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Mahabharata Teachings

The Mahabharata teachings given below have been collected over a period of ten years from various sources including books, magazines and newspapers.

Grass, earth, water, and good words – these four are never to be found missing in the homes of noble men.

It is good character which makes one a Brahmin. It is not caste, family, birth, studies and learning.

As a calf recognizes and approaches its mother in the midst of a thousand cows, even so, the effects of the past deeds do not fail to recognize and visit the doer in his new life.

Everyday hosts of living beings enter the abode of the Lord of Death, the rest nonetheless strive to live forever.

One who has money has friends. One who has money has relatives. One who has money is indeed a man and a scholar for many. So who has relatives and friends the man or his money?

One whose task is never hindered by cold, heat, fear, love, prosperity or lack of prosperity is really said to be intelligent.

To speak the truth is good. Nothing excels truth. But to know when to speak the truth is very difficult indeed. Truth should not be spoken if its motive is to deceive. Lie may be spoken if its motive is to help.

The words of truth are good. But words that bring goodness are better than truth. Those words that bring goodness to the living indeed constitute truth.

One’s desires can never be satisfied with their indulgence, like fire with clarified butter poured into it, they flare up as one attempts to satisfy them with their indulgence.

Time does not take a club in hand and break the head of a man but destroying his judgment makes him mad to act against his own interest and puts him on the road to ruin.


What is Dharma? – From the Mahabharata

In the Mahabharata retold by Sri C Rajagopalachari, the Hindu concept of Dharma has been beautifully explained.

During their exile, the four Pandava brothers – Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadeva and Nakula –died near a pond in a forest, when they drank water from the pond without answering the questions of the Yaksha who controlled the pond.

Later, Yudhishtira the eldest of the Pandava brother answered all the questions of the Yaksha and he got the boon to revive one of his brothers.

The Yaksha asked, "O king, one of your dead brothers can now be revived. Whom do you want revived?''

Yudhishthira thought for a moment and then replied, "May Nakula arise!''

The Yaksha asked, "Why did you not choose Bhima who has the strength of sixteen thousand elephants? And why not Arjuna, whose prowess in arms is your protection?''

Yudhishthira replied, "Dharma is the only shield of man and not Bhima or Arjuna. If Dharma is set at naught, man will be ruined.”

“Kunti and Madri were the two wives of my father. I am surviving, a son of Kunti, and so, she is not completely bereaved. In order that the scales of justice may be even, I ask that Madri's son Nakul may revive.''

This is Dharma.

Sri C Rajagopalachari comments on this action, "The minds of those who listen to this story will never go after evil. They will never seek to create quarrels among friends or covet the wealth of others.''

Teachings from Mahabharata on Time

From day to day thousands of reason spring up for sorrow and thousands of causes for fear. These, however, affect the ignorant but are nothing to him that is wise.

There is none dear or hateful to Time! Time is indifferent to none. All are equally dragged by Time. Time causes all creatures to grow, and it is Time that destroys everything.

When all else is asleep, Time is awake. Time is irresistible. Youth, beauty, life, possessions, health, and the companionship of friends, all are unstable. He that is wise will never covet any of these. Do not to grieve for what is universal.

Teachings on Grief from Mahabharata

Dhirtharashtra who had lost all his sons and relatives in the battle laments over is foolish decisions which led to destruction of his family. Sanjaya tries to console the king. These are the words spoken by Sanjaya on grief.

A person may by indulging in grief perish himself, but grief itself, by being indulged in, never becomes light. If you feel your grief to be heavy, it should be counteracted by not indulging in it. Even this is a medicine for grief, viz., that one should not indulge in it.

By dwelling on grief, one cannot lessen it. On the other hand, it grows with indulgence. Upon the advent of evil or upon the bereavement of something that is dear, only they that are of little intelligence suffer and allow their minds to be afflicted with grief.

There is no profit or spiritual gains or happiness, on which the heart is dwelling and which is the result of grief.

Grief results from the pain of losing that is dear to one. This only results in walking away from the ultimate truth. Grief affects most those that are destitute of contentment, who can’t bear the loss of wealth and are fearful and ignorant of the supreme Truth.

They that are wise are unaffected by such variations in circumstances or fortune at different times in life or in the development of something.

One should kill mental grief by wisdom, just as physical grief should be killed by medicine. Wisdom hath this power.

Teachings of Bhishma in the Mahabharata – Covetousness is the root of all sin

Covetousness – extreme greed for material wealth or an envious eagerness to possess something – is the one root of all sin. It destroys all merit and all goodness. From it precedes the river of sin. It is from this single source that many of the sins flow. Covetousness is the eternal spring of cunningness and hypocrisy.

Wrath is born of covetousness, lust is born of covetousness, lost of judgment, deception, pride, arrogance, malice, vindictiveness, shamelessness, loss of virtue, anxiety and infamy. These are some of the many children of covetousness.

Covetousness has more children like miserliness, cupidity, desire for every king of improper behavior, pride of birth, pride of learning, pride of beauty, pride of wealth, pitilessness, malevolence, insincerity, appropriation of another’s wealth, harshness of speck, talking ill of others gluttony, a lover of falsehood and a love of every kind of evil act.

In life no man has ever been able to give up covetousness. Life may decay but this will never wane in its power. Even men of great learning, whose minds are the very treasury of all the scriptures, who have the intelligence to clear all the many doubts of others, are found to be incompetent to manage their own affairs. They are spineless and weak, and it is because they are slave of this dreaded disease – covetousness.

Teachings from Vidura Neeti in the Mahabharat

Poison Kills but one man; so does a weapon. But wicked counsels destroy an entire kingdom with kings and subjects.

The highest good is righteousness.

The one supreme peace is forgiveness.

Supreme contentment is knowledge.

Supreme happiness is benevolence.

A person can easily become great by doing just two things; refraining from harsh speech and disregarding those that are wicked.

Three things destroy the soul – lust, anger and covetousness.