Lessons from Mahabharata E 7 – Your vast knowledge is of no use if…

No matter what field you belong to, the basic criteria to succeed is having enormous knowledge in it. Whether you are a student eager to gain good marks or a grown up wanting to do well in his or her profession, doing maximum study of your subject is the backbone of success.

However, there is one quality that plays a strong part in determining whether the knowledge you acquired bears any meaning and that is your intention. Your knowledge is worth nothing if your intention is evil. Such examples are found in our ancient scriptures.

Duryodhana was the villain of the Mahabharata. But not many people would know about his positive quality. He was an expert mace [gadaa] fighter. He acquired training from his guru sage Balarama and became a champion in the skill. In fact, Balarama even went onto say that Duryodhana was the greatest mace fighter of his generation; even better than the mighty Bheema.

But Duryodhana had a huge negative point, which was his jealousy towards his cousins Pandavas – Yudhishthir, Bheema, Arjun, Nakula and Sahadeva – right from his childhood. He was lusty for the throne of Hastinapura and wanted to sit on it by hook or crook; more by the latter.

Actor Darshan as Duryodhana in the Kannada movie Kurukshetra

After failing to eliminate the Pandavas, Duryodhana played a cruel game of dice by collaborating with his equally evil uncle Shakuni. The result was that the Pandavas, along with their wife Draupadi and mother Kunti, were sent for exile for 14 years.

Duryodhana had the throne for 14 long years for himself but he wasn’t able to enjoy it. He knew the period will finally end and he will be faced with the great battle of Kurukshetra. We all know what happened with the Kauravas in the battle. Despite having a great warrior force, they had to face a humiliating defeat.

One of the most interesting incidents during the war was Duryodhana’s mace fight with Bheema. As per sage Balarama, Duryodhana was the greatest mace fighter. However, it was Bheema who won because Lord Krishna signalled him to attack Duryodhana on his thigh, which would ensure his defeat.

In other words, even God will be on the side of someone with lesser knowledge if his intentions are noble.

By: Keyur Seta

(This is the 7th episode from our series, Lessons from Mahabharata. To visit previous episodes, click HERE.)


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)

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

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

Lessons from Mahabharata: Why wealth acquired through fraud never provides peace

(This is the 5th episode in our Lessons from Mahabharata series. To read the previous episodes, click HERE.)

By: Keyur Seta

It is mandatory for everyone to earn money in order to survive. It is also necessary to keep earning as much as possible to ensure a good future for our family. But problem crops up when greed appears in front of us in the guise of need. Once a person reaches this stage, s/he will be obsessed with devising newer ways to earn money, even if it means treading on the path of fraud.

His or her obsession to please the senses through every means of luxury will destroy his ability to differentiate between legal and illegal or ethical or unethical. In fact, now money will no longer satisfy that person. S/he will need is wealth. Money is required to satisfy needs. But we need wealth to satisfy our unending wants or desires.

But how much value does wealth acquired through fraud or corrupt means hold? Rather, does it hold any value? Answers to these questions are found in the great epic, Mahabharata.

Picture from B R Chopra’s Mahabharata

Duryodhana snatched away the throne of Hastinapur from the Pandavas through evil tactics. He and Shakuni invited Yudishthir to a game of dice and tricked him in losing the throne and the entire wealth and power of the Panadvas. Not just that, he also made sure they are exiled to the forests for 14 years as punishment.

What this meant was that Duryodhana had 14 years of uninterrupted materialistic enjoyments of all kinds. He had all the luxuries of the world at his disposal. But was he able to attain satisfaction through such uncountable wealth and immense power? No, he wasn’t.

Although he appeared happy, deep inside he knew he had committed grave treachery. His subconscious mind was aware that he will have to pay for his crime; karma will hunt him one day. He was the emperor only for 14 years. What after that? These thoughts never let him live in peace despite being the sole owner of such enormous wealth.

In fact, the so-called victory over Pandavas came with a baggage of some high levels of anxiety. This coupled with his sky high ego hampered his thinking ability. Hence, he refused to part with even five small villages to the Pandavas even when Lord Krishna himself appealed to him by personally visiting him.

In short, wealth acquired through corrupt means destroyed his life and how!

Mahabharata is timeless. Whatever is taught or portrayed in it will be relevant as long as there is life on earth. Therefore, the above lesson is also seen in today’s times. Most of us might think that those who have heaped crores and crores through corrupt means or scams are having the time of their lives. But that is far from the truth.

Having seen and even known people who have amassed wealth in fraudulent ways, I can assure you that their lives are far from what you are imagining. There is constant fear and anxiety of being caught. More so because the honor and the future of your family is constantly at stake.

What is the point of being an owner of such luxuries if you need a sleeping pill to put you off to sleep?