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!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The 18 notebooks of the Mahabharata are now complete...

There are 18 books to the Mahabharat.  You can see my source books lined up in back, with the Kindle to finish it off.  Coincidentally, I filled 18 notebooks to finish the entire podcast!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Episode 99 - Epilogue 2: The Snake Sacrifice

Episode 99 - This is the final piece that brings us around, back to the beginning.  We covered some of this territory before, back in Episode 2, but at the time, it was hard to explain that Parikshit was Arjun's grandson and that Takshaka had an ancient feud with the dynasty going back to the fire at the Khandava Forest.  Also, back then we were anxious to get going with the story itself, and all the digressions with angry brahmins and talking snakes only made things confusing at the time.

So now we have re-visited the beginning at our leisure, and now you know the circumstances in which the Mahabharata was first publicly recited.  The burnt snake guts must have still been warm when Vyasa's disciple Vaishampayana began the tale.

So that's all for a while.  I am working on a commentary for episode 100-- reviewing the story and considering what was included and what was left out.  Please visit this blog ( and leave comments, or questions, or any requests for what I should include in my final summing up of the epic!

Thanks, Lawrence

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Episode 98 - Epilogue 1: The Beginning

Episode 98 - This is the first of two episodes that take us from the death of the Pandavas down to the Snake Sacrifice, held by Arjun's great-grandson.  We skimmed over this back at the beginning of the podcast, because back then we were unfamiliar with who all these people were.  But now it makes sense to bring it around to the beginning again.

Not much is recorded about the life of Parikshit.  We only know about how he died, and the many snakes and Rishis who were involved in the process.

So, I'm not quite through yet!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Episode 97 - The End

Episode 97 - So this is it-- the final installment from the Mahabharata.  Book 18, the Svargarohanika Parva, is done, and the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata are now complete.

Please be sure to visit my blog and let me know you made it!  And then treat yourself to something nice, because you have really accomplished something.

We've reached the end of the story, but this isn't quite the end of the podcast.  You can expect a few more episodes-- an epilogue where the story is carried forward up to the time of the Snake Sacrifice.

Following that, if you have any questions or points of discussion, I'd like to make the 100th episode a summing up of the entire podcast.  If there's anything you'd like me to address, let me know soon!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Episode 96 - The Death of the Pandavas

Episode 96 - Arjun returns home with some bad news and some good news.  The bad news is that they have lost their powers and have lost their friends.  The good news is that they finally get to retire.  Yudhistira doesn't hesitate.  He strips off his fine garments and leads his brothers into retirement.  Krpa is put in charge of defense, Yuyutsu is made regent, and Parikshit is king.  Parikshit's grandmother Subhadra (Krishna's sister) is made Dowager Empress.

The Pandavas then take a final tour of India, visiting even the former site of the magical city of Dwarka.  Finally, they head north, for Heaven, with their little dog Dharma.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Episode 95 - Arjuna's Defeat

Episode 95 - Krishna is dead.  Balaram is dead.  The city of Dwarka sinks beneath the waves, and the refugees of that once-great city are making their way to Indraprastha with only Arjun as their protector.  But the influence of the Kali Yuga pervades the earth, and Arjun is not the man he once was.  When the vulnerable procession is attacked by bandits, his magic quivers run out of arrows and his magical weapons no longer obey his command.  Only a fragment is saved, along with Krishna's grandson Vajra, who is made King of Indraprastha.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Episode 94 - The Kali Yuga

Episode 94 - The Dark Age is now unquestionably upon us.  The elder Kurus, living austere lives in the forest, found themselves consumed by a forest fire of their own creation.  Let this be a lesson to all you Hindu campers out there to douse your sacred campfires!!

18 years later, things go from bad to worse when news arrives of the death of Krishna and all his relatives.  This story alone is deserving of an extended treatment, but we only get a sketchy account of how things went down.

With the death of the Vrshnis, Krishna's work on earth is done.  He accepts his fate and embraces death when it comes to him.

The Kali Yuga is here to stay, so I'll warn you now, don't expect things to get better!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Episode 93 - The Ashwamedha Sacrifice

Episode 93 - The white horse returns home, only to be tied to a post, killed, & cut up into little pieces.  The priests do their best to follow the old rules, but there's no way Draupadi is going to pretend to copulate with a dead horse!

