Sage Vedavyasa, the author of Mahabharata has said about his epic
Dharme cha arthe cha kaame cha mokshe cha Bharatarshabha
yadhihasthi tadanyatra yannehasti na tadkvachit
This shloka is told by Lord Krishna to the Pandava Arjuna. Krishna says, “Oh Arjuna, decedent of Bharata clan, all the Dharma (righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kaama (Desires) and Moksha (Salvation) to be found in this entire world is to be found in the Mahabharata and if it is not here then it is not to be seen anywhere else in this world”
Mahabharata is an epic poem that traces the lives and times of the princes of Hastinapura. The story has all the human emotions of love, jealousy, valour, anger, devotion, loyalty, revenge, friendship and everything else you can think of. Essentially, it is an epic that shows the victory of good over evil.
Mahabharata showcases the lives and adventures of the five Pandava brothers who are mistreated by their cousins, the Kauravas and ultimately there is a terrible war between the two. That war is called the Mahabharata War.
There are 4 vedas. The Mahabharata is considered as the fifth veda. This is mainly due to the fact that the Mahabharata epic has 3 chapters that can be taken as guiding lights to all human kind to lead our lives towards peace and salvation.
They are :
- The Bhagawat Gita: The dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna right before the war. Here we can find questions to all the answers that we seek in life. Just by itself, the Gita is an entire world of its own. It is one of the holiest books and one of the most widely read.
- The Vishnu Sahasranama: The thousand names of Lord Vishnu narrated by the patriarch Bhishma at the end of the war is also considered to be a milestone in the epic. All the names of the Lord extol the oneness of humanity and to recognize that is the need of the hour at these times. In many homes the Vishnu sahasranama stotram is recited everyday. Understanding the significance of each name of the Lord will bring about a transformation of the individual.
- The episode of Yaksha: This episode in the Mahabharata comes in the Aranya Parva (Forest Chapter). The story goes like this:
The Pandavas spend 12 years in the forest as a part of their exile. Once during that exile, they reach a place in the forest and they feel thirsty. One of the brothers leaves to search for water and never returns. One by one all of them leave, Nakula, Sahadeva, Arjuna, and Bhima. But no one returns. Now, only Yudhishtira is left. He too goes in search of his brothers. He finds all his brothers dead by the lake. There is only a crane to be seen in the water. As Yudhishtira tries to take some water, the crane speaks to him, and tells him that unless he answers his questions no one can take any water from the lake. Yudhishtira recognizes the crane as a learned being, a yaksha, and agrees to answer the questions. The crane later turns out to be Lord Yama (God of Death), the father of Yudhishtira.
The crane asks him 72 questions that are based on philosophical and metaphysical existential identity of life. The questions and the answers elevate this episode as one of the highlights of the Mahabharata. Just by understanding the answers makes one think about realities of life.
Of all the questions, there are three that always intrigue me:
What is the greatest wonder?
Yudhishtira answers, “Everyone who is born is sure to die, but every individual thinks that he is a permanent fixture here and amasses wealth every day. All these worldly things that he collects will be left behind when he leaves. The truth of death is universal but every person thinks he is immune. That is the greatest wonder.”
Who is truly happy?
Pandava replies “A person who has no debt is truly happy.”
What is the path to follow?
Yudhishtira answers “All the great thinkers have told different paths to follow. None of them agree to any one path. But the one path to follow is the path of Dharma or righteousness. To be true to oneself and to perform our duties to the best of our ability and to try to be kind to all creatures of the world is the true path to follow”
This answer really solves all the world problems, I feel. Imagine if every person on the Earth follows this path, the world will be an entirely different place.
The Mahabharata is ancient and modern at the same time. It has the keys to all the questions of the world, we only need to open our minds to it.