Three lessons from the Mahabharata

Some people think Mahabharata is a religious text but actually, it is a part of our history. It’s not about religion it’s about stories because stories are the simplest means to learning. Mahabharat is the epic tale of the Kurukshetra War which was fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Krishna, the avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu, guides the Pandavas to victory in this war.

Lesson 1: The real enemy of strength is pride

Today humans have become the most powerful creatures on the planet with the help of technology we have gone beyond the earth, all knowledge is available at one click, can extract oil from the depths of the seas and oceans but still, we have to bend to vagaries of nature. Bheema ( one of the ‘Pandavas’) was the strongest he wasn’t scared of anyone, but one day while Bheema was in exile, a monkey appeared in front of him in the forest. The monkey appeared weak, he was not able to get out of Bheema’s way. Bheema asked the monkey to move his tale as the monkey’s tail was in bheema’s way. The monkey said, “I am weak, I can’t move my tail”. Please move my tail and go your way, the monkey requested. This request angered Bheema. He tried to move the monkey’s tail with his feet, disrespectfully but the tail didn’t move an inch. He kept his mace aside and tried to move the tail with his hands but the tail did not move at all. He used all his strength but even then, the tail didn’t move. Bheema joined his hands in surrender. He realised that this was no ordinary monkey. He realised that this was Hanuman, the son of Vayu. Hanuman appeared in his true form and said to Bheema ” Many people have strength! Some are physically strong, some are financially and some are mentally strong but the moment we start taking pride in our abilities in that movement our pride becomes our downfall”. Some tasks can be achieved with humility not with strength. There is no shame in asking others for help. The tail was just a tool, Bheema’s real hurdle was his ego, his pride. If we cast aside our ego, our pride, our superiority we will be able to progress much faster.

Lesson 2: who is a real friend?

We expect our friends to support us in everything we do. We want their help to hide our mistakes and vices. Karna and Duryodhan (eldest of ‘Kauravas’) were friends too. When Karna’s brothers mocked him, made fun of him that time Duryodhana was the one who supported him. He gave Karna a place by his side and respected him. Karna had vowed that he would be loyal to Duryodhana no matter what. Karna is a very interesting character, we can learn a lot from Karna. So where did Karna go wrong? When Duryodhana burned the Panadav place Karna should have stopped him but he didn’t.

When Duryodhana disrobed Draupadi (wife of the Pandavas) in front of his court Karna should have stopped him but he didn’t. When Duryodhana under the influence of greed set out to kill the Pandavas Karna should have stopped him but he didn’t. Karna fulfilled his promise to support Duryodhana at all times. But this support helped or harmed Duryodhana? Karna as a friend failed, he didn’t fail once, he fAiled multiple times Because he never showed a mirror to Duryodhana. Being loyal in any relationship is a good thing but being blindly loyal can be fatal and ruins the true meaning of a relationship.

Lesson 3: who is the real hero?

Neither Pandavas nor Kauravas were perfect. Pandavas do have flaws and Kauravas also have qualities. But it wouldn’t seem right if the Kauravas won and Pandavas lost. So, why do we want Pandavas to win? There was one big difference between Kauravas and Pandavas, the Pandavas faced consequences of their mistakes, they accepted their mistakes. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost but they never ran away from their mistakes. On the other hand, Kauravas kept blaming others they never took responsibility for any of their actions. They became victims of their victimhood.

In Satyug, Good and Evil stayed in different worlds. In Tretayug, good and evil stay in the same world. In the Dwaparyug, Good and Evil stayed in the same family. Today in kaliyug, Good and Evil reside in the same person. The great war in Mahabharata is nowhere else but happening within our minds every single day. We are the ones, focused like Arjun, we are the ones, envious like Duryodhan, we are the ones who can also guide like Krishna and we are the ones who can deceive like shakuni ( uncle of Duryodhana).

Mahabharat tries to tell us something that we can have 100 different and damaging faults within us but even with 5 good qualities, we can overcome these faults. This lesson was, is and will always be relevant. There are probably 3000 lessons more to learn from Mahabharata. Mahabharata has been educating us for at least 3000 years, first passed down as oral culture and then through written form. The Mauryan empire maintained written records of Mahabharata 2300 years ago so that they could educate the people because they knew Mahabharata is ‘Panchamveda’. A Ved that can compress knowledge of the other 4 Vedas. Our ancient empires knew the power of stories and about the impact, they can make on society.