Mahabharata Part 1 The Problems of Mahabharata are Based on Passion

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

Learning to Apply the Culture in Krishna Consciousness

So then we will be speaking on the application of the culture in Krishna Consciousness. So we must always remember that the essential culture is actually the chanting of the Holy Name, and in the culture of the Holy Name then this humility, tolerance, respect of others and not expecting respect for yourself, that service mood, that is the essence. So all other rules and aspects of the culture must be seen in light of this point. The whole idea is, when we take up Krishna consciousness then our karma is removed. When we chant Hare Krishna then there is no past karma. But, unfortunately, we continue to identify with our conditioned nature. We continue to think, ‘This is me.’ So this mentality needs to be given up. And so, to give this up, since this is our identity, then Krishna must give us situations in which to give up this identity. So these situations that Krishna arranges then look like our previous karma. But they must be understood that they are under Krishna’s direction now. Of course, through the modes of nature He is doing this work. But still, it is Krishna taking care, not just the hand of destiny.

So, the Mahabharata then explains very nicely, completely, the culture and philosophy of the Vedic civilisation. And the essence of that we see in the Bhagavad-gita. So, in the Bhagavad-gita then it’s saying that one should engage oneself in Krishna’s service. So then in this, then He concludes that one should give up all varieties of religion and surrender to Him. So, this, the application of this we see in our conditioned stage, then we give up the performance of religious principles for our own purposes and we perform these activities because this is how Krishna likes things done. So, therefore, we are just rendering service to Krishna. It’s not actually Varnashrama. Just Krishna likes to perform His activities in the material world according to Varnashrama. So then the devotees also do that. 

Devotees Perform Varnashrama for Krishna’s Pleasure

But as we see, just like if you want to enact a play or some drama on the life of some great person or some great civilisation, so every single detail you do not bring out in a drama. Someone’s life may have been 50-100 years. Or the civilisation may have been for hundreds or thousands of years. But you do not put on a drama that lasts for one thousand years. You put on a drama that lasts for an hour, an hour and a half, two hours. And so, what do you do? You pick the most essential points that really get to the essence of what is that culture or that person’s life or mood. So the devotees also then enact this Varnashrama lila for Krishna. But they only take the essence from this pastime. So those aspects that one can nicely, one can connect directly or as close as possible to Krishna, these aspects are accepted. And those things that keep something else as important, then those are not considered so important. Krishna makes very elaborate arrangements, so that everybody can take part in this pastime. So those parts in the drama that are for the materialists, those are dropped out. They are called, like you have, like you have in a big production, then all the extra people are called ‘extras’, right? So those are all the karmis, the jnanis, the yogis, the bhogis and all these kind-of things. So those are all dropped out of this play, and then all we keep is the essential, means, the aspects that the devotees perform for the pleasure of Krishna. 

So the Bhagavata platform, that is the situation of the devotee. But because of our not being, may not be fully surrendered, therefore we have to perfect this position with the support of a sadhana. And then this regulates our life, so that we are sure that we perform these activities of hearing and chanting and glorifying the Lord. And then if we are satisfied in this position, that is the best. But if due to our conditioned nature we still identify with so much of our previous reactions to material activities, then the Vedic culture expands to what we know as Varnashrama, in which our material needs of exchange, the emotional and sensual platform, then can be connected to Krishna. So the platform of Bhagavata is direct and spontaneous. The essential points of the sadhana are also direct, though according to the rules and regulations. And the supporting elements of the sadhana that we find in the Varnashrama system, these are indirect, but by consciousness we can connect them to Krishna. Otherwise then there is no connection to Krishna, it’s just us and our mind and our senses, and this is considered to be sinful.

We Must Understand the Mahabharata through the Bhagavad-gita

So now, so we must understand the Mahabharata through the Bhagavad-gita, then it has some meaning. Otherwise then it’s a nice story, it teaches all kinds of very wonderful, religious activities and mentalities, and except for the fact that it’s about the Pandavas, the story, we might forget that and just be caught up in the religious sentiment. So we must remember that as the senses are supposed be engaged in Krishna’s service, so also religious sentiment must also be engaged. 

So then here we go into the Mahabharata, here we are reading, we are taking from this rendition by Krishna Dharma Prabhu. 

And we see that what has happened before the appearance of the Pandavas, that there were no descendants in the dynasty of Kuru. As the Pandavas’ grandparents had died. So then this left a difficulty, is that the grandmothers were present, but there were no sons. So then in previous ages, it’s not practiced in Kali-yuga, it’s forbidden in the Kali-yuga, there was a peculiar rule called niyoga. And in this niyoga, then it meant that the brother of the husband, if the husband was unable to give children, then the brother could on his behalf then impregnate the wife. So we can see, for obvious reasons, why in this age this is not allowed. Means, as it is, people have enough problem just remaining faithful to their partners, let alone if there is an option that you could be with someone else. So the detachment is not enough in this age. It’s because of detachment this is possible, not because of attachment.

