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Mahabharata Podcast
By Lawrence Manzo
About this podcast
This podcast is for anyone interested in the Epic Literature of India, its spiritual philosophies, the life and background of Krishna, and all the fascinating stories from the great epic The Mahabharata.
Episodes (Total: 107)
June 23, 2016
Episode 33These are the last three stories of the long series of tales in the Book of the Forest.  The Pandavas are finishing up their pilgrimage across India and are moving northward for their rendezvous with Arjun.  The first story, Yavakrita, is particularly interesting in that the protagonist is not a Twice-born.  In this case, he's a rude and uppity Vaishya, but he's the main character nonetheless.  I find the little detail about the Shudra gaurd particularly interesting.  He works for Yavakri's father, and he inexplicably blocks the boy from getting to safety, which results in Yavakri's death.  I can only guess that it was thought fitting that a Vaishya rapist be killed at the hands of an even lower-caste menial.Jantu seems to fit in among these stories in that it is another case of a Brahmin helping a king with his fertility problems.  In contrast to many of the other stories, the king's wives are distinctly un-heroic.The last story, the Hawk & the Dove, stands out as the most unusual of all the stories so far, especially because it involves a king, two gods, but NO BRAHMINS!  Where are the Brahmins?  The Book of the Forest is a very strong piece of propaganda about the importance of having well-bred Brahmins for all occasions, but then this strange tale caps them all off.This story has the strongest feel of Buddhism that I've seen so far in the Mahabharata.  The king's self-sacrifice is strongly reminiscent of other Buddhist stories in which the Boddhisatva sacrifices his own life for another's benefit.Next time, we'll finally get back to the deeds of our heroes, as they make their way to the hermitage of Nar-Narayan way up on the slopes of Mt. Kailash.
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 100 - I've put together my review of the epic, in its totality.  I discuss the strange way in which the epic goes into fine detail on some parts of the story, and breezes over others.  Some of the most critical moments in the story, like when Dhrtarastra was skipped and then later made king, or during the dice game, or in dealing with the birth & death of Krishna, the story is ambiguous and full of holes.  The only explanation that I can come up with is that the author himself may not have known exactly what took place in those scenes, so he tells us what he knows-- which isn't much.I talk about the three layers of religious philosophy in the epic-- Vedic Sacrifice, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti.  I propose that Karma Yoga was an innovation introduced by the Mahabharata, and I believe Bhakti was inspired by the epic, and subsequently the epic was modified to include that religion.  That would explain Krishna's promotion from country cousin to Top God...Next, I discussed some of the characters in the story-- reviewing their actions and whether they were fairly rated "good guys" or "bad guys" by the epic, and by modern listeners in general.Finally, I compare the epic with other literature, and compare the religious philosophy of the epic with other works and other religions.  I hope no one gets overly offended!  Please write in my blog and let me have it if I did.  I apologize in advance!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 99 - This is the final piece that brings us around, back to the beginning.  We covered some of this territory before, back in Episode 2, but at the time, it was hard to explain that Parikshit was Arjun's grandson and that Takshaka had an ancient feud with the dynasty going back to the fire at the Khandava Forest.  Also, back then we were anxious to get going with the story itself, and all the digressions with angry brahmins and talking snakes only made things confusing at the time.So now we have re-visited the beginning at our leisure, and now you know the circumstances in which the Mahabharata was first publicly recited.  The burnt snake guts must have still been warm when Vyasa's disciple Vaishampayana began the tale.So that's all for a while.  I am working on a commentary for episode 100-- reviewing the story and considering what was included and what was left out.  Please visit this blog (http://mahabharatapodcast.com) and leave comments, or questions, or any requests for what I should include in my final summing up of the epic!Thanks, Lawrence
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 98 - This is the first of two episodes that take us from the death of the Pandavas down to the Snake Sacrifice, held by Arjun's great-grandson.  We skimmed over this back at the beginning of the podcast, because back then we were unfamiliar with who all these people were.  But now it makes sense to bring it around to the beginning again.Not much is recorded about the life of Parikshit.  We only know about how he died, and the many snakes and Rishis who were involved in the process.So, I'm not quite through yet!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 97 - So this is it-- the final installment from the Mahabharata.  Book 18, the Svargarohanika Parva, is done, and the 18 parvas of the Mahabharata are now complete.Please be sure to visit my blog and let me know you made it!  And then treat yourself to something nice, because you have really accomplished something.We've reached the end of the story, but this isn't quite the end of the podcast.  You can expect a few more episodes-- an epilogue where the story is carried forward up to the time of the Snake Sacrifice. Following that, if you have any questions or points of discussion, I'd like to make the 100th episode a summing up of the entire podcast.  If there's anything you'd like me to address, let me know soon!Lawrence
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 96 - Arjun returns home with some bad news and some good news.  The bad news is that they have lost their powers and have lost their friends.  The good news is that they finally get to retire.  Yudhistira doesn't hesitate.  He strips off his fine garments and leads his brothers into retirement.  Krpa is put in charge of defense, Yuyutsu is made regent, and Parikshit is king.  Parikshit's grandmother Subhadra (Krishna's sister) is made Dowager Empress.The Pandavas then take a final tour of India, visiting even the former site of the magical city of Dwarka.  Finally, they head north, for Heaven, with their little dog Dharma.
