India’s Ancient Culture
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 7: The Inner Message of the Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is one of the great epics, about which we had something to consider from its literary point of view and from the point of view of its majestic content. We have already observed some aspects of this great Itihasa epic. Today I shall try to highlight the inner message that it seems to be conveying to humanity as a whole, apart from its historical and epic grandeur and literary majesty.

The Pandavas and Kauravas, who were opposed to each other right from the beginning, as you all know, had actually descended from a common source. Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa was responsible for the birth of Dhritarashtra and Pandu, the ancestors of the Pandavas and Kauravas, as they were called. As two rivers may have a common source and yet move in different directions, this original fund of power and spirituality which was Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa was responsible for the birth of Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Something like a great grandfather of all these people was Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. And from Dhritarashtra came the Kaurava family, and from Pandu’s line we have the Pandava family. They were all studying together happily under the great Acharya Drona, who was a master archer.

Incidentally, not connected with the subject I am referring to, I will tell you a story about Drona. These boys were playing ball. The Kuru boys and the Pandava boys, little children, were playing with a ball, and by chance the ball fell into a well. They were all looking at the water deep below and wondering how the ball could come up. This old Brahmin, Drona, was passing by. He asked them, “What are you all gazing at?”

“Oh, Dada, the ball has gone into the well,” they said.

“Shame on you, Kshatriya boys! You do not even know how to take the ball out from a well. See how I take it.” This great Acharya Drona took a little piece of straw and invoked a mantra into it, and took another piece of straw and joined that to the first one. Like that he went on joining little pieces of straw until they became a large chain, and he shot it down the well. The last end of it caught hold of the ball, and he pulled the ball out. Is there a human being like this? He connected little pieces of straw by some mystical power of his chanting and made it a chain, and pulled the ball out.

The children ran to the palace. “There is a mystery man here who had struck a wonder before us. We cannot understand how a person can have such a power.” They went to Bhishma, the great grandfather, and reported this wonder.

Bhishma said, “I know everything. I know who that person is, and there is no wonder about it. He shall be your tutor from today onwards.” Thus, Drona was summoned to the palace and was appointed as the Guru or the teacher of the Pandava and Kaurava children.

They were all living happily for the time being but, for some reason or other, jealousy crept in, especially in the minds of the Kaurava children. Bhima and Arjuna were two of the five Pandavas. They excelled in power, in archery, in physical strength, and in various ways. They seemed to be nearer to the heart of the teacher Drona than theothers. This incited the jealousy of the others, who felt that they were a little bit alienated, and from that day onwards there was a feud, and all sorts of means were employed by the Kaurava children to see that Pandu’s children did not get on well.

They poisoned Bhima and tried to burn the Pandavas in a house made of lac, an inflammable material, but somehow or other, due to the wisdom of a mentor called Vidura, the Pandavas escaped from that lac house. For a year they were incognito, moving about somewhere, and later on, at the wedding of Draupadi, who was to be the queen of the Pandavas, they gathered together in the guise of Brahmin boys, though they were really Kshatriyas.

At that time, in that assembly, Bhagavan Sri Krishna was also sitting. This was the first time that Sri Krishna saw the Pandavas, but he did not say one word. He was one of the members who attended the great function and, as luck would have it, Arjuna, who was disguised as a Brahmin boy, shot the arrow which won the test prescribed by the father of Draupadi for winning the hand of his daughter. All the Kshatriyas were defeated, and the Brahmin boy won victory. The Kshatriya kings were up in arms. “Shame on the Kshatriya kings. A Brahmin boy has won victory.” There was a great hullabaloo. That chaos was put down, and the victors took their consort and went to their little hut where they were living incognito, unknown to people.

Sri Krishna went to their hut with a large retinue. A lot of gifts he brought, elephants and horses and gold and silver and so on, and offered them to the elder of the brothers, Yudhisthira, as a mark of respect. Yudhisthira was also disguised as a Brahmin young man. He asked Krishna, “How did you recognise us?” Sri Krishna said, “Fire can be known wherever it is, and there is no difficulty in knowing where fire is.” With this, he departed from that place. There was not much of a talk. Krishna went to Dvarka.

