Narach Philosophy

THE ESSENCE OF THE EPIC: DRONA PARVA


The discussion with regard to the twofold character of Nyaya having ended, we have a debate on the Vaisesika. This is represented by Drona, and so he becomes the next commander-in-chief. The Vaiesika is based on the creative character of the Mind; but Drona represents it as associated with the senses of Knowledge; indeed, as one of the senses of Knowledge itself. And as there are five senses of Knowledge, he fights for five days.

The Battle; the Attempt to Capture Yudhisthira: The argument covers all relevant points under debate, and begins with the character of Nyaya. Then the Kauravas attempt to show that Buddhi is the energy of Yoga, and has nothing to do with Vedanta, nor can it be identified with the Soul at all. This is the idea of the attempt of Drona to capture Yudhisthira who personifies Buddhi.

Arjuna and Samsaptakas: Then it is shown that it is impossible to dislodge the pure Sankhya except by the action of God himself, that is, by proving that it is he who creates the universe. This is the idea of Arjuna's fight with the Samsaptakas.

The Death of Abhimanyu: We have explained that the Soul is characterized by pure self-consciousness; but when it associates itself with Buddhi, Mind, and the elements, that is, the objects of life, it is transformed into Egoism or Abhimana. That is Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna (Prana. Or the Soul) Now the Soul cannot attain to pure self-consciousness unless Egoism or Abhimana is destroyed; and this is accepted not only by Buddhists or the Kauravas but by Vedantists (Man) too. Hence Abhimanyu must die so that Arjuna may succeed.

Arjuna's Vow: When Egoism or Abhimana is slain, the Soul, having attained to the perfect purity of self-consciousness, can cope with the whole range of the principal Sankhya or Buddhism and Jainism; and that is the idea of Arjuna's vow to slay Jayadratha, who personifies these systems.

Krshna's Part in the Fight: But the action of God alone can convince the Sankhya, which holds that all action belongs to Prakrti which alone creates and so Krshna, the supreme Creator of the universe, must himself take part in the action against Jayadratha, who personifies the whole range of principal Sankhya (Sankhya-Nyaya-Vaisesika) or Buddhism and Jainism. Again, the only way in which we can convince the Sankhya is to show, even as in the case of Bhishma, that what appears to belong to Nature or Prakrti belongs really to God. Thus, when we imagine that darkness prevails, we forget that the Sun is there; and if only we could see the Sun behind the darkness we should feel convinced that it is the cause of both darkness and light. Even so, as Darkness is symbolic of Nature or Prakrti and the Sun or Day of Purusha or God; Krshna shows to Jayadratha that the Sun yet shines behind the darkness he had caused in the west; and that puts an end to his Sankhya creed, and he is defeated or slain.

The Night Attack: After this we have a further debate on the character of Nature or Prakrti; and, as the latter is symbolized in terms of Darkness or Night, we have a Night-attack in which all the combatants engage.

The Lamplight Attack; the Moonlight Fight: The Kauravas (Buddhists) maintain that it is Nature or Prakrti that creates. It is said that God is represented in terms of Light and Prakrti of Darkness. But the Kauravas argue that this light or creative energy belongs to Prakrti; for oil gives out light, and it is made of vegetable matter, identified with Prakrti. Even so the creative energy of life may be said to belong to Prakrti. This is the idea of the Kauravas' attack by the light of lamps burning with perfumed oil.

To this Man, established in Vedanta (Pandavas), replies that the Moon has even greater power to shed light than oil, and yet it is not matter. Hence it cannot be maintained that the power of light in oil is a conclusive proof that it is Prakrti that creates. This is the significance of the Pandavas' counter-attack by Moonlight.

Krshna's Advice: As we have explained, Drona personifies the Vaiesika as the higher limit of principal Sankhya holding that God and Nature are joint creators of life, but the share of God is somewhat smaller than that of Nature; and he is combating the Vedanta of the Pandavas. Now the Vaisesika is a meeting place of all the three principal systems of Philosophy, and has an aspect related to each of them and so we cannot combat the Sankhya aspect of the Vaisesika, represented by Drona, by means of its Yoga or Vedanta aspect. We have to oppose it by means of a higher system of thought, viz., Yoga or Vedanta, in their own character, and not in their Vaiesika aspect. Hence Kia or the supreme Soul within each individual, tells Man to abandon his Vaiesika point of view, and follow the Yoga system of thought. This is the advice of Krshna to Arjuna to abandon Dharma, which is but another name for the Vaisesika, and to follow Yoga, which refers to the philosophical system of that name; whereas the translator has understood "Dharma" to imply "Righteousness," and "Yoga" to mean a "trick" or "deceit," and so Krshna is supposed to instigate a mean and dirty course of action.

Asvatthaman's Death; Asvatthaman the Elephant: Drona, as we have observed, personifies the Vaisesika, based on the character of the Mind; and he holds that the Mind is associated with the senses of Knowledge more than the senses of Action. In other words, the Mind is conceived as a sense of Knowledge itself. Now to defeat Drona we have to prove that the idea of the Mind personified by him is incorrect. How can this be done? The Mind is associated, not only with the senses of Knowledge, but with the senses of Action too; and so Drona and Asvatthaman are inseparable and live and die together, for Asvatthaman personified the idea of the Mind associated with the senses of Action. Hence Drona cannot be defeated or "slain" unless Asvatthaman is "killed."

