Sri Sathya Sai On: Lessons from the Mahabharata – Part 1

The Pancha Pandavas
The ideals which are demonstrated in the Mahabharata talk about the sanctity of the senses. But having been associated with sensual pleasures for a long time, man has started craving for the sensual pleasures and has stooped to the level of an animal. What man enjoys secretly, animals enjoy openly. With such a conduct, is there a difference between man and animal?

We have to understand the concept of Divinity in humanity to some extent. The human body is given to us so that we may raise ourselves to the level of Divinity. The human body is given to do good acts. It is for the sake of Dharma. Through Dharma you can know the secret of life. By knowing the secret, you can fulfill the purpose of the human life. The Mahabharata is no ordinary story. They say in Andhra: 
“If you want to listen to something, then listen to the Mahabharata. If you want to eat something then eat Vadas!”

The eldest among the Pandavas, was the very embodiment of Dharma. The eldest brother Dharmaja (Yudhisthira) demonstrated great ideals and values. Even when his wife was being humiliated, he displayed patience and marched forward. Even when the Kauravas were troubling and humiliating Draupadi, he didn’t say a word. The reason was that he felt one must not speak at such a sensitive juncture. This demonstrates the Divinity in humanness. He played the game of dice. After losing he said, “It was my mistake to play the game of dice. They won the game of dice. Thus after winning the game they will behave as they like. But I have lost the game. Therefore I don’t have the freedom to behave as I like.” He had the discrimination to know the difference between the permanent and the temporary. There is an inner significance in every action of his. 

Gandhari and Kunti Devi were the mothers of the Kauravas and the Pandavas respectively. Kunti Devi was a woman of character. Even Gandhari was a very sacred person. Because the husband didn’t have eyes, she decided to blindfold herself and live like that for the rest of her life. She didn’t use her eyes though she had them. She tied a black strap of cloth around her eyes. She never saw the sons that she bore. Just because we are given the eyes, we should not look at the world like crows! But how did she love her children? She only felt her children. While touching them, she only thought and prayed that no harm should come to them. But she never looked at them. She never had the Darshan of even Lord Krishna. But as it is told, ‘Sparshanam Karma Vimochanam’ (the touch of the Divine destroys all Karmas). She had only touched Krishna, and thus was redeemed of all her sins from all the lives. 

The Death of Ashwatthama 

During the war Dharmaja said, “Ashwatthama Hataha Kunjaraha.” He shouted the first two words loudly but told the last word Kunjaraha (elephant) very softly. This was also the will of Krishna. The words meant that an elephant by the name Ashwatthama had died. Dharmaja didn’t speak a lie and showed his honesty. He just spoke the word Kunjaraha very softly. Dronacharya who was filled with attachment for his son (Aswatthama) didn’t realise what had happened. He thought that his son was killed and he gave up his weapons. That was his mistake. Even on that day in that tense situation, Dharmaja never wanted to utter Kunjaraha in a low tone. He thought, “How can I cheat him?” He thought that he would tell Dronacharya that Ashwatthama the elephant had died and not Ashwatthama himself. But that was the command of Krishna. Divine command is always truthful. The world will never understand the meaning of Divine command. For God everything is truth. Every word is truth. Every vision is truth. Every action He does is truthful. God is the very embodiment of Truth. 

After the war, there was not even a single child left, who could perform the ceremonial rites for the dead Kauravas. The Pandavas were victorious in the battle. All the Kauravas had died. At that time, Gandhari was grief stricken. Even one of her sons was not alive. There was nobody to perform her last rites. She was troubled by these thoughts. She blamed Krishna for cheating her like that. She went on rebuking Krishna the way she wanted. Krishna said, “It is natural for you and it is natural for Me. The person who doesn’t know the truth speaks infinitely many lies. It is basic human nature. I know the truth, thus I don’t need to speak. I am Truth. Truth is an evidence for itself.” 

The Last Journey of the Pandavas 
A mural painting depicting the Mahaprasthana
The Pandavas were going on their last journey (Mahaprasthana – a Godward journey after renunciation of the world). Dharmaja ordered Arjuna to coronate Parikshit (the grandson of Arjuna and the only surviving member of the Pandava clan). After hearing of the Lord Krishna’s departure to His heavenly abode, Kunti Devi gave up her life. Her head was on the lap of Dharmaja. He couldn’t even get up. He sent Nakula and Sahadeva for arranging the last rites of their mother. Bhima was ordered to make arrangements for the last journey. He was only a witness to everything that happened. After the last rites, they started for their last journey. 

