Narach Philosophy

THE ESSENCE OF THE EPIC: BHISHMA PARVA


Before the debate commences the position of the combatants is briefly summarized; and the Bhagavad Gita or the Song of the Lord is an epitome of all systems of Hindu Philosophy in connection with the idea of God and the necessity of Action, and so it is said to have been told on the Field of Kurukshetra or "the Field of the imperative necessity of Action."

It consists of eighteen chapters; and the number eighteen, composed of seven, six, and five, refers to Buddhi, Mind, and the senses, the bases of the corresponding systems of Philosophy Yoga, Vaisesika and Nyaya; and so, like the argument of the eighteen Parvas of the Epic, and the idea of the eighteen Aksauhinis, and the eighteen days of the battle of Kurukshetra, the Bhagavad Gita deals with the Vaisesika and Nyaya in the light of Yoga; and Yoga is conceived as the first manifest form of Vedanta and, for practical purposes, identified with it.

Yudhisthira seeks permission to fight; Yuyutsu Joins the Pandavas: As is customary in all civilized societies, Yudhisthira seeks permission of his opponents to begin; and, as the object of all is the quest of Truth, he receives not only permission, but blessings too. Nor is it surprising that Yuyutsu, one of the Kaurava princes, is converted to Vedanta, and argues on the side of Man (Pandavas).

The Battle: The debate begins, and first of all they examine the twofold character of Nyaya; for, as we have pointed out, this system is associated with both the principal Sankhya and principal Yoga (Yoga-Vaisesika-Nyaya and Sankhya-Nyaya-Vaiseshika). In connection with the former, God is regarded but as a spectator of the work of Prakrti; while in connection with the latter he is conceived as having a very minor part to play. As Nyaya is based on the creative character of the senses of Knowledge, and we have five such senses, the two aspects of this system may be represented by the number ten; and so Bhima fights or argues for ten days. The debate relates to the character of the Mind and the senses in the light of different systems of thought, and each side maintains its own position with varying degrees of success. In conclusion it is pointed out on behalf of Nyaya that, as this system holds that God is either a spectator of the work of Nature or has, at best, but a small share in the work of creation it can be defeated only if it is possible to show that Nature itself is but an aspect of God. In other words, as Man or Purusha represents God, and Woman Nature or Prakrti Vedanta, or its first manifestation Yoga, can succeed against Nyaya only if it can be shown that a Woman may be transformed into a Man. That would be a conclusive proof that all that belongs to Nature (Woman) really belongs to God (Man); and against this Nyaya would be unable to hold its own.

And so it is said that Bhima could not fight with a person who, having been born as a woman (Prakrti), had been transformed into a man (Purusha). That is Sikhandin. At his approach Bhishma refuses to fight, and Arjuna, coming from behind, is able to overcome him.

The Bed of Arrows: After this is done, there are still two more points to be examined. One is that since all actions are performed through the senses, is God possessed of senses that he acts? The reply is that he can, if he so desires, make use of the senses and act. This is the idea of the Bed of Arrows made for Bhima by Arjuna.

Arjuna Brings Out Water From the Earth For Bhishma: The next point is, can God really create Nature or Prakrti? For that is the essential idea of Vedanta. The reply is that he can; for even the individual Soul, or Prana its vehicle, (can create its own vital energy (semen virile) when it functions in conjunction with the Heart and acts on Food. This is the idea of Arjuna's bringing Water out of the Earth for Bhishma to drink; and Water, as we have explained, symbolizes Prakrti.

A SUMMARY OF BHISHMA PARVA:
  1. Man, wedded to Vedanta, and his opponents, adhering to Buddhism and Jainism, are now ready for a debate.
  2. Before the combat begins, we have a brief survey of all points at issue.
  3. The first argument refers to the two fold character of Nyaya, and the debate covers the whole range of this system. It is then shown that all that appears to belong to Nature or Prakrti really belongs to God; that God acts, and it is he who creates Prakrti. This can be effected through Sacrifice, and when it is done Nyaya is completely overthrown.