The only way to combat this idea is to show that it is not the Mind, but some other higher energy, that controls and acts through the senses of Knowledge and Action; and if that is admitted, the idea that it is the Mind alone that governs the senses of Knowledge and Action, falls to the ground, and so Drona would easily be dislodged.

Krshna holds that it is the Soul that governs everything in Man; and it is the Soul that, through its vehicle Prana or Breath, performs the functions of the senses of Action; and so he asks Arjuna (Prana) to advance this argument, and to say that Asvatthaman is "slain." But Man thinks that higher than the Mind is Buddhi; and he has to argue his case, not so much in the light of the unmanifest energy of the Soul, as of the manifest energy of Buddhi and the two are. for practical purposes, identified; and so he holds that it is best to argue that it is Buddhi that controls and directs the senses of Knowledge and Action. Hence Arjuna suggests that Yudhisthira should say that Asvatthaman is "slain." Now Bhima, who represents the Mind, agrees that it is Buddhi more than the Mind that acts through the senses; and so he tells Drona that Asvatthaman is slain. But if it is really Buddhi that does so, the question must be debated in the light of Buddhi, and not of the Mind; and so Drona does not trust Bhima, but asks Yudhisthira, who personifies Buddhi, if it is really so.

Yudhisthira's Lie: We have now to show that it is Buddhi that acts through the senses more than the Mind. At the same time we are told that Buddhi is characterized by Knowledge more than Action, and its chief quality is calmness and peace. How then can we reconcile the two? We have seen that it is impossible to dispute that it is Prana or vital Breath that causes all the action of the senses, and Prana is the vehicle of the Soul. In other words we might say that it is the Soul that really acts.. But the Soul is, for practical purposes, identified with Buddhi; and so we might say that it is Buddhi, that acts through the senses. This, when properly interpreted, is exactly what Yudhisthira said; and it is this that is misunderstood as a "lie."

Dhrstadyumna slays Drona: We have explained that it is by means of the idea of Sacrifice that we rise from a lower to a higher system of thought; and so we can rise from the Vaiesika, based on the Mind, to a higher system, only by means of the Sacrifice of the Mind. This is Dhrstadyumna, who represents the Sacrifice of the Mind and the senses of Knowledge, and it is he who "slays" Drona.

The Vow of Asvatthaman: Drona held that the Mind is like a sense of Knowledge; and it was possible to combat this idea by holding that Buddhi is characterized by Knowledge even more than the Mind; and so Buddhi may be said to be associated with the senses of Knowledge more than the Mind. In this way it was possible to defeat or "slay" Drona. But Buddhi is not ordinarily understood to imply Action. It is only in a special sense, as identified for practical purposes with the Soul, that it may be regarded as functioning through the senses of Action. Hence, we have still to hold that it is the Mind that directs and controls the senses of Action and so Asvatthaman, who represents this idea, cannot be "slain."

Again, we have observed that it is by means of the idea of the Sacrifice of the Mind and the senses that we rise from the Vaiesika to higher systems of thought. But here we might ask if the Mind and the senses are always characterized by Sacrifice. The reply is that it is only when they function selflessly and in the name of God that there is Sacrifice, not otherwise. This is the vow of Asvatthaman, that he would "slay" Dhrstadyumna and the Pancalas. He undertakes to show that it is only in the name or presence of God that the Mind and the senses function in a spirit of Sacrifice; but when the idea of God is absent, their so-called Sacrifice comes to naught, and all such actions must be renounced.

A SUMMARY OF DRONA PARVA:
  1. After a discussion on the twofold character of Nyaya, we have a debate on the Vaisesika, based on the Mind, where the Mind is specially related to the five senses of Knowledge, and may be regarded as a sixth sense itself.
  2. As opposed to this we are told that the knowledge of the Mind is derived from Buddhi; and the latter is, moreover, regarded as identical, for practical purposes, with the Soul.
  3. Then we see that Egoism or Abhimana must be destroyed before the Soul can attain to its pure self-consciousness.
  4. After this we have a debate on the character of the creative energy of Prakrti, and see that the only way to convince those who believe in Prakrti as the sole or chief creator of life is to prove that what appears to belong to Nature belongs really to God.
  5. Then it is shown that there is a higher power than Prakrti that creates, and all creative energy should therefore be ascribed to it.
  6. Then we have a debate on the scope and character of the Vaisesika, and see that it is an error to hold that it is the Mind alone that controls and directs the senses. We see that more than the Mind is Buddhi, and the latter may, for practical purposes, be identified with the Soul. Hence we might say that it is Buddhi, more than the Mind, that functions through the senses.
  7. Then we see that it is only when we understand the idea of the Sacrifice of the Mind and the senses that we can rise from the Vaisesika to higher systems of thought.
  8. Finally, we are told that the Sacrifice of the Mind and the senses can be regarded as a Sacrifice only when it is associated with the idea of God; and when that is absent, it ceases to be a Sacrifice.