The general method of interpretation as applicable to all Sacred Books of the Hindus, has already been explained but each work has also its own special key, and it is usually to be found in the book itself and the whole "Story" of the Mahabharata can be proved be a picture of all the great systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion in the light of the ancient method of Letter analysis as well as the religious and philosophical discourses that are to be found scattered throughout the Epic.
In order, therefore, to understand the true character of the Mahabharata it is necessary to bear in mind the conclusions at which we have arrived in regard to the ancient systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion. We have shown in Volume II how, according to the ancients, there are five great creative energies of life, Soul, Buddhi, Mind, the Senses of Knowledge and the Senses of Action, the last associated with Food, on which are based respectively the five great systems of Hindu Philosophy, Vedanta, Yoga, Vaiesika, Nyaya, and Sankhya; while the Purva Mimamsa, the sixth, is a connecting link between them. Corresponding to these and their range of thought, again, we have the great systems of Hindu Religion Vaisnavism, Saivism and Brahmism the last divided into Buddhism and Jainism, while the Tantra is a connecting link between them all. The whole idea has been explained to be as follows:Principal Systems of Philosophy and Religion:
|Creative Energies||Soul||Buddhi||Mind||Senses of Knowledge||Senses of Action|
|Vedanta and Vaisnavism||Soul||Buddhi||Mind||Senses of Knowledge|
|Yoga and Saivism||Buddhi||Mind||Senses of Knowledge|
|Sankhya Tantra and Brahmism||Mind||Senses of Knowledge||Senses of Action|
|Buddhism||Mind||Senses of Knowledge|
|Jainism||Senses of Knowledge||Senses of Action|
It is necessary for the reader to bear this clearly in mind, for the whole "Story" of the Mahabharata is but an account of the connection and conflict between the different systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion. We have already explained their central idea and range, and shown that there are in all seven points of view in regard to the problem of the creation of Life. If we hold that God is the sole supreme Creator of the universe, one without a second, the creator of Prakrti itself, we have pure Vedanta. But if we agree that Nature or Prakrti exists co-eternally with him, but only as a spectator of his work, we have Yoga as the first manifestation of Vedanta and, for all practical purposes, identified with it. If, on the other hand, we assign a small place to Prakrti as creator, we have Yoga in its own character without reference to Vedanta. Then, if we believe that God and Nature are equal or almost equal creator's of life, we have the Vaiesika. But if we hold that God has but a small place in the work of creation, which is due to Nature for the most part we have Nyaya. Again, if God is conceived but as a spectator of the drama of life created by Prakrti alone, we have another aspect of Nyaya, identified, for practical purposes, with the Sankhya. Finally, if we think that there is no place for God in the scheme of the universe, which is the work of Prakti alone, we have the pure Sankhya at the other extreme.
Thus we see that there is an obvious connection and conflict between the different systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion; and this is specially so in regard to the principal systems. We can have a conflict between principal Vedanta (Vaisnavism) and principal Yoga (Saivism); principal Yoga and principal Sankhya (Buddhism and Jainism); and principal Sankhya and principal Vedanta, thus:
|Creative Energies||Soul||Buddhi||Mind||Senses of Knowledge||Senses of Action|
|Systems of Philosophy||Vedanta||Yoga||Vaisesika||Nyaya||Sankhya|
In each case we see that there is a common ground of agreement between the opposing systems, without which no discussion can ever take place and it is this that corresponds to a "battlefield" in the language of war; for all debate may be likened to a combat, where each side, starting from some common point of agreement, marshals its array of arguments. All these points of view of the different systems of thought are examined in the Mahabharata in Story form of these the most interesting as well as the most comprehensive conflict is between principal Vedanta and principal Sankhya, or Vaisnavism on the one hand and Buddhism and Jainism on the other, and that is the subject-matter of the great "battle" of Kurukshetra.
Mind as a Meeting Place: In this connection we observe that the Vaisesika, based on the creative energy of the Mind, is a meeting place between all principal systems of Philosophy, and it is here that we should expect to get the conflict of the Story of the Mahabharata or the "battle" of Kurukshetra.
