This book presents the social message of the Mahabharata in the form of a ten-point call for the good of all. Since this message is primarily given, in the terminology of lokasamgraha, in Bhagavad-Gita (which is the centre-piece of the Mahabharata), the technique of presentation adopted here is Gita-supportive, i.e. indirect as well as selective. A selective approch is inevitable because the Mahabharata as a whole is like an ocean which is capable of yielding several variants of the same message. Our selections from the Mahabharata (i.e. the epic excluding Bhagavad-Gita), presented in Sanskrit but accompanied with simple meaning in English, take the form of eighteen chapters (containing a total of 700 verses), and thus can be viewed as a 'second Gita' (because Bhagavad-Gita itself has 700 verses spread our eighteen chapters). Although the lokasamgraha message is valid for all times, it deserves a more pointed attention now, because a Mahabharata-like situation has suddenly been created in the world due to the terrorist attacks that took place in USA on 11th September 2001, and in India on 13th December 2001. The ten-point call for good of all, as articulated in this book, is inspired by (and hopefully will itself inspire) a firm conviction that all the karmayogins of the world will work together to bring about a terror-free society, which is a basic component of lokasarmgraha.
Dr. Satya P. Agarwal is a Social Scientist with a brilliant academic record as well as notable professional achievements in India, United States and United Nations . His academic honours include five gold medals and numerous merit scholarships and research fellowships at various universities. His professional contributions include the writing of pioneering books on the concept and methodology of Manpower Supply and Demand. During his assignment with the United Nations as Chief Technical Adviser, he prepared a large number of technical reports in the socio-economic field, and conference papers for international gatherings of population and manpower experts. His contributions to South Asia studies in the U.S. include professional help in the setting up of Hindi-teaching facilities at the University of California, Berkeley as well as in the teaching of Sanskrit and social problem-oriented courses at the American Academy of Asian Studies.
The comprehensive book that he wrote in 1993-The Social Role of the Gita: How and Why-confirmed his reputation as a Gita scholar and researcher specializing in Lokasamgraha, the good of the society. The Governor of the State of Maryland conferred upon him ''The Governor's Citation'', in recognition of his pioneering books as also his contribution to social service.
His books on Gita and Ramayana have been honoured by the President of India. Other honours conferred on him include: (i) Kunti Goyal International Award, (ii) Special Award of Manas Sangam and (iii) International Tulasi Award.
During the last ten years, my wife and I have been fortunate to receive immense love and affection from scholars as well as general readers and others, in whose minds we have become closely associated with the task of spreading the social message of the Gita and Tulsi-Ramayana. In this pleasant task, we have got full support from friends, relations and professional colleagues-turning the whole thing into a collective karma-yoga, voluntarily undertaken for the good of the society.
Even our grandchildren, some of whom may be too young to understand fully the difference between a 'message' and a 'social message', have displayed warm appreciation of the valuable contribution of this extended family in the field of 'good books'. Moreover, the appreciation of the teenage grandchildren (named Isha and Kiran) was accompanied with a 'demand' that I should tell them a new 'Indian story' everyday. I was glad to fulfill this affectionate demand because this gave me an opportunity to go through the entire Mahabharata systematically. From this collaborative buddhi-yoga, which was joyfully practised week after week, emerged an inspiring collection of Mahabharata-stories-and they in turn (after due selection and editorial touch-up) became the nucleus of the present book.
But the Mahabharata has a vast, ocean-like coverage, as is clear from its own declaration-yannehasti na kutracit i.e. whatever is not found in this book, you will not be able to find anywhere else.
So what approach did we adopt to arrive at the selections contained in the present book? In brief, we utilized our expertise in mathematical statistics and social aspects of religion, to devise a three-stage procedure.
At the first stage, we classified the Mahabharata into two broad categories, viz. (i) accounts or tales of the long conflict between the Panciavas and the Kauravas, and (ii) dialogues or talks on issues of dharma (i.e. principles and practices that hold the society together). Contrary to the popular impression that tales of conflict constitute the bulk of the Mahabharata, we found that more than half of this epic is devoted to talks on issues of dharma.
Since our emphasis is on the socio-religious message of the epic, we summarized the tales of conflict in a section of Part I of this book, and devoted the rest of the book to talks on issues of dharma. At the second stage, we took as the starting point, that part of the Mahabharata which consists of dialogues or talks on issues of dharma. After a thorough study we found that, out of a total of eighteen Parvans in the epic, we needed to look closely into eight, attaching special importance to Santi-Parva and Vana-Parva (the other six Parvans being Udyoga-Parva, Anugasana-Parva, Adi-Parva, Stri-Parva, Agvamedha-Parva, and Mahaprasthanika-Parva). From these eight Pat-vans, we selected eighteen topics-keeping in mind the close association of the number 'eighteen' with the Mahabharata as well as the Gita. Regarding the total number of verses to be included in these eighteen selections (or topics or chapters), we found that the number '700' fitted neatly into our scheme, because this enabled us to give in this book, what we felt to be most important, and it had the additional advantage of providing to Part II of this book a Gita-like appearance (since the Gita itself has 700 verses divided into eighteen chapters). In other words, we feel that the socio-religious message of the Mahabharata is broadly contained in the 700 verses which have been selected from eight different Parvans and which are distributed over eighteen chapters (numbered 2 to 19 in this book), forming Part II.
The third (and the final) stage of selection of verses was needed to fulfill two objectives. First, a linkage between the message of the Mahabharata and that of the Gita was to be established so as to highlight the Gita-supportive role of the epic-this being the implication of Mahatma Gandhi's statement that ''In this great work (i.e. Mahabharata), the Gita is the crown.'' Secondly, just as the message of the Gita has been summarized by us (in our earlier publications) in terms of a fairly small number of verses (viz. less than one hundred), why not do the same thing in regard to the Mahabharata?
This two-fold objective underlying the final stage of selection of the Mahabharata-verses was accomplished by us by recalling (from our earlier writings) the ten-point summarization of the Gita's message (also called `framework'). The foundation of this frame-work is the commonly accepted statement that ''the good of all'' is the single most important criterion of excellence of any socio-spiritual (or socio-religious) approach to life's problems, particularly in the context of the conflict-ridden society of today. More specifically, we took as the reference-provider, the ten-point framework already formulated by us for the Gita's message (and summarized again in chapter 20 of this book), and then selected those of the Mahabharata-verses (keeping their total number below one hundred) which expressed the same or similar ideas. The concluding chapter of Part III of this book thus presents the Mahabharata-verses finally selected from Parts I and II, which re-affirm and support (in a summary form) the Gita's call for the good of all. On the issue of language, we felt that it would be useful to give the verses in their originality, i.e. in Sanskrit (accompanied with their simple meaning in English).
We hope those readers who do not find their favourite verses included in our selection will appreciate why this happened. In other words, we do not mean to say that verses not occurring here are not important-we only want to say that we had to draw a line so as to be able to fulfill a limited objective without letting the size of this book become too big.
Finally, we should mention that we found it convenient to use the Gita Press edition of the Mahabharata as the basic text. We feel that even if we had used the Critical Edition (brought out by V. S. Sukthankar and others), the main results of our study would have remained intact.
**Contents and Sample Pages**