Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Episode 100 - Summing up

Episode 100 - I've put together my review of the epic, in its totality.  I discuss the strange way in which the epic goes into fine detail on some parts of the story, and breezes over others.  Some of the most critical moments in the story, like when Dhrtarastra was skipped and then later made king, or during the dice game, or in dealing with the birth & death of Krishna, the story is ambiguous and full of holes.  The only explanation that I can come up with is that the author himself may not have known exactly what took place in those scenes, so he tells us what he knows-- which isn't much.

I talk about the three layers of religious philosophy in the epic-- Vedic Sacrifice, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti.  I propose that Karma Yoga was an innovation introduced by the Mahabharata, and I believe Bhakti was inspired by the epic, and subsequently the epic was modified to include that religion.  That would explain Krishna's promotion from country cousin to Top God...

Next, I discussed some of the characters in the story-- reviewing their actions and whether they were fairly rated "good guys" or "bad guys" by the epic, and by modern listeners in general.

Finally, I compare the epic with other literature, and compare the religious philosophy of the epic with other works and other religions.  I hope no one gets overly offended!  Please write in my blog and let me have it if I did.  I apologize in advance!

125 comments:

  1. First, I would like to congratulate you on this Himlayan task of not only reading though the Mahabharatha but also publishing it as a podcast. I'm an Indian, a practising Hindu and I thoroughly enjoyed all the lectures (although only a few) I've listened to. I should say that your narrating skills makes the listeners very engaging. I do hope you continue to do more podcasts on other epics such as Ramayana, Harivamsha, etc.

    Second, I believe you are entitled to you own opinion. Its impossible to please to everyone and your opinion is based on your experiences from the epic. So please don't have feelings of offending anyone.

    Third, I would like to point out channels are extremely common in India even to this day. It is exactly as how you had described the practise 100 years ago in the United States. You may even find some videos online.

    Fourth, on the issue of brahmins in the Mahabharatha, my personal take is this. The Mahabharatha came at a time when rules of the previous ages were broken. This is the time when intermingling of castes and birth based identification of castes started becoming prevalent. So, in these times, the true identity of a brahmin was getting lost. This is very evident from the question that a yaksha (Lord Yama in disguise) asks Yudhistira in the Magic Pool:
    The Yaksha asked: "What makes one a real brahmana? Is it birth, good conduct or learning? Answer decisively." Yudhishthira replied: "Birth and learning do not make one a brahmana. Good conduct alone does. However learned a person may be he will not be a brahmana if he is a slave to bad habits. Even though he may be learned in the four Vedas, a man of bad conduct falls to a lower class." (taken from http://www.mahabharataonline.com/rajaji/mahabharata_summary_43.php).
    And by this very straightforward question, I believe the author is trying to tell us that the so called "brahmins" of those days (who were identified by birth) were not the true brahmins they were supposed to be. To my knowledge, this kind of direct question doesn't arise in earlier works such as Ramayana, which indicates that most brahmins were still doing their pre-assigned jobs (with some exceptions like Ravana). The question above would also refute your theory that the Bhargava brahmins were trying to manipulate, since if they wished, they could have easily removed this verse.
    However, there are other instances in the epic, where Drona and Ashwathama were times accused several times of not doing their birth prescribed duties of a brahmana and instead taking up weapons like a Kshatriya. From this, I could only conclude that brahmins could become Kshatriyas (and vice versa) and their birth caste is always considered during ceremonies/rites.
    The above argument does seem pro-brahmin. I would like to say that I'm a brahmin only by birth and not by occupation (and hence certainly not the brahmin that Yudhistira refers to). I also believe most brahmins of today are similar (ie, not the real brahmanas).

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  2. Fifth, on Krishna and Jarasandha, I believe Krishna did mention he tried to defeat Jarasandha but in vain. Also, I don't agree to your views on Krishna being just a country cousin since I've been brought up in a religious setting. At the same time, I don't feel offended either, since I believe you are entitled to your opinion.

    Sixth, the bhakthi movement on Lord Krishna is maily from Srimad Bhagavatham (aka Bhagath Purana) which is another magnum opus. I would certainly encourage you to read that in case you haven't. The complete Krishna Bhakthi that is practised today in various forms in India (and abroad) is from the Bhagavath Puran.
    Seventh, Parusurama is one of the mysterious persons in Hinduism. Please also read Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatham for more on Parasurama.

    Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed your podcasts (althouh I've listened to only a few out of 100). In the 100th podcast you had mentioned some holes and lack of clarity which you had experienced. I would also like to ask you what you think about some positive things in the epic and also some anticlimaxes (such as the 18th day of the war). To me, such an anticlimax is totally incomprehensible and I'm totally enthralled and overwhelmed by such an anticlimax. Also, it would be great to hear from you Shanti and Bhishma Parva. Why do you think the author needed to go such details? And what would be your take on other stories that come up to soothe Yudishtira when he is in exile in the forest (such as those of Nala, etc).
    Another final note: in India, numbers ending in 1 are more auspicious. 11 is more auspicious than 10 and 101 than 100 (infact even while giving money during weddings or birthdays, it is customary to give 101,501 or 1001 rupees). So I guess you can see where I'm coming to next. Personally I would request you do another podcast highlighting what you thought could be the postive aspects and also some incomprehensible aspects of the epics and end with 101!

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    1. You must realize how intimidating it is to publish anything with such intelligent people keeping track! I think the episode came off as critical because the negatives are so much more interesting than the positives. I wouldn't have made this effort if it weren't for the greatness of the subject matter.

      Sorry if I came off a bit critical of Bhakti. But I think I was much harder on all the other religions! I think I mentioned somewhere in the podcast that Bhakti really is the most appealing of the world's religions, and I think it inspired much of what came later in the West-- Christianity, Sufism, & Sikhism.

      I just think that the missing birth story for Krishna is a problem that is begging for an answer, and I think the theory that his status was elevated over time would be a good explanation. These are all just theories, however. I'm not wedded to any of this, and I am interested in any clues to the contrary.

      I did tap into the Bhagavatha Purana for some episodes on Krishna's back story. I had to do that to cover for its complete absence in the epic itself!

      The contradictions in the epic lead us to conclude that some of it must have been added in later, but the trick is deciding which parts are interpolations and what might be original. That's what makes this so much fun!

      Comparing the stories in the Book of the Forest with those in the Book of Peace, I'm inclined to say that the Forest stories are more original than the Final Teachings. I tend to use quality as my touchstone, and the quality of the Forest stories is much higher than the Final Teachings. They are more interesting, make more sense, and have more relevance on the events in the rest of the story. I kind of think the Final Teachings became a dumping ground for polemics & propaganda from later editors.

      I thought the 18th day of the war was one of the greatest things about the epic. One of the names of the Mahabharata is Jaya-- triumph, so you sort of expect the end of the war to be a nice Hollywood finish, with all the good guys living happily and the bad guys getting their just deserts. But that doesn't happen. War sucks. It sucks for both sides, and civil wars never end happily. So here we have one of the oldest accounts of warfare in all of literature, and it makes it 100% clear that even the most just of wars will still end in disappointment. How many thousands of wars has humanity started since then? And we are only just beginning to learn that lesson!

      Regarding the numbering-- The Mahabharat is written in 18 volumes and 100 books. Out of a weird coincidence, I used 18 notebooks and 100 episodes to finish the podcast. I take that as an auspicious sign that I pleased the gods... Hopefully Lord Krishna doesn't hold any of my comments against me! Thanks.

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    2. Lord Krishna doesn't hold anything against u mate don't worry I just wanted to ask if u know what the ten incarnations of lord Vishnu are what is the ninth one? Nirvana is a Sanskrit term meaning peace it is almost a synonym of moksha in a way of speaking
      And about conduct thing near the lake with dharma he is later corrected by bhishma I like your work by the way. Safe bro take it easy.

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    3. The story goes that Hindus, to nullify Buddhism, made Gotama Buddha the 9th incarnation of Vishnu. Nirvana, I think, means "blowing out" while Moksha means "to let go"-- making them identical seems just another similar ploy of one religion to negate another. Why can't it be OK to be different?

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    4. What'd u do look it up on the net? Man it's a synonym it also has other meanings like disappeared or calmness it all depends on the context and I don't think anyone was talking about blowin up if u catch ma drift and no one made it up king Siddarth AKA Gautama Buddha was a great king and got a few signs and changed into an ascetic disciples were goin way out of line so Shankaracharya was forced to push em out of india.
      That's why it's more prevelant in Tibet and northern parts of india.

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  3. Congratulations once again Lawrence!!!