We have explained that each of the five creative energies of life corresponds to an idea of creation; and in connection with the Mind, the basis of the Vaiesika system of thought, we hold that God and Nature are equal or almost equal creators of the universe. Thus the conflict of the Story of the Mahabharata is that, starting from this position, viz., that God and Nature are joint and equal or almost equal creators of life, can we prove, by means of satisfactory evidence, that it is God alone who is the sole supreme Creator of the universe? That is the conflict between principal Vedanta or Vaisnavism (Vedanta-Yoga-Vaisesika) and principal Sankhya or Buddhism and Jainism (Sankhya-Nyaya-Vaisesika) , the chief subjects matter of the Epic.
The Significance of Sacrifice: We have explained the Ascending and Descending Scales of thought, and shown how through the idea of Sacrifice, which is creative, selfless, and beneficent action, characterized by self-control, and pervaded by the essence of God, we can rise from a lower to a higher system of thought, from Sankhya to Vedanta; and when this idea is absent, we fall again from a higher to a lower system, from Vedanta to Nyaya and Sankhya once more. In this connection we have pointed out that it is Sacrifice that gives us the first idea of God, for it is the Law of Goodness that leads us to him. In other words, whenever we perform an action with a calm and balanced mind, that is, disinterested, and creative of good all to there we get the first idea of the presence of God in the universe; and conversely, when our actions arise out of anger and hate or an unbalanced mind, when they are selfish, characterized by fever and pain and destructive of good, God is denied, and we descend from a higher to a lower system of thought, ending in agnosticism or atheism. It is necessary to bear this in mind, for the Story of the Mahabharata is an account of the Ascending and Descending Scales of thought, showing how Man, by means of Sacrifice, can rise from Sankhya to Vedanta; and how, when this is forgotten, he sinks to Nyaya and Sankhya once more.
Knowledge and Action: We have observed that all systems of Hindu Philosophy can be rendered in terms of Knowledge or Action as the final goal of life, and shown that each of them admits the necessity of Action in proportion to its idea of God as creator of the universe, and regards Knowledge or the renunciation of Action as the final goal in proportion to its idea of Nature or Prakrti as the sole creator of life. Vedanta, believing that God is the sole, supreme Creator of the universe, holds that ceaseless action, performed as a Sacrifice, is the goal. Yoga, as the first manifestation of Vedanta and for all practical purposes identified with it, does the same; but Yoga, in its own individual character, giving a small place to Prakrti too as a creator, admits the supreme necessity of action as a Sacrifice, but holds that Knowledge, characteristic of Buddhi, its basic energy, is the end. The Vaiesika, holding that Nature is joint with God, gives an even greater place to Knowledge, though it agrees that necessary actions must be performed as a Sacrifice; while Nyaya, believing that God is almost like a spectator of Nature's work, gives but a small place to Action performed as a Sacrifice, and holds that Knowledge or the renunciation of Action is the goal. The Sankhya, at the other extreme, believes that the world is created by Prakrti alone, and there is no place for God in the scheme of life; and, since the world is full of sorrow and death, caused by the action of Prakrti the only way of escape is through cessation or renunciation of Action, achieved by means of knowledge of the true character of Prakrti and the individual Soul and so it holds that the only goal, both immediate and ultimate, is Knowledge and the renunciation of all Action performed even as a Sacrifice. Thus we see that the more we believe in Action, the nearer we are to Vedanta; but the more we believe in Knowledge or the renunciation of Action, the nearer we are to the Sankhya at the other extreme. Between the two lie Yoga, Vaiesika, and Nyaya; and we accept these according as we hold that Knowledge is the final end, but give more or less place to the performance of necessary actions as a Sacrifice so long as we have to live in this world.
It is necessary to remember this conflict between Knowledge and Action, and their connection with the different systems of Hindu Philosophy, for the whole Story of the Mahabharata is rendered in their terms; and that is the literal idea of "Kurukshetra" or "the field of the imperative necessity of Action," where the great "battle" of all systems of Philosophy takes place. Indeed, the whole world is said to be a Field of Action ; and so the problem of the Mahabharata may be said to the problem of the world of life, where Man has to decide whether he should regard Action or its renunciation (Knowledge) as his final end and aim.
