some ideas about the Mahabharatha

I’m no authority on all this, I’m just summarising what I’ve so far learnt and understood from various sources.

I think the Mahabharatha can be seen at many different levels. At one level, its a story – someone kills someone, someone takes an oath to not do that, someone plots against someone, someone else sticks to the truth and righteousness, etc… there’s a lot of drama involved beyond what even the best Bollywood movie can ever aspire to beat.

However, at a deeper level, if we look beyond the story but at the various characteristics of each person involved – the Mahabharatha (and of course the Gita in particular) can be seen as the ultimate and most practical self-development book.

But go to any book store, and we’ll see that people buy American authored self-help books more than the Mahabharatha. Why?

I think its because people miss this crucial point, and dismiss the Mahabharatha as yet another mythological story. As a matter of fact, I find that most Indians know very little about it except what little they’ve watched of the excellent (though diluted) Chopra’s rendition of it on TV.

So for us to really see it (or even other Indian mythology/literature) as pragmatic books that can help build our character, our lives and eventually our nation, we must go beyond getting caught by trivial conflicts in interpretations at the superficial level, and look at their relevance in our modern world.

Arindam Choudary says…

At a micro level Indian leaders could do well, perhaps, by implementing theory ‘i’ management with the help of Indian leadership techniques which are explained beautifully in some of our epics like ‘the Saam, Daam, Dand philosophy in the Geeta’ which talk about flexible styles of handling people based upon situations and backgrounds.

For example if we look at Arjuna in the battlefield. Arjuna has got trained by the best archers and has dedicatedly persued his training until he’s reached a level of excellence. And at the point in the battlefield, Krishna tells him (someone please provide the Sanskrit sloka if possible or correct my translation) “Forget everything you’ve learnt (and just go by your instincts!)”.

This could well imply that a person must pursue some kind of knowledge, reach a great depth in it, and then finally after a certain point, when he comes to the “battlefield” which is the place where he applies his skills, all his theorotical knowledge becomes a part of his very being – and he must abandon trying to remember them, and simply go by his gut feeling. Sensei Morehei Ushiba, founder of Aikido used to say “Learn and forget! Learn and forget!”

One place I think things get derailed is when people say “surrender to the Lord” for anything and everything. I feel this concept of surrendering is greatly misinterpreted wrt how much of choice is in our hands, and how much is in God/instincts/conscience – basically some inner voice within us that is beyond our intellect. Its easy to proclaim philosophically “nothing is in our hands” and while I’m not denying it [simply because atleast one thing I know for sure is that what I know is nothing], what I mean is that proclaiming it is not only redundant, if not an outright hinderance.

Whether everything is pre-determined or not is always a never-ending philosophical debate. ISCKON devotees would be positive that Lord Krishna has already written the story of the entire world and there’s nothing anything can do about it. Speilberg’s Minority Report delves into the topic of pre-determination as well, though I confess I missed a good deal of it, either because I hadn’t paid enough attention to the dialogues or because some of the concepts simply flew over my head ;-). Stephen Hawkings in one of his essays “Is everything pre-determined?” in his book one of his essays discusses this at great length, and seems to come up with more or less the same conclusion that I’m about to present here…

Now certainly the Lord or some supreme power may indeed be responsible for everything, and everything is indeed pre-determined – the script is already written and we’re merely living it. But this knowledge dosen’t really help us – because there’s just no room for choice.

Choice may well be a topic for discussion, especially considering the number of times dialogues like “Choice is an illusion, created between those with power, and those without”, etc are repeated again and again in the pathetically over-philosophical sequels of the Matrix).

But consider that we might as well sit like vegetables and say anyway the Lord is responsible for me stting like a vegetable! The question of making a choice, is the question of taking responsibility. Even on hearing the Gita, Arjuna did have the choice of ignoring Krishna’s words, but he did choose to listen, and subsequently, act.

Krishna says:

karmanye eva adhikaraste
ma phaleshu kadachana
ma karmaphalahetur bhur
ma te sango stva akarmani

which translates to:
You have right to action only, never to its fruits, you should not have the fruits of your action as your goal, not let be there any desire for inaction.

So the idea as per my understanding is that one has to act while one acts. After having acted, its only the consequences that are surrendered.

If we look at Arjuna in the battlefield… Arjuna’s got trained by the best archers and has dedicatedly persued his training until he’s reached a level of excellence. Note that he hadn’t simply surrendered during all that – he’s gone through all the dedicated training and hard work that was required to reach that level of excellence.

And only at the point in the battlefield, Krishna tells him “Forget/abandon everything you’ve learnt…

This could well imply that a person must pursue any kind of knowledge (in case of Arjuna, it was Archery), reach a great depth in it, and then finally after a certain point it all becomes a part of his very being. Then, he comes to the “battlefield” which is the place where he applies his skills. The “battlefield” could well be a metaphor for our everyday lives – and anybody with field experience in any occupation whether its engineering or photography or anything would know that after studying a subject, out in the field we often have to let go of what we’ve studied and mainly go by gut feeling as each dynamic situation demands!

This gut feeling is something that increases with experience. I think what it finally comes down to is what I believe is the essence of creativity:

1) Learn everything (well, to a reasonable degree) about something.
2) Don’t get constrained by or attached to anything you learn, but come up with new ideas based on that knowledge.

———

Of course all this is at the level of coming up with something creative and implementing it. Perhaps none of this would be relevant if one has the strength and courage to going beyond ego plans as Nipun says in his entry Thousand Kilometers, One Conclusion

I have thought up and implemented many ego plans in my short life; I could do that forever and feel really good about it, but something within myself is calling me to evolve to a higher level of intelligence.

2 Responses to “some ideas about the Mahabharatha”

  1. bellur ramakrishna Says:

    Sanjay,

    “…out in the field we often have to let go of what we’ve studied and mainly go by gut feeling as each dynamic situation demands!”

    Absolutely true. For example, take my field. No School/ College/Institute can teach anyone to be CREATIVE. They can teach you the use of different tools to create a design. And while you are creating one, you go by the GUT FEELING, as you have said! And the gut feeling, you get by practice and experience.

  2. bellur ramakrishna Says:

    Sanjay,

    After posting this comment, I was surprised to see that this section has more than a couple of articles related to CREATIVITY:”creative way of representing creativity”, “how to be creative” and “can art be learnt?”. And I had read them sometime back!

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