    Before knowing about your podcast last year I listened to Osho's Shiv Sutra. Those Shiv Sutra laid the spiritual foundation in me.

    I would recommend you to listen to these Sutra, there are around 10 audios of an hour each.

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    1. Sorry, I studied Hindi for just one year. I got pretty good by the time I left India, but that was 20 years ago!
      Do you know of an English version of this? I guess it would be a transcript. I've looked at Osho's stuff before, but I'm not sure what he's all about. If there's something comprehensive that you recommend, I'll take a look.

      Thanks.

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    2. Try on YouTube of swami suddhanada speeches particularly on explanation on mind

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  4. Thanks Lawrence. I completed the Mahabharata podcast and the journey with you was very entertaining and informative. Looking forward for some other podcast in future. Please let me know how you can be tracked for future podcasts.

    Amit Saini.
    kemensindia@gmail.com

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    1. I'll definitely post something on this blog. Also, I confess to having started something already-- http://ramayanapodcast.blogspot.com/.

      Watch that space! I need to hit the books and get all my sources in order, so it will be a while before I start production, but the episodes will appear there. Thanks.

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    2. Kamba ramayanam is one of the excellent Tamil poetic version. Probably you can try on that

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    3. @Lawrence - You are tireless worker, full of great energy, I don;t know which version of Story you would base your podcast upon. Most popular one in India is Ramcharitmanas by Goswami Tulsidas but I would recommend you to base it on the original Ramanayan by Rishi Valmiki.

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    4. Thank you. I agree that the Tulsidas is full of great spiritual wisdom, but I am more interested in trying to figure out where the Ramayana came from and how it got here-- so the original Valmiki is where I'll start. I am also reading the Rama Parva from the Mahabharata (Book of the Forest), which is extremely ancient. I plan on comparing the two versions.

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  5. Wow, an amazing feat. Well done!

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  7. In Ramesh Menon's translation the Shakuni's dice are often characterized as 'loaded', but a more interesting explanation I've heard is that Shakuni's dice were carved from his brothers bones and carried supernatural attributes.

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    1. Those are both possible explanations. But why doesn't the author, or even one of the characters in the story, come out and say what was going on? No one even comments on Shakuni's unbelievable winning streak.
      Our minds don't like this sort of ambiguity, so we try to explain it. But somehow Vyasa was happy to leave us guessing. It is very strange...

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    2. It does seem unnatural, although if you will excuse my somewhat eccentric speculation I have always viewed the incident as a metaphor for the nature of the universe itself.

      In the way dice distribute seemingly random numbers it resembles the way a atheist might view the world; as the result of happenstance variables that by chance coalesce to conjure events. The random spray of energy suggested by the big bang actually reminds me of a toss of dice, and that life occurs on earth the result of something like rolling snake eyes.

      Each throw of the dice 'should' be random and have no correspondence to the number before it. In this way the game is considered "fair", but obviously in this instance the game is manipulated.

      I have always suspected that Yudhisthira viewed the dice game as a microcosm of the of the fated universe and that he expected to be awarded a karmic win through it. Even to the last throw I believe he held onto the idea of a final save, even staking his his wife on the chance that there was some divine intelligence behind the game.

      People who practice piety often succumb to the arrogant notion that the dice will always go their way, and that Yudhisthira was at the height of fortune at this time I suspect he acquiesced to this seductive idea. To my mind he was humbled through this game to be made perfect.

      It is also interesting that a Brahmin will later instruct him on how to always win the game. Strange that a holy man knows so much about manipulating a game attributed to vice. Perhaps the dice game is a microcosm of the universe's behaviors after all, except that the throws aren't random for those who know the secret of the game.

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    3. i am familiar with a story dealing with Shakuni's dice loaded with his brothers bones. it goes thus. even before the alliance between Gandhara and Hastinapur is made through the wedding of Dritrashtra and Gandhari, there is a story of Hastinapur defeating the king of Gandhari in a battle. the king of Gandhara and his, say about 100 children, the youngest of who is Shakuni are captured and imprisioned by the Kuru king. in the prison, each person is given one morsel of rice per day to feed themselves upon. they folks in the prison realise that it is not going to lead them anywhere and decide to spare the entire ration which amounts to a handful, to one of them and Shakuni becomes the chosen one. he lives on a handful of rice until all the captives are dead out of starvation. eventually, the political scene around the Kingdom changes and the captives are released - only, everybody is dead except Shakuni. as he steps out of the prison, Shakuni makes dice out of the bones of his dead father/siblings and swears on the remains of his clan that he will not rest until he sees the destruction of the Kuru clan.

      as the story races towards the end of the 18 days of war of Kurukshetra, as Sahadeva approaches to behead Shakuni, his last words are in the lines of 'has the entire Kuru race been eliminated' for which Sahadeva answers almost in the affirmative.

      i might come back to share a few more flights of fanices. I am not sure what the original source of these stories are but these are stories that i am exposed to since my childhood.

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    4. I too have heard this version of the story of Sakuni, to explain why he had such a winning streak with the dice. I was hoping Lawrence might highlight this but no such luck so far :)



      Dear Lawrence, I have been listening to Podcasts everyday and am at the halfway point (just before the diplomacy episodes). You are doing a great service by keeping these stories alive and it's been entertaining to listen to you
      - fan from Sydney

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  8. fantastic podcast. it is on a friend's recommendation that i have arrived at listening to your podcasts. there are times when i get adrenaline rush while listening to them. i am a big fan of mythology. i belong to the South Indian State of Andhra Pradesh which has made some marvellous films around Indian mythology. there are movies in Telugu (the language spoken by people of the State) that deal with just parts of the story and a few sub stories. in fact i write this comment while i am watching a Telugu move named 'Bheeshma' that deals with only episodes featuring primarily Bheeshma. There is afull movie that features the stories around the episodes of Virat Parva (pandavas in incognito). sometimes, local folklore creates their own back stories and interpretations that are probably lesser known and probably self-created. oh, it's so much fun listening to your podcasts. I might come back often to share random thoughts like this. I am currently at podcast 18. thanks for doing this podcast. infact this is the first podcast that i have ever listened to. cheers.

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  9. Congrats Lawrence. Great job. You being a non Indian added lots of proud to the Indian epic. I expect you to do Ramayana next

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  10. Whoa!! This last episode was a great conclusion.You provided me with some insight of how you thought about the epic.I know you did not just retell a story from a book but tried to capture the really essence of the story. You have presented some valid facts, in my opinion, at the end. hope it will not be the last we here from you!

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  11. Lawrence,

    Many thanks for the humongous effort you have put together in bring this podcast to us.

    Because I came know about this podcast at around episode 45, I had the opportunity of listening to the first 45 episodes, in 3 days.

    Then I would keep on checking my itunes account, for your latest podcast.

    I also had the privilege of listening to most of the episodes, more than once, because of the gravity of the thought explained and because your comments on the events in the story were amazing.

    I'am happy to know that you are starting a podcast on Ramayana, and I am confident, that you would be able to do do a wonderful contribution to this great epic.

    I was listening to a Podcast on Ramayana, which i guess has been left incomplete in the Sundarkand. The narrator, an American, I don't remember his name, has done an amazing job.
    He was really able to portray the greatness and beauty of Rama in words that really touched my soul.

    If you have not already listened to the podcast, I encourage you to visit http://www.ifiw.org/rama/, to experience the great effort.

    This journey of 100 episodes, of the Mahabharata podcast was very enlightening, and I promise you that I will follow and listen to your Ramayana podcast.

    I have no words to express my gratitude, and appreciation for your contribution to the great epics of India, and to the millions of people who have the privilege of listening to you.

    Best regards,

    Damodhar.A

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  12. Thank you for your work. I've really enjoyed the chance to get to know this epic. It's great listening for the gym.

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  13. I miss this podcast so much already. I've been back through all the episodes again.

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  14. Lawrence,

    You are Lawrence of India. :)

    I remember starting from 15th episode and was waiting for your upload ever since. Now that this epic is concluded and your next step is at Ramayana -- i am thrilled and waiting for your next big step. Best wishes to you.

    God bless you and your family.

    Regards
    Shamith

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  15. Dear Lawrence,
    I spent last July and December in Sri Lanka, and January in India, and I really wanted to learn a little nit more about hinduism. Your podcast has been so entertaining, so informative and so helpful, I really, really appreciate your hard work. Is the Ramayana in the works?

    Cheers,
    Yours in the epics, Oatsandsugar

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  16. Dear Lawrence,

    Thank you for your hard work and dedication in making this podcast. It has been both informative and fun to listen to.

