PANDAVAS AND PREPARATION FOR WAR
Bhima supports Draupadi's stand
Bhimasena too criticised Yudhishtira for his excessive devotion to dharma and causing sufferings to his brothers and wife. One who did acts in accordance with the principles of dharma for no other purpose than being treated as a devotee of dharma (dharma for the sake of dharma, morality for the sake of morality) would only suffer, he opined. He could not be considered as a knower of dharmasastra. Similarly one who followed the concept of artha for the sake of artha, adhering to the policy outlined by arthasastra for only gaining wealth (artha) could not be considered as one who knew arthasastra. Wealth for wealths sake and ethics for the sake of ethics did not convince Bhima, a man of action. There had to be a tangible purpose for which one strived. Else he would be treated only as one like a labourer protecting the cattle from the wild animals.
Bhima agreed that one who was after wealth (artha) and ignored the other values of life (dharma, kama and moksha), deserved to be killed by all beings (pranis) of the subaltern as one guilty of killing the judge who implemented the provisions of the socio-political constitution, Brahma. Bhima justified the revolt of the weaker sections of the society against those who neglected them and accumulated wealth for themselves.
The constitution called for adherence to all the four values of life. Excessive interest in securing wealth (artha) was as deplorable as excessive faith in ethics and morality (dharma). Similarly excessive interest in sexual pleasure (kama) made a person lose his friends and also the benefits of dharma and artha. Hence the issue was whether one should emphasize both dharma and artha or only one of the two. Pursuit of wealth (artha) was intended to meet the duties prescribed by and the intents and purposes (karana) of dharmasastra. Those duties and objectives could be fulfilled only through wealth (artha). Bhima was against hedonism but not against materialism.
Bhima while accepting that the three pursuits, dharma, artha and kama, had their appropriate times in ones life, said that it was then the occasion to strive for freedom (moksha) and to regain their kingdom (rajyam). He held that without wealth (artha) it was not possible to carry out ones duties like performance of sacrifices, offering gifts to the needy and revering the pious. He agreed that the activities of the social universe (jagat) were inspired by adherence to dharma. He was referring to the cadres that were known as punyajana and who were intellectuals and warriors and artistes and were not involved in economic activities.
When to declare war
Bhima did not claim that the other values of life were superior to dharma. He urged Yudhishtira to follow the dharma that was prescribed for kshatriyas, that is, to fight and destroy the enemies and protect the subjects. Bhima also encouraged him saying that he (Bhima) and Arjuna were invincible and they should mobilise a huge army and their friends to win the war against their enemies. But Yudhishtira would not deviate from his pledge to remain in exile for the prescribed period of twelve years and rejected Bhimas suggestion to get out of the forest before the end of that period and take the Kauravas by surprise and defeat them. Bhima argued that many treated one month as substitute for one year. Did the Pandavas indeed come out of their exile after thirteen months defying the objections that Yudhishtira had raised? (Ch. 33, 34, 35 Vanaparva)
Vyasa on Pratismrti: Remembering the Future
Yudhishtira after contemplating on the discourses on the dharmas of the different classes (varnas) and those of the kings (rajadharmas) that he had heard earlier rejected Bhimas suggestion. He pointed out that the Kauravas were then mightier than them and that they should abide the time for the inevitable showdown. While the two were debating the issue of how long they should lie low, Vyasa told him that he would draw the attention of Yudhishtira to what the codes suggested and remove his fear. Vyasa told him in confidence that the opportune time had come for Arjuna to take up arms and conquer. He offered to teach Yudhishtira the science of pratismrti, which was siddhi incarnate (fulfilment of the objective). Pratismrti (remembering the future) meant keeping in mind what should logically follow in the future and acting in such a way that that event did indeed take place.
