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)