    Sincerely,
    Joshua Mole

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  17. Dear Lawrence,

    I have just finished all 100 episodes of your podcasts and I am sooo please I did. Thank you sooo much for your time and effort. You had taken on such a large task and did it with such grace and humor, it made it such a joy to listen to each episode. I can not wait for the Ramayana podcast

    Sincerely,
    Dhruv Amin

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  18. Dear Lawrence,

    I have just finished all 100 episodes and I can honestly say I looked forward to each one. I had grown up with the epic but you have given not only full experience but a new perspective on this great work. I am counting the days for the Ramayana podcast.

    Thank you soo much for you work
    Dhruv Amin

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  19. Hey Lawrence,

    I had great time listening to your podcasts. You made the stories come to life for me. You did a great job in explaining the book and not missing a lot of the details. I always wanted to read it but I never got the hold of the detailed version. I am looking forward to your ramayana episodes. One thing that really stood out for me from other attempts is pronunciation. You got the closest to Indian pronunciation. Keep up the good work!

    Thanks
    Madhu

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  20. Thanks so much for all you hard work and dedication to this "epic"
    It's a amazing story, history as I have read a versions and also on "cassette taps " many , many years ago.
    Your commentaries are very insight full and very excited about your next works .

    Hari Om
    Dibakar
    Sydney , Australia

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  21. A monumental work done extraordinarily well. Whatever else I may want to say will be simply superfluous. Thank you very much

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  22. I can only read the episodes. As I read the comments I understand that there are audo recordings as well. Can someone plz tell me how to get the audio recordings ??

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    1. Up on top of the page, for instance, on this post where it says "Episode 100 - Summing up", hover your mouse over that text. You'll see that it is a hyperlink. Click on it, and you will either begin listening to the MP3 audio file for this posting/episode, or you will be prompted to download it. If you can listen to MP3s on your computer, you will hear this audio. Each episode works the same way-- the title of the posting is the link to the audio. Sorry I made it a bit tricky!

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  23. Thank you so much. This is something which I would love to recommend to my kids when they grow up (if this blog is still up then).

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    1. While nothing is truly permanent on this level of reality, if the blog should ever go down, there should still be the Internet Archive-- http://archive.org. I have uploaded the entire podcast onto their Audio archive. So that should last about as long as anything will on the internet!
      If you have any difficulty listening from this site, please look up my podcast there. They supply an in-browser audio player for each episode.
      Thanks, Lawrence

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  24. missing the podcastAugust 30, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    Lawrence, I still check here about twice a week hoping for news on the Ramayana. Your work has truly changed my life.

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    1. Thank you for saying that. I really poured my heart into this project, and I couldn't help but wonder whether anyone is getting anything out of it. So your comment is very touching.
      I also feel bad telling you that I've reconsidered doing the Ramayana. It would seem obvious that these two epics go together, but as I was reading through the Ramayana and thinking how I would present it, it became clear to me that these two epics are really very different.
      I found that the Ramayana lacks the ambiguities that made the Mahabharata so interesting. For instance, there is little room in the Ramayana for wondering about motivations-- there are no characters like Bhisma or Krishna or especially Karna, about whom we can speculate endlessly. The Ramayana just tells a very self-contained story, in which the characters are very strictly defined.
      So as I started to write out the Ramayana podcast episodes, I found I was simply narrating the tale. While that might seem like a worthy effort in itself, it has already been done several times, and I can't hope to improve on the quality of those productions.
      And so, at the last minute, I discovered that there was little that I could contribute by bringing out what would effectively be another Ramayana audiobook.
      Since then, I've been doing groundwork on a study of the 100 Years' War and the Wars of the Roses in England & France.
      I'm also toying with the idea of doing a Krishna-oriented podcast, in which I would explore the Bhagavata Purana in more depth, and even dig into the later material that includes Krishna & Radha, etc.
      So I am studying hard, and also waiting to see how this podcast develops an audience, and where that might take me.
      Thanks again. Hearing from people like you is my only reward for doing this, and it means a lot to me.
      Lawrence

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  25. Mr.Lawrence, I completely agree with your views of Ramayana, which is more in black and white and rarely any other shades.I would be eager to listen to your Krishna oriented podcasts! One request to you - while dealing with the teachings of Krishna can you juxtapose the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata Purana? Thank you very much.

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  26. Hi Lawrence ,
    I really loved Maha Bharata and it was very informative.
    I am really exited about your next podcast. your idea of the war of the Roses is good. I know enough about our mythologies. I want to know more about European history.

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  27. Hi Mr. Lawrence,

    Thank you making this podcast. My father used to narrate to me the story of ramayana and mahabharata when he fed me or I would refuse to eat. As I grew up I realized I have only heard bits and pieces of the story and kind of knew the essence but have never known the connections of the branch stories or how the story actually began. Listening to your podcast has been a wonderful journey and I enjoyed it a lot. Your comments made me think and made me read more on them. I love the way you had analyzed the text. Your podcast is the only means to quench my thirst for knowing my country's greatest treasures, in my busy lifestyle. Not just for me, but for many youngsters like me. Hats off to you for taking up this daunting work and finishing it in style!

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  28. I think it is fantastic that so many people are deeply grateful for this podcast.

    @ Sangeetha
    May I ask which version of the Mahabharata have you started reading since listening to these podcasts.

    I would love to hear the same from other readers of this thread.
    Thank you kindly.

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  29. @Sabio

    Since I'm very familiar with the story and Lawerece's podcast rendered the links I wanted, I became more interested in knowing the little known details or the overlooked ones. I came to know there are several versions of the text outside of India, like the Persian version which was made out of Akbar's orders. I'm currently reading this and I should say it is very enjoyable. The one difference I enjoyed listening to this podcast compared to listening to my dad was the fresh perspective of Lawrence as an outsider of Hindu religion. My dad is a staunch Hindu and way he used to narrate the same incidents, i remember created different emotions in me. That is one reason why I went in search of non-Indian versions. So, are you planning on reading the epic yourself? Would like to hear back.

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  30. Hello Sangeetha,
    Thank you for your background. I have only read William Buck's version of the Mahabharata. I recently read 3-4 abridged versions of the Ramayana and blogged on them. I am thinking about re-reading the Mahabharata but wonder what version to read now. I have only gone through one version of the podcast here and thought about reading along and going through. My exposure to Hinduism brought me out of a narrow Christianity by showing me how people all over the planet struggle with similar issues. It also showed me how narrow my Western education was. I wish more people could have their worlds broadened -- Westerners and Easterners alike.

    Can you send me a link to the Amazon version of the Persian Mahabharata that you are reading?

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  31. Mr. Manzo:

    I made it! Thank you for this wonderful gift. This is been the most entertaining podcast ever. Waaay better than the rubbish TV series.

    Thank you so much!

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  32. Dear Lawrence,

    Excellent work!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed the podcast. Even though I grew up knowing about the epic (it's hard to escape it in India), the conversational style and clarity in your presentation made this refreshingly lovely. Also, I loved your commentary in each episode -- your sense of humour is splendid!

    Many thanks for this wonderful work and for your great service.

    Peace,
    Ted

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  33. Dear Lawrence, I have very recently started listening to your podcast on episode 52 now - kind of half way through. Like the podcast and its been a good companion on my walks in the evening. At the same time, I feel, it has a lot of individual speculation about it and the typical American brashness as well. So, little sensitivity and attention has been paid to the cultural aspect given that most of the listeners will probably be Indians. Moreover, the cultural and religious significance Mahabharata has (the Bhagvat-Geeta is a part of it). In my view with such a lengthy Epic and as you said many pieces missing, one tends to get little speculative but then we need to be sensitive as well. So making a lot of effort to paint Krishna as a womaniser, even saying that he had sex with the hunchback woman he cured, or references like 'old prick' or got off his lazy ass', Karna a product of child sex abuse etc are not necessary at all. I am also a history freak like you and have been listening to the China history, World War II and Roman history podcasts and they are some of the best examples of how a story/history should be told.
    Nonetheless, a good work overall and wish you the best in your next initiative..!! Cheers !!

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    1. Hello Sanjay;
      I apologize if my American brashness has given you some heartburn at times. I have been Hindu in past lives, but I chose this lifetime as an American in part so I could get a new perspective on this magnificent epic. And while I am living the life of an American, I get to enjoy using American slang. Perhaps I've had too much fun with that! : )

      To be honest, I never guessed that I would have such a large Indian audience. I was hoping to bring the story to western students. I am flattered and honored that Indians find this series worth listening to.