The Pandavas, having been recognised later on, were called to Hastinapura, and it was the wish of Yudhisthira to perform a rajasuya sacrifice, which means to say, the performance of a great ritual, a yajna or sacrifice, which implies the recognition of kinghood of the person who performs the sacrifice. All the great men came there, and Sri Krishna also came. All was well.

In that assembly of the rajasuya sacrifice, to which Sri Krishna was invited by Yudhisthira, a question arose. Before the ceremony commences, even today there is a tradition that whenever we have a large ceremony, a sacred function, a conference, etc., the chief guest is honoured first. And so there was a discussion regarding who was the chief guest. There were thousands of royal men, kings, princes, etc. Krishna was not a king. He had no land and property; he had nothing, but he was recognised as something very important. Bhishma, the grandsire, knew who Krishna was. Others did not know. So when this question arose “Who is the chief guest to be honoured before the ceremony commences?” nobody had anything to say because how could you choose a person among thousands? If you choose one, the others will be feeling hurt that you have not recognised them.

Bhishma stood up and said, “I declare that in this assembly no one can be equal to Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who is seated here. He shall be the chief guest, and he shall be honoured.” This was enough to rouse the anger of all the princes seated there. “You consider Krishna, a cowherd boy who is not a king, who has no friends, who has no wealth, who has no status, as the chief guest? Are we all here for being insulted like this? Yudhisthira, shame on you!” they all cried out. “Have we princes and kings come here to be insulted like this? We quit this place. We don’t want to stay here any more.”

They were all mumbling and raising up their arms, and one of them, Shishupala, got very angry. He said, “The time has come that Kali has descended on earth. This is why respectable kings are insulted in the public assembly and a cowherd boy is being considered as chief guest.” And he went on haranguing for a very long time, deafening the ears of all people, who could not tolerate it any more. Some of them stood up in anger to make the man close his mouth. Some were merely watching with reddened eyes, and even the Pandava brothers were about to rise up to take some action. Bhishma said, “Calm, calm. Sit down. The time has not come for taking action. This gentleman who has been blabbering all kinds of words just now, his end has come.”

When he said “end has come”, the man got still more angry. “You fellow, old man, wrinkled face, you say that my end has come? I will tear your tongue just now.”

Bhishma said, “I will tear your tongue first, but I will not do that, because the person who will do it is seated here.” Sri Krishna uttered not a word, as if nothing was happening. Calm and quiet he was sitting. An avalanche of abuses were poured on Sri Krishna in the worst of terms.

There is a story behind this incident. As a digression, I will mention it to you. It appears that Shishupala, this blabbering man, was born with four eyes and four arms and four feet, etc. Some abnormal creature-like thing was born. Everybody was wondering what kind of child this is. An invisible voice spoke from the skies, “People from all around will come to see the child. Generally when a baby is born, people in the neighbourhood come and say hello, and if any one of them, while touching the child, suddenly causes the disappearance of these double limbs, that person will be the death of this child.”

So everybody was coming and fondling this child who had all kinds of contortions, and one of the persons who came to see him was Krishna himself. When he touched the child, his extra limbs vanished and he became normal. His mother cried, “Oh, please, please, please save this child, save this child, save this child!”

Krishna said, “What is the matter? I am not coming here to harm anybody.”

The mother said, “No, the akasha vani, the voice from above, said that if somebody touching the child causes the disappearance of the extra limbs, that person will be the death of him.”

Krishna replied, “No, I will give you a promise. Even if this boy insults me a hundred times, I will not do any harm. But if there are a hundred and one insults, that is a different matter.”

They say when this boy, who grew up into a prince called Shishupala, was abusing Krishna in the assembly, Sri Krishna was silently counting the abuses. All were wondering why Sri Krishna was keeping quiet, tolerating this noise; he did not say a word, and did not get up, and did not respond. But he was responding in a different way. A hundred over, a hundred and one. Then he got up, and with a discus he severed the head of Shishupala.

