Two families. Five brothers against a Hundred. A story spanning four generations. Aerial attacks, Ufos, Aliens, Atomic bombs and many many more. That is just a part of the Mahabharata for you. If you have not had the chance the read it, here is the Mahabharata in 36 tweets for you.
The author of the epic used the real incident and weaved symbolic images to reflect our own inner conflicts. Using these images if we dive deep into our inner self, we will be able to appreciate the mystery of our own mind and life. Recently, I had a chance to read many versions of it with their story changed. Even though there were good efforts with good intentions, I felt that a lot of people haven’t explored the inner essence and symbolism of the characters, events, their interactions, etc. It is imperative to know the inner symbolism of the characters and its representation to grasp the immensity of Mahabharata. I have been wanting to write on it but had to do some research on it to get it right. So here is a write up of what the characters meant and why is it important to know this. To deal with all the characters at once would be over whelming. We will take a group of characters and few events in a series of posts. Lets deal with the Kauravas first.
Dhritarashtra – The blind king of Hastinapura represents the our mind. More than that – our blind mind. Without the intellect’s discriminating power. Hence the blindness. His wife Gandhari represents the intellect power. The intellect can see. However, when the intellect gets smitten with emotion it gets blinded too. This is indicated by Gandhari blinding herself after being married to Dhritarashtra. The result is devastation and destruction. The blind mind has got many desires and tendencies in it and is the abode of emotions and feelings.
Five are senses of knowledge or perception the eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin (Gnanendriyas). The other five are the senses of action-mouth, hands, feet, genital organ and anus (Karmendriyas). There are 10 directions north, south, west, east, north east, south east, south west and northwest and up and down. When the mind and intellect run blindly in all 10 directions and functions through 10 sense organs , give rise to hundred desires, thoughts, ambitions, expectations and dreams. These are the children of the mind and symbolized as the 100 sons in Mahabharata.
Duryodhana – the first son. The main thought of the mind is always ‘I, me, Mine’. This is called the ego. So he represents the first and fore most thought of the mind – the EGO. The mind cant control the ego very easily. That is why Dhritarashtra couldn’t control Duryodahana and always swayed by his son’s wishes. ‘Duh‘ means difficult and ‘yodhana‘ means to fight. Ego is something that was difficult to fight against. It is the Ego feeling or “I” thought that craves and falls into addiction. All mental and physical problems stems from the “I” feeling. The “I” feeling instead of helping the body, ruthlessly rips off health of the body. “I” want to experience spicy taste no matter my stomach hurts and develop ulcers. “I” want to experience to “refresh” with coffee no matter if it dehydrates my body and make my body cells suffer in thirst. “I” want to experience dull-mindedness with alcohol no matter if it hurts my liver and all other body organs. I want to do something even though my doctor has asked me not to because I already booked it! (targeted remark). 🙂
The moment the Ego gets the mind to dance to its whims and tunes, the body is completely forgotten. That is why Dhritarashtra was caught completely in the whims of Duryadhana and gave in to most of his wants. As a king, he didnt listen to his subjects which represent the body. The blind mind always tries to give importance to its ego – Dhritarashtra wants his son to be crowned as the prince of the kingdom. Like this you can find so many instances of how the mind empowers the ego and the ego runs rampage in our mind. This is so beautifully portrayed in the mahabharata with various events. The next time you read the mahabhrata, see if you can relate to the same happening with in you.
Dhritarashtra had a son named Yuyutsu with a vaishya(worker) clan woman. Yuyutsu was always on the path of dharma even though he was with the Kauravas. He does defect to the Pandavas just before the war. Kind of an equal to Vibhishana of Ramayana. He represents the desire to give psychological battle to the bad things the mind comes up with but is not as powerful as the ego and desires. This shows the mind is capable of producing good thoughts but these are not strong enough. In my next post, I will bring out the Pandavas and many other events within the mahabharata and its significance.
[COURTESY : Discourses on Bhagavad Gita by Paramahamsa Prajnanananda, Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Eswaran and Symbolism of Mahabharata article]