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 95 - Krishna is dead.  Balaram is dead.  The city of Dwarka sinks beneath the waves, and the refugees of that once-great city are making their way to Indraprastha with only Arjun as their protector.  But the influence of the Kali Yuga pervades the earth, and Arjun is not the man he once was.  When the vulnerable procession is attacked by bandits, his magic quivers run out of arrows and his magical weapons no longer obey his command.  Only a fragment is saved, along with Krishna's grandson Vajra, who is made King of Indraprastha.
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 94 - The Dark Age is now unquestionably upon us.  The elder Kurus, living austere lives in the forest, found themselves consumed by a forest fire of their own creation.  Let this be a lesson to all you Hindu campers out there to douse your sacred campfires!!18 years later, things go from bad to worse when news arrives of the death of Krishna and all his relatives.  This story alone is deserving of an extended treatment, but we only get a sketchy account of how things went down. With the death of the Vrshnis, Krishna's work on earth is done.  He accepts his fate and embraces death when it comes to him.The Kali Yuga is here to stay, so I'll warn you now, don't expect things to get better!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 93 - The white horse returns home, only to be tied to a post, killed, & cut up into little pieces.  The priests do their best to follow the old rules, but there's no way Draupadi is going to pretend to copulate with a dead horse!Jump ahead 15 years and Dhrtarastra finally decides to take leave of worldly cares, and he, Gandhari, & Kunti leave for a forest ashram.  One year after that, the Pandavas and many citizens pay a visit to the old folks, where Vyasa allows them all to re-unite with their fallen relatives and friends.While some of the early books went on endlessly, the last few books of the epic are quite short, and we are going through about one book an episode at this point-- the story is nearly over!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 92 - This is another eventful episode.  Krishna & Arjun take a break and go on a leisure trip to Indraprastha, where it appears Arjun is king.  Both heroes have forgotten the Gita, so Krishna recalls another dialog along the same lines, which is called the Anugita.Krishna goes home, while the Pandavas go prospecting for gold in the hills.  While they are away, Parkshit is born, or rather still-born.  Krishna arrives in time to make good his promise and revives the kid.When the Pandavas return with their treasure, the white horse is set loose and the Ashwamedha is begun.  Arjun follows the beast across the length and breadth of India, defeating all comers and sending them as his guests to the sacrifice. Arjun meets one of his sons, the Prince of Manipur, and gets killed & revived along the way.
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 91 - We get treated to a last handful of the Final Teachings, and then Bhisma dies.  The poor guy set quite an objective for himself.  It must have been mid autumn when he was shot through with arrows, yet he clung to life until the Winter Solstice before finally giving up the ghost. He says he lived on the bed of arrows for a total of 58 days.Following his death, Yuddistira has another one of his fits of sorrow & regret, but he's snapped out of it by hearing a story about how the ancient king Marutta left a pile of gold in the mountains as part of his Ashwamedha sacrifice.  Yuddistira needs this gold, since his treasury was depleted by the war, and now everyone is telling him he needs to perform a super-expensive sacrifice!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 90 - A few more stories from Bhisma's final teachings.  We learn that Vyasa had a son, named Suka, who really did not seem to be pleased to be born.  And Bhisma himself tells us what he really thinks of Buddhist philosophy!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 89 - For some reason, the first three full-fledged stories from the Anusasana Parva all center around a Banian tree.  They also share the theme of low-caste hunters and their cruelty.   Remarkably, in the 2nd story the three characters are all saved, but all three die violently.  In the 3rd story, the Brahmin Gautama is an unreformed scoundrel, but he is brought back to life!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 88 - This episode begins the voluminous Last Teachings of Bhisma.  As Bhisma lies on his bed of arrows, the Pandavas, Krishna & Satyaki gather around to listen.  Yuddistira poses the questions, which mostly revolve around Dharma and kingship, and Bhisma answers.These teachings are exceptionally difficult to convey in the form of a podcast, mostly because they are so boring.  There are very few stories, and most of the stories revolve around conversations in which one character instructs the other on good behavior.  I have tried to extract the more interesting details from the book, and I included the most interesting of the stories.  Hopefully this is enough to convey the nature of this part of the epic, which makes up nearly a third of the entire text!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 87 - Yuddistira is finally convinced that he should remain king, and he gets down to business.  He marches straight to the palace and has himself anointed and consecrated.  He appoints his council and gets his kingdom in order.  