Vedic Gods and Systems of Philosophy: We have explained that the idea of each system of Hindu Philosophy corresponds to a pair of Vedic Gods; Vedanta to Vishnu and Vayu; Yoga to Indra and Agni; Vaisesika to Rudra and Soma; Nyaya to Dyaus and Prthvi and the two Asvins; and Sankhya to Varuna and Vrtra; while the Purva or Karma Mimamsa corresponds to Visvedevas or "All-gods." and so whenever there is a reference to these gods we have to understand their connection with the corresponding systems of Philosophy and Religion.
The Method of Letter Analysis: We have observed that the Mahabharata can be understood as a picture of all the great systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion in the light of the ancient method of Letter-analysis. The character of this method, as applicable to all Sacred Books of the Hindus in general, has already been explained; but each work has also its own point of view and special meanings attaching to letters and syllables and words. If this method is to be successfully applied, it is necessary that each letter should have a limited number of meanings which should, as far as possible, be applicable throughout the work; and the following meanings of letters of the Sanskrt alphabet, the origin of which has already been explained will be found to satisfy this test. In other cases of letters as well as syllables and roots, the ordinary dictionary meanings would apply, and the reader might refer to any standard dictionary or Sanskrt Koga (lexicon) for the purpose.
VOWELS: A, A Heart energy, Soul, or, its first manifest form, Buddhi; A A little; leading to or associated with; like, related to; I, I Mind; to arise from; U, U The senses of Knowledge; U Woven with or woven into; R The senses of Action; Lr Prakrti or Nature as universal mother, characterized by creative action; E, Ai To come near. (E is usually broken into its component vowels, a and I. Ai is a lengthened form of E); 0, Au Water, Prakrti or Nature. (0 is generally broken into its component vowels, A and U. Au is its lengthened form.)
CONSONANTS: K The first creative energy of life, Purusha (God) or Prakrti (Nature); Soul; Buddhi. Kh Mind; the senses of Knowledge. G The senses of Knowledge. Gh The senses of Action. Gn Objects of the senses.
C Mind, Moon. Ch Ether; tremulous. J The senses of Action; place of manifestation or birth. Jh Wind; Action. Jn Ether; a jingling sound.
T The senses of Knowledge; sound. Th The senses of Action; an object of sense. D Air; Prakrtic energy of the Heart or Prakrti (Nature) in general. Dh An object of sense; a dog. N Heart energy; Soul; Buddhi, characterized by strength.
T The senses of Action. Th Food; support, preservation. D An offering, a sacrifice4. Dh Mind; keeping, holding, N The senses of Knowledge.
P Wind; action; objects of the senses. Ph Prakrti (Nature); manifest life. B Water, Prakrti (Nature). Bh Mind; Prakrti (Name of Venus); 24 topics of the Sankhya. M The senses of Knowledge; Mind or Moon; Knowledge;, 25 topics; the Soul.
Y He who; Buddhi. R Buddhi Mind or Desire; The senses of Action. L The ten senses of Knowledge and Action; senses of Action. V Water or Prakrti.
S The senses of Knowledge ; Mind; Buddhi. S Mind. S God, Soul; Heart energy manifest as Mind. H The last energy of creation, God or Prakti (Nature), more generally the latter.
Visarga, A symbol of Purusha or God; destruction.
Anusvara, A symbol expressive of the union of Purusha and Prakrti or God and Nature.
