Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (September 2000, Super School Auroville) - Track 1

I was saying that there are in the history of the world a few very important episodes which are instructive. And then I ask the question whether the word episode is understood. Then I was explaining the meaning of the word episode. If you like you can all write down the word episode in your notebook. If you've a notebook with you; if not make it printed in your mind; if you don't have a notebook. But the word episode is a very important word. It would be very useful to learn these words and its meaning. I can write it down for you. As I said episode is a part of a long story which builds up a story which is a part of building up of the story. It consists of an encounter, consists of an event, a plot, which is crucial to the development of the story. It may not be even crucial sometimes and yet it may be an episode. Now among these episodes in the world history what happened to Arjuna at the beginning of the war of Mahabharata is very instructive. Now if you examine this episode you will find that what happened to Arjuna at the beginning of the war was crucial to the whole story of Mahabharata. Do you know the meaning of crucial? You should ask me these questions because I am taking this class only for your benefit entirely. Crucial you take this class also as a class in English. All right so that your English may be enriched. The word crucial means that which is decisive anything which makes a difference. Which decides is crucial. There are many events which are ordinary events but there are events which are crucial which are decisive. Now to understand the importance of this episode it is called depression of Arjuna.

This episode is normally entitled depression of Arjuna. Now you must understand a little bit of the story of Mahabharata. Maybe that many of you know the story but I must tell you in my own way the story of Mahabharata. I will tell you the story in such a way that only Arjuna, is as it were, the main theme of my story. You might know that the Mahabharata is a very, very huge book. It has got one hundred thousand verses the totality of Mahabharata is hundred thousand verses. It's a long story, very, very long story with a main story. There are sub stories and sub stories of sub stories. It is a mine of stories. I've been studying myself Mahabharata for many, many years almost from the age of four and yet I do not know the full story of Mahabharata. So you can imagine that this story is so intricate and so many events are described so many episodes that it would take a long time to read and understand the role of Mahabharata. In the west there are two great stories of ancient times Odyssey and Iliad which are sometimes compared with Mahabharata. But Mahabharata is much larger. It's a story of a great war. Iliad also is a great story of war. A war which was attempted to be avoided. Great effort was made to avoid that war yet could not be. It became inevitable. There was a problem which had to be solved in many efforts were made to solve that problem. But that problem could not be resolved. That problem had an outer face and also it had an inner face. Outwardly the problem was simple inwardly the problem was very vast. So I shall tell you first of all the problem in the outward aspect.  

