Decoding ancient epics: Essential points on Mahabharata and Gita

The Mumbai (Colaba) branch of New Acropolis had an interactive session yesterday titled ‘Mahabharata – The War Within.’ It focused on revisiting the age-old teachings of Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita (which is basically a part of the epic) and how we can inculcate them in dealing with our current problems.

Here are some important points of the discussion:

– Mythology is generally referred to as something that is a myth. However, the word is derived from the word ‘mythos,’ which means something rooted in truth.

– The teachings were passed on to the next generations better in olden times (despite no technology) than today.

– The incidents in mythology are symbolic. They can’t be taken literally. We misinterpret epics by taking them literally.

– The story of Mahabharata is similar to Troy. The story is interchangeable. The same is with Hercules.

Mahabharata-Gita– The theme of lot of superhero films is rooted in Mahabharata. The epic is universal.

– When Arjuna is filled with grief at the start of the battle of Kurukshetra, Krishna unveils his internal conflict.

– Kauravas are nothing but our negative emotions. They are 101 in number and not 100 because the number 1 signifies infinity.

– Hastinapur (where the story of Mahabharata takes place) is the city of elephants. Hasti means elephant. It symbolizes the city of wisdom within us. The war is constantly taking place between us (between the positives and negatives).

– When four horses of a chariot go in different directions, we need a charioteer like Krishna.

– Yoga is not about fitness regime. A Yogi is someone who lives in harmony and in dharma (the word refers to doing the right thing).

– Without Arjuna’s confusion there would have been no Gita. So, some amount of confusion is good.

– But it’s not good to be confused about your identity. It’s not good to not be aware of the higher self (atma) while identifying ourselves only with the lower self (body).

– One of the most important lessons by Krishna in the Gita is to remember that we are eternal.

– Why were Kauravas Arjun’s family members? They were his negative emotions. Hence, they were part of himself.

– We can’t work without stress. We are dependent on our lower self.

– One of the important lessons in the Gita is Karma Yoga. It means to work without thinking about the fruits of action. When you do a presentation in office for promotion, praise or raise, it is not Karma Yoga because you are attached to the fruits of action.

– When the disciple is ready, the master appears. What is the difference between student and disciple? Master or guru gives a part of himself to the disciple.

– Gita talks about our daily battles.

– To be spiritual doesn’t mean one should retire in the Himalayas. Krishna tells Arjuna to engage in life, not to go to vanvaas. The real challenge is to be at the center of the noise and still be yourself.

– Gyan Yog, Bhakti Yog and Karma Yog lead to the same destination. Also, over the course of time you will realize that following one Yog is not enough.

(Compiled by Keyur Seta)


Unable to visit your temple or Guru? Take a 360 degree VR experience and immerse yourself in devotion

The medium of the internet has provided us with the option of getting darshan of our most sought after devotional venues while sitting anywhere in the world. Now, with the latest advancement in technology, the merging of Virtual Reality (VR) has seeped into the idea of virtually visiting religious centers.

VRDevotee (VR stands for Virtual Reality) is a new technology that enables us to have a virtual reality experience of various temples and devotional events taking place in India. The experience is started by the company named VR Devotee.

Today, many people are unable to visit temples or places of devotion for various reasons like ill-health, old age, distance, lack of time and in many cases financial constraints too. The desire to spend more time with God is a constant need and it is satisfied to some extent through various TV channels. But the experience is at best passive.

Virtual Reality darshan of IsckonVideos only provide you with a recorded footage from the angle it is taken from. Now with VRDevotee, the experience is as good as being there. This technology enables us to have a full 360 degree view of the entire venue.

For example, experience the 360 degree view of the flower showering ritual at the Iskcon Chowpatty temple (Mumbai) on their website – and app – You will realize how much better it is than simply seeing a recorded video. The app gives a better experience.

But to get the best experience, one must try their VR headset. This will better your experience manifolds. The feeling being present at the place is at the highest when experienced with this gadget. You can buy it from their website.

Similarly, they also provide experience Sri Sai Centre in Bengaluru and Adiyogi Maha Shivaratri at Isha Yoga Centre at Coimbatore. They will soon have channels on Swami Sukhabodhananda and Dwarkadhishji Temple in Mumbai. According to their official website, they will be adding more channels and centers.

There is recorded content available and the company has successfully completed its first live VR telecast of the Flower Festival for ISKCON Chowpatty and has lined up several more of such events.