The Meaning of Numbers: We have already examined the idea attaching to numbers, and the reader should make himself familiar with them as they are of assistance in explaining some points otherwise not easily understood. In this connection we might point out that the number one refers generally to God; two to Prakrti or Nature; three to the three Gunas or qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas; four to the fourth stage in the manifestation of life, viz., Prakrtic Ether or the senses of Action; five to five elements, their five attributes, the five senses of Knowledge, and the five senses of Action; six to the Mind; seven to Buddhi; eight to the Heart or the Soul; nine to the whole manifest universe; ten to the ten senses of Knowledge and Action combined; eleven to the Mind, above the senses; twelve to Buddhi, above the Mind; thirteen to the Heart or the Soul, above Buddhi; fourteen contains the ideas of four and ten or nine and five; fifteen of five and ten; sixteen of ten and six; seventeen of ten and seven; eighteen of five, six, and seven; twenty refers to the five elements and their five properties, and the ten senses of Knowledge and Action; twenty-one to the ideas of the numbers six, seven, and eight, or the Mind above the elements, their properties and the senses; twenty-four to the twenty-four topics of the Sankhya; twenty-five to twenty five topics of Yoga; twenty-six to the topics of Vedanta; twenty-seven to the numbers three and nine of which it is a multiple; thirty-three to the numbers ten, eleven and twelve of which it is composed; a hundred, thousand, or a lakh (hundred thousand) is an indefinitely large number; and a hundred and eight refers to the numbers nine and twelve of which it is a multiple.
The Number Eighteen: We can now; understand the significance of the number Eighteen which occurs so often in the "Story" of the Mahabharata. It refers to the ideas associated with the numbers five, six and seven of which it is composed, and they signify the senses (of Knowledge), Mind, and Buddhi, and their corresponding systems of thought, viz., Nyaya, Vaisesika, and Yoga. There are eighteen Parvas or sections of the Epic; there are eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita; there are eighteen Aksauhinis or divisions of the armies of the Kauravas and Pandavas mustered on the field of Kurukshetra; and the battle lasts for eighteen days. Again, eighteen years after the fight Dhritarashtra passes away, and in another eighteen years it is the turn of Krshna, and he is immediately followed by the Pandava brothers; and then the whole drama comes to an end. In every case in this connection the number eighteen refers to the three systems of thought, Yoga, Vaisesika and Nyaya, based on Buddhi, Mind, and the senses of Knowledge respectively, to which the numbers seven, six, and five correspond; and we have to remember that it is these three systems, which, in one form or another, are under debate. But it is necessary to bear in mind that the ancients never accepted atheism or the pure Sankhya as a satisfactory system of thought, and always associated Nyaya with the Sankhya to make Sankhya-Nyaya on which is based the theory of Jainism as a system of religion. Hence Nyaya, represented by the number five, includes all of the Sankhya point of view that can legitimately be examined. Again, Buddhi, the basis of Yoga, has a two-fold character, and it is associated with both Yoga and Vedanta; and, in the latter system it is the first manifest form of the Soul and, for practical purposes, identified with it. Hence the number seven, referring to Buddhi, contains all of Yoga and Vedanta that can legitimately be introduced in the debate and so we have all the five great systems of thought connected with the number Eighteen.
Figures of Speech; Synonyms, Etc.: In addition to these there are a number of ways in which ideas are interpreted in the Mahabharata, and in every case there is a sacred authority in their support. When the method of Letter-analysis is of little assistance or a doubt is likely to arise, we get an easy reference to the Vedas, Upanishads, or other Sacred Books; or else a synonym would come to our help to express the idea more clearly. Sometimes, again, a metaphor or a simile or a figure of speech would tell us exactly what is meant. If, for instance, we are unable to understand the idea of the name Arjuna, we will be told that he is the son of Indra who, the Upanishads tell us, is identified with Prajnatman or the self-conscious Soul with which Buddhi whose deity he is, is for practical purposes identified . But if this is not clear, he will be called Bharata which, in the Satapatha Brahmana, signifies Air or Breath , the vehicle of the Soul. But if even this is not enough, he will be called Dhananjaya which, the Dictionary tells us, means Breath or vital Air. Thus we can identify Arjuna with Prana or the vital breath, the energy of all action in Man and the vehicle of the Soul and then, as the individual Soul is always conceived to be of the same character in its essence as God, we can understand why Arjuna is identified with Krshna, the supreme Creator of the universe in the light of Vedanta. Similarly, if Kunti requires to be explained, she is called Prtha, which belongs to the same root as Prthvi, our planet Earth; and then she is said to be the daughter of king Prithu, who, in the Vishnu Purana, is said to be the father of the Earth: and so we can identify Kunti with our planet, where both the Vegetable and Animal kingdoms (Karna and the Pandava brothers) are born. In the same manner, if Drupada is difficult to understand, he would be called Yajnasena "the lord of Sacrifice," to show what he represents.
