Bangla Journal

Re-conceptualizing ‘Change’: a Breakage in Need-Desire Economy A study of the Conflicting Complicity of ‘Garhapatya’ & ‘Yati’ in the Ashrama System of The Mahābhārata

Anirban Bhattacharjee


[The article proposes a re-reading of the ashrama system of the Mahābhārata looked through the lens of need/desire economy and ventures into the process how the economy of the need has constantly been produced for ages to uphold the older scheme of Brahmanical society, governed by some sacred laws of the Samhitas and a network of elaborate rituals catalogued in the Purva Mimamsa. Mahābhārata offers incessant panegyrics to the order of the householder which has been considered as the best ashrama in the Dharmasutras and Smriti texts. Performing Nitya, Naimittik and Kamya karmas in the Brahmanical system is being adjudged as a metaphysical ploy of continuing social reproduction as it is crucially predicated upon the exception of autodirection of action. The entire system seems to have a deep antipathy toward the renouncer. In the Laws of Manu and Koutilya’s Arthasastra too, the stage of yati or sannyas has been treated with a ploy of deference. The figure of the Bhikshu or Yati, therefore, points toward a breakage within the mutually implicated structure of need/desire economy and stands out as a threat to the existing politic of family, society and the state. It is one episode in the entire Mahābhārata that probes into this mechanism behind the ascetic rejection of societal attempts to convert asceticism into an institution of old age and reflects on this gesture of ‘negation’ that has its umbilical relation to the Shraman revolution in India, ushering in a veritable change in the hierarchised orthodox Brahmanical system. My article attempts to unfold how a Sannyasin’s desire for denial in praise of solitude and salvation operates as an aporic fissure emerging out of the structural complicity of the need/desire economy. It offers an analysis of this aporetic moment that can disintegrate the incessant process of (re)production [of one’s self], leading to a qualitative change in the sphere of social, cultural and political economy.]

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à¡ p¤fZÑ¡ pk¤S¡ pM¡u¡ pj¡ew hªrw f¢loüS¡−az 1 ¤ j¤äL Ef¢eocz 3/1/1 The Mu daka Upanishad, one of the most important post-Buddhist Upanishads, meant for Sannyasins that incessantly throws a flood of light on the jnana marga and leads the aspirant to the highest rung in the ladder-hËþ¢hcÚ hË°þh ih¢a [3z2z9]-offers a graphic description of the nature of human existence: ‘Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating’.

The individual (bird) affected by Avidya, Kama and Karma is

drowned in grief and it is his/her feeling of impotency and a lack that motivates variable forms of desires and actions leading to corresponding results; a fresh misery is added to the pre-existing lot. However, from the commonest standpoint, the entirety of the individual’s experience, now and then connected with and separated from the objects of its desire, actuates the whole universe of manifestation. But when all the effects of merit and demerit of actions are burned up by the fire of knowledge and the universe is realized to be the same as the essence of the spiritual infinite, the individual self with-draws from attachments and sorrows into renunciation, meditation and wisdom, unhampered by any function alien to the nature of the Self. While journeying across the tempestuous sea toward the coast of Japan, Rabindranath, dazzled by the wild beauty of the landscape happened to ponder over this figurative expression of the Mu daka Upanishad to convey the simple mass of bliss he then experienced in his voyage: Ef¢eoc ¢mM−R, HL X¡−m c¤C f¡¢M B−R, a¡l j−dÉ HL f¡¢M M¡u, Bl HL f¡¢M −c−Mz−k f¡¢M −cM−R a¡lC Be¾c h−s¡ Be¾c z−Lee¡ a¡l −p ¢höÜ Be¾c, j¤š² Be¾c zj¡e¤−ol j−dÉC HC c¤C f¡¢M B−Rz HL f¡¢Ml fË−u¡Se B−R, Bl HL f¡¢Ml fË−u¡Se −eCzHL f¡¢M −i¡N L−l, Bl HL f¡¢M −c−Mz--−i¡N£ f¡¢M −k pjÙ¹ EfLlZ ¢e−u L¡S Ll−R, a¡ fËd¡ea h¡C−ll EfLlZzBl âø¡ f¡¢Ml EfLlZ q−µR B¢jfc¡bÑz3 [He wrote that these two birds actually inhabit all human beings… the bird which simply looks on is one that is merged in an unfettered delight of itself … the bird with a vision inheres an I-substance always within itself.] Rabindranath brilliantly argues that the deepest human desire is to track this ‘I-substance’ in its a-destinal wandering across mutating bodies, to realize it-Self in its fullness and entirety. Indeed, the very existence of the phenomenal world, in the Upanishadic vein, presupposes a cosmic ‘desire’ that ‘gives birth to all things, moving and unmoving’-p Dra −m¡L¡eÚ e¤ pªS¡ C¢az [Ia−lu Ef¢eoc] 1z1z1z 4Again in formulating a theory of desire in human being Rabindranath wrote ‘c¤C CµR¡’, latter published in a collection of essays titled ‘f−bl p’u’ [1912]. 5 In his formulation the economy of desire immediately incorporates a corresponding notion, the idea of human need; though
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there is a generic tension in conceptualizing these closely connected categories, the problematic involves separate registers of definition. Desire implies one wants something as s/he is wanting in it and need is the impulsion to conserve what you already have. In the Bhagavad-Gita, a technical term is used to capture the inter-play of this co-constitutive binary, i.e. −k¡N−rj [9/22]---−k¡Nx AfË¡çpÉ fË¡fZw −rjÙ¹ârZw [nwLl i¡oÉ] 6-‘acquisition of the new and preservation of the old’. 7

