Author: Abhinav Agarwal

Lessons from Mahabharata: Envy – II

In the first part of this two part series focusing on the emotion of Envy, we learnt that despite the popular belief and the main proponent of the emotion in the epic tale, Duryodhan wasn’t the only person driven by envy. Let us now continue with more examples of envy as we meander through other stories and in the process receive our lessons from Mahabharata. While we are at it, let’s also see if there is some common thread connecting them. Having married Droupadi and having settled in Indraprastha, the Pandvas were once visited by the sage Narada. They all greeted the sage, and after Droupadi left, Narada had a pointed question for the Pandavas. Given Droupadi’s beauty, how were they going to head off the green-headed monster that was envy? To illustrate his point, he told them the story of the two invincible asuras Sunda and Upasunda, who once lived in Kurukshetra. Yes, all roads did seem to lead to Kurukshetra. Sunda and Upasunda were the sons of Nikumba, who belonged to Hiranyakashipu’s lineage. …

Lessons from Mahabharata: Envy – I

That Duryodhana was driven by envy is known to all. He is also perhaps the best known example of an envious man in the entire epic. His whole life was one long, never ending, rage against his cousins, the Pandavas, who he thought had the better of everything – whether the palace at Indraprastha, whether a beautiful wife in Droupadi, whether in riches, his own “ordinary prosperity” never pleased him, was never enough. That much is well known. What is also known is that if Duryodhana’s envy was like a forest fire, it was Shakuni, his maternal uncle, that kept that fire burning. And we also know that Dhritarashtra, Duryodhana’s blind father was blind to every single fault of his son, turning a literal and figurative blind eye to his son’s faults. But what about Gandhari? When Pandu was living the life of forced bachelorhood, in mortal fear of Sage Kimdama’s curse, he turned to his wife Kunti to beget sons. Kunti had Sage Durvasa’s mantra that she used to summon Yama, who begat Yudhishtra. …

Lessons from Mahabharata: The Leader’s Temperament – A Leadership Masterclass from the Mahabharata

Let’s talk about the role of a CEO and what advice would a board advisor give to an incoming CEO? Yes, this is still about the Mahabharta, but we are going to take a detour before getting there. To strive to maximize shareholder value, to watch out for market trends and unforeseen macroeconomic headwinds, to hire the best, to not ignore the advice of advisors, to put down indiscipline with a firm hand, to be approachable yet not play favourites, and so on. This is the basic ingredient from which tens of thousands of management books, seminars, articles, and more are churned out each year. In a modern context, while the use of the word “king” may be anachronistic, the basic import of the the Raj-dharma parva of the Mahabharata retains much of its value and relevance. If you substitute the word “king” with “chief minister” or “prime minister”, or with “CEO” or “Managing Director”, the advice given to the king then could very well be applied to the leaders of today. When asked by …

Book Review: Londonistan

As Britain becomes more multi-cultural and more heterogeneous a society, it has also had to face a most unfortunate consequence of this intermingling. People – immigrants – who have turned against their motherland. The London terrorist attacks of 2005 brought this problem to the forefront for much of Britain – “The realization that British boys would want to murder their fellow citizens was bad enough.” What some have perceived as a lax and permissive attitude among the intelligentsia to the sprouting of Islamic fundamentalism has led to the coinage of a pejoration: “Londonistan” – “a mocking play on the names of such state sponsors of terrorism as Afghanistan”, and the despair that London itself has become “the major European center for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamic terror and extremism.” This book, then, is a scathing look at the players that have led to, in the author’s view, a surrender to the forces of Islamic fundamentalism in Britain. In the author’s view, and backed by considerable data, such a pejoration – the term ‘Londonistan’ …

Lessons From Mahabharata – Stri Parva and Gandhari’s Curse

How do you curse God, and do it justifiably so? What is the arc of the geometry of rage? Does it rise up into a crescendo and then subside after it has found an outlet? Or does it ebb and flow, crest and trough? How does one react to being cursed? How would God react to such a curse? As curses go, there are many instances in the Puranas of gods being cursed. Indra is perhaps in the unfortunate position of being the recipient of the most curses. Even Vishnu was cursed by Narada to be born as a human. Dharma was cursed, and was born as Vidura. The Vasus were cursed and had to be born as the sons of Ganga. But a god being cursed? Gandhari cursing Krishna is possibly one without parallel. Not only did Gandhari curse Krishna, she cursed his entire tribe, the race of the Yadavas. In it, there are several lessons to be learned. Mahabharata, Volume 5, Gorakhpur Gita Press Gandhari’s rage rose when she met Bhima after the …