Personification: In addition to synonyms we have similes, metaphors, personification and other devices of the poet's art to make the abstract concrete and to convey the ideas of systems of Philosophy in Story-form. For instance, a Man refers to the idea of God (Purusha) and a Woman to that of Nature or Prakrti; Again, Prakrti (Pra, kr, ti), even as its name implies, signifies Action; hence women are conceived as instruments of creation . Now, the different systems of Philosophy deal with the problem of creation in relation to Purusha and Prakrti or God and Nature; and we have explained that God is conceived as the sole Creator of life in Vedanta; in Yoga Prakrti or Nature is either a spectator of his work or has a small share in the work of creation; in the Vaisesika the two are joint and equal or almost equal creators of life; while in Nyaya God is conceived as either a spectator of Nature's work or has but a small share in the work of creation; and in the pure Sankhya it is Nature alone who creates.
Personification of Systems of Philosophy: It is possible to render these ideas in terms of the association of Man and Woman in the creation of life, For instance, when a person or god is said to create by means of a seminal discharge for that is conceived to be a creative energy of life , without any reference to a woman, he may be said to create in the light of pure Vedanta, and we are to suppose that it is this system that is personified. Then, if he has a creative discharge merely at the sight of a woman, we are dealing with Yoga; but if he is married and has children, it is the Vaiesika that is described. Again, if a woman is associated with a man and dominates him in every way, it is the Nyaya point of view; and finally, when a woman creates without the aid of man, it is the pure Sankhya that is supreme. In this way we know that, when king Uparicara is said to have had a wife, but his children were born without association with any woman, we are dealing with the Yoga system of thought, according to which Prakrti or Nature (Woman) exists, but only as a spectator of God, or with but a small share in the work of creation. Similarly, when Ganga consents to become the wife of Santanu on condition that he would not interfere with her in any way, she is the Prakrti of Nyaya, and it is that system that is personified. When Santanu submits to her will, he is the Purusha (God) of Nyaya; but when he protests and interferes with her action in drowning her children, he becomes, active and so passes into the Purusha (God) of the Vaisesika. Then Kunti, without association with her "husband" Pandu has the power to call up any man or god at will, and by his means to create; and this points to the Prakrti of Sankhya, where she can create without the intervention of God or "husband." Thus we see how systems of thought can be personified and represented in terms of the relations of men and women; and it is this that has been done in the Mahabharata.
Personification of Energies in Man: In addition to systems of thought, we can personify different ideas and energies in Man. It is said in the Upanishads that Food, Breath, Mind, Buddhi, and Bliss have each the shape of a Man. Water too is called a Man in the Upanishads and it requires only a little stretch of imagination to extend the idea to all the principal energies of different systems of Philosophy, and create out of them a great picture of the actions of men and women in real life.
Metaphors, Similes, Etc.: Again we are told in the Upanishads that the body is a Chariot in which dwells the Soul. The Intellect (Buddhi) is the charioteer, the Mind the reins, the senses the horses, and the objects of the senses the roads. When the highest Self is in union with the body, the senses and the Mind, the wise people call him the Enjoyer and so we have car-Warriors of different kinds in the Story of the Mahabharata, and we are to understand that we are dealing with the "body" or form of certain ideas or systems of thought personified. Similarly, Prana or Breath is said to be the chariot of the gods (or the vehicle of the Soul). Its front part is speech, its wheels the ears, the horses the eyes, and the driver the Mind; and Prana or Breath (as Soul) mounts that chariot.
The City of Nine Gates: In the same manner the body is compared to a city with nine gates, referring to the senses of Knowledge and Action combined the two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, one mouth, one organ of creation and one of excretion, the nine gates or openings through which Prana or Breath can pass and act and from this we can easily conceive of kingdoms of thought and action in relation to Man and the different systems of Philosophy. Again, the body is compared to a divine flute , and this can easily be associated with the idea of Krshna playing on his Flute, or breathing through the "body" of the universe as well as each individual life.