The fantastic binarisation of the need/desire economy basically voices the strongest desire of man- his desire for immortality which is empirically impossible and logically fallacious. Socrates’ speech in Plato’s Symposium offers a veritable solution to this ontological problem in terms of an epistemological connivance. The speech starts with the results of Socrates’ discourse with Agathon in which the nature of Love is seen to be a striving based upon a lack (201e, cf 201b —d).

In this narrative performance Diotima brilliantly posits the

mythos concerning the genesis of Love: on the occasion of celebrating the birth of Aphrodite, a banquet was given. This brought the god Plenty and later the goddess Poverty (203b).9During the course of the drinking, Poverty seduced Plenty and conceived Eros, who partakes of the natures of its parents; ‘he takes after his mother in having need as a constant companion. From his father, however, he gets his ingenuity in going after things of beauty and value, his courage, impetuosity and desire for knowledge’ [203 d]. 10 The erotic object is therefore structured by an incomplete irresoluteness that strives for the ‘permanent possession’ of goodness along with immortality and it does so through a beautiful medium (207a). 11 This erotic activity can take place either within the body or within the soul. In the former case we have temporal duration through family genesis or popular fame and in the latter case we can give birth to ‘fairer and more deathless children’ (209 c).

In fact, the

question of unrequited narcissism that inheres a structural need operates always with a certain kind of displacement. But any breakage within the mutually implicated structure of need/desire economy can immediately disintegrate the incessant process of (re)production [of one’s self] and would stand out as a threat to family, society and the state.

Now we would venture into the process how this economy of need is being produced to uphold the older scheme of Brahmanical society of the Mahābhārata, governed by some sacred laws of the Samhitas and a network of elaborate rituals catalogued in the Purva
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Mimamsa, in which the principal protagonist is none else but the twice-born householder. Indeed the word ashrama, as Pandurang Vaman Kane has brilliantly observed, does not occur in the samhitas and the Brahmans.

But this cannot be stretched to mean that the

stages of life denoted by this word in the sutras were unknown throughout the Vedic period. From the times of most ancient Dharmasutras the number of ashrams has been four, though there are slight differences in the nomenclature and their sequence.

