LESSON FROM THE MAHABHARATA

TALK BY RAVI LOGAN | DECEMBER 2019

I suspect that many of you have been tuned in enough to the political dynamics of our country to have concern. As spiritual people, I think we are called upon to have a little perspective on the world’s situation that can be helpful in collectively creating a pathway forward. I want to share some personal thoughts that may lead to discussion this morning.

 

A little bit of history, maybe that is not all factual, some that is mythological. But it is history that gives perspective. There is a region in southeast Afghanistan that is called Kandahar. In ancient times, it used to be Ghandahar. As language is evolved, it is common for there to be a shift between gha- and kha-, as they are both guttural sounds. For example, the Latin word for cat is “gato.” Now it is Kandahar.

 

At the time of the Mahabharata, the princess of Ghandahar was called Ghandari, and she married a king in another province and became the queen. Ghandari bore many sons and one daughter to the king. She is given a lot of prominence in the Mahabharata epic because of her high moral integrity and virtue. It is exhibited in the context of this culture most prominently because the man she was married to was blind, and in a sense of duty, she then tied a cloth around her eyes. For the rest of her life, save for one brief moment, she lived in a state of voluntary blindness out of solidarity with her husband.

 

[Again], she is regarded as a woman of great virtue. The Mahabharata epic culminated with a battle between two big alliances in south Asia. The alliances extended from Afghanistan in the west, all the way to Burma (which probably contained a third of humanity at the time). Ghandari’s sons, particularly her older son Duryodhana, were right at the heart of this epic. Duryodhana was what you would consider a “bad seed.” He went after power, and it was this lust after power that precipitated the battle between these two opposing forces that transpired. Duryodhana’s alliance lost, and Ghandari took a big hit in battle. All of her sons were wiped out in this battle, her whole bloodline. At the end of the battle, she was immensely grieved by this outcome.

 

Ghandari was astute in realizing that the precipitation of this battle, this great war, would not have the outcome that it did without the role that Krishna played in the battle. Leading up to and just prior to the battle, Krishna himself was a king with one of the most powerful armies in south Asia. He was the king of the Yadavas, a very powerful clan. Duryodhana and one of the leaders of the other alliance, The Pandavas, named Arjuna, both approach Krishna at the same time to try and get him to align with their respective factions. Krishna had blood relations with both, which was kind of the way a lot of things were determined in those days as alliances got set up.

 

Krishna resolved the dilemma of which side to throw his weight to by saying “Arjuna was at my feet and I saw him first, so he may choose first.” Krishna said “you can either have my army, or you can have me.” Arjuna without hesitation chose Krishna. Duryodhana thought, “whoa, Krishna’s army, that’s the most powerful army in south Asia!” Although he did not get first choice, he was quite happy with the outcome.

 

During the fourteen days of battle, Krishna did not fight; he was only Arjuna’s charioteer. Krishna said that he would not lift a weapon. Time and again, Krishna would give advice that was divisive, and Ghandari was aware, as I say, of the role that Krishna played, and the fate of her sons was due to the causality that stemmed from Krishna’s role. She was so grieved and pissed, and she cursed Krishna. With all the moral force that accumulated in her life from this active virtue, Krishna was there beside her at the end, surveying the battlefield. Ghandari [then] laid her curse on him, and Krishna accepted it. He accepted it because he wanted to give the example that a moral person should be respected. At least, that was a bit part of it in the way mythic history recounts it.

 

The curse was that Krishna would see his kingdom devastated, just as she had seen her sons, her whole bloodline, wiped out. He would have to see his great kingdom Dwarka wiped out. Some years after the end of the Mahabharata war, there came to be a degeneration in Krishna’s kingdom, where those who were growing up in the new generation were very privileged and did not take the life and duties so seriously. It was moral decay. And there were also great wounds in the society following the war, much like there was in America [after] the Civil War.

 

At one point, there was a gathering along the shore of the kingdom, where Gujarata is now. At this time, there was a big argument that broke out between a couple of people who had been there drinking. In the course of this, fighting erupted and intensified, becoming a devastating battle. [There were a] number of steps that lead to the fall and the devastation of Krishna’s kingdom. A bit later, the coup de grace was there, when a huge earthquake occurred. This city, being a coastal city, had some subsidence, and the city was drowned. The archaeological remains of this incident have been found.

 

Anandamurti said in a comment about the situation that “Krishna allowed it to happen.” Anandamurti said that the “Yadhavas, the clan, were powerful people and somewhat arrogant. Had this kingdom continued its course, the outcome would have been a very dangerous one. These arrogant people would have come to dominate and oppress other people in southwestern Asia.

 

Krishna was a primary force in setting the lines of fate. The two opposing forces eventually had to resolve their differences through battle, and Krishna also allowed for a line of fate to take place in which the Yadhavas destroyed themselves, or were finished off by an earthquake.

 

The point, as I read it, is that sometimes, things need to play out a certain way, and the people living within the context of certain historical circumstances may wish for things to proceed in certain ways. But there may be larger forces of historical determinism at play. Sometimes, it is influenced by cosmic intent. Cosmic determinism can make things go another way, because there is a greater outcome that needs to occur.

 

A few months ago, at the end of a congressional hearing, Elijah Cummings famously said “I hope things can get back to normal.” But they will not get back to normal. There is no “going back to normal” in the situation we are in. There are things that will play out, and some of them, from within the moment in history, will play out in ways that are a bit rough. But it is a birth that is happening. It is a birth of new values, a birth of the return of spirit in a place of prominence in the world, so that humanity can be guided by spirit in humanistic values and not by greed or lust for power. And for that to take place, there are those that have power and control great wealth that must come down.

 

We will likely see some interesting days ahead. It is not “going back to normal.” It is going forward. Within the context of this process going forward, it will be both the worst of times and the best of times. And particularly for those who are growing in their alliance to spirit and growing for the wellbeing of all humanity and the whole of life on earth, life may be a bit rough around the edges. But, in some essential ways, we may do quite well, though it does not mean that we do not have a duty to those who are hurting.

Ravi Logan

Ravi Logan is the Director of the PROUT Institute, and the Director of Transformation Education, the training and education department of Ananda Seva. He is the principal author of PROUT: A New Paradigm of Development.  His new books are A New Interpretation of Revolution and Transition to a New Era. He is also the co-founder and program director of Dharmalaya, which has as its mission, “to promote dharma holistically in personal, social and ecological spheres of life.” 

Ravi has dedicated his life for the past 50 years to the project of the liberation of human beings and society. Ravi has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1972, and shared the yogic teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti in Jamaica in 1974. In 1996 Ravi became a family acharya in Ananda Seva and has been involved with the organization since its inception, volunteering as publications secretary, retreat organizer, and developing training manuals for the mediation teacher training. His latest publication in that capacity is the Ananda Sutram Primer, an accessible format for understanding the philosophy of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti.

 

This article was transcribed from a talk by Ravi Logan given in December 2019. Transcription by Rene Tricou, editing by Michele Renee.

The transcription may vary slightly from the original recording as it was edited to improve readability. 

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