Life as a Sacrifice: Then Life itself is compared to a Sacrifice, and we have pointed out how, in the Vedas, it is conceived as having been created by the Sacrifice of God himself, and how the whole idea of the Brahmanas is based on this idea. In this connection the senses, Mind, and Buddhi are said to be the seven flames of the sacrificial Fire, and their functions are the seven kinds of fuel to feed it. Then again the ten senses are said to be the ten sacrificial fires, and the functions of the senses of Knowledge, Mind and Buddhi are compared to seven great priests who direct the Sacrifice. The Mind again is said to be the ladle, the actions are called wealth, and the result of this sacrifice is said to be pure Knowledge.
Sacrifice and God Knowledge: We have observed that the ancient conception of Sacrifice is that of creative action, self-less and good, and meant for the benefit of all; and so it embodies the idea of God as inherent in it. In other words, whenever such an action is performed, the idea of God is always there and so we are told in the Upanishads that when Krshna, the son of Devaki, understood the correct idea of Sacrifice, he never thirsted after other knowledge again . This is the origin of the idea of Krshna in the Mahabharata, always associated with creative action or Sacrifice.
The Earth as a Field of Action: Then we have pointed out that our planet Earth is said to be a Field of Action, a Kurukshetra where we must act to live, and yet where we constantly debate the question whether we should do so or not. This debate or "fight" is always going on, both in the mind of Man and in the world of life around; and it is this, as we shall see, that is described in the great Battle of Kurukshetra.
The Idea of Battle: All argument, all discussion and debate, may be conceived as a conflict of thought, as a battle of ideas and speech between the contestants; and, conversely, all deeds of blood in an actual war have, at their bottom, a difference of opinion, a conflict of emotion, interest, and action. Hence we can easily describe a great debate on great systems of thought as a great battle between mighty combatants on either side; and the idea of a "fight" itself may be traced to the Vedas and the Upanishads. We are told of the celebrated quarrel between the Senses, each striving for supremacy; and the term Sense is used in a comprehensive way, and includes not only the senses of Knowledge and Action, but Mind, and Prana or Breath as well. They struggle for a time, and then realise in the end that all of them depend for both their existence and action on Prana or Breath, and so are compelled to admit its superior excellence and power.
The "battle" in the Mahabharata: The idea of "battle" or the great debate of the Mahabharata is nothing more than a great amplification of this "quarrel" between the Senses and Prana (Breath), translated in terms of corresponding systems of Philosophy. We have Vedanta, associated with Prana or Breath, the vehicle of the Soul; and of the Senses, conceived in their widest significance, Buddhi refers to Yoga, Mind to the Vaisesika, and the senses of Knowledge and Action to Nyaya and Sankhya respectively.
Hence this quarrel between Prana on the one hand and Senses on the other may be said to be a "battle" between Vedanta on the one hand and the remaining systems on the other; and this, as we shall see, is exactly the case with the "Story" of the Mahabharata.
The Language of War: Again we have sacred authority for rendering ideas and energies in terms of the language of war. We are told that the body is the bow, the syllable Om is the arrow, and its point is the Mind. We have already seen that the body is called a chariot, and the horses are the senses; and now we can easily conceive not only of car-Warriors and horsemen, but of elephant-riders and foot-men too in the same light and in the same manner we can think not only of bows and arrows and their points, but also of discus and mace, lance, sword and spear, armour, gloves, and other accoutrements of war and all these, as we shall see, refer to ideas in terms of systems of thought.
Other Forms of Symbolism: In addition to these there are other forms of symbolism used in the Mahabharata. We have explained how the Sun, Gold, and Buddhi are identified; and so a reference to these points to the Yoga system of thought. In the same manner the Moon, Silver, Wine, and Mind are identified, and refer to the Vaisesika. Similarly the two aspects of Ether, the senses of Knowledge and Action, Cow and Horse, are identified, and refer to the Nyaya and Sankhya systems.