Jump ahead 15 years and Dhrtarastra finally decides to take leave of worldly cares, and he, Gandhari, & Kunti leave for a forest ashram.  One year after that, the Pandavas and many citizens pay a visit to the old folks, where Vyasa allows them all to re-unite with their fallen relatives and friends.

While some of the early books went on endlessly, the last few books of the epic are quite short, and we are going through about one book an episode at this point-- the story is nearly over!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Episode 92 - The Anugita and the Wayward Stallion

Episode 92 - This is another eventful episode.  Krishna & Arjun take a break and go on a leisure trip to Indraprastha, where it appears Arjun is king.  Both heroes have forgotten the Gita, so Krishna recalls another dialog along the same lines, which is called the Anugita.

Krishna goes home, while the Pandavas go prospecting for gold in the hills.  While they are away, Parkshit is born, or rather still-born.  Krishna arrives in time to make good his promise and revives the kid.

When the Pandavas return with their treasure, the white horse is set loose and the Ashwamedha is begun.  Arjun follows the beast across the length and breadth of India, defeating all comers and sending them as his guests to the sacrifice. Arjun meets one of his sons, the Prince of Manipur, and gets killed & revived along the way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Episode 91 - The Death of Bhisma

Episode 91 - We get treated to a last handful of the Final Teachings, and then Bhisma dies.  The poor guy set quite an objective for himself.  It must have been mid autumn when he was shot through with arrows, yet he clung to life until the Winter Solstice before finally giving up the ghost. He says he lived on the bed of arrows for a total of 58 days.

Following his death, Yuddistira has another one of his fits of sorrow & regret, but he's snapped out of it by hearing a story about how the ancient king Marutta left a pile of gold in the mountains as part of his Ashwamedha sacrifice.  Yuddistira needs this gold, since his treasury was depleted by the war, and now everyone is telling him he needs to perform a super-expensive sacrifice!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Episode 90 - The Final Teachings, part 2

Episode 90 - A few more stories from Bhisma's final teachings.  We learn that Vyasa had a son, named Suka, who really did not seem to be pleased to be born.  And Bhisma himself tells us what he really thinks of Buddhist philosophy!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Episode 89 - The Final Teachings, part 1

Episode 89 - For some reason, the first three full-fledged stories from the Anusasana Parva all center around a Banian tree.  They also share the theme of low-caste hunters and their cruelty.   Remarkably, in the 2nd story the three characters are all saved, but all three die violently.  In the 3rd story, the Brahmin Gautama is an unreformed scoundrel, but he is brought back to life!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

News Update: Next episode is currently under construction!

I've finally managed to read through the entire Anusasana Parva, and I've started working on the next episode.

This took some serious reading, since the Anusasana Parva is almost exactly as long as the Book of the Forest, which I covered in 22 episodes!

For better or worse, Bhisma's teachings are not nearly as engaging as the Book of the Forest, so it won't take anything like that many episodes to cover.  There are a handful of interesting parables, plus some additional information about a couple of our characters-- Krishna and Vyasa.

Mostly, the book is full of wordy dialogues-- it is like a heavily watered-down version of the Bhagavad Gita.  At the end, we are treated to all 1,000 of Vishnu's names (and a discussion of each), a list of holidays for worshipping Krishna, and some prayers and songs to Krishna.

So now I'm back to work on producing episodes.  Hopefully I'll have one available for you next week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Episode 88 - The Book of Peace

Episode 88 - This episode begins the voluminous Last Teachings of Bhisma.  As Bhisma lies on his bed of arrows, the Pandavas, Krishna & Satyaki gather around to listen.  Yuddistira poses the questions, which mostly revolve around Dharma and kingship, and Bhisma answers.

These teachings are exceptionally difficult to convey in the form of a podcast, mostly because they are so boring.  There are very few stories, and most of the stories revolve around conversations in which one character instructs the other on good behavior.  I have tried to extract the more interesting details from the book, and I included the most interesting of the stories.  Hopefully this is enough to convey the nature of this part of the epic, which makes up nearly a third of the entire text!