On the way, Draupadi who was the last in the line, died first. She could not walk. Kunti has already died. The Upa Pandavas (the sons of the Pandavas namely Prativindhya, Shrutasoma, Shrutakarman, Shatanika and Shrutasena) also had died. Abhimanyu had also died in the battlefield. Parikshit, a small boy, was left alone to take care of the kingdom. Draupadi gave up food and water due to the grief of all the deaths. She was unable to walk and cried to Dharmaja that she wanted water. At the last moment no relationships bind one to another. At the time of birth, none tells another that he is being born. All these relations are formed in the course of one’s life. We don’t tell anybody while leaving this mortal body. These relations exist as long as we are alive. These relations are also false. If we give importance to these relationships, they exist. We care about the relations as long as we are alive. Ultimately, there is no relationship of anyone with anyone else. 

Today’s mad world cries for the people who have died. They don’t care about the people who are living. Is this the duty of man? No. A person who has died has died. He will not come back. We must nourish those who are living. We must also protect them using all our strength. But in today’s education, such things are not told at all. What is the use of crying over a dead person? Even a mad man doesn’t do that. You may love them. Once the person dies, the body becomes a corpse. Why should you have attachment for that? As long as people are living, look after them and keep them happy. These types of feelings are very important for man.

Shankara also said that at the moment of death, the grammar of relations will not protect anyone. There is no relation after death. Why should you crave over somebody with whom you have no relation? This is ignorance. A wise person will never brood over the life or death of another person. This is what Dharmaja said to Draupadi. This was her destiny and his destiny was different and only God would look after each of them. Thus, totally detached he walked away and she collapsed and died. Even after her death, he didn’t bother about it. From that point onwards a black dog followed him. One after the other, the rest of the Pandavas collapsed. Thus he walked on with the black dog following him.

As he entered Yamaloka (the abode of Yama), he saw the lamentation of people who were being tortured. He heard the cries of lamentation in hell. Then he thought that these people are suffering in hell. Then he recognised the truth. He said to himself, “What is the reason that I have come to hell?  I have not harmed anyone. I have not committed any sin. But, I have troubled a father. I troubled Dronacharya by giving him the false message of Ashwatthama’s death. When my son died I felt miserable. Similarly Dronacharya also would have felt the same way. Because of the misery of Dronacharya, I have to enter hell. I have to experience this. This is my duty. It is my Dharma.”

With these thoughts he entered hell. Yamadutas, the messengers of Yama, as they are commonly known, were shocked on seeing him there. “You are the embodiment of Dharma. Why did you come to hell oh great one?” asked the Yamadutas. For this he replied, “Nothing happens without Divine will. I had to come here and so I have come.” Saying so, he entered Yamaloka. When Dharmaja entered hell, hell became cool as if it was being air conditioned! All those lamenting people suddenly became happy. There were cries of joy and laughter. He looked at this sight and thought, “How is it that even in Yamaloka people are enjoying? Why did this happen?” He recognised his mistake. He found out that a person who had to undertake sacred actions was indulging in unsacred actions. A person who was to have sacred thought, see sacred things, was doing the opposite. He understood it then and there. Because he understood his mistake, hell became heaven. People who were in hell requested Dharmaja to stay there for a while. Dharmaja replied, “For the sake of your joy and happiness, I will stay here for as long as you want.” But the Yamadutas said that he has to leave for heaven immediately. He told them that he had done Krishna’s bidding. He did not lie of his own volition. I just executed the Divine command. He realised that everything was Divine – Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma. Thereafter, he had to leave that place and go to heaven.  
Nobody can understand how, why, where and for what reason the Divine Will influences a person. One who surrenders to God completely will always be happy. One who distinguishes that some actions are his and some are Divine, will surely suffer. We should not have such kind of feelings at all. Once Dharmaja reached heaven, he remained who he was. He was not Dharmaraja, but he was actually Yama Dharmaraja. It was Yama Dharmaraja who came in the form of Dharmaja. Thus whatever has to happen, will happen. He never defied Divine command. Even in very trivial issues of daily life, he followed the Divine command. Krishna communicated through words, actions, letters and even His eyes.  

Continued in Part 2…

Source: Mahabharata: Divine Insights, Discourse 16, My Dear Students Volume 5, Divine Discourse at Trayee Brindavan on May 27, 2001.

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