Practical Advice in The Mahabharata – Shanti Parva, Chapter 205

The great Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata contains the Bhagavad Gita, but it also offers up many other gems of wisdom. The Book of Liberation or the Mokshadharma Parva is a collection of teachings, various approaches to Liberation and enlightenment that reflect India’s “spirit of earnest inquiry” (A. Wynne).

The teachings take place in a highly dramatic setting at the end of the devastating family war that is the pivotal plot of the Mahabharata. Bhishma is the grand old man of both warring families; although not king, he is both patriarch and teacher of all the brothers.

Bhishma lies on the battlefield impaled in a bed of innumerable arrows, which pierce through his body. He has the power to choose his moment of death, and while waiting for the most propitious time to leave his body he lectures the victorious and depressed king Yudhishthira.

The following verses are the result of Yudhishthira asking Bhishma what rewards come from the study of the Sanskrit texts and the pursuit of enlightenment. Bhishma answers Yudhisthira’s query by relating an ancient dialogue between Manu, who is said to be the progenitor of men, and the celestial seer Brihaspati.

These ideas are quite practical, and yet not generally accepted by western culture.


Manu said:


When the affliction of physical or mental suffering draws near, one should not dwell on the matter if one cannot do anything about it.

VS: This is sound advice for the worrier in us all. Of course if you can do something about it, do so. Act – instead of endlessly worrying.



The remedy for suffering is that one should not think about it, for suffering approaches the person who contemplates it and then prevails upon him to a greater degree.

VS: This suggests the idea in quantum physics that “the world is created by the act of observation” (Nick Herbert). Do we by dwelling on our suffering increase it? If we followed the old fashioned idea of hanging tough, would our sufferings feel ignored and shrink from lack of attention?

This is certainly true of people who like spoiled children demand our participation in their neuroses. If you ignore them for a time, they have no audience and will either go elsewhere or get a better act!

All disease begins in the subtle body. All sufferings begin in the subtle body. The subtle body is an accumulation of our thoughts and acts in this life and many previous lives. Therefore it makes real practical sense that contemplating our suffering would only add to the intensity of the waveform and generate more pain.

Of course, this only applies to those who wish to be master of their own consciousness. This rest will continue to wallow in their misery and find those who will remain magnetized there with them. As the old adage goes: Misery loves company.



One should dispel mental suffering through wisdom, and physical suffering through herbal remedies. One should not, while under sorrow, act like a child.

VS: Another translation here is that one should not act like a fool. A master who behaves childishly is a fool, giving away the precious gift of years of discipline and wisdom.

The idea that herbal remedies should be sought reflects the understanding that herbs are Nature’s gift to mankind. Herbs are in harmony with our bodies - unlike the massive assault of man-made drugs provided by the greedy pharmaceutical corporations with mile-long side effects.

I recommend the herbs in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. They have been around for centuries and they work. Western prescription drugs produced in the consciousness of profit motive will ruin your body’s natural defense.



A wise man should not hanker after youth, physical appearance, lifespan, the accumulation of wealth, good health and companionship with his loved ones, for they are impermanent.

VS: Western advertising would completely disappear if this verse were widely accepted. When do we learn this? Some learn it even when they are young. But the old ones who have not learned it are indeed foolish. I could go on a bit here about America’s obsession with youth, plastic surgery, immoral greed, and the pharmaceutical industry all of which play into our fears, fears that are exacerbated day and night by the media which has become nothing more than a corporate tool – but I’m sure you have heard it all before.

[An article on how propaganda was implemented in the USA many years ago:  ]

There is nothing that will not leave you. Beauty and youth, your loved ones and friends, your money and houses and jewels, and eventually your life - all will pass on as you transmigrate from one body to another. All are impermanent, anityam.



An individual should not grieve over the suffering of the people. He should cure this suffering without grieving, if he sees a way of doing so.

VS: Wise men do not grieve! In the Bhagavad Gita II.27 & 28, Krishna tells Arjuna that he should not mourn the death of those warriors he is about to slay on the battlefield Kurukshetra.

