Bhārata-Sāvitrī (Part 2)

Equal to the Gāyatrī-mantra

Vyāsa gives the Bhārata-Sāvitrī clarion call in the concluding portion of the Mahābhārata. Just as the essence of all the Vedas assumes the name ‘Sāvitrī,’ finding its place in the Gāyatrī-mantra, Vyāsa has put in one place the distilled message of the Mahābhārata under the name ‘Bhārata-Sāvitrī.’ It is highly unlikely that Vyāsa’s conception is merely a narration of Itihāsa that becomes absolutely clear to one as soon as he steps into the depths of study. In the view of the wise ones, in the process of narrating a tale of war, what has resulted is indeed a dharma-saṃhitā – a collection of wisdom on dharma. In this manner, the Bhārata-Sāvitrī became the Gāyatrī-mantra of the Mahābhārata. The word ‘sāvitrī’ is derived from ‘savitā’ or ‘savitṛ.’ Savitā is the name given to the power that inspires the entire universe. For the convenience of meditation, it has also been visualized in the form of a deity. In the view of Veda-vyāsa, the message that is succinctly captured in the Bhārata-Sāvitrī śloka cluster manifestly indicates the message intended by the whole of the Mahābhārata treatise – we shall now examine how this is so.

The element that we must observe is: this śloka collection is not merely expounding the primary message of the Mahābhārata in a sūtra form but also is also indicating the origin or the logic behind the sūtra-making.

Desirous of Knowing the Puruṣārthas

Elements of the counsel that appear in this collection is constantly seen in various places all across the Epic. The main message is this: if there is a philosophical concept that can take prominence in the world, it is dharma alone; it is only dharma that can ultimately cause equilibrium in the world and maintain peace and well-being. Typically, in the realm of trade and transactions, the focus of people is more drawn towards artha and kāma; while that is the case, it is only dharma that is capable of fulfilling human purposes such as prosperity of beings and fulfilment of desires – these words of Vyāsa must be keenly observed.

To understand how the purport of the Bhārata-Sāvitrī appears to be a crystallization of the message of the Mahābhārata, it is helpful to embark on an examination of the relationship between these verses and what has been said before them. There are mainly two subtleties hidden here:

1. Vyāsa’s emotionally charged words indicate to us his view: dharma is inevitable for the dynamic equilibrium in the world. Right there, Vyāsa has explicitly stated the reason for dharma’s pre-eminence: it is only through dharma that one can attain the two puruṣārthas that are given the most importance in the realm of the material world – artha and kāma. Vyāsa, who says that the attainment of artha and kāma are possible only when there is a strong foundation in dharma, goes a step further to establish the supremacy of dharma and says: dharma is eternal; sukha and duḥkha—peace and misery—are constantly changing and are short-lived. The instruction that stems out of this unshakable truth is: however potent the allure of desire, fear, greed, etc. might be, one should not fall prey for it and abandon dharma. The eternal principle is always more admirable, more appropriate than something ephemeral.

2. There is yet another subtlety here that demands our undivided attention: in Vyāsa’s view, the puruṣārthas or artha and kāma have to be attained only by treading the path of dharma. We have to give special care in understanding this vision of Vyāsa, for in the name of turning our minds towards mokṣa, there has been a long tradition of treating artha and kāma with contempt; for years there has been a line of thinkers who have looked at these basic puruṣārthas with disdain. Not only that, owing to this warped view, we have faced disasters such as inappropriate interpretation and ill-informed comments on the Vedānta darśana. When it comes to pure Vedānta, although in reality it considers mokṣa as the ultimate purpose, it does not negate the apparent truth that is seen in the world and in the transactions and interactions of the world. It is due to the lack of all-round clarity with regard to the hierarchy of the puruṣārthas that these absurd notions get propagated.

It is illuminating and instructive that Vyāsa has suggested this fundamental classification in the Bhārata-Sāvitrī śloka cluster. Vyāsa has himself clearly said: It is only dharma that is eternal, unshakable; sukha and duḥkha are temporary and constantly changing; this being the case, don’t ignore dharma, don’t forget dharma, I plead with you!

Clarity of the Goal

Vyāsa himself has suggested that it is not easy to bring this into practice. If one gets too caught up in the momentary attraction of desires, the fear of exhausting opportunities to experience comfort, and the unending series of ‘want’s for the attainment of one after the other, there is always the potential danger of dharma going farther away from us. Vyāsa had made it clear that the Ultimate Goal should be the Eternal Principle and not ephemeral, incidental circumstances.