So then, we had, Bhishma had brought two girls, Ambika and Ambalika, and they were the wives of Vichitravirya. So they did not have any issue and their husband then, I think, he died. So then Satyavati, who is the mother of Vichitravirya and, I think, Citrangada, she was the Queen Mother, and there was no issue, so she thought what to do. So then the arrangement was that, I mean, the natural arrangement would be that Bhishma as the brother, that he should carry on the dynasty. But, unfortunately, Bhishma had taken a vow due to the greed of his father that he would remain celibate. 

Passion Will Always Give Pain Later

So right here we can start to see the difficulty of lust. Due to lust then so many difficulties come up. So many… Means, we must always remember, lust is coming from passion. Passion always, one hundred and one percent of the time, it will give pain later. This is guaranteed. One does not have to speculate, ‘Maybe…’ It is hundred percent guaranteed. So anything based on lust, though today it may seem nice, tomorrow it will give problem. So… What’s the king’s name, the father? Shantanu. So, Shantanu was very happy when he achieved the hand of Satyavati. But now we can see that there is great despair in the dynasty because of his attachment. Such a qualified, most qualified, no one was more qualified of all his sons than Bhishma. But neither could he sit on the throne, nor could he have children because of his father’s material desire. 

The Stories of the Scriptures Are Meant for Us

It’s very important to also understand in this, when we are talking about great personalities, such a small thing is insignificant. Means, for your benefit I am making this point very, very clear. The problem is is, we generally have a pastime, so many pastimes, there is tons of, so many… In the Mahabharata, in the Ramayana, in the Bhagavatam, in the Caitanya Caritamrta. But we tend to just think, ‘Yes, those were stories of some other time. These stories have nothing to do with me. Neither am I a king, neither am I wandering around, hunting in the forest, and neither am I coming across Ganga Devi, or am I coming across this girl that smells like perfume for eight miles. So, therefore, this story has nothing to do with me, it’s an impractical story. Nice story, but impractical. But if we told a story that actually fit our life, even we ourselves would fall asleep, it would be so boring:

“There was a boy walking down the street in Budapest. So many boys are walking down the street in Budapest. And this boy happened to be wearing the same kind of clothes and fashion as everyone walking down the street in Budapest. Of course, he had worked very hard, spending half a day, going around from shop to shop to find exactly the pants that had just the right pocket that he wanted in the pants. It was very difficult finding these pants because he had to go to so many shops, and the shop, the one pant that had the right pocket, then the cloth wasn’t proper. Another one had the right cloth, but then the colour was not right. Another shop had the right colour and cloth, but it wasn’t properly faded in the right way. It had been stone-washed, and not golf ball washed. And they hadn’t used enzymes, so it was soft, but it didn’t quite lose the color in the right places. 

“So, then he was standing on one of the corners in Budapest like all the other guys were standing on one of the corners in Budapest. And on the other side of the street he saw a girl, and she was wearing fashion clothes just like all the other girls were wearing in Budapest on a hot summer day. And it was very difficult to find that exact string shirt that she was looking for. She wanted ones with ties and not with buttons.”

Are we starting to get the idea? This is why the stories are told about great personalities and not about us. So we have to use our intelligence to understand, these stories are told for our benefit. They apply to us, they don’t apply to someone else. They are written, Vyasadeva wrote this for us. That’s what he wrote it for. So we are supposed to take this and figure out from this what applies to us. So the sword, the crown, the horse, yes, it does not apply to us. But the lust applies to us, the bad result applies to us. So because they use these great personalities we have to apply it to ourself, we should never think they are on the same level as us. So otherwise then we end up with a problem. If we respect them, but we don’t see the relationship with ourselves then we see, okay, yes, they are great persons, so it doesn’t belong to, it’s not our story. And if we say the story is for us then we think they are equal to us, so, ‘Since they are equal to us, why do I have to listen to this guy’s story? I have my own story. It wasn’t easy finding that pair of pants. You know how long I spent going around shop to shop finding those pants?’ So, therefore, we have to be careful, is that we have to respect these authorities, but take the essential teachings that are being given. Then we can learn, otherwise then they will just be nice stories, and then our practical life will be something else. We always hear, ‘Yes, it’s nice theory, but practically…’ No, this is practical. 

