Swami Jyotir Maya Nanda was born on February 3rd, 1931 in a pious family in Dumari Buzurg, District saran, Bihar, a province sanctified by the great Lord
Buddha and his holy associations. From his very childhood days he evinced various marks of his future saintliness. He was calm and reflective, brilliant in his
work at school and college, loved by his friends and relatives. Always a source of inspiration to all who came in contact with him, he never faltered in his high
ethical ideals. Side by side with his higher studies and duties of a practical nature, he reflected upon the deeper problems of life.
The overwhelming feeling to serve humanity through spiritual life led him to embrace the ancient order of Sanyasa on February 3rd, 1953 at the age of 22.
Tirelessly he practised intense austerities, living in the Himalayan retreats by the sacred Ganges River. For over 9 years he was a religious professor at the Yoga
Vedanta Forest Academy giving lectures on the Upanishads, Raja Yoga, and all important scriptures of India. Besides this teaching, he was the Editor of “Yoga
Vedanta” journal. To his Guru, Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Swami Jyotir Maya Nanda was a gem, ever able to assist foreign student in their understanding
of Yoga and Vedanta. His intuitive perception of their problems endeared him to all.
His exemplary life, great command of spiritual knowledge, love towards all beings, and his very impressive and dynamic exposition of Yoga and Vedanta
Philosophy attracted enormous interest all over India, and in different countries of the world. He frequently lectured by invitation at All India Vedanta
Conferences in Delhi, Amritsar, Ludhiana, and other parts of India.
After many requests, he consented to come to the U.S.A. in 1962 to spread the knowledge of India. Crossing Europe, he lectured in various countries. There is a
development of an unusual dimension in his range and richness of wisdom–he never contradicts the great scriptures of the world, but adds to them by his unique
explanations. In 1964, he toured North and South America, inspiring and elevating numerous students of Yoga.
The Mahabharata is one of the greatest epic poems ever written. It was written by Sage Vyasa in order to expound the subtle meanings of Dharma (righteousness).
It is a voluminous work of eighteen books. The entire epic is written in excellent Sanskrit verse. The Bhagavad Gita, which is internationally renowned as a
masterpiece of spiritual and devotional literature, forms only a small portion in this vast Mahabharata.
In fact, the stories and the subsidiary stories, parables and episodes of this great work are meant to present before the people the different problems that one
encounters in life on both the collective as well as individual level, and how men who are inspired by the sense of Dharma conduct themselves in order to attain
Liberation from the fetters of desires and mortal passions.
While presenting the historical accounts of great kings and political and social problems of the ancient past, the writer, Sage Vyasa, brings forth the glory of Lord
Krishna who is the crowing personality of the great epic, and who embodies its ideal fully unfolded like a bloom on a tree.
Mahabharata rings with the note of devotion to the Supreme Being in the form of Krishna, and illuminates the Divine Plan in every life. It awakens a sense of
duty in the hearts of the reader–penchant for self-effort with a feeling of devotion and dedication to the Divine Will.
Above all, Mahabharata, in its most elegant and attractive manner, illustrates the deeper meanings of life, and inspires one of follow the path of virtue for
attaining God-realization. The awe-inspiring beauty of life and the significance of its subtle movements are nowhere more vividly presented then in Mahabharata.
Therefore, all students of life’s philosophy will be immensely benefited by studying this great work with an unbiased mind and an appreciative heart.
This first chapter will present the framework of the story in order to introduce this great epic to those who have never heard of it, and to inspire those who have
of it to study it in more detail.
In ancient times, King Shantanu married another lady, and her son, known as Vichitraveerya, inherited the throne after him. Bhishma had vowed not to accept the
throne and not to marry in order to avoid future friction with the descendants of Vichitraveerya.
But Vichitraveerya died young leaving behind his two sons– Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Dhritarashtra was the elder, and therefore, the rightful heir to the throne.
But because he was born blind, the younger brother ascended to the throne.
Dhritarashtra had a hundred sons; the eldest of them was known as Duryodhana. His sons were popularly known as the Kauravas. They were full of pride,
arrogance, hatred and wickedness. They sumbolize all that is evil in the human personality–all that the human soul must conquer in order to attain God-
Pandu had five sons–Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. They were known as the Pandavas, and were virtuous, righteous men.
Yudhishthira was an incarnation of Dharma (righteousness). He never wavered from the path of virtue even in the most critical conditions of his life. His
brothers, too, were men endowed with superhuman glory and majesty. They were jewels among men.