The experience of actually visiting a holy place or devotional center is, no doubt, the highest. But with the fast paced and stressful city life, it is always a welcome break to latch onto the next best option to unwind whenever one gets the time.

Learn more about VR Devotee technology in this video:

Short story: The age-old pujari near the secluded beach

Being all of just 22, the idea of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka didn’t sound exciting to Vikram. It is believed that holy places are only for the old. A young person venturing to such trips is considered weird, especially in India. But after a lot of emotional force applied by his parents, Vikram finally agreed.

Vikram wasn’t an atheist though, which didn’t make it that difficult for his parents. The end of monsoon was zeroed in as the right time to take a tour. Vikram’s Diwali vacations had also commenced, so he wasn’t required to miss college. He was studying his Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication in a reputed college in his hometown, Mumbai.

The journey from Jamnagar airport to Dwarka was smooth. After doing the rounds of the Dwarkadhish Temple, Vikram and his parents took a tour of the neighboring places like the Rukmini temple, Sudama Setu, Nageshkar temple, etc. Vikram was pleasantly surprised to realize that he was enjoying the trip. Despite him not being too religious, he had stopped regretting coming here.


On the second last day of the trip, the trio decided to visit an unnamed beach near the Momai Mata Temple. Vikram was interested in seeing the beach but not excited. Having experienced a lot of beautiful beaches in Goa and other Konkan areas, he thought this would be just another beach.

But a single glance at the beach was enough to convince Vikram how wrong he was. They were standing atop a hill-like structure while the beach was further down. This vantage point provided the perfect view. The Momai Mata temple stood just from where they were.

Vikram was feasting his eyes on the view instead of the temple. His parents decided to take darshan inside the temple whereas he impatiently went down to the sea.

Dwarka beach

The beach was in a pristine condition to say the least. It looked virgin. It appeared that the sand was untouched as there was not a single person or even an animal visible till the far end. While wondering how the beach was so secluded, Vikram forgot to admire its beauty. What he saw appeared surreal to him.

The eerie silence of the place was broken by the chatter of his parents who had slowly descended the steps. As the sun was just about to set, they urged Vikram to visit the temple before it gets darker. He did so hesitatingly. Although he was praying in front of the idol, his mind was at the beach.

Momai Mata temple

As soon as he turned around after the darshan, he heard someone jump towards him out of nowhere. Shaken, he looked to the right from where an old man clad in orange lay bended. Vikram was shocked to see a snake in his hand as he slowly stood up. He just saved his life. It was easy for him to make out that he was the pujari (priest).


But he didn’t look like a normal pujari. Going by his facial appearance, it seemed to him that the man might be centuries old. However, his physique and agility made him look extremely fit and strong. Without saying a word, he went towards the left of the temple where stood a hut-like structure made out of cement. The pujari went inside and started sweeping it.

Pujari inside the hut with a statue

Vikram peered inside. He could see a statue of a pujari in similar clothes. The darkness didn’t allow him to have a look at its face and he wasn’t even interested in the same. Going by what was written on a board outside, it was the statue of the founder of the place and the first pujari. As the old man turned, Vikram thanked him from saving his life.

Without showing any sort of feeling, the pujari said, “This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.” He merely walked off.

Vikram kept on looking at the direction where he went for some time and then joined his family downstairs at the beach.

He couldn’t get the secluded beach and the age-old pujari out of his mind while being on his bed in the hotel room. Brooding over the place, he slowly drifted into sleep. Even before opening his eyes the next morning, he could hear his mom asking him to hurry up as they had to leave for Mumbai that day.

But a couple of hours before they checked out, she felt a mild shock when she realized that she forgot one of her bags near the steps of the Momai Mata temple. As the place was on their way to Jamnagar, they decided to visit and see if it is still there. They were quite sure the bag would be there considering how secluded the place was.

When their car reached the vicinity of the temple, Vikram was ordered to hurry and get the bag. He did so and luckily found it at the same spot. He took the bag and out of curiosity peered inside the hut where the statue of the founder resided. In the bright daylight he could clearly see the face of the statue and what he saw froze him.

He didn’t know how to react when the face told him that it was the statue of the same pujari who saved him from the snake last evening. Just then, he recalled the only thing the pujari had said.

This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.”

By: Keyur Seta

Note: The place and the temple are real. The pictures were clicked during the author’s visit to the place. But the story is fictional.

Krishna personally didn’t kill anyone in Mahabharata war, but is it true?

