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The Mahabharata An Inquiry in the Human Condition

The Mahabharata An Inquiry in the Human Condition

  • SKU: IDJ815
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  • Publishers: Orient Longman Pvt. Ltd.
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  • Dimensions:9.3' X 6.2'
  • Edition:2007
  • Author:Chaturvedi Badrinath
  • Publisher:Orient Longman Pvt. Ltd.
  • ISBN:9788125032380
  • Cover Type:Paperback
  • Number of Pages:700
  • Acknowledgement

    My studies in the Mahabharata began systematically in 1971 with the award of a Homi Bhabha Fellowship to me (1971-73), to write on dharma as the key to understanding the history of the Western encounter with Indian civilisation. That encounter took place in the form of Western Christianity, Liberalism, Modern Science and Marxism, each of these forces trying to change India from its own perspective. My journeys in that history showed that each one of them had perceived the foundations of Indian civilisation wrongly. That led me to dharma, upon which those foundations were laid, and dharma led me to the Mahabharata, opening an entirely new universe of the knowledge of the self and of the other in relationship, individually and collectively. My journey changed from studying a history that was limited, anyway mostly negative in being a history of wrong understandings and misunderstandings, to studying the Mahabharata's inquiry into those universal questions of human existence that every human being asks practically at every turn of his or her life.

    In writing this work I have come to owe a debt of gratitude to many.
    To Jyotirmaya Sharma, most of all. For his unwavering faith in my work on the Mahabharata; reading several chapters of it as they were being written and then the entire text; taking upon himself from the beginning, and that in mist of his own taxing upon himself from the beginning, and that in the midst of his own taxing work, the task of finding a publisher for a book of this size; and form mostly freeing me from the burden of anxieties that arise in the process of having a work of this kind published, taking that burden upon himself instead, and bearing it with patience and grace.

    To each of those many institutes and universities, in India and in Europe, who during the last three decades invited me to speak on the various dimensions of dharma in modern contexts or on the Mahabharata as an inquiry in the human condition. Equally to those men and women, in Indian and in Eurpe, with who, at different times, at different places, in different circumstances, I have been having continuing conversations on the Mahabharata's contribution to the knowledge of man and the world. For it is through those conversations that my own understanding of the foundations of relationships, of the self with the self and of the self with the other, deepened. If I do not name those institutes and persons individually here, it is only because their list is long, virtually covering my history of the last three decades of seeking.

    To Vishnu Bhagwat, for his abiding faith in this work and its relevance to the India of today; for his continuing concern, even charming impatience, that it be published as early as possible and reach the people. To his wife Niloufer Bhagwat, for setting up, for the women of the diplomatic community in New Delhi, my talk on 'The Women of the Mahabharata' at the Navy House, on 11 March 1998, and for her graciousness to me always. The response of the women of different nationalities assembled at that talk was a Proof that the women of the Mahabharata are universally incarnate – as teachers of mankind.

    To O.P. Jain; Abdul Rehman Antulay; to Harsh Sethi and to his wife, Vimala Ramachandran; and to Mahesh Buch; for their faith in the relevance of this work and for their support.

    To Seeta Badrinath, for her paying the entire expenses of having the Sanskrit shloka-s cited in this book typed into the manuscript.

    To Mohini Mullick, for preparing the first draft of the Index and Concordance, in itself considerable work. For its present form and contents, and for any errors (s) in them, the responsibility is mine.

    To Punam Kumar, for reading the first eight chapter of the book and suggesting some editorial changes which were very helpful in removing errors and improving at places the text.

    To Saradamani Devi, I owe a special debt of deep gratitude.
    There are two different Recensions of the Mahabharata, the Southern and the Northern, with different editions in each. In the Southern Recensions, the Kumbakonam edition is best known; in the Northern, the Gita Press Gorakhpur and the Pune editions. The difference between the two Recensions in not only in their size, the Southern omitting in some cases the material that exists in the Northern, and the Northern adding some material that does not exist in the Southern, but also in the numbering of chapters in each of the eighteen parva-s of the Mahabharata, which can vary quite erratically. A substantial part of the present book was written when I lived in Madras (now Chennai) and even though I had 'Gorakhpur' with me then, I had used 'Kumbakonam', all references to chapter and verse being to that edition. The remaining and the major part of it, was written during the last six years in Gurgaon where I lived; all references to chapter and verse now being to 'Gorakhpur', for I didn't have with me Kumbakonam'. To avoid what undoubtedly would have been maddening confusion, and to make the references uniform, I had to change from 'Kumbakonam' to 'Gorakhpur'. That journey turned out to be more painful and draining then I imagined it would be, especially because I could not find 'Kumbakonam' in any of the libraries of Delhi, not even in those where I had hoped I would. For that matter, even in Madras the Kumbakonam edition, out of print for decades, can be seen only in the library of the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute.