It was indeed a very inauspicious event that took place at the beginning of an otherwise auspicious coronation ceremony of Yudhisthira. The whole sacrifice was an auspicious, most blessed event. It was a coronation ceremony of the king, and before that this happened. Vyasa Krishna Dvaipayana also was there. He said, “I am foreseeing something which is not good for this family. I think some tragedy is to fall on the entire Kuru and Pandava family. I think nobody can avert it.” Saying this, he left.

After that the coronation ceremony of Yudhisthira was performed, in which the Kuru brothers were also present as invitees. Duryodhana himself was appointed as the treasurer who collected donations coming from all parts of the country. They say humorously that Sri Krishna purposely made Duryodhana the treasurer; because of jealousy he will spend the money lavishly, which will only add to the glory of Yudhisthira because they will say, “How kind, how kind, how kind! How kind Yudhisthira is!” They will say, “This man is lavishly squandering.” The glory and the power and the royalty of Yudhisthira at that time increased the jealousy of Duryodhana still more. He could not tolerate it any longer. All sorts of incidents took place, into which details we need not go. So cunningly Duryodhana managed the manoeuvring of a dice play in which he wanted to see that Yudhisthira lost his entire kingdom and he became a pauper. This was done. As you all know the story of the Mahabharata well, I will not go into the further details of all these incidents.

In this assembly in which dice was played twice, Yudhisthira lost everything – lost his wealth, lost his brothers, lost his wife, lost his honour. Worse than a human being did he become, and he was exiled to the wilderness. For twelve years they had to be there according to the stipulation of the game. Twelve years passed, and another stipulation was that the thirteenth year should be spent incognito. That also was done. Nobody helped them at that time. They were themselves on their own, suffering.

In the beginning, children do not understand what this world is. You have seen little boys, little girls playing on the veranda of the house of even poor parents. The parents may not have food to eat for the evening, but the children play a game. They do not know the suffering inside. The Pandavas and Kauravas as little babies were happy indeed. Later on the community consciousness arises gradually and children are awakened to the consciousness of who is a good neighbour and who is not to be considered as a good neighbour. In the beginning, all is well. The little children may even go into the house of even an enemy neighbour and ask for sweetmeats, not knowing what kind of person he is. They are innocent. But the parents will say, “Don’t go there. They are not our friends. These are our friends. They are our enemies. This land is ours. That land is not ours. Don’t go there.” Children are slowly initiated into this prejudice of who is their friendly neighbour and who is not.

This kind of consciousness arises in every one of us. Little babies, little children, schoolboys do not know much of these kinds of things. They are initiated into the consciousness of rivalry, the goodness and badness of people, mine and not mine, and so on. Each one tries to see what best can be done for his own future; and some succeed, some do not succeed, as was the case with the Pandavas who succeeded and the Kauravas who did not. Jealousy, business clash, court cases, and violence of various kinds get ignited on account of the impossibility of the ego of one group to tolerate the ego of another group. Clashes start. Somehow somebody earns something, to the chagrin of another who has not been able to earn like that. We have difficulties of emotional tensions and social disputes even in offices where people work together for a situation whether in the house, in the community, in the office, or even in governmental circles. The various parties that we speak of are nothing but cleavages that are created among people for the purposes of a single person, a community or a larger group, as the case may be. It can be even between nations. One nation may not tolerate another for its own reasons. And after an initial victory due to the power and ability of youth there comes a disillusionment of the values of life, something like the exile of the Pandavas going to the forest.

God sees all these things. With millions of eyes, God knows what is happening in the world. He knows what is proper, what is improper, who is just, who is not just. But mostly what happens is that God’s mills grind slowly. They say God takes action very, very slowly. We do not know why He should take action so slowly. They compare God’s way of things to the way of a lion. A lion is very powerful. It lies down somewhere in a corner, and if children pelt a stone at it, it might not mind because it knows its strength. The stronger you are, the less you mind interference from people. The weaker you are, the more do you rise up and show your vehemence. And the lion knows its strength. Why should it bother? It will simply keep quiet; even if you pelt stones at it, it will not get up at all. But once it gets up on its feet, no one can stand before it.

God is like that. If you have some problems, He will see that the problems continue. Let them go on for some time. And if you have the greed for pleasure or any kind of desire, He will allow you to have that for a long time, to learn by experience. But there comes a moment when He will not tolerate it any more. That is when the circumstances of the world go totally against the law of God. Sometimes little things in the world go against the law of God but they are tolerated, and God gives a long rope.

Sri Krishna was the mighty incarnation of Bhagavan Vishnu, Narayana, who came to redress the world of all its sorrows. But he never interfered with these skirmishes in the family of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Dice play was going on, the family feud was increasing, the Pandavas were in the forest and suffering for thirteen years. Why did Sri Krishna not come and talk to them? He could have ended the whole thing in one minute, if he wanted, but he never took cognisance, as it were, of even the thirteen years of suffering of these boys. When the thirteen years were over, then he came with a large body of his friends to the city of King Virata where they were living incognito. Then conferences took place as to what the next step should be. The person who spoke first was Sri Krishna. “A lot of suffering has been endured. The Pandavas, innocent children, have lost all their kingdom. Their share is due. In dice they lost everything, and the stipulation of being away for thirteen years is over. Now their share has to come. But how it will come? We will send a messenger to the Kuru princes that the share of the Pandavas is due and it has to be given.” Some messenger was sent, some young Brahmin, and whatever message he conveyed from the side of the Pandavas was rebutted with vehemence by Duryodhana and he said, “Nothing doing. Go home. Go from here!” He did not succeed.

Then Sri Krishna suggested some suitable person should be sent to speak properly and place their case exquisitely. “Who will go?” asked Yudhisthira.

Sri Krishna said, “Why are you asking that? I am here as your servant. If you want, I shall go, taking your message.”

Yudhisthira said, “I will not send you. You are our beloved heart, our soul. You are our friend, philosopher and guide. Will I risk your life in the midst of the wolves who are the Kauravas?”

Sri Krishna said, “I am glad that you are so concerned about my welfare, but you need not be afraid. Let them be wolves. If they are wolves, I shall be a lion, and if they do anything mischievous, I shall end them and come.” With these words, he departed.

There was a grand reception arranged by King Dhritarashtra, who came to know that Krishna was coming. He called his minister Sanjaya and said, “Krishna is coming. That is what I am hearing. What kind of person is he? What is his intention in coming here? Will you kindly let me know?

Sanjaya, the minister, said, “It is good that you have put this question to me. Your Highness, I shall tell you who is coming. The deeds of Krishna no one knows. Why he is coming is also not very clear to people. He is coming to end your children because of the greed that they have exhibited in their behaviour and the relentless heart with which they have spurned the humble request of the Pandavas to have their kingdom back. Oh, if the whole world is on the one side and Krishna alone is on the other side, the whole earth cannot do anything to him. Even a hair of Krishna cannot be shaken by anybody. Such a power is coming.”

Dhritarashtra was frightened. He ordered, “A man is coming. Receive him well. Give him glories. Clean the streets, drench the path, have festoons put up, let a band and music receive him. Entertain him well when he comes so that he may go peacefully and not frighten us.”

Sri Krishna came. He looked at the gaiety, the grandeur and the majesty of the reception that had been arranged for him, and visualised the emptiness behind it. It is the empty heart that is showing the outer glory. Duryodhana invited him for supper, “Honoured guest, supper is ready. Please come.”

“Well, I shall tell you one thing. I have come for a purpose. Let the purpose be fulfilled. Then I shall have supper. And also, why do you offer me supper? I am not hungry. You see, people accept food on two occasions. If they are hungry, they will accept food. Or even if they are not hungry, if the food is offered with love, it will be accepted. You do not offer food to me in love. You hate the Pandavas, and I am on their side for justice, so you have no affection for me; and I am not hungry. On what ground will I accept your supper? I shall see you tomorrow morning, and I will speak to you the message which I have to deliver to you.” Humbly he went to the house of a poor man called Vidura. It was a very interesting encounter indeed between two persons – Krishna, the mighty man, going to the hut of Vidura, who was humble.