      As for my editorial slant-- I promise that I have made no effort to portray anyone as anything. I really tried to take the text on its own terms. In the case of Krishna's hunchback, the text is very clear that she is a prostitute, and that she, like all the other women in town, is hot for Krishna. Krishna does indeed promise to return to stay at her brothel. I made no attempt to change that element of the story. It is simply as it was portrayed in the Bhagavata Purana.

      When I do speculate, I try to make it very clear that I am speculating. A good example is the birth of Karna. In this case, the text is simply ambiguous. Kunti insists that Durvasas gave her a spell, but her words belie other meanings. She curses her father for leaving her unprotected in the palace of Kuntibhoja. If you read her laments carefully, you will see many hints that she was not honorably treated as a young girl. We also have other stories of Durvasas behaving less than honorably. As they say in America-- where there's smoke there's fire!

      Anyway, I take take those intimations as evidence of child abuse. The text of course never states this outright, nor do I assert it as fact. It is just a possibility. This is the sort of thing that makes reading the original text so enjoyable.

      I promise you that I have no agenda regarding the Mahabharata. I love the story as it is. And if the text states something good, bad, or indifferent about a character, I only want people to know about it. I have no attachment to making any one character out as a good guy or a bad guy. I only would like to get down to the deepest possible meaning that can be extracted from the text as we have it.

      The mysterious ambiguities of the text itself are what lead me to my speculations. I appreciate your comment because I really do hope that this podcast will inspire people to look at the text and to challenge my ideas. You are one of the first to do that, and I thank you!

      Take care,
      Lawrence

      Delete
    2. In this connection I would like to comment that Krishna being supreme Lord is transcendental to the material world. The world bhagavan means(as given by Parasar muni) one full of six opulences(all rich, all strong, all knowledgeable, all beauty, all famous and all renounced). One who is all renounced is not attached to sex desire. You did not record in your podcast but in the Rajsuya ceremony, while Sisupal was condemning Krishna, Bheeshma said Krishna is the greatest celibate. How can this be if he had orgy with the girls in the woods(as you said). Its because Krishna and his(and ours) transcendental nature can only be understood by Bhakti(BG 18.55). Bhakti, though, is not cheap. It is only obtained by serving the Lord and his devotees.

      Delete
  34. Dear Lawrence, I've been listening to the episodes for a few days and yesterday I noticed that the podcast is no longer accessible on iTunes from India. I get a message saying the podcast "is not currently available in the Indian store". However I'm able to access it directly from the website using a Web browser. Can you check with Apple on what the issue is?

    Thanks for dedicating your time for making the podcast.

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  35. Technically speaking, the word "Brahmin" means Brahma Jnani. The Knower Of Brahman. It is a title. It is degraded to a name of a caste. Present day's population is more than 7 Billion. And if you can really find seven persons worthy of the title "Brahmin" you have a very huge list. And do not be surprised if none of them are from India leave alone Hindus and people from the Brahmin caste in particular. And contrary to what "Laks", the guy who posted the first comment in this page; even conduct cannot help you find a true Brahmin.
    |
    Ever wondered what happened to Ashwatthaman?
    |
    ashwatthamanphiloctetes.blogspot.in/2009/09/ashwatthaman-ended-trojan-war.html

    P.S. You cannot post anything in my blog. I blocked it. I was using Kisari Mohan Ganguli's translation of The Mahabharata.
    |
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/maha/index.htm

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hey,
    Are you aware of this Android App?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT0pZyeEHwA&feature=youtube_gdata

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That app is just getting published. A listener who also happens to be an Android App developer has kindly built an app for the Android platform to make it easier for Android users to get at the podcast. It looks pretty good so far. I'll put up an announcement when it is fully operational.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  37. Hi,

    This is an amazing podcast. I just started reading Mahabharata in original to improve my sanskrit, and came across your podcast and already cross listening 50 episodes, non-stop. Thoroughly enjoying it.

    Just a trivia, based on one of the doubts you had raised in one of the episodes. On the source of Sanjaya's abilities to see what was happening in the battle. You had mentioned that critical edition does not mention how he got that ability. From my understanding, based on listening to some religious lecture givers, the power was given to him by Vyasa, who comes to the Kaurava court just before the war. It was also the time I believe, Vidura decides to resign from palace duties. Not sure if this a story is there in Mahabharata. It could also be a story from Bhagavata Purana (since the lecture giver was talking of stories from both).

    Regards,
    Karthik

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi Lawrence,

    I came across your podcasts a few days ago when I was searching for online sanskrit versions of Mahabharata for my reading exercise. Since then, I have been listening to these non-stop and completed it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, except for reservations about the speculations on the character of Sage Durvasas. Though I am not used to the American slang and as a result it sounds disrespectful in some places (like usage of f word), I should say it just "sounds" that way and I was able to see that you did have a respect for the epic and I did not really mind the Americanisms (after all, true to the nature of oral traditions, yours could be taken as an American localization of the epic).

    I just wanted to make an observation about Krishna Bhakti. I would like to say that Krishna Bhakti is not a "medieval" phenomenon. Please refer to the Garuda stambha of Vidisha, which has been dated to 110 BCE, which was erected by a Greek bhagavata by name Heliodorus (who was an envoy of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas to the Sunga court) to Vasudeva. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliodorus_pillar

    Also to note is that the association of divnity to both Arjuna and Krishna (as it comes out in the epic as Nara-Narayana) also comes out in the grammar aphorisms of Panini, who is dated to 600-500 BCE. Panini has an aphorism where he talks about an affix to derive a noun to refer to a bhakta of Arjuna and Krishna (Ashtadhyayi 4-3-98). This sutra clearly establishes the fact that Arjuna and Krishna were objects of worship during his time. Also, the Balarama-Krishna pair has early references as objects of worship in tamil sangam literature, in a book called paripadal. While Bhakti movement could have made bhakti very popular, it certainly is much older.


    Also, regarding Karma theory, if I got it right, you said that it does not make an apperance in Upanishads. But it does. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5, is a clear statement of the law of cause and effect.

    Also regarding the age of the story, it worth noting that the basic story of mahabharata itself might be much older than the time when the story might have been written in a form recognizable as the current text. It probably came down as an oral tradition from a much earlier time and got composed at the hands of Vyasa into a mighty epic at a later time. The character of Janamejaya is referred to in Vedas itself (in the Brahmana portion). While it could well be some other Janamejaya, he is also curiously referred to as Janamejaya Parikshita, thus making a stronger association. Saunaka also incidentally makes appearance there as having performed an Ashvamedha for Janamejaya.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Karthik Vaidhinathan

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the input. I hope sometime you will go through the episodes more slowly and send me more commentary.

      It's been a while now since I finished this project, so I no longer recall all the details. If you let me know the episode numbers with the objectionable language, I promise to go in there and clean it up!

      I don't think I asserted that Bhakti itself was a Medieval invention, since the Gita clearly teaches Bhakti. I think I was arguing that some of the depictions of Krishna as written in the Bhagavata Purana were later developments. I do not think the Bhagavata Purana is very reliable as a biography of the Krishna who appears in the Mahabharata.

      I don't recall attempting to date "Karma", either. Maybe you could direct me to the episode in question? I tend to think the core traditions and philosophies of Hinduism are much more ancient than modern scholars give it credit. Your find about Janamejaya Parikshita is great support to that theory.

      I think the Mahabharata story is very ancient-- probably from about 1,000 BC, and of course the philosophy behind it is much much older. I suspect these philosophical traditions are hold-outs from a prior civilization that modern scholars do not even recognize as having existed.

      What do you think of the Jain concept of Vasudevas? Do you have any theory how this relates to Krishna Vasudeva? And what about Krishna's diatribe against the "False Vasudeva"? I would really enjoy reading more of your comments!

      Thanks!

