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Background to Hindu Literature…


How does Hinduism communicate?

·        Hindu is not based on the teachings of some founder such as the Buddha or Christ

·        its genesis is an evolution over centuries that draws on the interplay of a number of sources

- beliefs of differing sects

- traditions

- sacred texts- the Vedas and the Upanisads

·        remember that Hindu is based on the idea of Dharma- sacred duty... or “that which sustains”

·        dharma is the moral code upon which the maintenance of order in the universe depends

·        not unlike the stories of the old testament, the epic for the Hindu culture is a way of communicating the teachings of the religion... the epics represent dharma

- the Ramayana

- the Mahabharata

·        in these epics, the heroes embody dharma, or sacred duty and order, while the villains represent adharma, or chaos

·        thus, in learning the story, you learn about what is right or wrong


What is the Mahabharata?

·        the Mahabharata is one of the two great Indian epics

·        the poem has its roots surrounding legendary events surrounding the wars in the Punjab around 1200 B.C.

·        it was written over the centuries from about 400 BC to 400 AD

·        as the historical roots were taken over by story tellers and intellectuals, the story absorbed a vast array of myth, legend and thought... serving as teaching text and history, as religious teaching and inspiration

·        the work entails over 100,000 verses of poetry divided into 18 books

·        the Bhagavad Gita is a part of the sixth book of the Mahabharata

·        the story operates on both a surface and a metaphorical level


What is the story in the Mahabharata?

·        story surrounds a battle over succession to a throne

·        A king, Bharata, had two sons... the elder was Dhritarashtra and the younger was Pandu

·        Pandu takes the throne, though, as Dhritarashtra was born blind, and thus is disallowed from assuming the throne

·        Dhritarashtra has 100 sons, and Pandu has none due to a curse that will kill him if he ever has sex with his wives

·        eventually, Pandu gives up the throne and retires to the woods where he has five sons, the Pandava brothers, by a series of Gods

·        Dhritarashtra had assumed the throne as regent until an adult heir is able to take the throne

·        Duryodhana is Dhritarashtra’s eldest son, and Yudhishthira is Pandu’s

·        Yudishthira has the rightful succession to the thrown, but Duryodhana tries to keep it from him through various assassination attempts, as well as through cheating in a dice game with Yudishthira which ends up exiling Yudhishthira and his four brothers for thirteen years

·        after the exile, when Yudhishthira and the brothers return to assume the throne, Duryodhana refuses to yield and the two halves of the family must fight a battle over the throne

·        the Bhagavad Gita is the beginning of the tale of the war

·        Arjuna is one of Yudhishthira’s brothers, the greatest warrior

·        he does not want to fight, and feels himself in a great moral dilemma when faced with the prospect of fighting and killing his own family

·        Krishna is his charioteer, who is an embodiment of the god Krishna

·        The BG is Krishna’s “pep talk” to Arjuna, kicking him the flavor, teaching him to see a divine perspective and teaching him about his sacred duty, as well as the right way to view existence

·        The narrator is Sanjaya, who is Dhritarashtra’s charioteer.  He tells the story to Dhri as it happens

·        the story begins with a discussion between Duryodhana and Drona, who was the teacher of the five brothers

·        the overarching theme is the spiritual dilemma: pity for man and the human sphere vs. upholding sacred and divine duty... the snare of the world vs. liberation into bliss



·        think of the metaphor here

·        a battle, a struggle surrounding sacred duty

·        what is necessary to sit on the throne of dharma (sacred duty)?

·          how does that seem to come in contrast with the world what is a jihad?  Is this not one?