Krishna says that death is certain for all who are born, just as birth is certain for those who die. The beginnings of beings are unmanifest, their middles are manifest, and their ends are unmanifest once again. Over this, he asks – What complaint?

To understand this it is necessary to go to the truth that God dwells within the heart of all. God literally and physically is all of us, all beings in this universe and others. Whatever happens to us also happens to the God-within us. Suffering is transient. Only the Creator experiences suffering through the holographic matrices we wrongly consider our individual selves to be. We are ‘that’!

God is eternal. “The embodied Self is neither born nor does it die” (Bhagavad Gita II.20). No one ever dies. Therefore wise men do not grieve.

This does not mean that we should not have compassion for those who are suffering. We naturally feel compassion for others and we should move to alleviate any suffering when we are able to. But ongoing anxiety and grief over the misery of this world is physically and mentally draining. It will weaken you and make you ill. Then of what use will you be? Wise men do not grieve!



There is no doubt that the suffering a person encounters throughout his life is greater than his happiness. Death which is disagreeable and unwelcome, comes for his stupefaction to the one who is content with and in delusion clings to the objects of the senses.

VS: Once again the onslaught of propaganda spewed out by western advertising has made us good little consumers believe that eternal happiness is within our reach if only we are more beautiful, more successful, and richer - so we buy and consume more products! Only those who have experienced life as it is will be able to accept this fact that, “There is no doubt that the suffering a person encounters throughout his life is greater than his happiness.”

Death will come. Death will come as a surprise to those who in ignorance have attached all importance to things, to the temporal and illusory objects the five senses and the mind have generated in their hologram.



But the man who lets go of both pleasure and pain attains the absolute state of Brahman. Those wise men do not grieve.

VS: The ones who have come to understand and Know that the small personality self they are identified with is nothing more that a temporal projection, a data-collecting vehicle for the God-within to travel through space and time, enjoying the adventure we call Life. They will find Liberation from the endless cycles of death and rebirth, MOKSHA!



Worldly belongings beget sorrow. In protecting them, one can enjoy no happiness. They are again acquired with misery. One should not, therefore, mind their loss.

VS: For those who have found the God that dwells in the Heart, death will be little more than a transition. It is said that the pain suffered at death is proportionate to attachment for the external world. There is nothing we can take with us in any case! Letting go of our attachment to the things and people in this temporal illusory hologram we have created will make death easy.



The consciousness of pure intuitive Knowing, jnaña, emerges and moves toward true understanding when mind, using the three gunas to penetrate and join with the objects of the senses, becomes united with wisdom. This activation commences with and is caused by the intelligence, buddhi.

In the Bhagavad Gita V.8 &9, Krishna tells Arjuna that the steadfast knower of Truth understands “not anything I do” – it is only the five senses operating on their objects.

The imperishable real you, the Self/Atman, never does anything. Mind is the 6th sense and the mind sorts and interprets all the data sent to it via the five senses - and generates the illusory hologram you live within.

This hologram is produced by the relationship of your individual 3 gunas, the ever-shifting proportional relationships of sattva to rajas to tamas. We are all unique, comparable to little projector-lanterns scattered around the planet producing our own individual holograms.

While eternally within us all, in the heart, there is only the One. One Self/Atma, one Soul, the One-ness permeates the entire temporal holographic universe. This One-ness, the Absolute, is playing.

When you realize this from repeated observation, by exercising what is known as buddhi, the intelligence of discernment, you are united with and merged into Wisdom, enlightenment and liberation.



[The above translation of these verses from the Mahabharata, Shanti Parva 205.1-9 are a combination of Alexander Wynne and M.N. Dutt’s translations, along with a bit of my humble efforts.]

Mahabharata, Book Twelve; Peace – Volume Three, The Book of Liberation, translated by Alexander Wynne; The Clay Sanskrit Library, New York University Press, 2009.

Mahabharata, Sanskrit Text & English Translation, Vol. VIII, Shanti Parva, translated according to M.N. Dutt; Parimal Publications, Delhi, 2004.

A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, M. Monier-Williams; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 2005

Quantum Reality, Beyond the New Physics, by Nick Herbert; Anchor Books, 1985.



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