There was a kingdom in India in northern India which was called the kingdom of Hastinapur. This kingdom was quite vast. In modern India, if you want to see where is Hastinapur it is not difficult to find out. The present Delhi the word which you know quite well. Delhi is a very big city the capital of India. Then there is a very big town called Kurukshetra. Even now it exists. And surrounding parts. So this is a story which is very ancient. How ancient? It is difficult to determine. Now this kingdom was ruled by a king called Shantanu. That was the name of the king. He had many sons but only one son had survived who came to be called Bhishma. And then in due course there was another son. I am not giving too many names because you will simply feel very much intrigued by names and confused by them. In due course three sons were born. I am filling the story very rapidly. These are the names I can’t avoid – Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura. And now it so happened that Dhritarashtra was the elder one Pandu was the younger and Vidura was the youngest. Now, according to the rule when the father died, the king died, his first son should come to the throne. That was the rule in most of the parts of the world, and that was also true in India. So when the father of these three died, the question arose as to who should be the king. The normal answer would have been that Dhritarashtra should become the king. But there was one problem. Dhritarashtra was blind. The question arose – can a blind man become a king? And there are many opinions on this subject. Some said he could be. Some said he could not be. A blind man cannot be a king. Now Vidhura happened to be a very wise man, very learned man. And the question was referred to him as a wise man, not because he was one of the sons, but because he was a wise man. A very learned man. But Dhritarashtra had a great ambition to become the king. Very great ambition, irresistible ambition to be the king. But because the question was referred to Vidura he remained quiet, as it were. And he said, all right, whatever decision is taken by Vidura, I shall accept. And so was the attitude of the second son Pandu. Now Vidura gave a decision and said the first son, if he is blind or defective in his body, crippled in any way then he cannot be the king. So a choice was made and a decision was taken that Pandu should become the king. Now this, I'm telling you, the preface of the story. This is the beginning of the story. Now, Dhritarashtra very well accepted the fate. He was very ambitious to become the king, but fate had denied him. He accepted the fate and showed great generosity and said if my brother is the King it does not matter, I'm perfectly satisfied. But inwardly he really felt very deeply that a right was denied to him. He thought that if Vidura had to give just another decision he could have become the king. So, in his heart he was not reconciled to the decision given by Vidura. Now Dhritarashtra had a wife called Gandhari and Pandu had two wives Kunti and Madri. Gandhari gave birth to 100 sons of whom the eldest was Duryodhana. I am not giving you 100 names because and that's not necessary. But Duryodhana played a very great role so I am giving you this name, one name, the eldest one. Kunti gave birth to three sons. Now all of them are important so I have to give you all the three names. A difficult name to pronounce –Yudhisthira, which means one who is stable in war. Yudhishthira Yudhi shthira sah that is Sanskrit, dissolution of the compound. One who is stable in war is called Yudhishthira. The second one was called Bhima and the third one was called Arjuna. You know the names, no? Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna. I’ll come to Karna. Now Madri had two sons. What are their names? Nakula and Sahadeva. Now Kunti had one more son and there was a complication because that son was born before her marriage and Karna was his name. Now for our purpose I have told you all the important characters of this story. Now right from the time when they were all being educated there was a great rivalry between the hundred sons of Gandhari and five sons of Pandu, of Kunti and Madri. Now it so happened that Pandu,  husband of Kunti and Madri, spent a lot of time in making conquests. He went on war for a long time and sometimes he retired into forest. Now during that time Pandu asked his elder brother Dhritarashtra to rule in his name. Both brothers had very good feelings about each other. So, although Dhritarashtra could not become the King, he enjoyed the status of a king whenever Pandu was away. Now suddenly it so happened that Pandu once when he was in a forest he died. The question arose as to who should now come to the throne, hundred sons of Dhritarashtra and five sons of Pandu were still young. So nobody could come on the throne.  

So it was decided that Dhritarashtra will rule the kingdom but not as a king in place of his brother. He could not be the king because he was defective in his bodily organs but he ruled. Now there was a great rivalry between these 100 and these five and Dhuryodhana always felt that being the eldest son of the Dhritarashtra; one day when Dhritarashtra will either die or will relinquish the throne he should become the king that was his wish, his ambition. He wanted to be the king of Hastinapura. On the other hand there was a question about Yudhisthira. He was even elder than Duryodhana and he was the first son of the king who had died. Now there was a debate as to who should be the king in place of Dhritarashtra because Dhritarashtra was not the king. He was only ruling on behalf of his brother and if none of them became king – Dhuryodhana or Yudhisthira – it was because of the limitation of age. At a certain time a question became very prominent when both Yudhisthira and Duryodhana became of age and a decision had to be taken as to who should come on the throne. So Dhritarashtra himself would cease to be a king and either Duryodhana and Yudhisthira should become the king now the wise people including Bhishma remember the word Bhisma I had written for you earlier. Pardon? He was Devaratta before. I don't want to burden their mind. One name is enough. Including Bhishma who was the wisest, the strongest and the best, And oldest of all. Even older than Dhritarashtra. He was called the grandfather in Sanskrit it's called Pitamaha. Pitamaha means father's father – the grandfather.  

Including Bhisma, they all had felt that since Pandu was the king and Dhritarashtra was also ruling only on behalf of Pandu, when Yudhisthira comes of age he should become the king.