The word

‘Brahmacari’ occurs a few times in the RgVeda and the Atharva Veda; the Taittiriya Samhita and the Satapath Brahman mentioned the stage of Brahmacarya in which the individual goes through the discipline of the will and the emotions, makes himself acquainted with the literary traditions of the past and learns obedience, respect, plain living and high thinking. In fact, the stage of Brahmacarya was well known in the remotest past. The fact that Agni is said to be the ‘grihapati’ of our house and again in the famous ‘p¤¤j‰m£ hd§’ verse in the RgVeda which is employed even today in the marriage ceremony the husband says to the bride when taking hold of her hand that gods gave her to him for garhapatya establish that the second stage of the householder was well known to the ancient RgVeda. 15 What is most important that there is nothing in the Vedic texts, as P.V. Kane observes, expressly corresponding to vanaprastha.16 The Tandya Mahabrahmana beautifully employs the term ‘Baikhanas’ denoting the ‘vanaprasthy’ who is supposed to be convinced of the futility of human appetites and the pleasures of the world and is, therefore, called upon to resort to a forest life for pondering over the greater problem of the life hereafter and to accustom himself to selfabnegation, austerities and a harmless life. However, the fourth category provides an interesting play of significations: ‘Yati’ in the Vedic scripts appeared as a shimmering signifier indicating a point of rupture that encodes multiple meanings. As in the Mu daka Upanishad the term ‘kaux’ [3/1/5] has been translated by Max Müller as ‘spotless anchorites’17; in Rammohan Ray’s English Works [First Edition], it becomes ‘votaries freed from passion’18 and subsequently, with certain displacement ‘votaries who forsake religious rites’(3/2/6) denote it.
20 19;

Radhakrishan’s Principal Upanishads simply uses the term ‘ascetic’ to

The problem of translation becomes even more complicate if we hark back to

the slokas from RgVeda, Atharva Veda, Koushitaki Upanishad and the Aitereya Brahman. Rg Veda X.72.7 says: ‘O gods, when you filled the worlds as the Yatis did, you brought the sun hidden in the sea’.

In the Taittiriya Samhita, we read: ‘Indra threw away Yatis to the

hyenas and wolves; they devoured them to the south of Uttaravedi’. 22 Again Atharva Veda II. 5.3. unhesitatingly declares. ‘Indra, who is quick in his attack, who is Mitra and who killed Vrtra as he did the Yatis’. 23 The passages actually suggest that the yatis were people
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who had incurred the hostility of Indra, the patron of the Aryas, that they were slaughtered by the Aryas with the help of Indra and those who could escape slaughter subsequently were won over and became the worshippers of Indra. It then becomes really problematic to conflate these two dynamics in which ‘yati’ appeared as ‘non-Vedic sorcerers’24 and again as the fourth ashram of samnayasa leading to the realization of the supreme goal of moksha.

It is interesting to note that the very term ‘ashrama’ does not at all occur in the BhagavadGita, 25 in which the central problem lies in the question that is raised at the very beginning and serves as the frame of reference for the entire dialogue, relating to the controversy regarding the relative values of karma and the renunciation of karma itself. Arjuna’s abandonment of war can be read as tantamount to the abandonment action and implicitly, to the abandonment of one’s duties (svadharma). It is clear that Arjuna’s dilemma issues from two contradictory impulses of our value systems: dharma (interpreted as the obligation to perform ritual and social activities) and Samnyasa (abandonment of rites as a precondition for achieving liberation). This conflict within the tradition is recapitulated in the opening verse of the fifth Chapter:

pweÉ¡pw LjÑZ¡w L«o· ! f¤e−kÑ¡N’ nwp¢pz kv −nËux Ha−u¡x HLjÚ a−eÈ h˨¢q p¤¤¢e¢ÕQajÚ zz26

‘You praise the renunciation of actions, Krishna, and then also their performance. Tell me for certain which is the better of them’.

A close reading into the text would reveal that the

dilemma is constituted of an institutional opposition between the householder and the renouncer. There the relevance of the ashrama system is obvious. The Bhagavad-Gita, however, does not see this dilemma in institutional terms: indeed, the very term garhasthya is conspicuously absent in it. The argument Bhagavad-Gita puts forward takes shape in a more abstract level which seek to show that true renunciation does not consist in the physical abstention from activity but in the proper mental attitude toward action. As it undeniably hinges upon the classical Brahmanical system, it was incumbent on Arjuna to perform the duties of the state; renunciation was the exclusive preserve of the fourth ashrama. We will immediately show why the existing Brahmanical system had deep antipathy toward the renouncer.

