THE ESSENCE OF THE EPIC: MAHAPRASTHANA PARVAWe have seen how in two cycles of Descending thought, each represented by the number eighteen or the conflict of corresponding systems, we come down from Vaisnavism to Saivism, and thence to Buddhism and Jainism; and it is these two that prevail.
But they are the two divisions of principal Sankhya, whose range extends from the Mind to the senses of Knowledge and Action; and we have seen how all the principal systems meet in the region of the Mind. In other words, although Buddhism and Jainism have come to prevail for the time being, other higher systems of thought are not altogether dead; for with the idea of the Mind in the principal Sankhya, we get two other ideas of the Mind associated with principal Yoga and principal Vedanta as well and so if the Mind is to be regarded as the chief creative energy of life, all the three points of view of the Mind, corresponding to the three principal systems of thought, must be allowed to live. These are the three successors of the Pandavas or Man. Vajra means "lightning" and refers to the Mind in principal Vedanta or Vaisnavism; Yuyutsu personifies Mind in principal Yoga or Saivism; while Pariksit, or the world of life around, refers to the Mind in principal Sankhya or Buddhism and Jainism and it is for this reason that Yudhisthira appoints Krpa, the teacher of the Sankhya system, as the preceptor of Pariksit.
The Last Journey: We have now come to the end of the problem or the journey of life. We have seen the progress of Man through both the Ascending and Descending Scales of thought; and the whole cycle of life and action, in each individual as well as the whole human race, is over now. We see that when we are young and full of life, we have Action for our goal; and this corresponds to the Ascending Scale from Jainism to Vedanta. But when we grow old, we are unable to act, and wish to become mere spectators of the drama of life; and so come to believe that Knowledge and not Action is the final end.
This corresponds to the Descending Scale from Vedanta to Buddhism and Jainism once more. There is now nothing more to be said. Man has done his work, and now must pass. This is the last journey of the Pandavas.
The Death of the Pandavas: The process of death is the opposite of birth; and so Man passes away in the reverse order of his birth. When he is born, his head comes out first; then the brows appear; then the organs of the senses through which Breath passes; and then the arms, and finally the legs. These, as we have seen, are the five Pandava brothers Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva respectively. Then, when Man grows, he understands the idea of the Sacrifice of the senses and the Mind, and that s Draupadi.
Now the process of death is the reverse of birth. When death approaches, we are unable to perform even the most necessary acts or Sacrifice, and so the first to pass is Draupadi. Then the legs, and after them the arms become cold; and so Sahadeva and Nakula pass. Then Prana or vital Breath passes and with it the Soul; and that is Arjuna. But all life does not depart with the passing of Prana. There is still some warmth in the head; and it slowly recedes, first of all from the brows, and then from the upper part of the head. That is Bhima and Yudhisthira.
Yudhisthira and his Dog: We have seen that Man has come down to Nyaya, which examines all life in the light of the senses of Knowledge and holds that Prakrti is the highest creative energy of life; and we have seen that the first and highest manifest form of the creative energy of Prakrti is Mahat or Buddhi. Now it is said that Man is but as his faith ; and if he has come to believe in the principal Sankhya (Buddhism and Jainism), whose centre is Nyaya, his end must conform to that system too and so Yudhisthira, who personifies Buddhi, the highest energy of this system, accompanied by the senses of Knowledge, in whose light we are to understand all life, should survive and so we are told that Yudhisthira, followed by his Dog, personifying the senses of Knowledge, passed on to the world beyond.A SUMMARY OF MAHAPRASTHANA PARVA:
- Man has accepted Buddhism and Jainism, two divisions of principal Sankhya, and holds hat the Mind is the highest creative energy of life.
- But the creative energy of the Mind has three aspects corresponding to the three principal systems of thought which meet in its region; and if we believe in the Mind we must accept all its three points of view. In other words the creative character of the Mind contains the essence of all principal systems of thought.
- We have seen both the Ascending and Descending Scales of thought and so come to the end of our task. We have only to show how Man passes away in the reverse order of his birth.
- Then finally we have to understand if anything survives after death. A man is but as his faith, and to that he conforms even in his death. Man has come to believe in Prakrti as the chief creative energy of life, and in Buddhi as its highest manifest form; and he holds that all life must be examined in the light of his senses of Knowledge and so it is Buddhi that survives, and it is accompanied by the senses of Knowledge after death. This is the end of Man according to the Nyaya system of thought, on which is based the Hinayana school of Buddhism and the Svetambara school of Jainism.
THE ESSENCE OF THE EPIC: SVARGAROHANIKA PARVAWe have seen how when we have life in us and faith in God, we believe in Action as the goal of life. But when we grow old and our faith weakens, we wish to be but spectators of the drama of life, and come to believe that God is so too. But the world is eternally based on the law of Action, the essence of Vedanta, founded on Prana and the unmanifest character of the Soul. The whole universe proclaims the truth of this law the law of life wherever there is God.
But Man had accepted Nyaya at the time of his death, and so in the other world he finds himself at first at the stage where he was below Buddhi accompanied by the senses of Knowledge. That is Naraka or Hell to which Yudhisthira goes at first.
The Abode of the Happy Ones: But Vedanta is the one real Truth of Life. It is based on the unmanifest energy of the Soul, and so the kingdom of the Soul and the world of the unmanifest belong to Vedanta, with God as the sole Supreme Creator of the universe and so before long Man beholds the ultimate Truth, and sees that all, without exception, whatever their belief, are gathered into the bosom of God.