May the stainless lotus of the Mahabharata blossomed fully by the instructions on Hari, with the Gita’s message as its sweet fragrance, growing on the lake of Parasara’s son’s words, with many legends as its stamens, the destroyer of the evils of Kali Yuga, delightfully partaken day after day by the bees of good and pure people of the world, give sreya (supreme good) to us.
This verse is a prayer which glorifies the knowledge contained in the Mahabharata. The author compares the Mahabharata to a fully blossomed lotus. This blossoming occurs because of the ‘instructions on Hari’ – Hari Katha, the enchanting life and story of Krishna. The Mahabharata came alive because of Bhagwan Krishna’s effervescent joy, sense of detachment, service and sacrifice.
The lotus of the Mahabharata represents the bliss of Realisation. It represents Atman. Bhagwan Vishnu has four hands which carry four objects, one in each hand. In one hand is a lotus, another is the shankha (conch) which makes a loud sound when blown. It represents our conscience. The lotus represents the goal of Atman which we must pursue and the conscience helps us to keep on the path to Atman. If we violate the diktat of the conscience we have to face the gada (battle staff). The Gada that Bhagwan Vishnu holds in the third hand signify the problems in life, sorrow and suffering. The gada, challenges help us to think, introspect and get back on track. However, if we are blind even to the signs given to us in the form of the gada, unpleasant experiences, then we incur the wrath of the chakra, disc that Bhagwan Vishnu holds in the fourth hand. This signifies total annihilation. In brief, this is how life unfolds for us. We remain happy in as much as we hear and follow the guidance given to us by our conscience. However, when we do not hear the conscience or choose to disregard it, we face the consequences of going against it. This comes in the form of stress, unhappy experiences and problems in life. If even the problems in our life do not force us to look within for answers to the problems then we suffer total annihilation. Go into deep depression, waste our precious lives and an opportunity to move closer towards our goal of self-development and Self-Realisation.
Here the Mahabharata is referred to as “padma” – that which points to the bliss of realization, Atman. This lotus is within us. The Mahabharata only helps us to find it in the core of our being.
Vyasa was born to the sage Parasara and his mother was Satyavati, a fisherwoman. Thus Vyasa had the unique combination of the wisdom of a brahmana and the practical nature of the fisher woman. A fisherman goes deep into the ocean and pulls out fish which is of value. Vyasa had this ability to go into the depth of the Vedas and Upanishads, extract the wisdom and present it to us in the form of the Mahabharata. Every one of these stories has some meaning. Vyasa also had the combination of the highest wisdom of a sage and daring courage of a fisherman. We need courage to enter the spiritual field. Most people always suspect there is something wrong with the person when he or she takes to spirituality. It takes courage to stand up to the tide of materiality that we are constantly swamped with and plan out one’s life with a clear intellect and consciously choose the spiritual way of life.
The Gita’s message is likened to a sweet fragrance in the verse. Even if one doesn’t understand the meaning of the verses, the chant itself has an effect on a person. The chant sounds sweet and is pleasing to hear. The essence of a flower is its fragrance. Similarly the essence of the flower of the Mahabharata is the philosophy, fragrance of the Gita. It is engrossing, elevating and uplifting.
The narratives and stories of the Mahabharata are fascinating. They serve as useful instructions on life for the ordinary person trying to find success and happiness in life. This is why the author says the many stories of the Mahabharata support the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. The many legends in the Mahabharata, the ‘stamens’, support the philosophy of the Gita.
The Mahabharata took place at the end of the Dvapara Yuga. The four yugas or ages are – Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. After each age they say pralaya (destruction) of the world takes place. The first age is Satya Yuga in which almost everyone is predominantly sattvika in nature. Then there is pralaya or destruction.
The second age is Treta Yuga where rajas and tamas increase in society and sattvika content is less among people. The Ramayana is believed to have taken place in Treta Yuga. Then again there is pralaya and the third age is Dvapara Yuga. The last age is Kali Yuga is termed as the Iron Age while Satya Yuga is the Golden Age. The ages are such that the level of sattva (purity) in persons steadily reduces through the four ages giving rise to more and more corruption and unrighteousness.
The Mahabharata took place at the end of the Dvapara Yuga just before Kali Yuga. This is why it is referred to as the ‘destroyer of the evils of Kali Yuga’ in the verse. We are currently in Kali Yuga, where injustice and evil seem predominant.
’Delightfully partaken of day after day by the bees of the good and pure people of the world.’ This is a fabulous analogy given by the author. A flower has three kinds of attractions. The sight itself attracts passers-by. When one goes closer to the flower, the sweet fragrance attracts us. But those who get the real nectar of the flower are the bees. The bees have the capacity to go deep inside and gather the nectar. It is the same with the Gita and the Mahabharata. Merely listening to the chants lends a sense of temporary peace. When we study it a little and apply some of the philosophy in our lives, we are able to overcome obstacles and challenges to gain happiness in life. But the real nectar of the Gita is Atman. The Gita gives a systematic presentation of how to get to the supreme state of Atman. And the people who get this nectar of Atman are the ‘good and pure people of the world’, the people who dedicate their lives to studying and understanding the philosophy of the Gita and live these great principles. We need to eradicate our negative traits, substitute them with positive ones constantly. Eventually we reach a stage where the sattva (purity) consumes us. And then even that goodness or sattva also goes, unable to sustain itself, leaving us in the state of Infinite Bliss.
The Mahabharata and the Gita are delightfully partaken day after day. Not once or twice. Not according to our whims and fancies. But again and again. The great Adi Shankaracharya says “vaaram, vaaram”. Again and again. We have already formed a groove of unhealthy desires. We have already unintelligently and unconsciously inculcated base values. To erode the effect of the past we have to put in effort steadfastly. Day after day we must strive to imbibe higher values. Make these higher values and principles part of us so that the muck from the past gets knocked off.