    It was during my maddening journey from 'Kumbakonam' to 'Gorakhpur' (via Gurgaon) that I was led to Saradamani Devi, a Sanskritist. On hearing my tale of woe, she brought out her eighteen volumes of the Mahabharata. They were not 'Kumbakonam' but yet another edition of the Southern recension, the one compiled by P.P.S. Sastri (1935) from the manuscripts at the Tanjore Palace Library (with his variations even in that!). It was clear they would be no help, for the numbering of chapter and verse in them varied from 'Kumbakonam' as much as it did from 'Kumbakonam' to 'Gorakhpur'. Noticing the look of desolation on my face, Saradamani Devi said, 'Even so, take them. They may be of some use to you in your work.' She told me that those books had belonged to her late mother, Ratnamayi Devi, also a Sanskritist. To one totally unknown to her, Saradamani Devi gave away what was to her a family treasure; for her mother would have turned the pages of that edition of the Mahabharata numerous times, leaving upon them the invisible traces of her land. Saradamani Devi's generosity to me could easily be a story from the Mahabharata itself – of spontaneous, selfless giving.

    To Lance Dane, I owe a debt of gratitude for his passionate support to this work from the moments he read it in manuscript; for his sage counsel as regards the aesthetics of its final production; and for joyfully offering for the cover his photograph of a rare painting depicting Ganesha taking down Vyasa's dictated composition of the Mahabharata, most appropriate for this book, for it begins with the story of Vyasa and his divine stenographer, Ganesha.

    And, finally, to Hemlata Shankar of Orient Longman, I owe my profound thanks for the great care and enjoyment she has taken in the editing and production of this book.

    Should this work on the Mahabharata be of any value to anyone reading it, and help bring in his or her life the joy of relationships in truth and freedom, my debts of gratitude would have been repaid – in some measure of least.

    From the Jacket

    Chaturvedi Badrinath shows that the Mahabharata is the most systematic inquiry into the human condition. Its principal concern is the relationship of the self with the self and with the other. This book not only proves the universality of the themes explored in the Mahabharata, but also how this great epic provides us with a method to understand the human condition itself.

    Badrinath shows that the concerns of the Mahabharata are the concerns of everyday life – of dharma, artha, kama and moksha. It is through this everyday-ness, with its complexities as much as with its simplicity, that the Mahabharata still rings true. This book dispels several false claims about what is today known as 'Hinduism' to show us how individual liberty and knowledge, freedom, equality, and the celebration of love, friendship and relationship are integral to the philosophy of the Mahabharata, because they are integral to human life.

    Using over 500 shlokas of the original text that he supports with his own lucid translations, Chaturvedi Badrinath's The Mahabharata is an invaluable contribution to our understand of this epic, not in the least, for the elegant scholarship and humanistic approach.

    Chaturvedi Badrinath is a philosopher and was born in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh. He was a member of the Indian Administrative Service between 1957 and 1989 and spent thirty-one years serving in Tamil Nadu. Badrinath has been Homi Bhabha Fellow (1971-73) and Visiting Professor at Heidelberg University (1971), where he gave a series of seminars on dharma and its application to our times. Giving numerous lectures on Indian thought, he has also been an active participant in inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue at various for a across the world.

    His other books include Dharma, India and the world Order: Twenty-one Essays (1993) introduction to the Kamasutra (1999); Finding jesus in Dharma; Christianity in India (2000); and Swami Vivekananda: the Living Vedanta (2006).
    Badrinath now lives near Pondicherry, India

    The cover illustration reproduces an original miniature painting recovered in a small packet of fragment from Indore, Madhya Pradesh. It revealed Lord Ganesha, inscribing the Mahabharata as dictated by Sage Vyasa. The style of he crown and physical mannerisms signify inherent Maharashtrian influence. A few almost intact pages of text suggest a late 18th century Kalam.

    Back of the Book

    For those generally familiar with the terrain but have now begun to want to get to grips with these concepts because of the sudden upsurge in our contemporary world to go back to 'ancient' truisms this book should be compulsory reading. For both, Chaturvedi Badrinath has provided an excellent introduction to set the stage for how he sees the Mahabharata's methodological avenues unfold the complex and varied conditions of human living.

    Aloka Parasher-Sen, The Hindu

    18 Chapter about life and living, studied and analysed from several perspectives approaching problems and question through the classic questioning and storytelling method of enquiry. This would not work in another writer's hands, but with Chaturvedi Badrinath, you're on safe territory, since it's pretty obvious that he's spent a good part of his lifetime studying the epic.

    First City

    Chaturvedi Badrinath has made an eminently commendable effort to produce a compendium of mahavakyas-cum-tika that makes the Mahabharata usable for modern readers  The selections and helpful commentary will be a useful starting point for those uninitiated in the text. This digest is by someone who clearly knows the text.


    Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Indian Express




      Acknowledgements ix
      A Note on the Diacritical Marks and Translations xiii
      Dramatis Personae of the Mahabharata xv
      The Eighteen Main Parva-s of the Mahabharata xvii
    Chapter 1. Introduction to the Mahabharata 1
      The subjects of the inquiry and their universality 3
      The method in the inquiry 10
    Chapter 2. Food, Water and life 23
      Food and water in the Upanishad-s 24
      Food and water in the Mahabharata 30
      Giving and sharing not ritual 'acts' 35
      The always-full cooking pot 37
      A portion for the unknown guest 39
    Chapter 3. The Spiritual and the Material in the Mahabharata 41
      Perceptions of the Self 57
      Radical shift in the Mahabharata 67
      Self, energy, and relationships 70
    Chapter 3. Dharma – The Foundation of Life and Relationships 77
      The radical shift in the Mahabharata the universality of dharma 85
      Dharma and the question of relativism 90
      Another radical shift in the Mahabharata 95
      Dharma as relationship of the self with the self and with the other 101
    Chapter 5. Ahimsa – Not – violence, the Foundation of Life 113
      Not-violence: The foundation of life of and relationships 115
      The opposite reality: 'Life lives upon life' 119
      The rationality of not-violence 123
      Justification of anger on being wronged 127
      The rationality of forgiveness and its limits 142
      The argument against enmity and war 148
      Violence in speech and words 154
      Violence to one's Self 161
      Freedom from fear: freedom from the violence of history 163
    Chapter 6. What is 'Death'? The Origin of Mrityu 169
    Chapter 7. The Question of Truth 181
      Truth and the problem of relativism 183
      Truth is relational 192
    Chapter 8. Human Attributes – Neither Neglect, nor Idolatry 199
      Svartha and niti, self-interest and prudence 216
    Chapter 9. Human Attributes – Sukha and Duhkha : Please and Pain 225
      'Pleasure' and 'pain': experienced facts 227
      The reasons why there is more pain than pleasure 231
      'Perhaps that is why you look pale and weak'? The psychosomatic link 239
      From the same facts: three different paths to happiness 246
      A radical shift in the 'because-therefore' reasoning 260
      The Mahabharata's teachings of happiness 263
    Chapter 10. Material Prosperity and Wealth, Artha 271
      Importance of wealth in the Mahabharata 273
      The other truth concerning wealth 280
    Chapter 11. Sexual Energy and Relationship, Kama and Saha-dharma 295
      Conflicting attitudes towards woman 304
      Comparative pleasure of man and woman 312
      The question regarding the primacy of sexuality 313
      Sexuality and relationship in the Mahabharata 317
      Possession of the mind 327
      Kama subject to dharma 331
    Chapter 12. Grihastha and grihini, the householder; Grihastha-ashrama, life-in-family 335
      Family as a stage in life 340
    . The highest place for the householder and the family 347
      Obligation and duties, and 'the three debts' 350
      Not obligation and duties alone, also feelings 351
      The place of the wife in the life-in-family 354
      The place of the mother in the life-in-family 360
      Conversations between husband and wife as part of family life 365
      Life-in-family in the larger context of life 367
    Chapter 13. Varna-dharma, Social Arrangements; Loka-samgraha, towards Social Wealth 369
      The origin of varna 372
      Varna – a function, not a person 375
      By conduct, not by birth 375
      By birth, not by conduct alone 379
      The humbling of arrogance 386
      Antagonism among social function: its psychology 394
      Harmony among social callings: the way to social wealth 410
    Chapter 14. Dharma – The Foundation of Raja-Dharma, Law and Governance 417
      The purpose of governance, danda 422
      The main attribute of governance 428
      Self-discipline of the king 430
      Impartiality, truth, and trust in governance 435
      Trust as the foundation of republics 440
      Public wealth under the control of dharma 441
      Fear as the basis of the social order 444
      Reconciliation or force? 448
      The law of abnormal times: apad-dharma 453
      An argument against capital punishment 455
      The king crates historical conditions, not they him 458
    Chapter 15. Sage Narada's Questions to King Yudhishthira 465
      Concerning Yudhishthira's relation with his self 466
      Concerning the principles of sound statecraft 468
      Concerning the principles of sound administration 470
      Questions concerning the security of the realm 474
      Above all, questions concerning the foundations of good governance 475
    Chapter 16. Fate or Human Endeavour? The Questions of Causality 477
      Daiva, fate 479
      Purushartha: human endeavour 483
      Endeavour and providence together 487
      Kala, Time 491
      Svabhava, innate disposition 503
      The Question of accountability in what happens 508
      The Question of causality unresolved 523
      Beyond 'causality' 527
    Chapter 17. From Ritual Acts to Relationships 529
      What is true shaucha, 'purity'? 530
      What is true tirthas, pilgrimage? 534
      What is true tyaga, 'renunciation'? 539
      What is sadachara, 'good conduct'? What is shishtachara, 'cultured conduct'? 547
      Who is truly a pandita, 'wise'? Who is a fool? 552
      Who is truly a santa, 'saint'? 556
    Chapter 18. Moksha – Liberation from the Human Condition 559
      The rationality of moksha 560
      The radical shift in the Mahabharata 567
      The attributes of a free person 570
      Moksha as freedom from 577
      The paths to moksha 580
      Moksha as freedom into 588
      Notes 593
      Index and Concordance 631

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