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
- 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?