Vyasa said that Arjuna who had the ability to meet the nobles (devas) should approach Mahendra, Rudra, Kubera and Yama (Dharmaraja) and obtain from them the necessary weapons. Vyasa using the science, pratismrti, (remembering the future) by which one could foresee and foretell logically what would happen in the future, given certain advantages and conditions, calculated that acquisition of weapons would ensure the success of their endeavour. Vyasa said that Arjuna had the support of the sage, Narayana, who was a devarshi. He compared Arjuna and Krshna to the two sages, Nara and Narayana. As a devotee of that devarshi, Arjuna would have access to the nobles (devas).
Return to Kamyaka grove
Vyasa advised Yudhishtira to move to a better forest than Dvaitavana where they were then staying. It was not advisable to stay in the same place for it developed attachment to it. Yudhishtiras support to Brahmans who recited aloud the Vedic hymns was disliked by the tapasvis who needed an atmosphere of peace, Vyasa pointed out. After teaching him the science of yoga, Vyasa left that wood. Yudhishtira and the Pandavas too moved to Kamyakavana with their ministers and soldiers camped there. (Ch.36 Vanaparva)
Yudhishtira conveyed to Arjuna Vyasas expectations from him and his prediction (pratismrti) that if Arjuna managed to obtain the necessary weapons from the nobles who had withdrawn from active participation in the administration of the core society, it would facilitate the victory of the Pandavas in the inevitable war with the Kauravas. Arjuna accordingly went to the northern Himalayan ranges and met Indra, Samkara (Mahadeva), and the officials, Kubera, Varuna and Yama and convinced them about his mission and acquired the powerful weapons that had been withdrawn from use and kept in Indras armoury. Indra would not allow them to be put into use unless Mahadeva permitted such use.
New social order as envisaged by Mahadeva
The note that Mahadeva restored to Arjuna the famous bow, Gandiva which Agni had given to the latter when he destroyed the Khandava forest indicates that the senior noble and socio-political ideologue had contemplated an end to the prolonged conflict between aristocrats (devas) and feudal lords (asuras) and the kshatriyas who belonged to the commonalty (manushyas) not getting involved in that conflict. The powerful Pasupata weapon was capable of destroying the social universes (jagats) at the end of the war and the cadres of intransigent plutocrats (danavas), their unruly militant guards (rakshasas), kings, members of the counter-intelligentsia (pisacas), the intellectuals-cum-warriors (gandharvas) and the divers (pannagas). It is implied that Mahadeva visualised the emergence of a larger organised and peaceful society with less diversities than existing then.
The kshatriyas (kings) of the commonalty were to keep away from the nobles as well as the feudal lords and respect the conditions of the agreement between these two wings of the erstwhile governing elite that the two would neither harm the commonalty (manushyas) or control them or use them against others. The end of this conflict however left the commonalty open to influence and coercion by some sections of the other sectors of the larger society, the plutocrats, the technocrats, the free-lance warriors, the forest guards etc.
The nobles and the feudal lords would withdraw from the frontier society and would not engage themselves in the activities of these cadres or even try to stop their undesirable influence over the lives of the commoners. Arjuna needed the Pasupata weapon to protect the lives and livestock and property of the commoners from these elements. Mahadeva agreed to oblige him and taught him how to use it and how to withdraw it after using it against a specific target. He said that the Vedic officials designated as Mahendra, Kubera, Varuna and Yama did not know the latter step. These four officials had jurisdiction over the aristocracy (devas), plutocrats (yakshas), feudal lords (asuras) and commoners (manushyas).
Mahadeva found that these Vedic officials were trained in using their powers effectively. But sensible administration required that the powers to punish should be used more for deterrence than for wiping out the deviants. Besides after the purpose of deterrence was served the deviant should no longer be treated as a guilty person in the eyes of the public or the law-enforcing agencies. Mahadeva found that the existing dandaniti and principles of war did not train the administrators and generals how to refrain from continuing the threat of coercive action after it had served its purpose.