Nothing in This World is Obtained Without Austerity

So now, Satyavati, she was blaming herself for this whole thing, so then she arranged for Vyasadeva to cohabitate with these, his sister-in-laws. So Vyasadeva agreed, understanding the principle, but he made some condition. I mean, he pointed out that ‘Now, you want a good result. Good result is only obtained by austerity.’ There is nothing in this world of any use that is obtained that hasn’t been gotten with austerity. In fact, even things that are useless are only obtained by austerity. The cat down the road here catches the mouse by austerity. The cat has to sit there in one place without moving for a long time, and then they have to plan, they have to move very carefully, they have to be very careful and restrict themselves in so many ways. Then only they catch the mouse. And the mouse only keeps himself from being caught by austerity. He has to dig all kinds of holes, and just stay to the edge and not go out in the middle. So, like this, austerity, anything in this world is perfected by austerity.

So here then, Vyasadeva says, because austerity has to be performed to get a good result, he said, ‘Best thing is if these two girls for one year take a very strict vow, and then they fast, they do all kinds of things for one year, and then they will get a good child.’ And he said, ‘If they do that, then I won’t appear in my normal form, matted hair, covered with dirt.’ In practicing the lifestyle of vanaprastha, they go months or years, they don’t take bath, they don’t cut their nails, they don’t brush their teeth. ‘So if they perform this austerity then I will come in a form as a beautiful young man, which is suitable to young princesses. Then you will get a very good result.’ But Satyavati then said, ‘No, no, it’s very urgent, there is no heir to the throne, so we must do things quick.’ So then Vyasadeva agreed, he said, ‘Okay, then after so many days I will come. But I will come as I am, that’s the austerity.’ So we see here that the mother has asked the child to do something, the son. Son is behaving properly, he makes his points, but he is not rough. The lesson will be learned. The point is not to be right, the point is to educate, so she will find out after. 

The Consciousness of the Parents Attract the Child

So Vyasadeva came and he approached the first girl, I think, it was Ambika, and then, she is expecting, because Vyasadeva is also the son of Satyavati and a great personality, and mentioned in the Vedas, so they are expecting some very wonderful personality. But, instead, Vyasadeva, he was in his ashrama, he was performing austerities, covered with dirt. Because vanaprasthas, they perform austerities out in the elements, in the rain, in the sun,  in the wind, in the dust. Their whole point is to become detached from the body, so he appeared like that. So when he appeared then Ambika closed her eyes, this was too much. She is this high-class, gentle, young girl, accustomed to all fineties, and in comes this person, matted hair, unbathed, unwashed, it’s not exactly what she was expecting. So then Vyasadeva told Satyavati that there will be a very strong child, very powerful, but he will be blind. So then Satyavati was not very happy with this arrangement. So she thought, okay, we will arrange for the other girl, Ambalika, and she told her, ‘Don’t close your eyes.’ So she didn’t, but the sight of Vyasadeva was so fearful for her that she just turned pale, she turned white. So her son, Pandu, then he was born with pandu-roga, means, white, there is no colour. So then Satyavati was not overly pleased with this. Then she thought, ‘Okay, let us try again with Ambika.’ So Ambika was thinking, ‘No.’ She arranged in the last moment that her maidservant will then go to Vyasadeva. So the maidservant came, she offered respects, she took care, served very nicely, so then their son was a great Vaishnava devotee, and this was Vidura. So now Satyavati is thinking, ‘Still we are getting nowhere.’ And then Vyasadeva said, ‘It’s okay. If someone is really serious about going back to Godhead then he will only try these things only so many times. So three is the limit, so I am going.’

So we see from these very essential points, very practical points. That the consciousness of the parents makes the child. Means, there are so many living entities, so we are not making the living entity, but we are attracting a living entity. So you attract a living entity according to what is the mood that you present. So because things were in a rush, therefore, that’s the results they got. Because of the mode of passion then we see more problem. Because of lust we have this problem. Now, because of impatience we have another problem. So, therefore, there is no advantage in doing things in this way. If it’s not based on shastra, pragmatism may not give such a good result. So we have to be careful. 

So, now, because of disrespect then we see Dhritarashtra, though very qualified, he could not actually practically respect the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vyasadeva is a sage, I mean, he is doing his duties, and chastity means to accept the husband for what he is, what is his vow. But we see, she did not, she did not respect Vyasadeva, so she closed her eyes. It’s because she thought she was from a respectable kshatriya family, the great Kuru dynasty, and then what is this unkept brahmana? So because of that her child was not respectful to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Not only that, he was actually not respectful to anybody. There was no one he really respected. Vidura told him, Drona, Kripa, Bhishma, everyone of authority told him what to do and he did not follow their advice. And why? Because of attachment. So we can see that there is a direct link between the consciousness and the child that is invited. 