      Delete
  39. Just to add, I am eagerly awaiting future podcasts on other epics. Not just Ramayana, but also other epics like Illiad, Odyssey, Silappadhikaram etc. You are capable of getting me glued to the podcast. :)

    Regards,
    Karthik Vaidhinathan

    ReplyDelete
  40. Dear Lawrence,

    Although I'm Indian (and Hindu) by birth, I'm quite ignorant about Indian Mythology in general. I happened upon your incredible effort to explain this epic by providence and it has taken me exactly 55 days to reach Episode 100. I'm about to listen to Episode 100 and conclude what has been a thoroughly fulfilling experience. Reading some of the comments above I have come to realize that I still have a long way to go when it comes to critically analyzing character traits or events that occurred. I can only say that I enjoyed YOUR telling of the epic as it drew me-a Mahabharata illiterate-in and has inspired me to delve deeper into the subject. A friend suggested I read a book called Jaya (Devdutt Patnaik)and I hope to do so, but only after a bit of a break. Your critique of some of the aspects is quite layered and insightful. And although someone has commented about your language in some of the episodes I think it suits me just fine. I must confess that I find certain aspects of this epic to be quite long drawn and unnecessary, and as you've pointed out on many occasions, a lot of anecdotes don't seem to fit and seem to have been put in at a later date. I think the story of the Mahabharata is the story of life in general and as has been said in the story itself, it includes everything that has happened and will happen in the world; I think I would subscribe to that. Good and evil, right and wrong are matters of perspective. Another friend of mine says the Mahabharata is India's version of the Lord of the Rings. I find that quite amusing and don't quite know what to make of it. Your comments on that comparison? Anyways, I'm rambling now. Thanks for this. You're a star. And just to end, the friend who suggested the book Jaya was taken aback when I said that the podcast was created by a gentleman named Lawrence Manzo from California. Her exact words were, "I wouldn't want to learn about my Indian Mythology from a foreigner." I can gladly say that she's a few episodes in and her opinion of the 'foreigner' has changed drastically.

    Thanks a ton Lawrence. Look forward to your next effort.

    Bless you.

    Aditya


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    Replies
    1. You've made my day! I'm currently re-reading the Lord of the Rings, and I think it is amazingly similar to the Mahabharat. I could do a whole episode on the comparisons, but I didn't think there was anyone out there who shared my interest in both books!
      Isn't it interesting that LOTR takes place at the end of the "Third Age"-- Dwapar Yuga!?! Here are some other interesting parallels:
      * Gandalf is like a Rishi.
      * Elves = Gandharvas
      * Dwarves = Yakshas
      * The Balrog & Sauron are Asuras
      * Trolls = Rakshasas

      Those are just the obvious things. There are other, more subtle hints as well. For instance, other characters notice something "elvish" about Frodo, and at one point (Shelob's Lair), Frodo speaks in a language that he himself does not know or understand. Is Frodo the incarnation of some higher being?
      The Bhagavata Purana says Vishnu/Krishna had a past incarnation as a "dwarf"...
      I have read that Tolkien set out to write LOTR because he lamented how the Norman Conquest had wiped out the old Anglo culture, and thus England never developed a national epic, such as the Greeks, Norse & Hindus had. His idea of LOTR was to create such an epic.
      I don't see any signs of influence from the Mahabharata, and I do not know whether he actually was familiar with the story, but somehow he channeled ideas like the Yugas into his cosmology.
      Maybe if we better understood how Tolkein imagined this strange world, we could get a better idea of how the Mahabharat itself was composed? I'd better look into that!

      Thanks again,
      Lawrence

      Delete
  41. I also dig your choice of My Sweet Lord by George Harrison to end the telling of the epic. It made me smile.

    ReplyDelete
  42. On hearing this, Duryodhana gets so enraged, he invades his maternal grandfather kingdom. King of Gandhara also has 100 sons, Shakuni being the most prominent one. Duryodhana imprisons them and gives them only few morsels of rice per day as prison rations. They decide to give all the food to only one person, so that he can live and take revenge on the mighty Kuru race. In few weeks, all sons die of starvation and finally their father also dies of starvation. Shakuni, meanwhile practices black magic, consumes the meat of his father in some cannibalistic ritual and makes dice out of his fathers tailbone lumbar vertebrae. These are black-magic dice and NO ONE can defeat him at the game. He never loses a throw, unless he wants to hustle/lure his opponents. After few months, Duryodhana is remorseful and frees Shakuni, and Shakuni pleads to stay in Hastinapur as he has no one to go back in Gandhara, plotting the destruction of Kauravas.

    Thus, Sakuni makes all efforts to widen chasm between Kauravas and Pandavas: Dice game, waging Draupati, picnic in Dwitavana to make Pandvas jealous, to tie up Krishna during peace mission, etc.

    Again, I am not fully aware of various versions of this AWESOME epic, I don't know if this is part of Vyasa's original version. But logically, the story makes sense, I am curious about your views.

    Again, thank you for this great podcast.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm afraid I fat-fingered your first note and deleted it by accident. It's important, so here's what you wrote:

      Congratulation on truly amazing job!!

      I love the non-puritanical yet respectful tone of the entire podcast and I like your analytical views on key topics.

      I'd like to share a couple of my views as well.

      I think one of the key characters that deserves more analysis is Shakuni. Pandavas chose the God-incarnate, Krishna as their General Council, and Kauravas chose Shakuni, while they had more noble and qualified options like Bhishma, Vidura, Drona, etc. Apparently Shakuni is interested in the welfare and growth of his nephews (Kuaravas), but all his actions are to the contrary and towards the annihilation of Kaurava race.

      I have several questions on Shakuni:
      He was the prince of Gandhara (today's Kandahar), what is doing all the time in Hastinapur with his nephews? He was nowhere in the picture when the princes were growing up or under training of Drona, but mysteriously appears in the middle Assembly Hall chapter. It is very unusual for Hindu kings/princes to live under their sister's husband rule, while they had their own kingdom to manage. On the contrary, his son becomes the king of Gandhara after the Kurushetra war and defeated during the Ashwamedha yaga.

      Shakuni scuttles every chance of peace, and he had NO apparent enmity with Pandavas. Even the Supreme Soul, Krishna, who has taken human birth to end the feuding Kshatriya clans and Dwapara yuga in one big cataclysm, gives several chances to Kauravas to escape their fate. But Shakuni always fanning the flames of hatred and conflict. He is the one who initiates the dice games. If his intention is just welfare of his nephews, why didn't he just stop the first dice game after winning all of Pandava's wealth and their freedom forever? Why did he suggest to wage Draupati? He very well knows how powerful Pandavas and their allies are, then what is the point of humiliating Draupati? Unlike Duryodhana and Karna who have reasons (however chauvinistic they may be), what are Shakuni's reasons to insult Draupati other than to enrage Pandavas more? Moreover, he doesn't even fight very seriously in the war, runs away a couple of times and gets killed very ignominiously. Why?

      Well, here is the story I heard as a child growing up in India, I don't know the sources and I am interested in your opinion.

      When Pandavas and Kauravas were growing up as teenagers in Hastinapur, after training and the defeat of Drupada incident, they were teasing each other and trading insults constantly, just like today's trash talking teenagers. Duryodhana's favorite (even legitimate) argument is that none of the Pandavas are sons of his uncle Pandu, so they had no claim to the Hastinapur crown. If they want any kingdom they should go to their mother's kingdom (Kunti Boja). And one day Duryodhana insults Pandavas saying they are children of a common prostitute, since their mother slept with several strangers to conceive them. Bhima retorts, "you are also not qualified to be a king, since you are a son of a widow". Being very thin skinned, Duryodhana investigates and finds out that it is technically true. When his mother, Gandhari is born, astrologers predicted that she will be widow. Following their advice, the king of Gandhara conducts her marriage ceremony with a goat or donkey on her 16th birthday and ritualistically sacrifices the animal. There by technically avoiding the death of her human husband, but according to scriptures she is a widow nevertheless.


      Thanks!

      Delete
  43. Dear Sir,

    Please, accept my apologies for very late response, since our last mail conversation on 10th March, 2012, in which you asked to mail back after finishing listening all episodes.

    Day to day routine was hurdle in regularly listening Mahabharata podcast, so I finally got a solution, I put all episodes in my pen drive, and I used to listen at least one episode per day during my journey in the morning to workplace in my car. Thus, I came to finish all episodes.

    The epic is being taught in our primary school syllabus, since we were in second standard, but till today, I am amused by getting still some fresh information frequently (or understand differently) regarding small or big events of Mahabharata. On one hand, being an Indian, knowing the epic from childhood it is very difficult to even remember (what I thought listening to Mahabharata podcast), but contrary, you are capable to write & narrate 100 episodes. Mahabharata epic had covered all the information & logic of whole ecosystem to explain everything, but I am not capable to remember & narrate. I think it requires great devotion, dedication & determination to study, to understand & digest the whole epic. Please, accept heartily congratulations (& thanks for the same) & oblige.

    I’m especially thankful for episode 76. Every time either I read Mahabharata or see the telecast of serial by B. R. Chopra, I feel sad for all the events. But episode 76 had explained everything.

    P.S.:
    1) I think, I almost forgot all I listened, so, I am restarting from beginning (fishy beginning, of course).
    2) All the episodes of podcast are now available at torrent sites too for convenient downloading, Congratulations, your free services are also being pirated in "KALIYUGA".

