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Mahabarata

Essay by   •  December 2, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,632 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,056 Views

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Hindu thought sharply contrasts Western thought. A central theme in the Hindu religion is following one's dharma, which is an individual's "spiritual duty" (McCrae October 30 2003). This duty is "not bounded by a law code, and there is not one path to salvation" (McCrae October 30, 2003). Because there is no law code, morality is ambiguous. Its definition is unique to each individual. In The Mahabharata, fate (which works interchangeably with dharma) presides over what is traditionally right.

Yudhisthira performs avariciously in the dice games under the rationale of fate. In the Mahabharata, fate is often predicted as it is in the dice games. Sakuni predicts, "If he is invited to a game, he will not be able to resist" (Narasimhan 48). Yudhisthira gambles all his possessions away to the cheating Sakuni, but he knows he is "submitting to the will of fate and the will of the Creator" (Narasimhan 50). The consequences of the games, exile, is usually not considered beneficial, but Dhartarastra "considers them [Pandavas] to be more powerful know then ever before because of their practice of asceticism" (Narasimhan 66). This shine a positive light on the Pandavas exile, which was a consequence of Yudhisthira's irrational gambling.

War becomes inevitable through fate. Initially, there is an attempt to avoid war. Yudhisthira realizes that war is wrong has a cyclical nature: "In all cases war is evil. Who that strikes is not struck in return? Victory and defeat, O Krsna, are the same to one who is killed" (Narasimhan 99). Duryodhana, who "follows the dictates of desire and anger" (Narasimhan 104), does not concede to the Pandavas' request for land because it is not his fault "that the Pandavas were defeated at another game of dice" (Narasimhan 106). He believes that the Pandavas lost the land through their fate and thus he must follow his dharma in order to attain what is rightfully his.

Fate is used to justify war. Yudhisthira laments, "I feel that, through my desire to recover my kingdom, I caused the destruction of my kinsmen and the extermination of my own race" (Narasimhan 190). He is comforted by Vyasa words: "all this is Destiny. Do what you have been created to do by your maker...you are not your own master" (Narasimhan 190). The war is clearly not used to represent good verses evil. Neither side is completely virtuous. After Draupadi is won in the dice games a forced to go against her will she makes this clear: "The moral standards of the Bharatas and of the Ksatriya code have perished. In this hall everybody assembled looks on while the bound of virtue are transgressed" (Narasimhan 53). The world 'battle' is often preceded with the word 'righteous' in The Mahabharata. War can be inherently good if conducted in accordance with Dharma. Bhima enhances this point: "There is nothing more desirable to a Ksatriya than a righteous battle" (Narasimhan 141).

The Pandavas violate the code of war and still attain their victorious fate. Bhima and Krsna both convince Yudhisthira to tell a lie; he gives in "because of the inevitability of destiny" (Narasimhan 158). Arjuna, who had previously pleaded with Dhrstsadyumma to not kill Drona in his mourning state, wounds Bhurisravas. Bhurisravas reprimands Arjuna because of his violation of the code of war: "you have done a cruel and heartless deed, by cutting off my arm from a concealed position when you were not engaged in a duel with me" (Narasimhan 151).

Death is not seen as an end, but a beginning. Krsna explains, "the embodiment of the soul merely casts off old bodies and enters new ones" (Narasimhan 123). This can be used to rationalize killing. If one kills another being, he is simply propelling him to the next stage of his life.

Humans are puppets of divine beings. This makes a moral code hard to establish because immoral behavior is caused by something higher. "Earth is the only interesting place to be of many of Hinduism's gods" (McCrae), so the gods interact with humans. Krsna explains, "the Lord dwells in the hearts of men and cause them to turn round by his power as if they were mounted on a machine" (Narasimhan 125). If humans are simply puppets of Gods, immoral behavior can be attributed to a god.

The characters in The Mahabharata inevitably have conflicting dharmas. Duryohana's dharma hinders Yudhisthira's dharma. Krsna expresses these conflicting views: "if you do not make peace of your own free will with the Pandavas, it looks as if the Kauravas will make you over to Yudhisthira bound hand and foot" (Narasimhan 107). Duryodhana thinks his dharma is to win the war, but it can't be because the Pandavas dharma is to win the war. Someone must win, thus the other will loose. The Mahabharata deals with dharmas of warriors. Krsna describes the fate of a warrior: "death is certain for heroes that do not retreat". That which is moral to a warrior is most likely not moral to an ascetic.

Krsna is the embodiment of the contradiction between morality and fate. He is a revered god described as "best among men" (Narasimhan 102). His identity is ambiguous. He reiterates this fact by saying, "I am the Creator of all objects that exist. Knowing no change myself, I am also the Destroyer of all creatures that live in sinfulness" (Narasimhan 195). He is powerful enough to control destiny: "Krsna allowed it to take place although he could have counteracted the course of even the great Brahmanas, since he was able to alter the very course of the universe". (Narasimhan 206). Because he can control destiny, the war had a place in destiny. Krsna blatantly contradicts himself concerning immoral fighting tactics. Because Drona could not be beat, Krsna instructs, "you must put aside fair means, and adopt some contrivance for gaining victory" (Narasimhan 157). Bhima lies to Drona by exclaiming that Drona's son Asvatthama is dead. Krsna attempts to rationalize the lie: "by telling a lie to save a life, one is not touched by sin" (Narasimhan 157). However,

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