Recently one of my friends referred me to the following story from Mahabharata that he came across while browsing the internet. There are many episodes in Ramayana and Mahabharata where the key characters engage in such reflective conversations:
Arjunabhigamana Parva (sections: 12-37) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vana_Parva
This chapter (Parva) introduces Krishna, his accomplishments in the past. Krishna criticizes gambling as one of four sins that ruins a man, laments he was absent when Yudhishthira accepted the game of dice. Yudhishthira expresses remorse and anguish for his gambling habit. Krishna suggests persuasion, followed by force if necessary, is appropriate to prevent one’s friend before he commits a sinful act such as gambling.
Draupadi appeals to Yudhishthira to wreak vengeance on Kaurava (Kuru) brothers. In Chapters 27 through 36, the theory of forgiveness is debated between various characters – should one always forgive, never forgive, and forgive sometimes; when is it appropriate to forgive people or oneself, when it is not; what are appropriate and proportionate punishment? The chapters also discuss anger, how it is destructive to a person and to society at large.
Draupadi offers arguments of cause and effect of actions (karma), suggests free will, and questions whether forgiveness defeats the principle of consequences. Yudhishthira disagrees with Draupadi, and presents the theory that virtue is its own reward. Draupadi praises those who believe in free will and shape the future, she censures those who believe in chance or destiny.
Bhima questions whether virtue is virtue if it creates misery for everyone; suggests that Dharma (virtue) and Artha (profit) and Kama (emotional pleasure) should normally go together, thereafter he presents arguments for use of will and force to regain the kingdom. Yudhishthira disagrees with Bhima, argues one must keep one’s pledge once made.
The arguments are left open ended, with no consensus conclusion presented, the characters retire from the debate pensively.
The conversation ended without any conclusion is poignant. One would have thought that the characters such as Lord Krishna, the wise Yudhistrira or the noble Dhraupathi would have helped with specific answers of the right Vs. wrong in at least one of the topics (activities) mentioned. With such conclusive statements the wise poet and author would have done a great service for all the readers over generations! But that is not the case.
The above may also suggest that Hindu Philosophy through Upanishads and Bhagawath Geetha provides a consistent set of axioms. Then it is for the users to reflect upon and apply these axioms rigorously in any situation as warranted.
One of the axioms: You and the Universe are integral in each other (Thath Thwam Asi). We have addressed this axiom on many occasions. https://sipractce.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/thath-thwam-asi-you-and-the-universe-are-integral-in-each-other/
Another axiom: Our life is a collection of activities and the “experience” gained as the outcome; all our experiences are outcome of the three connectors (Guna), the relentless co-existence of all three and the dominance of one connector over the other two determines our perceived “experience” https://sipractce.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/anatomy-of-our-experience-%E2%80%93-the-connectors-gunas/
If this axiom is indeed valid then any discussion on any activity has to remain inconclusive, subject to self-analysis of every person and the context in which he/she carries out the activity and hence perceives the related experiences. Such a subjective experience may not lend itself for a generalized description or conclusive statement?
But experience is not inconclusive for a given situation and for a given individual and the circumstances. We can develop a set of descriptions for each activity depending on the role of the dominant connector. A modest effort for such tabulation is as noted below. It is left blank for many activities so that the reader can fill them as they see fit.
Indeed we find such descriptions of the role of the dominant connectors with respect to many activities -Gift giving (Dhaanam), Activity (Karma), Knowledge (Buddhi), Happiness (Sukham), etc. – sprinkled throughout the many chapters of Bhagawath Geetha.
|Experience (Vasana) as influenced by the dominant Guna (Connector)
Note: All three connectors co-exist all the time.
(Dominant role of Ignorance)
(Dominant role of Bias or partial knowledge/understanding)
(Tranquility or dominant role of knowledge and understanding)
|Forgiveness||Without understanding of what transpired, why and the interconnectedness; Mere acquiescence or submission with deep sense of guilt or hurt that may lead to grief and depression||With some understanding of what happened along with emotional upheaval that can erupt at any time; such emotional hurt suppressed by a false pretense of agreement or consensus for the moment expecting a more favorable outcome to meet once needs at another time.||Forgiveness is not a chosen act, but an evolution as a result of better and more comprehensive understanding of what transpired, why, roles played by the self as well as others and the situation. One is comfortable to discuss and analyze the situation with any one and at any time since the guilt or scar or loss have been outgrown; Also comfortable with or having no need to discuss or debate further as there are no expectations from such further elucidation of the subject matter.
Commonly accepted meaning of forgiveness, but not always the case in practice.
|Gambling||Risk Vs. reward is not understood, contemplated and/or ignored; Hence generally no fall back plans; shock, surprise or rude awakening is the end result.
Gambling becomes an addiction and a form of mental illness.
|Risk taking starts as a source of entertainment; Over time risk vs. reward is ignored to satisfy personal desires or greed; In due course it leads to Thamasic traits of gambling
Commonly accepted meaning of gambling and also in practice
|Risk taking for purposes that are clear and the risk vs. benefits are recognized and accepted apriori; Alternatives in place to handle the expected as well as the unexpected outcomes that provides an ability to change course at any moment as the situation warrants.|
|Application of Force|
|Puja (Worship service)||Carried out as a ritual under “fear of God”; strict adherence to procedures and practices even if they are not applicable with changing times or involve personal injury and harm.||Carried out as a religious activity sanctioned by tradition with a belief that God will bless us with what we seek, ward off evils and punish us for not performing such rituals!
Commonly accepted practice of Puja which over time due to lack of knowledge descends into Thamasic practices and choices.
|Carried out as an activity to maintain a continuity over generations; One among the many aspects of self-control to understand the role of the self as an individual and in a broader context (in union with the universe at large).|
Also help offered to someone.
Exploring the role of the connectors, while engaging in life and its activities (Total Self-control and Unattached Active Engagement) could be seen as the path of enlightened living taught through the Hindu Philosophy
Those who practice such analytical reflection as a way of life, lead an enlightened life. This opinion is expressed as conclusive and without any ambiguity!
It is my opinion with certainty that enlightened life will be the outcome, wherever there is Arjuna (the relentless enquirer, for whom reflection on the “experiences” and its connectors is a way of life) together with the master of such inquiry and hence the source of answers (Lord Krishna) B.G. 18. 78