    ReplyDelete
  44. I completed all 100 episodes! Hooray! Amazing work sharing your retelling of the Mahabharata in your unique and engaging wsy.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Hi Lawrence,

    Firstly, brilliant podcasts! I discovered these late last year but never got around to listening until just last week. I am too young to remember the Indian TV series on Mahabharat, and like many kids, I was more interested in reading Batman comics than listening to my grandmother narrate tales from Indian epics. I was quite ignorant about the tale (except for the basic Kauravas v/s Pandavas story) until I recently read a couple of fictional takes on the tale, and they piqued my interest. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised upon listening to your podcast about how complicated the layers of the story can get. I love the fact that you narrate it in a refreshing colloquial style. For me, it just helps the facts stick out more and make the story easier to relate to.

    You mentioned LOTR and compared the two books in a previous comment. I am a huge Tolkien fan, and I was wondering if you could explore these similarities further and maybe do a podcast on that?

    Would also love to listen to your take on more epics like Gilgamesh or even Beowulf, for that matter. The Greek ones are more famous but many others are probably lesser known, and more fascinating to explore.

    Navya

    ReplyDelete
  46. Excellent podcast! I thoroughly enjoyed each episode and realized what a difficult task it must have been to take such an immense story with convulated narratives and render it to a informative, enlightening, and ultimately entertaining story.

    As a Hindu woman I have to say that I have very much appreciated the spirituality provided by my religion with a focus on mental discipline, equanmity, and one's individual path towards God (perhaps more stemming from the bhakti movement). However, I have long been frustrated by the views that much religious doctrine take towards women. The way in which woman are portrayed, their character, obligations to society and ultimately their husbands are difficult for my modern sensibility. It seems that the only dharma for women according to the Mahabharata and other texts (e.g. Laws of Women) is to be a devoted obedient wife...even if your husband is a jerk.

    So, there are plenty of very sensitive Hindus out there who will take offense to my thoughts here and try to re-interpret the meaning of the Mahabharata or point out examples of strong women (e.g. Draupaudi), but these examples pale in comparison to the very mysogynistic commentary about women. The only way I can reconcile this is to realize that ultimately this is a text written about Bramhins who clearly wrote out the rules of dharma in their favor (e.g. even if brahmins are ill-tempered, vengeful, conniving, it is a mortal sin to disrespect them). The comments I made about women can be equally applied to the lower castes.

    I don't think Hinduism is particularly unique in its views of women compared to other religions. Maybe Christianity is more charitable since it takes a kind view to the poor and downtrodden (including women).

    But, I have to say that listening through the epic, I feel that I can approach the Mahabharata more as an intellectual work rather than a text to which I would turn for any moral and spiritual guidance or the basis of my beliefs. Perhaps, I would feel differently with a focused study of the Bhagavad Gita.

    In any case, excellent job! Thank you so much!

    Sejal

    ReplyDelete
  47. Lawrence,

    Excellent podcast. Hats off to your dedication and hard work. I thoroughly enjoyed your podcast. Though I can not give you a cow and Calf in return, what I can give you is a decent thank you. As far as I believe I you must have got some answers regarding your questions through out your epic and specifically questions in episode 100. What really amazed me (apart from the fact that an American survived the whole Mahabharata and even made a podcast out of it, which would give the Indian TV series a run for its money) is that you managed to find a reference to Jainism as well. Mahabharata has its references in Jain literature as well. I did not read all the 74 comments before me, so I am not sure if anyone gave you a particular details of Jainism and Mahabharata. I just did a quick CTR + F on Jain and found only one comment (by you asking someone on his thoughts on Jainism) so I am guessing no body did mention it. I am a Jain by religion myself. and I am no expert on Jainism. but I being a little Mahabharata Fan, I did dig around a little about the fate of Pandavas, Kauravas, Krishna and other characters according to Jain principles. Believe it or not, Krishna the Hero according to Hindu's is actually serving his Hell time right now according to Jain literature for the role he played in Mahabharata. This Wiki link gives a decent idea of what Jains think about Mahabharata and its role on mankind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata#Jain_version

    Hope this helps you clear some air, and understating the epic a little better.

    Also I would like to know if there was any mention of a Character called Barbarika? He also plays an important role in Krishna's death. Barbarika was Gatothkacha's son and Bhima's Grandson. If he wished He could have Finished the whole war in matter of minutes and btw without any result!

    read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata#Jain_version

    I am surprised how well described Wikipedia is now a days..LOL

    Nonetheless, I congratulate you once again for such a great podcast and wonderful narration of the longest and most interesting epic in the world.

    Thank you,
    Sambhav

    P.S. Have considered being a narrator for some the audio books? You will make a great narrator.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Lawrence,

    Excellent podcast. Hats off to your dedication and hard work. I thoroughly enjoyed your podcast. Though I can not give you a cow and Calf in return, what I can give you is a decent thank you. As far as I believe I you must have got some answers regarding your questions through out your epic and specifically questions in episode 100. What really amazed me (apart from the fact that an American survived the whole Mahabharata and even made a podcast out of it, which would give the Indian TV series a run for its money) is that you managed to find a reference to Jainism as well. Mahabharata has its references in Jain literature as well. I did not read all the 74 comments before me, so I am not sure if anyone gave you a particular details of Jainism and Mahabharata. I just did a quick CTR + F on Jain and found only one comment (by you asking someone on his thoughts on Jainism) so I am guessing no body did mention it. I am a Jain by religion myself. and I am no expert on Jainism. but I being a little Mahabharata Fan, I did dig around a little about the fate of Pandavas, Kauravas, Krishna and other characters according to Jain principles. Believe it or not, Krishna the Hero according to Hindu's is actually serving his Hell time right now according to Jain literature for the role he played in Mahabharata. This Wiki link gives a decent idea of what Jains think about Mahabharata and its role on mankind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata#Jain_version

    Hope this helps you clear some air, and understating the epic a little better.

    Also I would like to know if there was any mention of a Character called Barbarika? He also plays an important role in Krishna's death. Barbarika was Gatothkacha's son and Bhima's Grandson. If he wished He could have Finished the whole war in matter of minutes and btw without any result!

    read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabharata#Jain_version

    I am surprised how well described Wikipedia is now a days..LOL

    Nonetheless, I congratulate you once again for such a great podcast and wonderful narration of the longest and most interesting epic in the world.

    Thank you,
    Sambhav

    P.S. Have considered being a narrator for some the audio books? You will make a great narrator.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Dear Lawrence

    I finally finished the 100 podcasts. This is a brilliant summary from you, and contrary to others who think you sounded too informal or 'too american' at times, I thought the informality during your treatise was great, and brought out the 'comedy' in this great story. There are so many characters, and so many twists and turn, but one thing that surprised me was the fact that there were so many additions to the core story. There are stories with the mainframe as you say that do not really make sense at all, i was glad you cut off the fluff, and nonsense. The main storyline is simply so touching that at times whilst driving I just did not realize how time just passed by. There are legendary encounters, like when krishna goes on a diplomatic mission to
    bring rationality in the minds of the kurus. The sheer tension of your description was great art. You communicated the dilemma very well. The complexity of Bhishma`c character is also strange. What exactly is he capable of? He is the one guy in the whole story where I could not fathom what were his real convictions. Such a fountain of wisdom, and so much contradictions too. Tharoor said in his book the great novel that Bhishma represents 'the average indian dude', high moral character, as well as completely tangential behavior. Why would he say yes to leading the kurus at such an old age, what kept him from kicking Duryodhana in the butt and throwing him out of the house. I guess we will never know. Other momentous
    zones was the sheer trickery of Krishna. It seems he revels in the art of making truth a fallacy. What a piece of Art. Proud to be an Indian American, and many thanks to you for your kind efforts.

    kind regards, Rattan

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  50. Ramayana was written way before the Mahabharat neither one of them is an epic they're poems...
    Each and every purana (18 of them) have reference to each other and temple worship is everywhere like surya's chariot in bhuveneshwar etc.

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  51. listenend to the podcast twice its excellent but some of the facts are here and there

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  52. @ Anon (btw you should make up a name to make communication easier),

    You might not understand the many uses of the word "Epic"
    See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_poetry

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  53. ok fine but savyasachi translates as ambidextrous not specifically left handed man..

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  54. Thank you! I am a West Indian person who knows very little about India and I just discovered the mahabharat. I am listening to your podcast, watching a few of the dramatizations and reading some of the translation online. Your podcast has been crucial.

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  55. Lawrence,

    I just finished listening to the 100th episode yesterday. I truly enjoyed listening, and I especially appreciated your attention to detail and reflections. Especially on the portrayal of Krishna in the epic, which has been a topic that I have been fascinated by for years. I've read a few different versions of the epic, and gained new insights from your podcast. Thanks for putting the time and effort to put this together.

