The world around Man is wedded to Buddhism, based on Vaisesika-Nyaya; and it is from this stage that he must commence his quest. He must begin with Nyaya, at the bottom of the scale, and seek for proof in support of his belief and so he comes to the banks of the Ganga, the Prakrti of this system, and rests under a great banyan tree called Pramana or "Proof ."
The Discourse of Saunaka: Here he studies the character of the systems under debates, viz. Jainism, Buddhism and Saivism. That is the discourse of Saunaka.
The Worship of the Sun: Man now studies the character of the energy of the Sun, and realizes that it is that which causes all life to live and grow, including Food or the Vegetable kingdom, on which the idea of the creative energy of Prakrti or the pure Sankhya is based. As the Sun is a symbol of Buddhi, the energy of the Yoga system of thought, this gives him a new proof in support of the truth of that system. This is the idea of the worship of the Sun by Yudhisthira.
Kamyaka Forest; the Visit of Vidura and Krshna: From Nyaya Man has to go on to the Vaisesika, based on the character of the Mind and so he studies the nature of the Mind; and as Mind is characterized by Desire, he goes to the Kamyaka Forest or the "Forest of Desire."
Man has to study the idea of the Mind in all the three principal systems of thought; and so Vidura, who represents Mind in all of them, comes to visit the Pandavas.
We have seen how through the idea of the Sacrifice of the Mind Man rises from Buddhism to Saivism, or Nyaya-Vaisesika of the principal Sankhya to principal Yoga (Yoga-Vaiseshika-Nyaya) and in the latter system, especially in its Buddhi-form, God is regarded as the chief creator of life. Again, Buddhi is, for practical purposes, identified with the Soul, the basis of Vedanta and so, when Man reaches the Buddhi-stage of Yoga, he can easily pass on to Vedanta. Now Man has once again been established in principal Yoga, with its range extending to Buddhi; and so Krshna, the supreme Deity of Vedanta, comes to visit him.
The Worship of Krshna: Man has now understood that God is the chief creator of life. Realizing this, he offers worship to Krshna, the God of Vedanta; and this leads him to that system.
The Cause of Pandavas' Misfortune: Man realizes that the whole mistake in the previous discussion was that he had agreed to exclude the idea of God as the first condition of debate and so Krshna tells the Pandavas that they had lost because he was out of Dwarka; and Dwarka means literally "the body with gates," and refers to the whole body of Man, with gates or openings of the senses the ears, eyes, etc. It also symbolizes the whole "body" of the world of manifest life, with its objects of the senses on which Jainism is based.
The Advice of Vyasa and the Mission of Arjuna: Man is now made to understand that the whole problem is to be examined not so much in the light of Yoga as in the light of Prana, the vehicle of the Soul and the basis of Vedanta. If he understands it in the light of Buddhi, the latter should be regarded as the first manifest form of the energy of the Soul and, for practical purposes, identified with it. This is the advice of Vyasa and the mission of Arjuna to the city of Indra and we have pointed out that Indra personifies Buddhi as identical, for practical purposes, with the Soul, and so does Vyasa.
Siva and Arjuna: Man has now to understand the whole range of Vaishnavism (Vedanta-Yoga-Vaisesika); and we have seen how we can rise to it from Saivism (Yoga-Vaisesika-Nyaya) Arjuna must therefore please Mahadeva, the deity of Saivism, before he can understand the essence of Vaisnavism or Vedanta. This is the idea of the meeting between Arjuna and Siva before the former can come to the city of Indra.
In the City of Indra; Arjuna and Urvasi: After meeting Siva and understanding from him all about Saivism, Arjuna enters into the region of Vedanta; and so he comes to the city of Indra. There he understands the true character of the Soul as neither male nor female. That is the idea of the nymph Urvasi approaching him; and, when he turns away from her, she curses him, saying that he would be deprived of his manhood and become as one who is neither man nor woman. After understanding the true character of the Soul, Arjuna returns to his brothers.
Jayadratha and Draupadi: Jayadratha personifies the whole range of Buddhism and Jainism. As Buddhism and Svetambara school of Jainism both admit the necessity of performing actions as a Sacrifice, he claims to have understood the idea of Sacrifice, and so attempts to carry away Draupadi, the symbol of Sacrifice. But Jayadratha has understood the idea of the Sacrifice of the senses only and not of the Mind; for, with the Sacrifice of the Mind, we pass out of Buddhism and Jainism and enter the next higher system, viz., Saivism. Draupadi, therefore, cannot belong to Jayadratha; and so she is rescued, by the Pandava brothers, and Jayadratha retires in humiliation and disgrace.
The Questions of the Crane: Man has now been established in Buddhi, as the highest point of Yoga, and also as identified for all practical purposes with the Soul. He may, therefore, be said to have understood the essential idea of both Yoga and Vedanta. The test of his knowledge is given in the questions of the Crane.
End of Twelve Years of Exile: Man is established in Buddhi, whose cycle is indicated by the number twelve and so twelve years of his exile are over with this knowledge of Buddhi. He has now to realize the essence of the Soul in the light of Vedanta, the unmanifest in the manifest; and, as the idea of the Soul is indicated by the number thirteen, the thirteenth year of exile is spent in quest of knowledge of the Soul.A SUMMARY OF VANA PARVA:
- Man has to understand anew the idea of God, and so he goes out into the world of life to seek for its proof.
- He starts at the very beginning, and examines different ways of approaching the problem.
- He sees proof of God as creator in the creative energy of the Sun, and feels that He is the supreme Creator of the universe.
- He realizes that he lost in the previous debate because he agreed at the very start to exclude the idea of God from the universe.
- He sees that the whole question has to be understood in the light of Vedanta the character of the Soul, and of Buddhi as its first manifest form, and identified with it for all practical purposes.
- He understands that he can rise to Vedanta only through Saivism.
- He grasps the true nature of the Soul, the basis of Vedanta, and sees that it is neither male nor female.