The ślokaHarṣa-sthāna-sahasrāṇi’ (#2) is extremely suggestive, rich with dhvani. In this world, the reasons for excitement and sorrow are innumerable. The foolish and the immature are hassled by them and not the wise – this appears to be the cursory meaning of the verse. The import of this verse is rather unambiguous; there’s no need for further elaboration of the meaning. However, there is a subtlety contained in this utterance: Every morning, from the time we wake up, we encounter circumstances that cause turbulence in our mind and situations that destroy our peace; this can even be called a rule of nature. The possibility of such occurrences cannot be averted even by the greatest minds. Even the most competent ones cannot escape from natural calamities. This being the case, what indeed can a wise person do? There is only one solution available for that. To try and avoid the ups and downs that are latent in nature is akin to an attempt of covering the sky with a blanket. It is a futile undertaking. That said, it is both possible and necessary to reduce—to the extent we can—the intensity of the influence of external circumstances on our inner being. This becomes possible by the control of the mind. Those desirous of treading the path of adhyātma will benefit from the following: taking care not to become the cause of dichotomy and imbalance and training themselves to forbear any assaults on their mental peace owing to turbulence caused by unforeseen situations. This temperament and conduct at higher levels of attainment is hailed as yoga. This pre-eminent process is indeed what Vyāsa has indicated as ‘dharma-anusandhāna.’ He says that dharma-awareness plays a role in cultivating mental balance that doesn’t get disturbed much by external situations.

Pre-eminent Path

Avoiding the influence of desires, fears, and greed on our minds and cultivating forbearance to face natural calamities and accidents – dharma supports us in both these instances. Owing to its scope of influence, dharma has been given such an important place in the world-structure. Dharma’s pre-eminence has arisen because it is the foundation of timelessness [or permanence] and stability. It is possible for dharma to support and sustain the world only because of its nature of timelessness and stability. This multi-dimensional sattva is firmly established in dharma – indeed, this is one of the important explanations of the famous utterance ‘dhāraṇāt dharma ity-āhuḥ[1] (Dharma is that which supports and sustains).

Thus, the various modes and differences in the journey of life across several births, the constant decay of the visible world and its management – both these fundamental concepts have been expounded in a succinct but unambiguous manner by Vyāsa in the opening ślokas “mātā-pitṛ-sahasrāṇi…” and “harṣa-sthāna-sahasrāṇi…” of the Bhārata-Sāvitrī. The futility of trying to destroy the various worldly circumstances has been made amply clear by the words of the Bhārata-Sāvitrī. For instance, although we cannot exercise any control over natural calamities and externally motivated accidents, we can—by means of our own efforts and training—reduce the impact of the event on our minds; that such a thing is possible is made clear by the verse “harṣa-sthāna-sahasrāṇi…” We can apply this teaching to both the pāramārthika (spiritual, ultimate) and vyāvahārika (transactional, worldly) realms of our life.

Rebirth

Along with presenting the pre-eminence of dharma on the basis of philosophy, Vyāsa also has given a few evidences side-by-side, which provide completion to the philosophical argument. A great principle that provides philosophical completion to the concept of dharma is the karma-siddhānta that includes within itself the idea of rebirth. Several opinions and decisions in the transactional realm of vyavahāra stem from the view that the present birth alone is complete in itself. It is not easy to come out of this mindset even for those who accept rebirth as a matter of philosophy; the shackles of māyā (illusion, relative perception) are that tight. The present birth is merely a phase in the unending flow: when this is firmly lodged in our memory, several of our responses and references are bound to change. The acceptance of the principle of rebirth is the primary means to strengthen our all-round understanding of the ephemeral nature of the universe.[2] It is in this backdrop Vyāsa brings up the idea of rebirth in his ultimate message.

To be continued...

This is the second part of a four-part translation of Dr. S R Ramaswamy's Kannada essay ಭಾರತ ಸಾವಿತ್ರೀ, which was written with the express view that it should be translated by us for the English adaptation of his writings on the epic, Evolution of the Mahabharata.

Footnotes

[1] धारणात् धर्म इत्याहुः – Karṇa-parva 49.50

[2] In other words, if we wish to truly comprehend that the world around us is constantly decaying and will not last for ever, then the primary means is the acceptance of the rebirth principle.

Author(s)

About:

Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.

Translator(s)

About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written more than fifteen books, mostly related to Indian culture and philosophy. He works in an advisory capacity with Abhinava Dance Company, Lakshminarayana Global Centre for Excellence, Pramiti, and Samvit Research Foundation.

About:

Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...