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In sharp contrast to the Ramayana and the Bhagavad-Gita, the Mahābhārata contains an enormous amount of material relating to the ashramas. The problems inherent in using that information for historical purposes become clear in Van Buitenen’s assessment of this brilliantly fascinating and enigmatic non-text which he considered as ‘a library of opera’, 28 with a substantial amount of additions, blending and interpolations. ‘What is the Mahābhārata’s view regarding the ashramas?’ is, therefore, a question that is both improper and impossible to answer. The best we can do is to note the variety of opinions and views recorded there and attempt to relate them in some way to the broad history of the system. A careful reading of the entire epic, as Patric Olivelle observes, yields 160 occurrences of the term ashrama; many of them are of course stray references to the well-known institution. 29 It is, nevertheless, confirmed by numerous occasions that the authors of the didactic portions of the compendium used to assess the value of corresponding institutions or activities in terms of the Vedic ashrama-system. An intellectual survey of the older Brahmanical literature and the Itihasa can provide valuable information regarding theological attempts at legitimizing those institutions within the framework of dharma. One interesting reference can be found in the discussion when Suka presents Vyasa with the dilemma that Vedic texts enjoin us both to perform rites and to abandon them (kuru karma tyajeti ca), a dilemma similar to that of the Bhagavad-Gita. Vyasa replies by showing that both those injunctions can be carried out by following the ladder of the ashramas [MBh 12.233-37].

Interestingly, in the verbal battle between Atavakra and Bandin at which each has to list classes containing progressively larger number of items, when they reach four Bandin refers to the four ashrams--casustayam brahmananam niketanam. In the panegyrics of Siva where ‘he is called the best of each class, he is called ‘the householder among the ashrams’ (asramanam grhasthah: MBh 13.14.155). In fact, there are several texts that make no mention of a passage from one ashram to another and, judging from the context, appear to regard the ashrams as permanent states of life. Thus in the story of Yayati, Astaka asks Yayati: “By what conduct does a householder attain gods, by what a mendicant and he who serves a teacher, by what a forest hermit set on the path of the virtuous?” 31 Yayati responds by giving a brief description of the each that follows the usual order and places student-hood first; but it is noteworthy that in the question the order is not followed. An interesting passage on the ashrams is found in the dialogue between Bhrgu and Bharadvaja in the Moksadharma Parva of the Mahābhārata (MBh 12.184-85). Bhradvaja asks Bhrgu to teach him the practices specific to each of the four ashrams (12.184.7). Bhrgu’s discourse on the
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ashrams that follows is in the sutra style of prose, and it is especially significant because it is undoubtedly a remnant of an old Dharmasutra.

It describes the duties of the four

ashramas, but does not address the issue of when and how one enters them. The order of enumeration is the usual one, although the use of the expression gurukulavasa (living at the teacher’s house) for the first ashrama is reminiscent of Apastamba’s acaryakula (Ap.Dh 2.21.1).33 But the significant point is that the description of each ashrama concludes with the rewards that a person who performs its duties attains after death. The probable conclusion here is that the ashrams are regarded as permanent states rather than temporary stages.

