Author: Nicholas SuttonPublisher: Motilal BanarsidassYear: 2000Language: EnglishPages: 477ISBN/UPC (if available): 8120817001
This study offers an analysis of the epic's teachings and the specific answers it gives to major questions of religious thinking such as the nature of God, ethics etc.Though it is widely known as an epic text that recounts the exploits of heroes, gods and villains, the Mahabharata is equally significant as a repository of the principal religious doctrines of the Hindu tradition from the period immediately following the rise of Buddhism in India. Without imposing any reconceived theory of overall meaning, this study delineates the major themes of religious ideology offered by the great epic in a way that does justice to the rich variety of material contained in its corpus.It thus functions on one level as a catalogue of doctrines, indicating where specific religious ideas are presented in the Mahabharata in a manner that allows sections equal merit whether they be a part of the central narrative or the didactic interludes that punctuate the principal story. This study further offers an analysis of the depicts teachings by seeking to identify its principal doctrinal tendencies and the specific answers it gives to major questions of religious thinking such as the nature of God, the path to Salvation, cosmic and personal eschatology, ethics and the authority of scripture. Ultimately it is recognized that whilst it is legitimate to speak of 'epic thought' in a general sense, the Mahabharata represents above all the rich diversity of Hindu religious ideas. It does not have merely one aim or one ideology but allows various concepts and systems of thought to exist alongside each other, challenging the reader to accept diversity rather than a rigid creed and to explore rather than resolve the inevitable tensions existing in the varied human responses to the phenomenon of religion.
IntroductionCHAPTER 1BACKGROUND TO AND MAJOR THEMES OF EPIC THOUGHTò Introductionò The Epic Periodò Complexities and Contradictionsò Major Themes in Epic Thoughtò Summary and ConclusionCHAPTER 2ò Introductionò Review of Works Referred to by the Mahabharataò The Mahabharata's View of its Own Statusò The Mahabharata's View of the Vedas and Previous Scriptures ò The Nation of Wisdom as opposed to Scriptural Learningò Reinterpretation of the Vedasò Summary and ConclusionsCHAPTER 3RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION IN THE MAHABHARATAò Introductionò The Mahabharata's Teachings on Social Structureò Communal Religious Practice and Worshipò Religious Organisation from the perspective of Nivrttiò Religious Organisation from the perspective of Bhaktiò Summary and ConclusionsCHAPTER 4EPIC SOTERIOLOGYò Introductionò Definition of the Problem of Life in this Worldò Attainment of Svarga-lokaò The Path to Complete Salvation, Moksa-Dharmaò The Soteriology of the Bhagavad-Gitaò Summary and ConclusionsCHAPTER 5EPIC THEISM : THE NATURE OF GODò Introductionò The Iconography of Narayana in the Mahabharataò The Concept of Avatara in the Mahabharataò Non-Vaisnava Theismò Syncretism of Visnu and Sivaò Epic Monotheismò Additional Features of Epic Theismò The Existence of God in Relation to Humanityò ConclusionCHAPTER 6EPIC ESCHATOLOGYò Introductionò Cosmic Eschatologyò Individual Eschatologyò Samsara, The Doctrine of Rebirthò The Concept of Moksaò The State of Salvation According to the Doctrine of Bhaktiò The State of Moksa According to the Bhagavad-Gitaò ConclusionCHAPTER 7THE MAHABHARATA'S TEACHINGS ON ETHICSò Introductionò The Ethics of Sva-dharmaò Ethics and Moralityò The Ethics of the Ascetic Traditionò The Tensions Between the Different Ethical Tendenciesò The Ethics of the Bhagavad-Gitaò Overview and ConclusionsCHAPTER 8THE MAHABHARATA'S UNDERSTANDING OF HUMANITYò The Distinction Between the Self and Matterò The Divine Nature of the Selfò The Epic's Understanding of Human Psychologyò The Presence of the Atman in the Prana, and as a Manikin in the Heartò The Uniqueness of Humanityò The Hierarchy of Humanityò The Questions of Human Perfectibilityò Summary and ConclusionsCHAPTER 9THE CONTROL OF DESTINY OVER HUMAN EXISTENCEò The Role of Destiny in the Epicò The Predestined Nature of Humanityò The Conflict of Opinion over Destinyò ConclusionsCHAPTER 10CREATION : THE EPIC'S TEACHINGS ON THE ORIGINS OF THE WORLDò Eternality and Repeated Creationsò The Mythic Understanding of Creationò The Samkhya Concept of Creationò Conclusionsò Theodicy : The Problem of Suffering in CreationCHAPTER11THE MAHABHARATA'S TEACHINGS ON GENDERò Introductionò Passages Offering Teachings on Genderò Female Characters in the Epic Narrativeò Conclusions regarding Dharma-sastra and the Narrativeò The Ascetic Traditionò OverviewCHAPTER 12CONCLUSION : THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MAHABHARATA'S TEACHINGSò Introductionò The Question of Right Actionò Ritual and Virtue in Religious Beliefò The Yoga View of the Worldò Understanding of the Nature of Godò Political and Social Actionò Approach to Establishing Doctrineò ConclusionsBibliographyIndex