Trained Women Know How to Control Their Fire

And then Ambalika, she kept her eyes open only because she was supposed to. But she was also afraid. Not afraid that he was going to burn her to ashes or something, but the same considerations, same material consideratations that being a refined girl she expected a refined experience. So she was attached to the happiness of this association. So we can see, this was the undoing of her son. Her son was attached to his wife, and even though that finety would be his death. Because he was being very careful and the two, Madri and Kunti were being very careful not to attract the husband. They would wear no perfumes, no ornaments, no cosmetics. They would always dress very properly so that they would not attract Pandu, because they understand how the modes of nature work. So protection, this whole keeping the senses in control, we see it’s very much in the hands of the women. If there is nothing available, the senses are not disturbed, but if something is available then naturally the senses become disturbed. So we see that this is the Vedic culture that according to the situation the women would dress and behave. So if there is sensual engagement, passionate engagement, we see that so much of it comes back to the responsiblity of the women because they are in control of the atmosphere, the man is not in control. So, therefore, we see that as pious, trained, high-class women, they were very careful in these matters. They know, women are fire, men are butter. So they themselves control the fire. Uncontrolled fire destroys. Controlled fire is useful. So trained women know how to control this fire. 

So then she was very, very careful. But because of the arrangement of fate then in was a wonderful spring time day with flowers, and the breezes were blowing very wonderfully, very gently. So that was the fragrance, the breeze is the touch, and because of the position of the sun, then it was just in such a way that the sun would reflect through the cloth. So though they were very careful to dress properly, the sun was in such a position that it would reflect through the cloth and reveal her body. So then this attracted Pandu, and even though Madri kept telling him, ‘Don’t do this,’ he just thought that she was just being, to enhance the environment, she was just being difficult. Because that’s the common thing is that when man wants then woman behaves as if either the man doesn’t exist or it’s complete annoyance. So he became more enthusiastic to conquer his wife. So in this way then he, this was his death. Because he was cursed that if he ever engaged in sex with his wife he would die. Why was this? Because he was very attached to hunting, which is another vice of the kshatriyas. 

Not Everything Allowed in the Vedas is Useful for Krishna Consciousness

So many times we hear devotees very freely talking, ‘Yeah, kshatriyas can hunt, they can do this, they can have many wives, they can have so much nonsense.’ But why is this story told? Why is Pandu dying? Because of hunting. Why is Muchukunda having to take birth again, even though he is directly seeing and surrendering to the Lord? Because of hunting. It’s not… For kshatriyas to hunt is not a sin. They won’t go to hell. But they will take birth again, guaranteed. So we have to understand that just because the Vedas say it can be done does not mean that it’s anything useful for Krishna consciousness. So attachment to women, attachment to hunting, these are two of the main vices that are the downfall of kshatriyas. 

So we see, Pandu had both these weaknesses. So while he was hunting, he was so expert that he could shoot without seeing the target, just by sound. And he shot this deer. The deer happened to be a sage, and because the sage and his wife lived so simply, they had no house, nothing, they lived under a tree, so it’s considered uncultured for a husband and wife to show any external, like sensual, affection in public. That’s the culture of the animals. Therefore, in public cultured people, they don’t touch each other, they don’t do so many things. But because they had no place to live, they had no house, so they didn’t know what to do because it would be improper to conceive a child in public. So they took the form of deers because if animals conceive children in public no one complains. And Pandu shot this deer. So, now, someone could complain, ‘Well, it’s their business to hunt, and he sees a deer and he shoots the deer.’ Yes, that’s the rule, it’s not a problem. But because the deer was engaged in sex life, that’s not allowed. Even though he is the king, even though he is huting for benefit of others, still he cannot disturb the individual needs of the animals. So because the deers were engaged in sensual activities, the king cannot shoot them, so the king, even the king must be considerate of the animals. So because of this breech, that break of etiquette, that rule, therefore he was cursed, ‘If you ever approach your wife you will also die. 

So we see that the whole problem of the Mahabharata is all based on passion. The passion of king Shantanu, the passion of Satyavati, the improper behaviours of Ambika and Ambalika. And that sets the whole scene for the Mahabharata. So we see that this attachment of the senses, attachment to name, fame, they just make trouble. Means, whatever trouble we have in our life, it’s because of these things, because of this lust, anger, greed, attachment, madness and illusion. Any questions on this? No? Okay, so then we will continue tomorrow. 

Jaya! Srila Prabhupada ki jaya! Samaveta bhakta vrnda ki jaya! Jaya Nitai Gaura Premanande Hari Haribol! 

(H.H. Bhaktividya Purna Swami Seminar on Mahabharata, New Vraja Dhama, Hungary, Part 1, 16th Aug 2001)

Lecture audio:

Photo courtesy of Madhireksana dd

All comments.