The Ashramabasik Parva, however, provides a nuanced focus on the economy of banaprastha as the puissant king Dhritarastra, divested of all stupefaction of mind, left the kingdom and began to practise vows and penances like a great Rishi, reducing his body to skin and bones, for his flesh was all dried up, bearing matted locks on head, and his person clad in barks and skins. Gandhari and Kunti started living in the observance of blazing penances on the bank of the Bhagirathi, with matted locks on their head, practicing severe austerities, and emaciated with sleeping on blades of Kusa and Kasa. [AshramabasikParvan, Sec: xx-xxi] 34 But interestingly the narrative itself is so exceedingly possessed by a certain sense of ‘absence’ in the royal household upon the retirement of the chief of the Kurus into the forest, it almost fails to produce a definite economy of the vaikhanas, a cessation of garhapatya, an ‘alternate mode of religious living’. Again, with reference to the ashramadharma, perhaps the most significant episode of the Mahābhārata is Yudhisthira’s despondency that poignantly provides the setting for the great Santiparvan.35Yudhisthira, dejected after the carnage of the war, decides to renounce the kingdom he had won at so great a cost. Just like Arjuna’s decision not to fight at the stipulated moment when the two armies of the arch rivals are ready to charge, this decision of Yudhisthira is placed within a broader context and presented as a choice between action and non-action, social responsibility and renunciation. But as it happens, one after the other his brothers and his wife scold, plead with, and cajole him to abandon the foolish path he has chosen! The existing schema of Brahmanical society promotes the economy of ‘need’ by prioritizing the state of a householder and the obligation to fulfil the dharma of his/her state. Arjuna himself admonishes Yudhisthira by narrating a beautiful legend [MBh 12.11]. Once some young men of noble birth became renouncers even before they had grown beards, thinking that it was the dharma. Indra then became a bird to instruct them in the true dharma. Indra begins by praising the difficult path of those who “eat left-overs” (vighasasin). The young renouncers
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think that Indra is praising their way of life, whereas his praise is, in fact, directed at householders, who are true eaters of ‘left-overs’. The householder’s ashrama is praised as the ‘only great ashrama’ in the Mahābhārata [MBh 12.11-15]. It is also the most difficult; as the gods attained the highest state by doing what is duskara, so will householders. Whenever the opposition between life and the world and its renunciation is presented as either a theological issue or an existential problem in the life of an individual, the classical Brahmanical system permitted their resolution both by presenting renunciation as suitable for the old and the retired and by upholding the householder’s life as the best ashrama--the most altruistic, the most difficult and the most virtuous.

Indeed almost all the Dharmasutras and smriti texts constantly produce marmoreal eulogies on the state of a householder: Nªq¡nËj¡v f−l¡ djÑx e¡¢Ù¹ e¡¢Ù¹ f¤ex f¤exz [hÉ¡pØj«¢a 4z2]. 36 He has to perform nitya sacrifices regularly without any desire for personal gain; but the very nonperformance of these ritualistic acts will incur sin-‘vihitasyananusthanan ninditasya ca sevanat/anigrahac cendriyanam narah patanam rcchati’[3.219].

However Sayanacarya

remarks in his introduction to Taittiriya Samhita that even the nittya sacrifices also yield fruits, which are unavoidable. Naimittik sacrifices are held at par with the Nitya sacrifices, in the sense that they are not performed with reference to fulfilling any personal desire, but when occasions occur they are to be performed compulsorily [Taittiriya Samhita, 2/2/2]. 38 When these above-mentioned ritualistic sacrifices prescribed in the Vedas are epistemologically linked with the structure of ‘need’ economy that purports the ‘reproduction of the existing conditions of production’,

Kamya Karma introduces certain

amount of volition on the part of the sacrificer (Sabara on the Jaiminiya-Sutra, 6.3.9).

Thus Karma in Brahmanism becomes a metaphysical ploy of continuing social reproduction as it is crucially predicated upon the exception of auto-direction of action. Denying subjectivities is the real politic of Brahmanical society. Again the economy of social reproduction presumes the continuation of existing caste-system in which the Brahman, even from the point of view of Civil Law, enjoys certain special privileges [Manu Smrti, 8.37] and a vast body of people (the Sudras) are excluded from performing sacrifices.

And this

social stratification or Varna-dharma is always being linked with the temporal ordering of life. On the question of the temporal contiguity of the four ashramas, there are three different points of view:

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Badha: there is only one ashram viz. that of the householder, brahmacarya being the preparatory to it. This view is held by the ancient dharma sutras of Gautama and Baudhayana. 42 Samuccay: it talks about the orderly co-ordination of the four ashrams; Manu is the prime supporter of this view [4.1, 6.1.33-37, 87-88]. 43 Vikalpa: there is option after brahmacarya; a man may become a parivrajaka immediately after he finishes his study or after householder’s way of life. The ancient pre-Buddhist Jabala Upanishad is the only instace which brilliantly puts forward this view: ‘On whatever day he has spirit of renunciation, that very day let him renounce’ [yad ahar eva virajet tad ahar eva pravrajet (1.14)].

In fact, as the intended addressee of these Smritis is the

householder, most of them unhesitatingly declare that the order of the householder is the best one. What is most important then is that if the desires of the masses are being channelized in other direction that voice against the existing condition of society, some iota of displacement occurs, leading to a qualitative change in the sphere of political economy. As the existing Brahmanical system had deep antipathy toward the renouncer, the Dharmasutras and the Mahābhārata have diplomatically treated the stage of yati or sannyas with a ploy of deference. Manu shrewdly posits that when a householder sees his (skin) wrinkled, and (his hair) white, and the sons of his sons, then he may resort to the forest [Manu Samhita, 6.2]. The figure of the ‘Sannyasi’, ‘Bhiksu’ or ‘Yati’ therefore stands out as a threat to what is in the ‘need’ economy.

Indeed the rejection of the compromise proposed in the Brahmanical system that attempts to blunt the fissure issuing out of the opposition between domesticity and renunciation has been presented most vividly in a fantastic dialogue between a father, the guardian of the old order and his son, representing the troubled and anguished spirit of the new religious order. Maurice Winternitz has sharply pointed out that the story appeared in the Jain ‘Ešl¡dÉue p§œ’ and Buddhist ‘q¢Ù¹f¡m S¡aL’, before it was incorporated into the Shantiparvan of the Mahābhārata.

Sibaji Bandyopadhyay in his highly acclaimed article, ‘¢fa¡f¤œ°àlb’46

sharply points toward the ascetic rejection of societal attempts to convert asceticism into an institution of old age and shows that this gesture of ‘negation’ has its umbilical relation to the Shraman revolution in India that ushers in a veritable change in the hierarchised orthodox Brahmanical system, representing a great springtide of philosophic spirit. To the son’s question regarding how a person should lead a virtuous life, the father replies:
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Begin thy course with study; store The mind with holy Vedic lore. That stage completed,--seek a wife, And gain the fruit of wedded life, A race of sons by rites to seal, When thou art gone, thy spirit’s weal. Then light the sacred fires, and bring The gods a fitting offering. When age draws nigh, the world forsake, Thy chosen home the forest make; And there, a calm, ascetic sage, A war against thy passions wage, That, cleansed from every earthly stain, Thou may’st supreme perfection gain. 47

The son pondering over the unforeseeable haunt of Thanatos immediately retorts that death does not respect human intentions; it may steal our life away at any moment. There is an urgency to the quest for salvation: evening’s duties we must perform in the morning, tomorrow’s task we must complete today. Sacrifices are empty rites, and sons cannot redeem their dead fathers. We alone are the architects of our own future. Thus this dialogue, apparently moving in the Buddhistic range of thought, leads into the Atman-theory of the Upanishads that questions the very performance of the sacrificial rites authorized by the Vedic Mimamsa system. But where lies the germ of this implacable enunciation that destabilizes the notion of temporal contiguity--brahmacarya-garhasthya-banaprastha-yati and operates as a significant ‘rupture’ that purposively shakes aside orthodox Brahmanical systems?

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It was just two thousand and five hundred years back, a group of ‘spotless anchorites’ appeared in the Indo-Gangetic plane with the proclamation of absolute freedom from religious belief and ecclesiastical monopoly that immediately broke loose the existing politic of ‘need’ economy. Here the progress of philosophy is indeed due to this powerful attack on a historical tradition when men feel themselves compelled to go back on their steps and raise once more the fundamental questions which their fathers had disposed of by the older scheme. The revolt of Buddhism actually forms an era in the history of Indian thought: forging logic as the main arsenal, Buddhism served as a cathartic in clearing the mind of the cramping effects of ancient obstruction. S. Radhakrishan brilliantly captures the moment of revolution: ‘when attempts are made to smother the intellectual curiosity of people, the mind of man rebels against it and the inevitable reaction shows itself in an impatience of all formal authority and a wild outbreak of emotional life long repressed by the discipline of the ceremonial religion’. 48 Again, Buddhistic tendency to represent the universe as a continuous flow which is nissatta and nijjiva denies the existence of a true Self. Since redemption from suffering and attainment of the Bodhisattva condition is the motive of Buddha’s philosophy, Kamma (a subtle semantic switch) in that sense is intellectual and volitional, not a mechanical principle, that prepares for nirvana through the path of alobh (absence of lust), advesa (absence of hatred) and amoha (absence of delusion). In Tevijja Sutta, Buddha’s slogan ‘let me go forth from a household life into a homeless state’49 therefore stands out as a threat to the existing structures of family, society and the state. The rebellious son in one luminous verse of the Shantiparvan actually appropriates the Buddhistic impulses and channelizes his desire, in a defining moment of his life, in a different fashion that carries over his non-finished subjectivity at its end. Not the mere repetition of a structural process but his unswitching of himself from the existing politic of Brahmanism can, therefore, be marked as an act of enunciating subject-hood. Like the great heresiarchs of the heterodox schools and sages of the Upanishads, his primary aim is to achieve salvation from the round of birth and death, which can only be attained after a long course of physical and mental disciplining, often culminating in extreme asceticism, but this is chiefly of value as leading to the full realization of the fundamental truths of the universe and reaching a state of timeless bliss, in which his limited personality disintegrates or is absorbed into pure being. Indeed sannyasin’s implacable gesture of rejection in praise of solitude and salvation remains an aporic fissure emerging out of the structural complicity of the need/desire economy. Here comes the impetus of change that throws away the ‘old world’ out of hand:

