Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mahabharata & Our Generational Challenge - 1 of 2

In 2012-13, as I was bringing my book – Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest - to completion, I kept asking myself: what about the Mahabharata would be most relevant to today’s readers.  The book has endured for thousands of years. It’s revered by millions of Hindus all over the world. But what does it have to say to anyone else?  Is Mahabharata just for Hindus or does it have a place in world literature, or in the very fabric of our diverse cultures?

The German poet Goethe coined the phrase “world literature” in 1827, and he used it in the context of books transcending national themes.  To put it more emphatically, it means literature that speaks to all peoples. Mahabharata is the first of books. The Dharma teachings, the responsibilities of leadership, and warnings of the impending Kali-yuga (our age of darkness) are described as the five thousand year old epic unfolds.  It’s not only the first of books, but it’s also the first that can be said to be in the class of world literature. Mahabharata belongs to all of us.

Why? The book itself tells us that what is not found within its pages is found nowhere else. That’s a bold claim to make. Plato commented on two books we consider classical literature – Iliad and The Odyssey. At the time of Plato, those classics were already seven hundred years old. He regarded the books as beautiful poetry and great stories. But he lamented: Where was the philosophy and the moral standards to help guide people to live better lives?  

Plato would have liked the Mahabharata. It’s not only good poetry and a great story, but Mahabharata is also the embodiment of dharma.  The book exists just to help us understand what is dharma or, in other words, what is  our collective moral compass.  When we understand the Dharma we can live a life of wellness. That means we live in a balance of both the spiritual and the material. In this way, both the individual and society as a whole prospers.

For reviews  and more info on my book Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest visit: www.Mahabharata-Project.com