As soon as he has a chance to catch his breath, Krishna suggests that they hurry over to uncle Bhisma, who isn't long for this world.Along the way, Krishna tells the story of Battleaxe Rama, who wiped out the race of Kshatriyas 21 times in succession.The podcast may be taking something of a hiatus after this episode.  We are now entering the section of the Mahabharata that is dedicated to Bhisma's teaching on Dharma.  This constitutes nearly one-third of the entire text, and from what I've seen so far, is extremely legalistic and detailed.  This means I will need to pour over a lot of text to extract enough information to make a full episode.  That may take a while.On the positive side, once we are through this section of Bhisma's teachings, we are almost at the end of the story!Thanks for sticking with me on this long journey.  I'll be sure to keep you posted as things develop.  Just keep watching this blog!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 86 - It seems like Yuddistira always had a secret desire to give up the world and live like a sadhu.  But now he has a pretty good justification-- after all, he even killed his elder brother.  Crimes like this demand extreme penance, and Yuddistira would like nothing better than to embrace that lifestyle.No one else agrees with the new king however, and his brothers, Krishna, and the Rishis all take turns trying to convince him that the best use of his life would be to take up the crown and rule, according to his dharma.They never quite seem to convince him, but Krishna and Narada at least manage to distract him with a story of a boy who crapped gold nuggets (Suvarnashthivin).  Also, Yuddistira has learned to always obey Krishna, and Krishna is adamant that he take up the throne and rule.  
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 85 - We begin the Book of Peace, the Shanti Parva.  After boasting to his uncle about his special clairvoyant powers, Yuddistira is blindsided by the news that he & Karna shared the same mother.  Now the Dharma Raja has learned that he killed his own brother-- aside from killing one's parents, perhaps one of the worst things a person could do.The brothers spend a month outside in the city walls as a sort of penance, and are joined by the great sages of the ancient world.  Narada comforts the brothers by telling stories of Karna's past.  The sage argues that Karna's life & circumstances were custom-designed to spark this war and ensure its completion. We finally learn of Karna's tutelage under Rama Jamadagnya (Parasurama), and we get the story of how he was cursed for killing a Brahmin's cow.  
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 84 - Vidur & Vyasa tell a few parables to help Dhrtarastra pull himself together.  When the king is finally pacified, he leads all the bereaved women of Hastinapur in a great procession to deal with their fallen men.  They march along the banks of the Ganga to Kurukshetra, where they encounter Ashwatthaman, Krpa & Krtavarman, who are still on the run after killing the Pandava's sons & allies.Ashwatthaman heads of to Vyasa's ashram, Krpa goes home to Hastinapur, and Krtavarman also heads for home.The procession later meets up with the Pandavas, fresh from Ashwatthaman's downfall, and together they proceed to the battlefield.  Following the great cremation, a memorial is conducted on the banks of the Ganga.  Kunti joins in and tells her sons to honor their fallen brother-- this is the first time the Pandavas were told they had a brother!
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 83 - The brothers learn of the massacre of their sons & allies, and summon Draupadi to break the news.  As usual, all she wants is revenge.  Thus the Pandavas go off on one final mission to avenge the death of their sons.  They track down Ashwatthaman and find him hanging out with Vyasa and Narada.  As soon as they set eyes on each other, the boy Brahmin sets off his Brahmashira weapon, which is 100s of times more powerful than the Brahmastra, and sounds a lot like a hydrogen bomb-- "All living things are destroyed and no rains fall for 12 years."The Rishis step in and order Arjun to put his guns away, but Ashwatthaman cannot retract this weapon once it is unleashed, so instead, he turns it loose on the wombs of the Pandava women, making them sterile and killing their one remaining heir-- Uttara's unborn son Parikshit.Fortunately, Krishna revives the kid, but there shall be no more Pandava offspring after this.To help explain how Ashwatthaman was able to pull off this massacre single-handedly, Krishna tells a few stories about Shiva, and just how temperamental and dangerous he can be.  In fact, Shiva really comes off as more of a force of nature than a Saddhu living in the hills.My guess is, that if we understood the physics of Time, we might realize that Shiva stands in for one of the main functions of time, which is change.  The other aspects of time are novelty (Brahma), and the moment of Now, which I believe is represented by Vishnu.
Feb. 8, 2015
Episode 82 - Well, it seems there is no end to the tit for tat revenge cycle that Duryodhana forced into motion so long ago.  Now that he has been defeated, his survivors seek revenge for his fall.  Ashwatthaman is unable to let it go, and since he is vastly outnumbered, he prays to Shiva for the power to kill his enemies.  Shiva allows him to exterminate the remains of the Pandava army while they sleep.  So now there will be another vendetta.  How much further can this go?  Find out next time!
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