In Dialogue with the Mahābhārata  book cover
1st Edition

In Dialogue with the Mahābhārata

ISBN 9780367547271
Published April 29, 2022 by Routledge
228 Pages

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Book Description

The Mahābhārata has been explored extensively as a work of mythology, epic poetry, and religious literature, but the text’s philosophical dimensions have largely been under-appreciated by Western scholars. This book explores the philosophical implications of the Mahābhārata by paying attention to the centrality of dialogue, both as the text’s prevailing literary expression and its organising structure. Focusing on five sets of dialogues about controversial moral problems in the central story, this book shows that philosophical deliberation is an integral part of the narrative. Black argues that by paying attention to how characters make arguments and how dialogues unfold, we can better appreciate the Mahābhārata’s philosophical significance and its potential contribution to debates in comparative philosophy today.

This is a fresh perspective on the Mahābhārata that will be of great interest to any scholar working in religious studies, Indian/South Asian religions, comparative philosophy, and world literature.

Table of Contents



1 Bhīṣma’s Vows

2 Draupadī’s Marriage

3 Duryodhana’s Despair / Yudhiṣṭhira’s Decision

4 Draupadī’s Questions

5 Kṛṣṇa’s Conversations



Appendix I

Appendix II

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Brian Black received his MA and PhD at SOAS (University of London) and is now a lecturer in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. His research interests include Indian religion and philosophy, comparative philosophy, the use of dialogue in Indian religious and philosophical texts, and Hindu and Buddhist ethics. He is author of the book The Character of the Self in Ancient India: Priests, Kings, and Women in the Early Upaniads.


‘In an ocean of studies on the Grand Epic – The Mahābhārata – Brian Black’s voice is unique, fresh and compelling. In a careful and detailed dialogic reading of select plots involving central characters like Bhishma, Draupadi, Duryodhana and Sri Krishna, the author points out inherent dialogicality in the epic text. This work is an important contribution to Indological and Dialogic Studies’.

Lakshmi Bandlamudi, Professor, City University of New York.

‘This wonderfully rich book by Brian Black emphasizes the often noted subtlety of the dharma in the Mahābhārata, and brilliantly shows how that subtlety carries different connotations depending on who is speaking, and the circumstances. This insightful work provides depth and specificity to our view of the text’s presentation of the dharma as subtle, and is a major contribution to our understanding of the Mahābhārata’.

Bruce M. Sullivan, Professor Emeritus, Northern Arizona University.