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

the contenders are no ordinary men. While the hundred brothers are incarnation of demons, the five brothers are the children of gods. Thus it seems that the gods and demons have chosen the earth for their trial of strength. It puts in our mind the fact that the western powers always choose Asia for their trial of strength so that Europe and America remain free from the ravages of war. The five brothers have been highly eulogised. They flee from Hastinapur and remain incognito for years. In the meantime they move from strength to strength. They join in dynastic marital alliances. They acquire great spiritual prowess. They become really gods upon earth. And still they can not give up their trifling claim on five villages, that they must wrest from the hands of their Kaurava brothers. Is it spiritualism? Call it spiritualism? Celibacy and restraint of senses is a high value with these sage-like five brothers. And yet Arjuna sets out with the vow of celibacy for one year. When he comes back home--that is, to his brothers and mother, he has already married three women within the span of one year. Celibacy and chastity, however, spoken high of, are matter of choice in the society of the Mahabharata. True that Bhishma never marries. He keeps his word. But when his sister-in-law becomes widow, he says that a brahmin could be paid some gold, so that he could cohabit with her. In other words a chaste woman could cohabit with a brahmin having paid him some money in return. The treatment meted out to the women in the society in the Mahabharata is singularly unique. The risi Parasara takes fancy on Satyabati. With his extra-sensory power, the risi creates a fog around himself and Satyabati and cohabits with her. Thereafter he says that Satyabati will remain still a Kanya. In other words Parasara does not take the charge of the woman, he cohabits with. She is free to choose her husband once again. Draupadi is married to five brothers. At the same time, to ask for her consent regarding such a marriage does not arise in the world of the Mahabharata. Each brother cohabits with her for a year. Then she becomes a Kanya again to cohabit with another brother. In fact as the Dusyanta Sakuntala

episode points out a Kanya is Vastra or a bag to carry a child and that is all. The daughter is a commodity with her royal father. There comes a saint at King Yajati’s Court. He asks for certain rare horses six hundred in count. The king humbly says that he can not give the saint all the horses. Instead he gives his daughter away to the saint. The saint gets two hundred horses from another king in exchange of the king Yajati’s daughter with whom the king will cohabit for a passage of time. The kings daughter goes with the saint thereafter only to cohabit with another king for a passage to time. In exchange the second king also gives away two hundred horses to the saint. Finally the saint reaches his preceptor. The saint gives away all the six hundred horses but he is supposed to give two hundred more horses as dakshina. But the guru gladly gives up his claim on two hundred horses more and is content with cohabiting with Yajati’s daughter for a passage of time instead. Thus love and lust, jealousy and quest for power are the torches of life in the society of the Mahabharata. They culminate in the mass massacre called Kurukshetra. The landscape of the society of the Mahabharata turns into a vast necropolis indeed. And all passions spent there is a calm of mind that marches heaven ward. Seen from psychological stand point the main action of the Mahabharata could be interpreted on another level. The Pandavas and Kauravas both of them the children of the author Veda Vyasa himself. Although Veda Vyasa unlike Valmiki is more intent on showing the events and characters instead of narrating them Veda Vyasa himself is a narrator with arbitary powers. He does not let the events move on their own whenever there is a crisis. Veda Vyasa shows up. For example when Satyabati is widowed, he turns up on the behest of his mother and cohabits with her & with her maid servant. Thus the Pandavas & the Kauravas are de facto his children. When they are at a loss to know how could a daughter be given away to five husbands at the same time, Vedavyasa appears at the Court of King Drupada and cites precedence, so that Draupadi can have five husbands at a

The Gitas & The Mahabharata

247

248

... A Study of the GITAS in the Mahabharata

time. In fact any narrative whatever is the externalisation of its author’s mind. All the characters are but his conflicting inclinations. The battle in his soul among conflicting inclinations are externalised in the battle of Kurukshetra. The result is the annihitation of both the so called good & bad and there is perfect nihil or emptiness—a state of mind that grasps the indescribable reality. Thus the story of the Mahabharata is lorn with love & lust, quest for power & vengeance. And in this background the gitas together seem to be a voice from the deeper layers of consciousness where truth reigns supreme. They are the inspired sayings. They repeatedly command as in the Rishabha gita, or in the Bodhya gita–Abandon ye all hopes. Even Krishna in the Srimadbhagavad Gita asks to act, act in the living present. But one must not hope for any fruition whatever, as a consequence of one’s activities. The Brahmana gita, however, rises above all physical actions. It observes that the yajna need not be enacted out there in the physical world. One must be aware of it being performed continuously within one’s body and being. The Bhagavadgita exhorts that one should be sans company sangavarjita. This means that one should not be involved with one’s senses. In other words, one neither desires for anything nor abhors anything. Indeed such a man is alone. And he like the speaker of Bodhyagita abandons the worldly life to wander as lonely as the single bangle round the wrist of a virgin. Krishna exhorts Arjuna to be alone & yet to take part in the war. This is apparently a paradox. Clearly Krishna’s advice admits of the dichotony of existence. If we are committed to something in the worldly life, we have to play our due part to fulfil the commitment. But at heart each one of us must be alone. In other words we must pay Caesar his dues. But this is applicable in the case of a tax-payer of Ksatrya prince. Wanderers like Bodhya donot have such commitments. Hence they need not join in any war. Thus although on the surface one gita differs from another in details, the gitas

are at heart made of the self same view of life and they have been sheer cry in the wilderness of the world of the Mahabharata. On the surface, while the action of the Mahabharata moves with reekless speed towards a mass-massacre, the voices of the collective mind given tongue through the gitas are lone cries, crying out to check the course of events. And no wonder, a realist as Vedavyasa is, they fail. And yet ironically enough the battle lost & won at Kurukshetra, seems to reach us the readers and the listeners. We learn the truth that all the heroics of man out to conquer the world are but human frailties foredoomed to failure. The gitas which hold out nothingness as the be all and end all of existence and the reality lurking behind the show of things are the words that persist.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful