Saunaka Kulapati

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Previous Post: Rishi Vaishampayana Sets the Stage With a Brief Story of the Pandavas

Note: In the previous post, we read a brief summary of the Pandavas’ life.

In this post, Rishi Vaishampayana informs us about the benefits of reading the Mahabharata.

Janamejaya said, “O great brahmin, after hearing your summary of the Pandavas, my thirst to hear the entire story has increased even more. Why did those great Pandavas suffer so much? Why did such strong warriors allow themselves to be persecuted by the Kurus? And why did they kill their own kin and gurus? They could not have slain Bhishmaa and Drona without a compelling reason. What was that reason? Tell me everything, O Brahmana.”

Vaishampayana replied. “O king, this history told by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, of immeasurable mental power, is very long. It consists of 100,000 shlokas. Appoint an appropriate time for its narration and I will tell you everything. But, let me first tell you what this great history contains and the benefits of hearing it.”

The person who recites the Mahabharata to others and those who listen to it attain the world of Brahma Deva. This history is holy and excellent. It is equal to the Vedas. The great Rishis also worship this history. It is considered to be a Purana.

It contains useful teachings on artha and kama and it creates the desire for moksha in one’s heart.

The learned earn wealth by reciting it to those who are liberal, truthful, and have faith. 

Great past sins can be negated by listening to this history. Just like the Sun is liberated from Rahu (after an eclipse), those who are cruel and sinful can be liberated from their sins by listening to this story. This history is itself like a mighty sacrifice that produces blessed fruits. Listening to it is a great act of propitiation.

This story is also called Jaya. It should be heard by those who want to be victorious. By hearing it, a king can conquer his foes and reign over the world. A young king should listen to this history with his queen because it will help them give birth to a heroic son or daughter who can reign on the throne after them.

Rishi Vyasa himself said that this history contains the sacred science of dharma, artha, and moksha. He composed it to do good to the world and bring fame to the high-souled Pandavas and other high-souled kshatriyas who were well-versed in all branches of knowledge. Just as this story is being recited in the present times, it will be recited in the future also.

There are some who read this history with the intention to find fault in it. Such people do not benefit from this story. However, those who read it in the right spirit will gain tremendous benefit. They will have no fear of problems or death. They will also be free of sins committed through their body, mind, or words.

This excellent, sacred, and heavenly work gives fame and long life. A person who desires religious (spiritual) merit should organise an event where brahmins can  listen to this history. Such a person gains inexhaustible merit and virtue. The person who recites this story of the various generations of the Kurus becomes purified and acquires a large family.

This history – the Bharata – is equivalent to the Vedas, and the person who has studied it may be regarded as one acquainted with the Vedas. The brahmin who regularly studies this history in the four months of the rainy season has all his sins cleansed. 

This history presents an account of the Devas, the royal sages, the sacred rishis, the sinless Kesava (Sri Krishna who was the God of the Devas), Mahadeva and Goddess Parvati. It informs us about the birth of Kartikeya who was born from the union of Mahadev and Parvati and was then raised by many mothers. It describes the greatness of brahmins and cows. 

This story is a collection of all the Srutis and is fit to be heard by every virtuous person.

The learned person who recites this story to the brahmins during the sacred lunations is cleansed of all sins, and even if such a person does not care for heaven, he reaches Brahma Deva’s world. The person who causes even a small part of this history to be heard by brahmins during a shraddha ceremony makes the shraddha inexhaustible. His pitris become ever gratified by the articles presented to them.

People commit sins every day through their senses or their mind. Some sins are committed knowingly while others are committed unknowingly. All these sins are destroyed by sincerely hearing the Mahabharata.

This history of the exalted birth of the Bharata princes is called the Mahabharata. He who understands the etymology of this name is cleansed of all sins. This history of the Bharata princes is so wonderful that it purifies the person who recites it and the person who hears it. They who have the desire to acquire virtue should hear the entire story.

Rishi Vyasa composed this history in three years. Every day, he would rise, purify himself, perform his ascetic devotions, and work on composing the Mahabharata. That’s why, brahmins should hear this history with the formality of a vow. 

It is said that the joy one gets from hearing this history is greater than the joy of heaven. This story, which is the equivalent of all histories put together, gives the listener purity of heart.