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Thou dost advise that I should please With sacrifice the deities. Such rites I disregard as vain; Through these can none perfection gain. Why sate the gods, at cruel feasts, With flesh and blood of slaughtered beasts? Far other sacrifices I Will offer unremittingly; The sacrifice of calm, of truth, The sacrifice of peace, of ruth, Of life serenely, purely, spent, Of thought profound on Brahma bent. Who offers these, may death defy And hope for immortality. 50

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Notes & References:

All Mahābhārata references are from the English translation of The Mahābhārata (four volumes) by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 2004.


j¤äL Ef¢eoc, 3z1z1, Ef¢eoc, Ae¤h¡c J pÇf¡ce¡: Aa¥mQ¾cÊ −pe, p£a¡e¡b ašÄioZ, j−qnQ¾cÊ −O¡o, qlg fËL¡ne£, ¨ LmL¡a¡, 1980, fª: 239z


The Mu daka Upanishad, ed. & tr. by swami Krishnananda,

3. 4.

lh£¾cÊe¡b W¡L¥l, S¡f¡e k¡œ£, fËhå, 12 Mä, fx hx plL¡l, ¢X−px 1989, fª:150-157z Ia−lu Ef¢eoc, 1z1z1z, Ef¢eoc, Ae¤h¡c J pÇf¡ce¡: Aa¥mQ¾cÊ −pe, p£a¡e¡b ašÄioZ, j−qnQ¾cÊ −O¡o, qlg ¨ fËL¡ne£, LmL¡a¡, 1980, fª: 327z

5. 6. 7.

lh£¾cÊe¡b W¡L¥l, ‘c¤C CµR¡’, ‘f−bl p’u’, lh£¾cÊlQe¡hm£, 13 Mä, L¢mL¡a¡, 1402, fª: 421 z

nË£jáNhc³£a¡, n¡ˆli¡oÉ 9/22, Ae¤h¡c J pÇf¡ce¡: fËjbe¡b aLÑioZ, −ch p¡¢qaÉ L¥V£l, LmL¡a¡, 2001, fª: 520z ¨
S. Radhakrishnan, The Bhagabad Gita, 2/45, Blackie & Son, India, 1970, p.118.


Plato, Symposium, Tr. & Ed by, Robin Waterfield, Oxford University Press, 1994, p.40-41.


Ibid, pp.42-43.

10. Ibid, p.44. 11. Ibid, p. 49. 12. Ibid, p.52. 13. P.V.Kane, History of Dharmasastra, Vol.II, Part.1, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1974, Poona, p.418. 14. Ibid, p. 416. 15. Ibid, p. 418. 16. Ibid. 17. F. Max Müller, The

Mu daka-Upanishad, 3/1/5 & 3/2/6, The Sacred Books of

the East, 15, 39 & 41.
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18. Rammohun Roy, Moonduk Opunishad, 3/1/5, The English works of Raja Rammohun Roy, Part II, Ed. Kalidas Nag & Debjyoti Burman, Calcutta : Sadharon Brahmo Samaj, 1995, p.7. 19. Ibid. 20. S. Radhakrishnan, Mundaka Upanisad, ‘III.1.5’ & ‘III.2.6’, The Principal Upanisads, Harper Collins publishers, India, 1998, p.687-691. 21. P.V.Kane, History of Dharmasastra, Vol.II, Part.1, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1974, Poona, p.418-419. 22. Ibid, p.419. 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid.

25. Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System, The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2004, p.103. 26. nË£jáNhc³£a¡, n¡ˆli¡oÉ 5/1, Ae¤h¡c J pÇf¡ce¡: fËjbe¡b aLÑioZ, −ch p¡¢qaÉ L¥V£l, LmL¡a¡, 2001, fª: 315z ¨ 27. S. Radhakrishnan, The Bhagabad Gita, 5/1, Blackie & Son, India, 1970, p.174. 28. See: J.A. B. Van Buitenen, The Mahabharata, Book 1: The Book of the Beginning, University of Chicago Press, London, 1983. 29. Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System, The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2004, p.149. 30. See: Santiparvan (12.233-37), The Mahābhārata (four volumes) by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2004. 31. Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System, The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2004, p.153. 32. Ibid, p.154. 33. Ibid. 34. See: Ashrambasik-Parvan (Book 15, Sec-xx-xxi), The Mahābhārata (four volumes) by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2004. 35. Ibid, Santiparvan. 36. Vyasa Smriti, 4/2, For a detailed discussion see: p¤−ln Q¾cÊ h−¾cÉ¡f¡dÉ¡u, Øj«¢an¡−Ù» h¡P¡m£, H, ¤ j¤M¡‹Ñ£ BÉä −L¡w, L¢mL¡a¡, −f±o 1368z 37. Purva Mimamsa from an interdisciplinary Point of View, ed. by, K.T. Pandurangi, Centre for Studies in Civilizations, Vol.II, Part-6, Cp.11: Kinds of Vedic Sacrifices, p.329. 38. Ibid, p.333. 39. Marx to Kugelmann, 11July 1868, Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1955, p.209.

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40. Purva Mimamsa from an interdisciplinary Point of View, ed. by, K.T. Pandurangi, Centre for Studies in Civilizations, Vol.II, Part-6, Cp.11: Kinds of Vedic Sacrifices, p.331. 41. je¤pw¢qa¡, Ae¤h¡c J pÇf¡ce¡: j¡e¤−h¾c¥ h−¾cÉ¡f¡dÉ¡u, pwú«a f¤ÙL i¡ä¡l, LmL¡a¡,2010, fª:556-8z ¹ 42. P.V.Kane, History of Dharmasastra, Vol.II, Part.1, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1974, Poona, p.424. 43. Ibid. 44. The Principal Upanisads, Ed by S. Radhakrishnan, Harper Collins publishers, India, 1998, p.896. 45. Maurice Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, Tr. By S. Ketkar, Vol. I, Cp. Epics and Purans, New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1972, p.417422. 46. ¢nh¡S£ h−¾cÉ¡f¡dÉ¡u, ‘¢fa¡f¤œ°àlb’, A¿¹xp¡l, f’j hoÑ, fËbj pwMÉ¡, LmL¡a¡, −p−ÃVðl, 2008, fª:352-407z 47. Maurice Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, Tr. By S. Ketkar, Vol. I, New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1972, p.418. 48. S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Vol.1, Oxford India Paperback, 1999, p.273. 49. Tevijja Sutta, I, 47, S. Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Vol.1, Cp. Ethical ideal of Buddhism, Oxford India Paperback, 1999, p. 436. 50. Maurice Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, Tr. By S. Ketkar, Vol. I, Cp. Epics and Purans, New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1972, p.421.

____________________________________________________________________________ Acknowledgement: My ideas throughout the paper have been much influenced by a couple of Sibaji Bandyopadhyay’s highly acclaimed articles, ‘¢fa¡f¤œ°àlb’ [A¿¹xp¡l, LmL¡a¡, 2008] and ‘BaÈe Lb¡’ [¢cn¡, n¡lc£u¡ pwMÉ¡, LmL¡a¡, 1415]. The method of argumentation, however, has drawn inspiration from Prof. Bandhyopadhyay’s class-lectures at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.

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