The science of pratismrti while outlining the laws that were to be implemented in the near future was based on the neo-Vedic socio-political constitution (Brahma) that Vyasa had in mind. It may be treated as a social code alternative to the one in force till then. As Arjuna reported to his godfather, Indra, that he had met in person Mahadeva, Indra was pleased. The new science of pratismrti not only envisaged the withdrawal of both the liberal nobles (devas) and the authoritarian feudal warlords (asuras) from the ruling elite but also absorption of many of them in the new class of dynamic Rajanyas who would be superior to the administrators-cum-warriors known as kshatras.
Arjuna and the creation of a new social order
The rich yakshas who were found to be gentle and the nagas who took part in building a new urban civilisation and in marine economy were recognised as devatas and granted a status almost equal to the cultural aristocrats, devas. But the ambitious rich who lacked humaneness were treated as danavas and were not granted immunity. The administrators of the commonalty were free to target them. Similarly the pannagas, miners and divers, were not free from being taken to task for their cruelty. Arjuna was required to realise what major social change was on the anvil. It was not enough to withdraw the authority of the officials who belonged to the aristocracy to run the administration of the expanded society. A new political system had to be installed in its place. Arjuna, who was a Nara, a member of the commonalty, but was free from the codes of its clans and communities (kuladharmas and jatidharmas), would lead this move.
Varuna who represented the interests of the technocrats of the forest and the mariners (nagas) and also the feudal lords (asuras) who had given up their arms and agreed to fulfil their social obligations as elders (pitrs, jyeshtas) and the sages who had attained perfection (saddhyas) and the cadres of nobles (devas) who honoured him as ombudsman of an anarchist society and the marine population received this new missionary, Arjuna. Kubera too led the plutocrats (yakshas) to receive him. Under the neo-Vedic constitution Kubera had jurisdiction over the open space (akasa) and was in charge of the treasury. He replaced Indra as the official in charge of the treasury. The frontier society (antariksham) was no longer under the jurisdiction of Kubera and the yakshas. It came under the jurisdiction of Soma, the head of the sober intelligentsia.
Vyasa and Yudhishtira, the son of the official designated as Dharma, were preparing Arjuna for his new mission. Dharma was known also as Yama. This official appointed by the nobility conducted himself like a commoner, manushya. In other words, the socio-cultural code, dharma, and the officials implementing it did not have jurisdiction over the nobility, devas. The elders, pitrs, who stabilised the social world (loka) of commonalty, accompanied this official. [It is unsound to interpret the term, pitrs, as implying the souls of the dead ancestors and Yama as god of death.] Yama or Dharma was vested with the power (danda) necessary to penalise those who violated the code.
The chronicler said that the new social order put an end to the existence of the subaltern (pranis who were at the bare subsistence level). [He implied that Manu Surya Savarni who assumed charge by the time Parikshit ascended the throne of Hastinapura after the battle of Kurukshetra (by the end of Dvapara Yuga and beginning of Kali Yuga) introduced this new social order.] This class was not cruelly exterminated but was included in the class of Shudras who were not eligible to hold personal property or for formal education but had to work for their livelihood.
The new social order presided over by Yama took into account the concept of individual freedom underlying svadharma, svakarma and svabhava and permitted every social group to have its own structure, svarupa. Yama, described as son of Vivasvan (surya, sun) also introduced the concept of all dharmas being protected by the state as its duty and prerogative (rajadharma).
The chronicler said that Yama appeared before Arjuna keeping aside the objections raised by the three social cadres (lokas), the guhyakas who protected the secrets of nature and the weapons kept in secret chambers, the gandharvas who protested against granting a commoner access to the nobility, a privilege that they had hitherto enjoyed and the pannagas, the guardians of the rich subterranean mines including the coral reefs. Yama told Arjuna that he and other protectors (Indra, Kubera and Varuna) of the different social worlds recognised him as a member of the commonalty (manushya) though he was a follower of the principles of conduct prescribed in the past by the constitution, Brahma, for a free man, nara. [A manushya did not have the same freedoms as a nara had.]