Lessons from Mahabharata – The Mother Who Abandoned Her Son, and the Mother Who Did Not

Kunti abandoned her first-born son, Karna, almost immediately after birth. Gandhari aborted her first foetus out of frustration. There-in lies a tale of two mothers. Kunti did not abort Karna. Perhaps the swiftness with which Karna was born after her union with Lord Surya did not afford her the opportunity, or perhaps she did not want to, since feticide was an abominable crime. In any case, what the Mahabharata tells us that she did not keep this child. She abandoned him, and the infant was found by the charioteer and raised by his wife, Radha, as their own son. Kunti went on to marry the Kuru king, Pandu, becoming the mother of the five Pandavas. Three of the sons were hers, and two were Madri’s. Had she allowed herself to be stained with the stigma of unwed motherhood, perhaps there would not have been a Kunti as we know her. She would not have been even a footnote in the Mahabharata. What happened after Kunti abandoned Karna? He grew up to become a warrior, a …

Book Reviews – Rama and Ayodhya and The Battle for Rama

The diffusion of propaganda requires repetition. In the words of someone many leftists have secretly admired for long, repetition is what makes propaganda successful (the full quote is (bold-emphasis mine), “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over“. This was a strategy used to brilliant success by militant Islamists, communist historians, and Indologists of dubious integrity in the west during the Ayodhya movement in the 1980s and 90s. The lie that was exposed by the Allahabad High Court was this – that there had been no structure beneath the Babri mosque, and certainly no temple, that the mosque had come up on barren land. Some of the other lies were even more imaginative – that Ayodhya itself was a mythical city and therefore the present day Ayodhya bore no connection with the Ayodhya of the Ramayana, and so on. The evidence presented to the contrary was impressive and …

Urban Naxals – The Making of Buddha In A Traffic Jam

Book: Urban Naxals- The Making of Buddha In A Traffic Jam, by Vivek Agnihotri Author: Vivek Agnihotri Since the beginning of civilization, the favoured method of barbarians out to destroy great civilizations was to destroy their places of learning. Most Mayan writings of the Aztecs were destroyed by Bishop Landa of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Yucatán, while other Catholic priests burned the great Aztec library of Netza Hualcoyotl in Mexico City in the sixteenth century. Pope Gregory the Great ordered the library of Palatine Apollo burned in the late sixth century. The great library of Alexandria, perhaps the greatest library in the western world, was burned at the urging of Christian Bishop Theophilos. The largest library in the world at the time, at Nalanda, which contained an estimated hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji’s hordes in 1193 CE. During the twentieth century, thousands of books were burned by the German Student Union in Nazi Germany in 1933. Things have now changed. Universities, or libraries, are no longer seen as places to …

The Friendless God

The Friendless God

Book: The Friendless God by S. Anuradha Publisher: Moonlight Books (1 August 2017) ISBN-10: 8193264363 ISBN-13: 978-8193264362 This is the tale of three people, a god, and the relationship the three have with Rama, their god. One seeks to find Rama, the other, having forsaken Rama, fights a losing battle with herself and her son to keep Rama out of their lives, while the third stumbles upon Rama as a way to a better life. Their lives intersect, diverge, and converge over the course of the story. Vaidehi abandons singing and Rama after criticism of her Tamil-laced rendition of Tyagaraja kritis, and brings up her son Kodandarama, truncating his name to Kodanda, and stripping both his name and life of Rama. Kodanda – truncated from Kondanarama, Vaidehi’s son, grows up knowing nothing about Rama or god, but ends up searching for an answer to his question – why does Rama have no friends, despite being sought by millions. Then there is Raman, an orphan with the street-sense that takes him far. The denouement of the book edges …

The OM Mala

The OM Mala – Meanings Of The Mystic Sound, by Nityanand Misra

Book: The OM Mala by Nityanand Misra Reviewer: Abhinav Agarwal The meaning of the word Om is not something most of us ponder over. Om is a sacred incantation, a symbol, a mantra, and more to countless believers. But the word is a lot more. Its meaning and significance is beyond the mere word or the sound or the symbol. Nityananda Misra’s book, “The Om Mala: Meanings of the Mystic Sound”, brings to the lay reader, perhaps for the first time, all the myriad meanings of this wondrous word. In the author’s words, “This book presents eighty-four names of OM and their meanings in accordance with multiple Sanskrit texts including not only Hindu scriptures but also secular texts like dictionaries, poems, plays, and treatises on music, grammar, and Ayurveda.” These eighty-four names are explained in 109 beads – 108 chanting beads and one sumeru bead, each bead taking up approximately two pages each. Perhaps the most common meaning of OM results from the rules of grammar itself, where the word OM is the result of three …