Anyway, in the morning the assembly opened, and Sri Krishna went for delivering his message. Beautifully, grandly, logically he placed the case of the Pandavas. “Whatever it be,” Duryodhana said, “I am not going to talk to you. I shall not give to the Pandavas even as much of ground as would be covered by the prick of a needle. Let war take place.”

Krishna said, “This is a very adamant reply for a humble request that I am making. Assemblies, great men, wise people seated here, do you agree with the words that this young man has spoken to me? Is he just? I think it is a shame on these people. He should not be made the ruler of the country.”

When Krishna said this, Duryodhana got angry and went away, and conspired to imprison Krishna so that the strength of the Pandavas would not be any more there. They secretly conspired – Duryodhana, his brothers, Vrishasena, and Karna – that this fellow must be bound up. Krishna should not go back, because if he goes he will play some mischief. Satyaki, the friend of Krishna, who came to know of this little conspiracy, whispered into the ear of Krishna, “Some danger is coming.”

“What danger?” asked Krishna.

“They are trying to imprison you,” warned Satyaki.

“Very good. Let them try,” said Krishna.

“No, I will bring the army. I will call friends.”

“No. You keep quiet,” Krishna said. “I don’t want any friends. I don’t want any army to protect me. Let them try their hand.”

And Sri Krishna spoke to Dhritarashtra, “Your young man, your son, is asking for trouble. It appears that he wants to imprison me. Let him try.”

Gandhari, Duryodhana’s mother, was sitting there. “What is this nonsense? My son is talking like this? Call him here.” And on the order of his mother, Duryodhana came in a great huff and sat, turning his eyes away and facing in another direction. Gandhari said, “Are you mad, my son? Have you sense? You talk of imprisoning an honoured guest who has come from a long distance? Shut up.”

Sri Krishna told Duryodhana, “If you want to arrest me, you can do that. Perhaps you are under the impression that I am alone here. You have got a large army and I have nothing, but do you know that the entire army of the Pandavas is just here? The army of the angels and gods in heaven is just here.” And immediately Sri Krishna showed his Cosmic Form, the stunning vision, to all of the people there, frightening them. Uttering not any further word, he left, and the war took place afterwards.

The story of the Mahabharata in this historical context is also a lesson for all spiritual seekers. That is to say, in the beginning of the life of people, there is jubilation and innocence, coupled with ignorance of the facts of life. We are happy not because there is something worthwhile in this world but because we do not know the secrets of life. It was Buddha who said that a wise one cannot stay in this world for three days if only he knows what this world is made of. It is burning pits of live coals. And Patanjali, in one of his sutras, says duḥkham eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ (Y.S. 2.15): The whole world is a heap of sorrow to the eye of a discriminating individual.

Don’t you think the world is beautiful? There is milk and honey flowing everywhere. It is good to be in this world which presents us with all kinds of delicacies and comforts which make us feel that all is well with this world. The feeling that all is well with the world, that we shall enjoy this world for a long time to come, that death is far away from us, is the illusion that has been cast before our eyes. But the discriminating one knows, as Sri Krishna knew the intention behind Duryodhana, even behind this grand reception that he offered. So the discriminating eye knows what is behind this world.

This world is made up of little atoms finally, as modern science tells us. The solid earth, which is so heavy like granite, is actually made up of little porous substances, and it has no solidity behind it. When I say the world is made up of such porous elements, we also are included in it. You and I, all of us, are part of this world. So when the world is to be recognised as a fluxation, as a movement, as a transitory phenomenon, it follows that we too are included in that phenomenal presentation. The whole presentation, subjectively as well as objectively, is transient movement. Actually, solidity, permanency and substantiality are not in this world, but if we go by the wrong reports that the senses give us and imagine that there is solidity, permanency, and much glory and value in this world, we are actually mistaken.