(This is the 7th episode in my ‘Lessons from Mahabharata’ series. To have a look at previous episodes, click HERE.)

One of the most significant aspects about the Mahabharata war was Lord Krishna’s role in it. He ensured victory for the righteous Pandavas against their evil cousins Kauravas through various tactics. However, he contributed in a mammoth way without taking weapons in hand or killing anyone.

But what if I told you that Krishna did kill in the war?

The Kurukshetra war started off in the most unusual manner. Arjuna developed cold feet and simply refused to fight. He was overwhelmed with the very thought of killing his own cousins, although they had proven to be evil. The opposition also had his highly respected grandfather Bheeshma and teacher, Drona. Hence, Arjun dropped his bow and arrow.

Lord-Krishna-MahabharataThis was when Krishna was compelled to motivate Arjun in fighting the war. The conversation turned out to be the most beautiful enlightenment on duties of a warrior and the real meaning of life, death and journey of soul. The talk turned out to be the sacred Bhagavad Gita. It continues to be the driving force for human beings (not just Hindus) till today and shall continue to do so.

This was enough to open Arjun’s eyes towards his real duty. He went onto valiantly fight the war and the rest, as we all know, is history. The war goes down in history as the victory of good over evil.

But the biggest evil was inside Arjun. It was his weakness and faintheartedness that stopped him from taking part in the war.

This evil force within Arjun was defeated by Krishna. Man can be his biggest enemy if he is filled with weakness. Krishna killed this weakness and with it, the biggest enemy on the battlefield. If he hadn’t done that, Pandavas’ greatest warrior wouldn’t have taken part in the war. The result of this would have been disastrous.

By doing this, Krishna also indirectly gave a message that fighting the outside enemy is futile without destroying the evil within.

By: Keyur Seta

Book Review: The Sixth – The Legend Of Karna Part 1

The biggest challenge while writing the first part of a trilogy or a series is that the book should generate enough interest for the subsequent parts. In other words, if the first part doesn’t impress you, why would you bother reading the remaining parts?

Thankfully nothing of that sort happens with Karan Vir’s The Sixth – The Legend Of Karna Part 1. The book passes the biggest challenge successfully through an interesting detailed insight into the life of Karna, Mahabharata’s unsung hero.

The Sixth is so called since Karna is considered the sixth Pandava since he was born to Kunti. He was born under most unusual circumstances. After being impressed with the qualities of Kunti, Sage Durvasa granted her a boon in the form of a mantra to summon the devas. Out of utter curiosity, she summons Surya (Sun God) and ends up being a mother. Fearing the wrath of the society for bearing a child without getting married, she abandons the infant.

Revised  cover -The Sixth-5-12-2016The child is found by the royal charioteer Adhiratha and his wife, Radha. The couple considers the kid as God’s gift. They adopt him and name him Vasusena (he is later named Karna). He grows up to be a fearless teenager with a Godly gift of archery skills. Hence, his only aim in life is to become a warrior, the profession exclusive for Kshatriyas. But will the son of a charioteer be allowed to be a warrior?

The book simultaneously tells the present day story of Karan, a rich business tycoon living in New York. Out of nowhere he sees flashes and dreams about Karna. This brings him back to his roots in India. But who exactly is Karan and what is his connection with Karna?

The Sixth gets going on the enjoyable path only once it plunges fully into the life of Karna. The starting few chapters on the present day story, although not bad, don’t generate as much excitement.

However, once the story of Karna starts from scratch, there is just no looking behind. Incidents like the back story of Kunti, Karna’s birth, his abandonment, growing up with his foster parents and the consequences after he grows up are narrated with utmost sincerity and detailing.

We have read various accounts of the early years of Pandavas, Kauravas and important characters like Krishna, Bheeshma, Draupadi and Kunti. But it is rare and refreshing to get a proper understanding of the early and adolescent years of Karna as well as his psyche and inner conflicts.

Vir’s writing, especially after the initial few chapters, is creative as well as simple. He has gone into details but at the same time kept the length short. Few problem areas, however, are punctuation errors here and there.

Overall: The Sixth – The Legend Of Karna Part 1 gives an interesting insight into the life of Karna and generates interest in the two remaining series of the trilogy.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by: Keyur Seta

Additional feature: A number of creative sketches that aid in storytelling

Author: Karan Vir

Pages: 218

Price: Rs 299

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Cover: Attractive and colourful image of the event of Karna’s abandonment

This supremely peaceful pond in Juhu is hardly known to Mumbaikars

Mumbai is such a vast city that even those who have been staying here for decades aren’t aware about some of its delightful spots. One such place is a pond in Juhu called Brahma Kund. For some reason, this place is unknown to almost everyone I know. It’s strange how hardly anyone from my circles has ever noticed it.