Then the four Castes and the four Ages of Time can also refer to the corresponding systems of thought. As we have explained, the Brahmana refers to Buddhi; Kshatriya to the Mind; Vaisya to the senses of Knowledge, and Sudra to the senses of Action; and so they would point to the corresponding systems of Philosophy Yoga (or Yoga-Vedanta), Vaisesika, Nyaya and Sankhya respectively. We have already examined the idea of the four Ages of Time in terms of Buddhi, Mind, and the twofold aspect of Ether or the senses of Knowledge and Action, and they too would refer to the corresponding systems of thought.
Again a number of ideas are associated with animals, birds, flowers, and trees. We have shown that the Cow and the Horse refer to the twofold character of Ether or the senses of Knowledge and Action. In the same manner the elephant, deer, and dog, the lion and the ape, the swan, parrot and hawk, the fish and the snake, have a number of ideas attaching to them; and the banyan tree and the lotus have a sanctity of their own. Again we have shown that the Serpent is the first manifest form of the universe and refers to Prakrti, while the whole geography of India may be understood as a picture of Brahmanda or the universe, and so to conform to the ideas of different systems of Philosophy.
The systems of Philosophy and their corresponding Religions may also be described by means of certain symbols or marks. We have explained that Vishnu, Mahadeva, and Brahma are the deities of the three principal systems of Philosophy and their corresponding systems of Religion; and we are told that the Lotus is the emblem of Brahma; the Discus of Vishnu; and the Phallic emblem belongs to Mahadeva.
Again certain names and numbers are specially associated with certain systems of thought. For instance, we have the five senses of Knowledge and Action; and so the Nyaya and Sankhya systems, based on their character, may be represented by the number five. Then the Mind, above the senses, is the sixth in order; and so the Vaiesika, based on the Mind, may be represented by the number six. Similarly Buddhi, above the Mind, is seventh in order; and so Yoga, based on Buddhi, may be represented by the number seven. In the same manner the Soul, after Buddhi, is the eighth; and so Vedanta, based on its character, may be represented by that number.
These numbers may also be slightly varied. At the bottom of the scale we have the Sankhya, based on the five senses of Action, and so represented by the number five. The next higher system is Nyaya, based on the five senses of Knowledge; and, as the higher energy includes the lower, and the five senses of Knowledge include the five senses of Action, Nyaya may be represented by the number ten. In the same manner Mind and its corresponding system, Vaisesika, would be represented by the number eleven; Yoga, based on Buddhi, by the number twelve; and Vedanta, based on the Soul, by the number thirteen. We shall see the significance of these numbers in the Story of the Mahabharata.
Then certain names are specially associated with these systems. We have explained that Maya is the creative energy of God, though it is sometimes associated with Prakrti as well, when it is misconceived as illusion. Hence Vedanta, based on the creative character of God as the sole maker of the universe, is specially connected with Maya. Yoga and Nyaya are called by their own names, though Yoga is misunderstood to mean "a trick," while Nyaya is said to imply "justice." The Vaisesika is called Dharma, and the opening verse of the Vaisesika Sutra contains this word. Finally the Sankhya is inferred by Mahat or Maha, identified with Buddhi, the first and highest manifest energy of Prakrti, regarded as sole creator of life in this system.
Similes and Metaphors: Then we get a number of similes and metaphors scattered throughout the work with poetic abundance which, in addition to their fitness to the context, have a purely literal application as well. For instance, when a person is said to he fleet as the Mind, we might expect to have an exact reference to the character of the Mind and its corresponding system of thought, viz., the Vaiesika. When he is compared to the Wind, we might expect a reference to Hands or Action, related to this element Water or rain refers in the same manner to Prakrti, and so does Darkness or Night; while Lightning, being electric or super-electric, refers to the character of the Soul, and Daylight and the Sun to Buddhi; and these in their turn represent Vedanta and Yoga respectively.
Thus we see how we are to interpret the Story of the Mahabharata as a picture of the great systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion, in the light of all Sacred Books, in accordance with the ancient method of Letter-analysis, the significance attaching to numbers, and the different forms of symbolism and figures of speech current in the Vedas, Upanishads, and Brahmanas, or known to the poet's art. We shall now be in a position to examine the Story of the Epic to see if it is really so.