The Mahabharata, as well as the Ramayana, begins with a glorious beginning, of course. All is well – royal, grand, and pompous presentations of every kind – but there is tragedy in the end. The Mahabharata concludes with a great message of Bhagavan Sri Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, the author, who says, “Shall I tell you what my messages in the Mahabharata are? All accumulation is going to end in the diminution of it to nil. How much money, how much property, how much land can you gather? One day you will lose it. All accumulation ends in the vanishing of it at any moment. Those who have risen to high status in society will fall afterwards. Today you are a king; tomorrow you are a beggar. Today you are adored as the ruler of a country; tomorrow you are on the streets. All wealth will end in destruction, all attainment in social status will come down, and all union will end in separation one day or the other. Friends will depart, bereavement will take place, and all that you consider as yours will depart from you one day or the other. How long will you live in this world? Until Yama comes and catches hold of your throat, which is an event that can take place any moment of time.”

This friendship, this communion of people, this family life, this gaiety of community is compared to the coming together of logs of wood in the ocean, a verse from the Mahabharata again. As you know, winds blow on the surface of the ocean, and logs of wood flow due to the power of the wind. One log goes and touches another log. “Oh, my dear friend, how are you? We shall have coffee in the hotel.” They go together, and the friendship increases. One hugs the other. Attachment takes place. One log of wood is attached to the other log of wood. The wind blows in another direction, and the log goes that side. “Oh, bereavement, oh death has taken place. My son has gone, my brother has died.”

This is what is happening. When the wind of the cosmos blows in one direction, something comes in contact with something else, not because there is something worthwhile in you; it is the destiny of the power of the cosmos that has been working. We say, “A child is born. How happy! The marriage has taken place. The wedding has been successful. Glory, glory!” Suddenly one man dies tomorrow, the wife has gone, or the husband is drowned in a river. “Oh, gone, gone!” we say, because the wind has blown in another direction. As is the coming together in contact of logs of wood in the ocean, so is the friendship and the community affection of people in this world. But as the wind will blow in another direction and logs will separate, so is bereavement in this world.

There is a message towards the end of the Mahabharata which is called Bharata Savitri. Harṣasthānasahasrāṇi bhayasthānaśatāni ca, divase divase mūḍhaṁ āviśanti na paṇḍitam (B.S. 88): Hundreds of occasions we have every day to be happy, and also hundreds of occasions we have to be sorry. Why is it? In a moment you are smiling, and in the next moment you are frowning. The idiocy of the mind is demonstrated here. Fools have hundreds of occasions to be in a state of exultation, and also hundreds of occasions to be sorry. Does the day pass in one mood only? For a few minutes you are happy for some reason. For another few moments suddenly you feel that hell has descended on your head. The mind is not able to appreciate and delve into the truth of things. But wise men know that there is nothing to attract, nothing to hug, nothing to call one’s own in this world. Kings and emperors have come; empires have come. Where have they gone? They have gone to dust. Kings and empires have gone to the dust, and do you think you will be there, superior to all these people? All these Napoleons and Hitlers and Caesars who walked the earth with the thud of their feet, thinking that the whole world belongs to them, have become atoms, minute particles of earth. Do you think you will be in a better position? The whole thing goes.

Ūrdhvabāhurviraumyeṣa na ca kaścicchṇoti me, dharmādarthaśca kāmaśca sa kiṁ arthaṁ na sevyate (B.S. 89) The author of the Mahabharata, Krishna Dvaipayana, says, “Oh people, with uplifted arms I am crying. Obedience to the law of the cosmos is also the source of material comfort and emotional satisfaction. Moksha, final liberation, will be yours, provided dharma is followed. But who listens to me? With uplifted arms I am crying from the housetop: Follow dharma. Obey the law of the universe; you will have moksha, you will have material facility, and happiness will be yours. But nobody wants to follow the rules of life, the wisdom of the cosmos.” This is what Vyasa cries finally at the end of the Mahabharata epic, which story even considered historically, actually concludes with the end of all the glory of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

Great turmoil, great preparation, great rejoicing, great warfare – what for are all these things? And a little insignificant span of life was the glory of Yudhisthira as the king for about thirty-six years. What is thirty-six years? They had suffered so much, and the benefit accrued was only thirty-six years of precarious joy – precarious because he was not happy even then. After all, he began to weep and wail, “What is the kingdom I have got after the bloodshed of all my kinsman? My brothers have been destroyed. I have killed everybody, and then I have become king. I don’t want this.” So he was wailing every day. So in spite of having been enthroned on the kingdom of Indraprastha, Yudhisthira was not a happy man. Finally he came to know that Krishna departed from this world. That was the final shock to him. They all bundled up their baggage and went to the Himalayas for their final journey to the other world.

