Friday, August 28, 2020

Long lives - Tales from the Mahabharata

Some of the characters in the Mahabharata lived long lives. Even Arjuna was about to become a grandfather when the great battle was fought in Kurukshetra. Bhishma his grandfather's age. Remember that Devavrata had been a young lad when he took the terrible vow that allowed his father to marry Satyavati. Satyavati's grandsons were Dhritarashtra, Pandu, and Vidura. So Bhishma was even older than Arjuna's grandfather would have been!

Dronacharya loved his son, Aswhatthama, too much. That love drove many decisions Drona took in life. Ashwatthama, on the other hand, loved his own life too much. That much we know because Bhishma says as much on the eve of the war. "He loves his own life too much. This brahmana always wishes for a long life. [Ch 164, Udyoga Parva]", and after the war, Ashwatthama confesses, "I was scared of saving my life. I released the weapon out of fear. I was scared of Bhimasena.[Ch 15, Aishika Parva]" 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Vidura Niti - 4 The Nine Gates and Ten Who Do Not Know About Dharma

I ended the third piece on Vidura Niti with listing the six who live off six others. Let's move to the seven. Yes, I am talking about seven vices that a king must avoid. What are they?
  • women
  • dicing
  • hunting
  • drinking
  • harsh words 
  • great severity of punishment 
  • abuse of wealth.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Vidur Niti - 3 The Two Thorns and Six Vices

Number play - that's where I ended the second article on Vidura Niti. Vidura spoke to Dhritarashtra about using the one - intelligence - to differentiate between the two - right and wrong - to bring the three under control - friend, foe, and neutral - and so on. Let's pick that up, with some repetition, for the sake of continuity.

I had asked what was Vidura referring to when he talked about the two and three in all these statements?
  1. What are the two thorns that dry up the body? 
  2. Who are the two that the earth destroys? 
  3. Through which two deeds can a man be radiant in this world?
  4. What are the three courses of action for men?
  5. What are the three kinds of men?
  6. Who are the three who cannot own property?
  7. and so on... 
The two thorns are "desire on the part of those who are poor, and anger on the part of those who are powerless."

Who does the earth destroy? "A king who is not aggressive, and a brahmana who has not dwelt away from home." The brahmana is supposed to go on pilgrimages, that is why. Why such a king would be destroyed need not be elaborated. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Vidur Niti - 2: The Stupid

Having begun by talking about the traits of learned people, Vidura then talked 'stupid'. If the learned can be described and identified by certain qualities, then the stupid should be the ones who lack those attributes. Yes, but Vidura made it a point to list the characteristics of the stupid.

Vidura doesn't say that not being learned is a sign of being stupid. Not being learned yet vain, being poor yet proud - are two signs of the stupid. It may sound cruel, but it's also a harsh acknowledgment of reality. "Striving for artha but without performing deeds" is a third sign of stupidity. Lest one is tempted to argue with that third, note that even the corrupt and crooked have to make some efforts to acquire wealth. They may not do so through honest means, but that is a moral question.

What else marks the stupid?