Nonviolence in the Mahabharata
Siva’s Summa on Rishidharma and the Gleaners of Kurukshetra
In Indian mythological texts like the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa, there are recurrent tales about gleaners. The practice of "gleaning" in India had more to do with the house-less forest life than with residential village or urban life or with gathering residual post-harvest grains from cultivated fields. Gleaning can be seen a metaphor for the Mahābhārata poets’ art: an art that could have included their manner of gleaning what they made the leftovers (what they found useful) from many preexistent texts into Vyāsa’s “entire thought”—including oral texts and possibly written ones, such as philosophical debates and stories.
This book explores the notion of non-violence in the epic Mahābhārata. In examining gleaning as an ecological and spiritual philosophy nurtured as much by hospitality codes as by eating practices, the author analyses the merits and limitations of the 9th century Kashmiri aesthetician Anandavardhana that the dominant aesthetic sentiment or rasa of the Mahābhārata is shanta (peace). Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent reading of the Mahabharata via the Bhagavad Gita are also studied.
This book by one of the leaders in Mahābhārata studies is of interest to scholars of South Asian Literary Studies, Religious Studies as well as Peace Studies, South Asian Anthropology and History.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Gleaners Were and Are for Real 2. Peace and Non-violence in the Mahābhārata 3. Śiva’s Summa on Gleaners 4. Gleaners and Beggars, Buddhist, Jain, and Brahmanical 5. Daṇḍaka Forest 6. Approaching Balarāma’s Tīrthayātrā and Kuruksetra with Three Hypotheses 7. More Homespun Tales of Kurukṣetra: Further towards a Mahābhārata Ethnography 8. Naimiṣeya Kuñja: The Mahābhārata’s Chief Holdout for Gleaners 9. The Gleaning Seam along Balarāma’s Route 10. King Kuru and the Kurus 11. King Kuru at Kurukṣetra 12. Gleaners of the Text 13. Conclusion: Non-violence and Śāntarasa en–route to Kurukṣetra
Alf Hiltebeitel is Columbian Professor of Religion, History, and Human Sciences in the Department of Religion at The George Washington University, USA.