Mahabharat: Living the Story
Sadhguru explains that the story and characters of Mahabharat are not something to be judged. Only if we live the story will it become a spiritual process for us.
Read in Telugu: మహాభారత కథ : వ్యాసుడికీ గణపతికీ మధ్య కుదిరిన ఒప్పందం
The author and the chronicler
Sadhguru: The first version of Mahabharat, which was written down by Ganapati himself, had over 200,000 verses. When Vyasa wanted to tell the story and needed someone to write it down, he found no better chronicler than Ganapati. But Ganapati was bored with this kind of scholarly business. He said, “Once I start writing, you should not take even a moment’s gap. When I am writing one word, the next word should already come. If you hesitate, I will leave the project. You must keep telling the story in such a way that I never have a break. Are you ready for this?” Vyasa said, “Fine, because this story is not something that I am going to make up. This story is living in me – it will just find expression. The only condition is you should not write a single word that you do not understand.”
They made a very clever deal, and Vyasa narrated the story – these 200,000 verses that depict many hundreds of characters, who are not guest appearances. For each one of them, all aspects of their lives are described in enormous detail – their birth, their childhood, their marriage, their asceticism, their sadhana, their conquests, their joys, their miseries, their death, and for most of them, even their previous lives as well as their next lives. The Mahabharat is about 10 times longer than the Odyssey and the Iliad put together.
Don’t judge it – Live it
This is not about sitting here in the 21st century and make judgments on people who lived 5000 years ago – it would be most unfair. I am sure if they came alive now and looked at you, they would have horrible judgments to make about you, the very way you are. It is not about good or bad, right or wrong. This is about exploring human nature like it has never been explored anywhere else. It is simply an exploration – do not draw conclusions.
Vyasa, the one who first told the story, took up this challenge because he wanted to see that the story lives. Since then, thousands of people have written their own Mahabharat, with mild adaptations. There are adaptations to different regions in the country, different castes, creeds, and tribes. Every storyteller, looking at the crowd that is sitting in front of him, has made his own adaptations. But the story is not contaminated by adaptations. It has only been enriched by them, because in these 5000 years, no one has ever contaminated the story by trying to judge it. You should not do that either. Do not think in terms of “Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy?” That is not how it is. These are just people.
Dharma and adharma are not about right and wrong, good and bad. It is not some kind of code of conduct for kings, priests, or the citizenry. It is a law that, if you grasp it, allows you to move towards truth. If you live the story, it is a very powerful spiritual process. If you judge the story, it can create a great deal of confusion in your life, because after this, you will not know what is good and bad, what to do and what not to do, whether to live in a family or to go to the jungle, whether to fight a war or not. If you live this story, you will understand dharma allows you to make this life process a stairway to the Divine. Otherwise, you make this life process a spiral to hell – that is what a lot of people do.
Leave aside what you know about the ending of Mahabharat. If you want to explore the beauty of your life, you have to explore the beauty of the story without thinking of the result. A story is a tremendous opportunity to go through the greatest war without getting a single scratch. It is important to go through this because for most people, human experience is largely shaped through one’s thoughts and emotions.
Editor’s Note: Find more stories at the Mahabharat stories page.
This article is based on an excerpt from the February 2015 issue of Forest Flower. Pay what you want and download. (set ‘0’ for free). Print subscriptions are also available.