Friday, 21 September 2012

Yudhisthira asks for more advice. Mahabharata 192

Bheeshma consoles Yudhisthira, tells him that it was not his doing but the many individual actions   resulted in the deaths of hundred of thousands in the 18 day mahabharata war. It is not the only time  that so many died in a war. The second world war resulted in the death of  many millions over a period of 5 years. If the mahabharata madness lasted only 18 days,  the wars in later years lasted much longer. It could be that in modern day wars, improved technology sustained wars for longer periods.

I wonder about the way the Karma accounting is done and how the 'Time' of death is decided for so many in the times of war. It is easy to say that war or accident happens because the 'Time' had come for so many! Whatever it is, the crunching of data is phenomenal.

As Bheeshma puts the blame on Karma for all the deaths, I wondered more about this five letter word! I go back to web to see what is now said about karma!

Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म ; Pali: kamma) in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called saṃsāra) originating in ancient India and treated in the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh religions.

A concept of karma (along with samsara and moksha) may originate in the shramana tradition of which Buddhism and Jainism are continuations. This tradition influenced the Brahmanic religion in the early Vedantic (Upanishadic) movement of the 1st millennium BC. This worldview was adopted from this religious culture by Brahmin orthodoxy, and Brahmins wrote the earliest recorded scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads. Until recently, the scholarly consensus was that reincarnation is absent from the earliest strata of Brahminical literature. However, a new translation of two stanzas of the Rig Veda indicate that the Brahmins may have had the idea, common among small-scale societies around the world, that an individual cycles back and forth between the earth and a heavenly realm of ancestors. In this worldview, moral behavior has no influence on rebirth. The idea that the moral quality of one's actions influences one's rebirth is absent from India until the period of the shramana religions, and the Brahmins appear to have adopted this idea from other religious groups.


Some traditions (i.e., the Vedanta), believe that a supreme being plays some kind of role, for example, as the dispenser of the 'fruits' of karma[ or as exercising the option to change one's karma in rare instances. In general, followers of Buddhism and many followers of Hinduism consider the natural laws of causation sufficient to explain the effects of karma.  Another view holds that a Sadguru, acting on a god's behalf, can mitigate or work out some of the karma of the disciple. And according to the Jainism perspective, neither a god nor a guru have any role in a person's karma—the individual is considered to be the sole doer and enjoyer of his karmas and their 'fruits'. Laws of karma are codified in some books.

While we try to absorb what is said in wikipedia, we can go back to the anushashana parva.

Yudhisthira seems insatiable, he has more questions. It is amazing how Bheeshma, bleeding and lying of a painful bed of arrows, is able to think clearly, remember anecdotes and discussions of learned people of the times.

Yudhisthira asks:  'Among learning, charity and penance which is superior?
Bheeshma quotes from Vyasa Maitreya samvada (conversation!), 'It is said that freedom from malice, charity and truth are the tools to achieve higher status, There is no doubt that among them Charity is superior. The learned, the charitable and the ascetic all are to be worshipped. They attain happiness here and hereafter. But people who are charitable and  donate food are highly respected. Donating food is like giving life. It equals the learning of the vedas, control of the senses and the freedom from worldly desires.

There is one more question from Yudhisthira, but before we go into it, I see there is a foot note in the book. The author states that this parva deals with the various types of charity, the time it is to be given and when not to give, the worthy and the unworthy people, the dharma of caste and order, the ways to perform ceremonies to honor the dead and many issues concerning dharma. It also deals with Vishnu sahasranama  and Shiva sahasranama (Thousand names of vishnu and shiva) and so on.

The author chooses not to include them in his version.

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