    Are you working on anything new? You had mentioned potentially a Ramayan podcast. I'm sure it's no easy task considering you're juggling a family as well.

    Take care,
    Jay

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  56. Lawrence,

    After random memories of the serial and Devdutt Patnaik's 'Jaya', listening to your podcast is my only complete effort with respect to Mahabharata. Boy of boy it was completely enriching and very entertaining.

    You have inspired me to do my own reading of Ganguli's Translation. Maybe I will try to look up the Sanskrit verses as well. For example the only way dasi's might be translated with be as slave girls. But understanding the devadasi community, you know using the word 'slave girls' will be a simplification. Thank you for the inspiration for my personal seeking. I had always kept Upanishads and original Dharshana texts a notch above the Itihasas.

    It is interesting you brought up channelling and NDE. Yet to explore these topics. You might find Ian Stevenson's scientific papers on Reincarnation interesting. He has taken painstaking work in journaling and testing memories of children typically from the age 2-4 of their last birth. This is the age where the memories have not completely gone and they pick up speech capability.

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  57. Lawrence,

    Thank you for all your efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed this ancient epic.

    Pete

    Pete

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  58. Lawrence,

    Thank you for all your efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed this ancient epic.

    Pete

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  59. Hi,
    It's great to hear this epic. I also enjoyed your summary of the series. You did a great job.

    OJ

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  60. Hey Lawrence,

    The way you retold Mahabharata was great, reminding of related events, and your own perspectives.
    I wish I could gift you cows and jewelry.
    Thank you so much for the detailed podcast of Mahabharata.

    -
    Chakra

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  61. Wow, what a story told by such a great story teller......

    You painted pictures in mind and now the its all over, what do I do know!

    all glories to you my friend, well done! and Thank you!

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  62. Lawrence,

    Thank you for all your efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed this ancient epic. Would like to hear more from you. If possible can you take up Valmiki Ramayana as your next one.

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  63. Hi lawrence,you are doing an excellent job of presenting mahabharata at this time.I have written some articles on Mahabharata on karna doing research based on mahabharata,and the logical flawas of some events.I have written about karna first.Please read my blog and give your comments.My blog takes an alternate view of Mahabharata.
    http://extrapolatingepics.blogspot.in/

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  64. Hi Lawrence,
    I am listening to the entire podcast for the third time!!! Thanks again for the amazing job.

    Back in the episode 3, The Fishy Beginning, sage Parashara projected as a lusty old man who wanted to have sex with Satyavathi right in the middle the boat ride on Ganga. I want to add my views on that.


    Action is true, but the motivation is not lust. Sage Parashara was a great rishi who conquered sensual desires and he is the first Guru/rishi who compiled the ancient knowledge of Vedic astrology or Jyotish. His magnum opus Brihad Parashara Hora Stratra (BPHS) is the definitive authority on Jyotish even today. Being a great astrologer himself, during the boat ride with Satyavathi, Parashara looks at the heavens and observes that the planetary combinations are so rare that a child conceived at that moment will be reincarnation of Lord Vishnu himself as the greatest of the rishis. That's why he makes all kinds of arrangements to conceive a baby in a hurry. First he makes Satyavathi attractive by replacing the fish smell with fragrance, creates mist/fog to protect privacy and restores her virginity (symbolically). The result is the child is none other than Vyasa, the greatest of sages, compiled Vedas, author of this epic, Bhagavgita and other puranas.

    Parashara continues on after the sperm donation and he doesn't lose his spiritual merit for this action as opposed to the other famous story of Vishvamitra and Menaka, where the motivation is pure lust. The couple spend long time together until his lust is satiated, and Vishvamitra loses most of his spiritual merit afterwards.

    There are so many nuances in this epic, no wonder it is still popular after thousands of years.

    Again, thanks for the fantastic podcast.

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    1. I do love the English language-- if you look up the word "lusty" in the dictionary, the first definition is usually "full of life", or "energetic". It is related to the word "lust", but not in the sense of it being sexual or sinful. I liked the word because it does have the subtle double-meaning, but it was meant to be playful more than judgmental.
      I really appreciate your explanation about jyotish and Parashara's deeper motivations. That makes perfect sense, and is a good lesson to not make assumptions about the motivations of a true sage!

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  65. Thank you Lawrence!

    Completed Listening all 100 episodes and going to restart listening from episode one!

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  66. Lawrence, you sir are nothing short of a legend!

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  67. Hi Lawrence,

    Thank you very much. You have inspired me to read the BOOK. I have now completed not only listening to your podcasts but also reading the book.

    I am sure that the rewards promised by the Mahabharata will accrue to you as you have earned them

    I have decided that I will start both the listening and reading again.

    Thank you and regards

    kanti

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  68. Hello Lawrence,

    thanks for recording the Mahabharata. I was mainly looking for the story and you did a very good job of recording it. I like the clarity of voice and the way you refer to various incidents while explaining the main event clearly shows the amount of effort you must have put to wrap your mind around the story. I did learn the story in full and filled the gaps in story and chronology. Thank You once again.

    On the other hand I see your choice of adjectives were not good like "meddling sage". I primarily attribute it to your difficulty in setting the attitude. I feel your attitude for the story is like the movie "big fish" in which an otherwise normal story gets romanticized. I see you try to reconcile some part of the stories with historical facts.

    I would like to share my understanding. The Mahabharata is meant for people with not much inclination towards philosophy. The story is just the sugar coating while the underlying principle is the real pill. I see you just focused on the sugar coating. Although the real principle and the goal of life can only be understood by approaching a realized soul and practising the religious principle. Its like growing up from childhood to adulthood and then understanding romance. As Krishna says I am to be known from the vedas and the true knowledge can only be understood by approaching a humble sage, rendering service to him and asking him humbly about the absolute truth. The saint will impart the knowledge as he has seen the truth (BG 4.32)

    Where to find these sages ? I see for some one in your position to pray to God. By the mercy of Krishna spiritual master is obtained and by the mercy of spiritual master Krishna is obtained.

    regards
    -Vaibhav

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    1. thanks for approving my comment. I also feel very inclined to give some information on yugas(as given in bhagvat puran). Following is more information
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalpa_%28aeon%29

      The current age is Kaliyuga and it will last for another 427, 000 years(approximately). Vishnu puran and Bhagvat puran talk about state of human society by the end and it is not good. Bhagvat puran also describes appearance of Lord Kalki by the end of Kaliyuga and how he will establish the new Satyuga.

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  69. I grew up watching the tv show and listening to parts of Mahabharata through my grandfather, your amazing podcast made me remember my childhood and contemplate all teachings that I got with more mature and adult mind. Growing up I have became more and more agnostic, but I still find teachings of Gita, Mahabharata and Ramayana very meaningful and realistic. For some reason, one line from Gita, which my grand father recited to me or it could be from tv show did not feature in your podcast. The line goes something like this "even if you do not believe in me, if you follow Dharma and do good deeds you will attain moksha". Did you came across something similar?

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    1. I looked into this a little bit, searching the Gita online, and while I think the sentiment isn't too far off, I don't think you will find anything exactly like that in the scriptures. The basic message that Krishna delivers is that moksha can be attained through meditation and discipline alone, but it can also be gotten through devotion to Krishna, which is an easier path. By devotion to Krishna, one can save a lot of trouble along the way to enlightenment, and it also helps to avoid incarnation in evil realms that are difficult to get out of. So in that sense, Krishna is offering a short-cut to salvation that previously was not available.

      However, the concept of "belief" is not something you encounter in the Mahabharata. That sounds more Christian to me-- e.g. "He who believes in me, though he dies, will have a new life." Krishna was less concerned about belief than he was about devotion. If you devote yourself to him, you will have an easier time getting salvation.

      Of course, I'm not a Sanskrit scholar, nor have I attempted a translation of my own, so I could be wrong!

      Take care.
      Lawrence

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  70. I discovered your podcast a month ago and I am half way through the 100th episode. I spend 1.5 to 2 hours in traffic every day (I live in Nairobi) and since I got hooked to your podcast - I have not minded being in traffic at all!
    I love your conversational style, including the slang - it made me laugh.
    Like some of your other listeners I too have grown up with many of these stories, but most of my understanding was from the popular tv series. The content was fascinating for me – the gist of the story is the same but many of the nuances and angles were very fresh for me.
    Thank you so much for making this podcast – I am very sad to have reached the end of it. You certainly deserve a cow, calf, and some land too.
    I really hope to hear more podcasts from you. Please don’t change your style – it is very fresh and real.