Arjuna was required to conquer his grandfather, Bhishma, who was an offspring of a Vasu (by the apsaras, Ganga). [Vasus were one of the four groups of traditional nobles.] He was also eligible to conquer the Kshatriya class that was protected by Dronacharya and had its civil rights protected. [Drona had the status of Agni in the Kuru polity.] Yama said that Arjuna (as a free man, nara) was eligible to destroy the feudal lords, asuras, though the new constitution prohibited the commoners (manushyas) from fighting against them. In other words, the organised clans and communities of the agro-pastoral plains were required to honour and obey the liberal nobles stationed in the cities as well as the feudal lords who were entrenched in the forts which overlooked the plains. Asuras enjoyed certain immunities, were nivadhakavacas (wore protective shields, as commonly understood).
Yama also permitted him to kill Karna, a son of Surya and who hence was equal to Yama in status. Yama told him that there was no bar on his killing the former nobles (devas) and free warriors and intellectuals (gandharvas) and the forest guards (rakshasas) who had joined the commonalty (bhumi). They could no longer claim to be eligible for the immunity they had against death sentence that Yama as magistrate was empowered to inflict on the commoners (manushyas) for their crimes. Yama empowered Arjuna to use the magisterial powers (danda) that the former had.
Varuna, who was the charismatic chief (isvara) of all the living beings dependent on water resources of the larger society, looked after the interests of the western region during the Vedic times. [Indra looked after the eastern region, Kubera after the northern and Yama after the south.] He empowered Arjuna to take into custody the recalcitrant feudal lords (asuras). He claimed that even Yama could be kept in restraint by that authority. The chronicler implied that during the later Vedic times, the official designated as Varuna defined the limits within which every one could function, whether it was the magistrate, Yama, or the civil judge, Agni. This power could free the commonalty especially of the agrarian tracts (bhumi) from the control of the warriors, kshatriyas and submission to and dependence on the state.
Kubera who headed the new plutocracy that accepted most of the orientations upheld by the cultural aristocracy but enforced stricter norms with respect to the right to personal property told Arjuna that the latter was earlier a noble (as he was born to one who held the rank of Indra) but then was a free man (nara). Sanatana dharma granted the status of free man to every commoner and enabled him to exercise the rights and duties of such a free man.
Sasvata Dharma as legislated by Manava Dharmasastra did not grant such recognition and such rights and privileges to the commoners as the older social code, sanatana dharma which was closer to the laws of the early Vedic times based on Rta did. As nara, he was not totally subordinate to his clan (kula) or community (jati) or class (varna) or his economic organisation (sreni) or the administration of his country (desa). Unless such partial freedom was given one would not be able to hold personal property.
Arjuna had earlier been engaged in severe endeavour (tapas) to achieve new knowledge and new means. This had required him to be associated with the plutocrats. Addressing him as the best among the commoners (manushyas) Kubera offered to give him the knowledge (jnana) that had been the privilege of the aristocrats (devas).This would help him to conquer those the commoners (manushyas) could not conquer. It would give him charismatic power besides power of the state organs (indriyas,sense organs), value of counsel (mind) and the ability to send to sleep, to mesmerise the opponents. He would be able to target them from his hiding. Kubera said that Samkara had used this method to destroy the three fortified cities of the warlords.
Indra offered him his own chariot and also the services of his charioteer, Matali, and his special weapons and asked him to prepare himself fully for war. Indra asked Arjuna to stay with him for some time and arranged apsarases for his entertainment but he did not fall in their trap. He introduced Lomaca, a Brahmarshi (sage who knew the socio-political constitution) to Arjuna. Arjuna requested Lomaca to meet Yudhishtira and protect him against the dangerous forest guards and advise him to be constantly on the move from one tirtha (academic and social centre) to another. As Sanjaya reported to Dhrtarashtra what he had learnt from his spies about the activities of Yudhishtira and his brothers, the king became worried about the dangers that were ahead for his sons. (Ch.46-48 Vanaparva)