Mahabharata written by Rishi Ved Vyasa in 4th century BC is an epic of 2,00,000 verses written in Sanskrit. Iliad and Odyssey written by Homer has a total of 27,873 verses and is considered the longest poem ever written in the Western world. Not only is the Mahabharata the longest and the most detailed epic ever written in the world, it has universal lessons on all relationships and emotions that exist among us as humans.
After the manifestation of primordial energy everything came to be differentiated into quality, color and shape ( mool maya) thus began the basic instinct for self preservation and survival, giving rise to Swartha ( selfishness) In the Mahabharta all characters from Duryodhan to Draupadi, Drona and Shakuni are motivated to avenge perceived slights or insults and further their selfish interests and thoughts all the time, thus dwelling in the Swartha ( self + meaning) mode for their entire lifetime. Lord Shri Krishna while giving the teachings of Bhagwat Gita prior to the battle of Kurukshetra is primarily asking Arjuna to do Purushartha (Male/Human + Meaning) to do what is to be done in the prevailing circumstance.
In Hindu religion, Purushartha refers to the purpose or purpose of a human. The human should try to get “what”, the meaning of Life .Often for humans, the names of four duties have been given in the Vedas – Dharma (Obligations) Artha (Meaning), Kama (Work) and Moksha (Salvation). It is a call to duty which must be transcended to from Swartha, thus from focusing one’s energies from I –me-myself it becomes Us – we –them. The larger good dominates the thought process.The pursuit for human refinement does not end by transcending from Swartha to Purushartha. In the Bhagwat Gita ( 700 verses) four different paths to attain God head have been prescribed .Karma, Bhakti, Gyana & Raja Yoga.
Karma Yoga is the path of action and suits people with active temperaments. Performing actions selflessly –without thinking of success or reward – purifies the heart and reduces the ego. Karma Yoga is the best way to prepare oneself for meditation while doing one’s duty. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion and is perfect for people who are emotional by nature. Through prayer, worship and ritual, one comes to see the Divine as the embodiment of love. Chanting mantras is an essential part of Bhakti Yoga. Gyana Yoga is the yoga of wisdom or knowledge it is most suitable for intellectual people. The philosophy of Vedanta teaches analytical self-inquiry into one’s own true nature, with the goal of recognizing the Supreme Self in oneself and in all beings. Raja Yoga is the science of controlling body and mind. The asanas (body postures) and pranayamas
(breathing exercises) from hatha yoga ( traditional yogic practices) are an integral part of
this yoga path. The main practice of Raja Yoga is silent meditation, where bodily and mental energies are gradually transformed into spiritual energy.
Thus Mahabharata and the Bhagwat Gita therein, is not only about individuals who were blinded in selfish pursuit of their own goals but a journey from Swartha to Purushartha to Paramartha ( ultimate + meaning) Seeing all in one and one in all is the pursuit worth following. A fourth aspect often forgotten and not discussed is Darshanartha (refined view/ vision + meaning) after one has been through the process mentioned above, one will have a view point that will be in sync with nature and demands of society thus enriching and transforming everything around by elevated thought process and ability to take decisions and act accordingly. The true lesson of Mahabharata is elevation of the soul from Swartha– Purushartha– Paramartha to Darshanartha.