You’ll have to forgive me. I don’t know how to write a proper blog post title any more. I’ve been a little sidetracked by other pursuits, but some of my most recent posts were on various topics surrounding the Mahabharata. I’d like to pick up there again. This one relates to the roots of the troubles between the two warring sides. Usually it is said that the trouble was between the five Pandava brothers and the 100 Kauravas. But the heat really seems to have turned up several notches when Duryodhana, king of the Kauravas, fell into the mirage-like pool which was really a puddle, and Draupadi, wife of the five Pandava princes, laughed hysterically at him, sending him into a rage, which, many steps later resulted in the war on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
I mean not to oversimplify the process which leads men to take up arms against one another. Nor do I mean to place blame squarely on the shoulders of Draupadi. But for the purposes of this blog post, I have to get on with it. Because I want to take a look at this a bit more.
It is easy to get caught up in the story of the war and the lead up to battle with the drama unfolding with the chariots and the heavy artillery, etc., and forget that beyond that, the whole story is an allegory for a struggle fought on the battlefield of the mind. Most readers will be aware that every character in the battle is named strategically to personify a particular personality trait. So I thought it might be interesting to see what traits it is that collide to create that initial inflammatory spark which sets us off down the path from anger to delusion to bewilderment to loss of intelligence to spiritual death (Bhagavad-Gita, 2:63).
To put it very simply, Draupadi represents the spiritual power born of dispassion. Duryodhana’s name means material desire. And I put it very simply because it is easy to see why the clash between the two causes so much drama in the mind. When roused, the “Draupadi” within gives rise to “restraint”, “obedience”, “self-control”, “vitality” and “calmness”, represented by, yes, the five Pandava brothers.
On the other hand material desire leads to the line of descent that I rattled off at the end of the paragraph before last, along with apparently 90-some other fiendish characteristics of the mind (the 100 Kaurava sons) once material desire is introduced. It is not a war between, say, anger and restraint. It is a war between their parents. Dispassion and Desire. Unfulfilled desire angers us. Dispassion gives us great restraint in the face of said unfulfilled desires. Not letting desires develop in the first place is not always an option. They are natural. They are beyond our Selves, as much as we are lead to believe otherwise. They happen. Dispassion cuts the cord.
Most of you who will read this have known all along of course that that is what the Gita is about. It is quite clear about it. But to have it personified so clearly is what makes the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad-Gita such a crown jewel amongst the scriptures of the world. To my American, Hindu-by-choice eyes, this will always make it a thing of beauty.
Jai Hari Aum