Brahma Kund is situated in the lane opposite to the Iskcon or Hare Rama Hare Krishna temple. It appears suddenly on the left side of the lane. Its appearance is like a miniature Banganga, which is situated long way away from here in Walkeshwar (see pictures HERE). It is five feet deep and 12 X 12 feet in dimension.

Click to enlarge

There are footsteps to descend into the pond where the water is still. It has a number of tortoises and fishes. Smart spots are inscribed to place diyas. There are a couple of temples situated inside its vicinity. One looks like a Shivalinga and the other is not known.

This is because, unfortunately, one is not allowed to go inside the premises. This has been the case ever since I spotted the pond for the first time in 2012. Not sure till what period were people allowed inside. This is the sad part. I guess there might be some logical reason behind this.

But one can experience extreme peace even by peeping into the pond from the outside. Thankfully, my work involves visiting this place often. So, I recharge myself by stopping by this pond each time. There are times when I reach few minutes early just to make sure I spend some time here.

It is difficult for me to explain what is so special about Brahma Kund. All I can say is that I experience extreme peace and serenity, something so rare in the fast moving city aka concrete jungle. It’s an example of nature going hand-in-hand with spirituality.

I would love to know the history behind this pond. There is no info available on the internet except that it’s ancient. Any more enlightenment would be highly appreciated.

P.S:– This place feels more delightful during rains/ monsoons.

By: Keyur Seta

Brahma Kund during monsoon

Lessons from Mahabharata: Can a non-violent person engage in war?

(This is the 6th episode in our ‘Lessons from Mahabharata’ series. To visit the previous episodes, click HERE.)

The general definition of ‘non-violence’ is abstaining from harming anyone physically in any way. Its meaning is not limited to physical violence though. Verbal abuse or hurting someone through words is also a kind of violence. But in this write-up, we will only be focusing on the physical aspect of violence.

As a non-violent person is not expected to even slap anyone, can he or she ever take part in a war? The whole idea sounds crazy, right? But if you look closely, he or she can do that, at least in my opinion.

To explain my point, I would like to go back to around 5000 years. The Pandavas valiantly fought against the Kauravas in the great war of Mahabharata in Kurukshetra. They eventually decimated their enemy. In other words, they killed them. So, this will obviously make you think that they were violent as they indulged in a violent act. What if I tell you that it wasn’t a violent act by them? Okay, let me explain.

krishna-and-arjunPandavas never wanted the war in the first place. They lost their kingdom through treachery in a game of dice to Duryodhana. They also had to face 14 years’ of forest exile as part of the punishment. Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, was almost stripped in front of others in the court.

But despite facing such humongous atrocities and that too for no fault of theirs, they were ready to live peacefully with the Kauravas. After completing their exile period, they only asked for five small villages for each brother without showing any desire to win back the entire kingdom of Hastinapur. Can there be a bigger example of non-violence?

Lord Krishna is blamed to have played tricks in defeating Kauravas. But we tend to forget that he himself visited Kauravas with a proposal of peace while asking only five small villages for the Pandavas. However, Duryodhana refused to grant even a needle space to Pandavas.

He was hell bent in fighting the war.

Now, the most important question – What could they have done if Kauravas were adamant in attacking them? Obviously, they would retaliate with equal force. They had to because they can’t let the enemy kill them for no fault of theirs.

The Kauravas were not only wrong but they also wanted to kill the Pandavas to fulfill their evil mission. Hence, being true Kshatriyas, the Pandavas had to make sure that Dharma roots out Adharma.

As explained in the Bhagavad Gita, if Arjuna had refused to fight the war and let Kauravas kill them, it would have given a wrong message for the upcoming generations. It would have shown the victory of evil over good.

Therefore, what Pandavas did in the war was self-defense. It was not violence. To protect the good from evil can never be violence.

Now, let’s see at this situation from today’s point of view. If an enemy country attacks us, our soldiers would retaliate to make sure that the innocent citizens aren’t harmed. In this case, our soldiers aren’t violent. They are only protecting us.

Hence, a non-violent person can indulge in war.

By: Keyur Seta