Naturally, the Pandavas were loved more and more by their subjects, and their increasing renown kindled jealousy in the hearts of the evil-minded Kauravas.
Duryodhana, with his wicked brothers and vicious allies, plotted time and again against the lives of the Pandavas, but the latter were always protected by the
Divine Hand, often most mysteriously. This added fuel to the fire.
King Pandu died young, leaving the Pandavas and their mother Kunti in the hands of the blind King Dhritarashtra who succeeded him. King Dhritarashtra loved
the Pandavas and his own sons deeply, but he was always partial to his own sons. And due to selfishness and greed, he always gave assent to all the evil designs of
When they were young, the Pandavas and Kauravas were given training jointly in the science of archery and fighting under the skilled Guru, Dronacharya. Arjuna
showed great skill in archery. Bhima specialized in handling maces. Nakula and Sahadeva were best at swords. Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, was best with
maces. Karna, who was a friend of Duryodhana and who was a powerful personality, had developed great heatred towards the Pandavas. This karna was a great
Bhishma, the grandfather of the Pandavas and Kauravas, loved both parties, but was bound to help the Kauravas because of a vow he had made in the past.
Nevertheless, his heart was always inclined to the Pandavas who were virtuous and truthful. Dronacharya and the other elders favored the Pandavas as well, but
they too were bound to assist Duryodhana in external actions.
Tortured and constantly tested, the Pandavas had developed majestic personalities shining with virtue and radiant with austerity. Duryodhana, eager to become an
unobstructed monarch, once plotted to burn the Pandavas in a palace built with combustible materials. But the Pandavas, with their mother Kunti, escaped
through a tunnel which they had secretly built, knowing the evil designs of the Kauravas. Then they wandered in the guise of Brahmanas, and finally married
Draupadi, the Princess of Panchala. Due to mysterious reasons relating to their past lives, Draupadi was married to all five Pandavas.
When the news of the safety of the Pandavas reached the ears of Dhritarashtra, the blind kind, he invited them to come back, and gave a portion of his land for
them to rule. This was done as a show of righteousness for the masses. The part of the land that was given to the Pandavas was mostly barren and difficult to
work. Yet the Pandavas turned the land into heavenly gardens by their hard labor and by public support. They soon became so prospersous that they performed
Rajasuya Yajna – a horse sacrifice attended by all the kings of that time. This created further jealousy in the hearts of the Kauravas.
Duryodhana, with the assistance of his wicked friends, challenged Yudhishthira to a game of dice, and very cunningly and fraudulently won back from him his
prosperous lands, his possessions and his monarchy. After this was accomplished, Duryodhana had Draupadi, the Pandavas’ queen, forcibly brought into the royal
court where he ordered his wicked brother, Duhshashana, to strip her naked in order to insult the Pandavas and to derive a malicious satisfaction.
But as Draupadi was being disrobed, out of complete helplessness, she cried a pathetic prayer to Lord Krishna, and a miracle happened. Her cloth continuously
increased in its length, so that she was always seen in multicoloured saris. When this happened, Dhritarashtra, fearing future tragedy, wanted to make up with the
Pandavas. But finally the Pandavas had to accept banishment for thirteen years as dwellers in the forests. They passed their difficult days in the forest exhibiting
their spiritual strength and patience, along with their wife Draupadi.
Before and during their forest life, they were often visited by Lord Krishna who was related to them by family bonds. Lord Krishna was equally related to both
the Pandavas and the Kuravas, but he was fonder of the Pandavas because of their virtue and righteousness. Arjuna the middle Pandava, was his dearest disciple
Lord Krishna was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The purpose of His incarnation was to establish peace and order in the universe by eradicating vicious and
wicked forces. He watched keenly the growing tension between the Pandavas and the Kauravas– it was like a conflict between the forces of light and the forces
of darkness. Having a deep insight into the welfare of the world, he inspired the Pandavas to enter into to battle with the Kauravas for the sake of righteousness.
After the thirteen years of banishment passed, Lord Krishna himself went as an envoy to the court of the Kauravas to establish peace. But Duryodhana insisted
that he would not accept the Pandavas, and world not provide them with even an inch of land. He insisted on war. Lord Krishna gave his wise counsels, but
instead of listening to him, Duryodhana conspired to imprison him. Lord Krishna exhibited his cosmic form and went out untouched by the stunned Kauravas.
Thus, the Mahabharata war became inevitable. All the kings of that time allied themselves with one side or the other. A terrible battle raged in the field of
Kurukshetra for eighteen days.
Brahma Sutras (81)
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