What is this Mahabharata telling you? Great joy, great enthusiasm, great wealth, kinghood, power, status, and all that you want in this world is finally to take you to the other world. Kingdom come. Nothing should be trusted finally as is reported by the sense organs. The senses are deceptive. They tell you everything topsy-turvy. They tell you that the world is there for your enjoyment, but it is like a crocodile that will catch hold of you one day and swallow you. Therefore, be not attached to anything in this world.

The Bhagavadgita is a part of the Mahabharata, and it will tell you the quintessence of the intention of the author of the Mahabharata. The story is there; of course, you know what the story is about, but there is a message behind that detachment: No contact with things with emotional clinging should be the law of your life. And all the duties that you perform in this world, all the office going, all the hectic activity, all the factory working, and so on, with all the sweating of your brow is intended only to justify your participation in the cosmic law.

God does everything. There is only one action taking place in the whole cosmos. Nobody does anything, finally. If you walk on the road, the legs are moving, the hands are moving, the eyes are seeing, the ears are hearing, but all these varieties of actions of the limbs are actually the action of one person. You are walking, you are seeing, you are hearing, and you are moving. It is not that your legs are doing something and your eyes are doing another thing. So is the case of the activity of the cosmos.

The great history of the world, the world history right from the beginning till now, may be regarded as one action taking place of the Supreme Absolute. One action is taking place in the whole cosmos because the entire cosmos is a single organism. It is one person, finally. There is only one person in the whole universe. That person is working. That architect of the cosmos is the source of every movement, historical or evolutionary, and whatever you are thinking or doing also is a part and parcel of that action. Just as legs may feel that they are walking while actually the man is walking – it is not the legs that walk – so is the case with all your activities. The whole universe is a single action which is motivated by the will of the Central Intelligence of this universe; we call it God in religion, the Absolute in philosophy, the Ultimate Reality, towards which everything is moving gradually in the process of evolution. We are not actors in this world, we are participants in the action of the cosmos. Therefore, be not attached to anything. Do your duty very well as a participant, as a cooperative medium, but do not say ‘mine’, because nothing is yours. No limb of the body can say that it is me. It is a part and parcel of the cooperative activity of the total organism of the body.

Thus, the Bhagavadgita tells us that it is the duty of every person born in this world to perform their appointed work – which is what is called cooperative activity or unselfish action – with detachment because if you are attached, you will be under the impression that you are doing the deed, and if you think that you are doing any deed, the recompense of it will also fall on your head. Therefore, expect not the fruit of action. Work is your duty, but the expectation of the fruit of your duty is not in your hand. You have the right to act, but you have no right to ask for the fruit of your action because the fruit is in the hands of the cosmic powers. Therefore, do not expect a particular fruit to be yielded or to follow from your single action.

Do your duty. Duty is your imperative. There are no rights in this world, but people cry for rights these days: “This is my right, but I have no duty.” There are people who do not do any work. They say, “I will not do any work, but I must get what I want.” That is to say, they are asking for rights only, without duties. But the world does not work in that manner. It is duty that operates; there are no rights. Actually, when you perform your duty, rights will automatically follow. You need not ask for your rights and privileges. The world is so abundant and rich in all its content that when you perform your duty as a participant in the cosmic activity, the cosmos will open its treasure before you. When you cling to God, He will see that all abundance is poured upon you. I repeat once again the great statement of Christ: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” A similar message we have in the Bhagavadgita. Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham (B.G. 9.22): Undividedly if you contemplate the Absolute, the whole world of wealth will follow you wherever you go. You will lack nothing.

So trust in God, rely on Him, and undividedly be meditating on that great glory, that Supreme Reality. You will lack nothing in this world. “Blessedness shall be yours in this world, as well as hereafter” is a wonderful message of this great epic the Mahabharata and the Bhagavadgita. God bless you.