It is said that the Mahabharata has as many gems as the great ocean or Mount Meru. The virtuous person who hears this story or helps others hear it gains the fruit of the Rajasuya Yagna and the horse sacrifice.

This history is sacred and excellent and is equivalent to the Vedas. It is pleasing to the ear, it increases pleasure, cleanses the sins, and is worthy of hearing. 

O king, the person who gives a copy of the Bharata to someone who asks for it performs an action that is equivalent to gifting the entire earth with all her oceans.

O son of Parikshit, now I will recite this beautiful history composed by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. O king, whatever is contained in the Mahabharata with respect to virtue, wealth, pleasure, and liberation may be found elsewhere, but what is not contained in the Mahabharata will not be found anywhere. Such is the immensity of this history that grants virtue to those who hear it, so listen to it carefully.

Note: In the next post, we will find out how Satyavati, the matriach of the Kurus, was born from a King and an Apsara.

Table of Contents (The Complete Mahabharata in Simple English)

Next Post: Satyavati’s Birth

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Note: The last 18 posts have summarized the contents of the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata. Vyasa Muni has narrated 2 more parvas in the appendix (khita). They are known as Harivansha (containing 12000 shlokas) and Vavishya. However, a summary of these parvas has not been provided. 

Just to reiterate, eighteen akshauhinis of troops gathered for a terrible battle on the field of Kurukshetra. The intense battle lasted for eighteen days. 

It’s interesting how the number 18 keeps coming up in the Mahabharata. 18 parvas, 18 akshauhinis, and 18 days of battle. I don’t know (as yet) if there is any significance to this number. I’ll update the post if I am able to find out.

Vyasa Muni of immense intelligence has said that the Mahabharata is a treatise on artha, dharma, and kama. A person who knows the four Vedas with all the Angas and Upanishads, but does not know this history (Mahabharata), cannot be regarded as wise. 

Just as a person who has listened to the sweet sounds of a male kokila bird cannot bear to listen to the sounds of a crow’s cawing, a person who has listened to the Mahabharata cannot bear to listen to other (lesser) histories.

Just like the formation of the three worlds proceeds from the five elements (earth, water, fire air, and space), the inspiration of all poets originates in this excellent epic.

Just like the four kinds of creatures (viviparous, oviparous, born of hot moisture, and vegetables) depend on space for existence, the Puranas depend upon this epic for their existence.

Just like all the senses depend on the modifications of the mind for their exercise, all ceremonial acts and moral qualities depend upon this epic. 

Just like the body depends upon the food it has eaten, all stories of this world depend upon this epic.

Servants who desire to rise in the eyes of their employers always attend upon masters of good lineage. Similarly, all poets cherish the Mahabharata (because it is considered to be a work of nobility and good lineage).  

Just like the blessed grihasta (domestic) asrama cannot be surpassed by the three other asramas (modes of life), no poet can surpass this poem.

Note: Sauti stresses the following words as he addresses the ascetics of the Naimisha forest. They describe the benefits one can acquire by reading the Mahabharata. 

O ascetics, remove inaction from your being, and fix your hearts on virtue because virtue is the only friend you can take with you to the other world (after death). People often desire wealth and wives, but these are not permanent. People who cherish such things, however intelligent they may be, can never make these their own. They can never take their wealth and wives with them to the next world. However, the Mahabharata narrated by Ved Vyasa is unparalleled. It is sacred and virtue itself.

This epic destroys sin and produces good. It is said that the person who listens to this epic does not need to take a bath in the sacred waters of the Pushkara.

Whatever sins a brahmana may have committed during the day are released if he (truly) reads this composition in the evening. Similarly, wherever sins he may have committed during the night are released if he reads this composition at the break of dawn.

People desirous of merit often gift cattle to wise and intelligent brahmanas. However, one can acquire the same merit by reading or listening to the sacred narrations of the Mahabharata.

Note: After describing the benefits of the Mahabharata, Sauti describes the benefits of reading the summaries of the 18 parvas.

Just like the massive ocean can be crossed by those who have ships, this massive history can be read with the assistance of the summaries and this sub-parva known as the Parva Sangraha.”

With this, we end the section called the Parva Sangraha. 

Note: If you look at the table of contents, you will notice that the Parva Sangraha began with the post that described the strength of one akshauhini and ends with this post. 

In the next post, we will begin the sub-parva of the Adi Parva called the Paushya Parva.

Table of Contents

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