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  71. Hey Man Lawrence.

    This is some really good podcasting, as I type this I'm only at Episode 21 so you may have covered what I'm about to point out in the other episodes. But, my mother had told me this story once of Shakuni's origins, it is one of the most powerful origin stories I have ever heard.

    It goes something like this: Shakuni and his entire family are imprisoned by Duryodhana for some reason (I can't remember why). In prison, each member of the family is fed 1 grain of rice a day, there are 24 or so members. The eldest of the family decides that though 1 grain is not enough for each person, all grains put together is sufficient for 1 man. And that 1 man is Shakuni because he is the youngest.

    Time passes and Shakuni is the only one left standing. He somehow gets out of prison and into Duryodhana's posse....

    You ever encountered a story of this sort?

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    1. Yes, I've heard this story from other listeners, but it is not in the written epic as I found it. The tale goes a little further in saying that the bones of his dead relatives were used to make the trick dice that Shakuni used in the big dice game. This would explain why he won every throw of the dice-- the epic never says that he cheated! Either it was magic, fate, or just bad luck!

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    2. I read your reply in your voice as I hear it in the podcast. Great work Lawrence.

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  72. Finished the Podcast a few weeks ago. It's some great stuff, learned a lot about the finer points of the story and what the characters were like. For instance, I always knew Abhimanyu broke the Chakravyuh formation and could not get out, but I knew nothing of Jarasand's gained ability from Shiva, the plan to trap him and separate him from the pandavas and the fact that Arjun was tricked into fighting the Trigartha's in a separate field. Great story, well narrated and I will sending the cows to you by mail.

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  73. Was introduced to this podcast from a co-worker and I was pleasantly surprised on the way it is narrated and a well-compiled. Normally I have seen Indian authors irrespective of their knowledge always try to show off, and the real essence or the true beauty is lost in that. I did not get that kind of sense at all in the way Manzo tells the story. Though am aware of most of these stories, this is still captivating.

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  74. Hi Lawrence, There is a conversation between Shakuni and Sahadevan, where shakuni confesses (moments before his killing) that his ultimate goal was to destroy kuru's to revenge bhishma who punished shakuni's father and his brothers for adharmic rule or something, and that he is happy to have achieved that goal, and he no longer wishes to live bla bla bla. Just curious that I did not see this anywhere in podcast.

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  75. Dear Lawrence your narration is so wonderful .... Have seen so many narrations till now ... but found yours was most entertaining and thrilling at same time very very informative .... the way you speculated and compared and commented really requires a deep knowledge and commitment .... I was really inspired from your effort alone ....

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  76. I am recommending this to all my friends and family

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  77. Dear Lawrence,

    Thank you for your monumental effort in re-telling this epic tale. I made it through the entire podcast and plan to do many many times in future.

    Thank you again and good luck.

    Avinaash

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  78. Finally made it through all 100 episodes, thank you Lawrence for your wonderful efforts. Though it got quite boring for some episodes in the middle, enjoyed the overall experience. Let me know if you do the Ramayana too.

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  79. Hello Lawrence,
    Thank you very much for this podcast and i made it through 100 episodes. I really enjoyed each and every episode and learned lot of things in detail.

    Thanks
    Tulasee

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  80. Hi Lawrence,
    Made it to 100! Got to know about this from a colleague and couldn't stop listening once I started. I grew up watching the tv series in the 90s and the latest one a few years ago. But this one was so elaborate. I was often wondering why many incidents in the tv series were way off from the original epic! I plan to listen one more time, especially for those philosophical gems interspersed in between the actual story. I think the philosophy behind the Mahabharata applies to today’s life perfectly even after 3500 years which is what makes it so timeless.
    Episode 76 was particularly very interesting for me, especially the thought about the center of galaxy being dharma or consciousness and the scientific interpretations you tried to apply to some of the events in the epic. You might find Vethathri Maharishi's ‘Genetic Center - The Secrets of the Soul’ and ‘Mind’ very interesting reads. They are short ~40 page books and has his scientific explanations based on his experience on what we call God or consciousness. He talks about how Gravity or consciousness and our genetic center are interconnected and how our genetic center is a recording of all our actions and thoughts. Based on my limited readings so far of various hindu philosophers, it seems everyone in some way or the other have converging thoughts on the phenomenon of the soul, God and Consciousness. Your insights based on your research adds a lot of perspective and has got me interested in this pursuit once more. Kudos to you for this amazing work. You are awesome! If you plan on doing any other podcasts, please update this space so we know. Thank you!

    Best,
    Priya

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  81. Hi Lawrence, Thank you very much for the podcast! made it to 100. i thoroughly enjoyed.

    Thank you,
    Raghu Kadali

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  82. Hi Lawrence, Thank you very much for the podcast. i thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Thank you,
    Raghu Kadali

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  83. Hi Lawrence,

    I finished the last batch of podcast episodes today, and in lieu of cows and vast sums of real estate I figured I should honor you with your desired fee of a website comment. Your narration was fantastic - I learned a lot more about the story of the Mahabharata compared to when I first read about it as a child. I really appreciated your attention to detail, along with your side notes/stories, theories, and dry wit (be it intentional or not :) ). The only minor criticism I might mention is that for some episodes, the audio of your podcast skipped, and several seconds of the story were lost. It never really affected much of the flow of the story, although there was one particular lapse during Ashwatthama's nighttime invasion (keeping it vague to prevent spoilers) that I was a little saddened to miss out on.

    Thanks again for putting together the tale of this epic, and I look forward to hearing any other stories you may end up podcasting in the future.

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    1. Can you tell me how you have been listening to this series-- from the blog, from iTunes as a podcast, or in an android app? That will help me figure out the problem with the audio.

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    2. I've been downloading the podcasts on iTunes; I'll go back through some of the podcasts and see if I can provide you some additional examples.

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    3. Thanks! If you can pinpoint the episode and what time inside that recording where you found skips, I should be able to fix it up. No one has reported such a problem before, so it might have been a streaming issue on your side. Please let me know what you find out!

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  84. Hey Lawrence, I finished the story today. Happy Moksha to you as well. :P On other note, it was a brilliant experience and I do hope to revisit this story in the later part of life. It was an interesting story and you have narrated it precisely. Being an Indian, I have heard this story and witnessed the television series intermediately.

    To be frank, none was as clear as your podcast. I would request you to kindly produce another podcast series on Greek mythology. Even if you do not, you have a fan for life. I was curious about this story but hate reading large books. Your podcast was a life saver. Thanks a ton and wish you all the best. If you desire, will send you some cows for your immaculate narration. :)

    Cheers,
    Pratik

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  85. Thanks so much for taking the time to make this Podcast. I'm a white dude who married an Indian girl, so I've been doing what I can to learn more about India and its culture and epics, so this was great. I actually found your podcast after being frustrated with the slow episode production of a different Mahabharata podcast that is currently being developed by Sudipta Bhawmik (I'm sure I'm not the first one to tell you that someone is following in your footsteps). I really appreciated your asides for analysis through the work, you don't get that so much with Bhawmik's podcast. But they are both good!

    Thanks again.

    P.S. While I haven't searched through your website yet to look for this to see if you've already done what I'm about to ask for, but I was wondering if you could consolidate a set of links to the other sources and podcasts of Indian epics and material that you briefly mentioned in some of your episodes.

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  86. Hello Lawrence,

    Many many thanks for your time and effort in putting together this podcast. It is simply exemplary. I haven't read any books or seen any movies related to Mahabharata but this podcast certainly gave me more information that I could imagine. It was put together so well and your incredible narration makes it even more interesting. I made it through 100 episodes. I would like to send a direct message to you. Please let me know if there is an email I can contact you at.

    God Bless !!!

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    1. Thanks, you can reach me at mahabharatapodcast@comcast.net.

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  87. Woohoo, I made it!

    Thank you, Mr. Manzo, for taking out the time to do the podcast. You did a great job; it's been a couple of days since I completed the series, and I already miss the daily dose of your storytelling.

    I read the other comments on the blog; this might be a rare opinion: I especially enjoyed the casual and blunt parts... you know, the parts which others might consider "rude". Generally, I'm not one for crass and fart-humour, but I found it absolutely hilarious when characters spewed profanities in your retelling.

    Anyway, I hope you're well. If you have the time, I was wondering if you could point me towards works which, in your opinion, best cover (i) the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, and (ii) the philosophy discussions between Vidur and Dhritarashtra.

    Also, how can I keep track of what you're up to next.

    Thanks and have a good day!

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