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Dr. Arindam Chakrabarti - Vyāsa on the Meaning of Life, Death and Free Will

Updated: Jan 23

Dr. Chakrabarti began his lecture by quoting from Asvamedhika Parva of the Mahābhārata, “death is spelled with two letters, mama (mine) and three letters (na-mama) mean absolute. Both of these, death and Brahman, are entrenched inside the self”. He then briefly on the conception of ataman and says that Gita interprets ataman as eternal and says clearly that the soul does not die, it has nothing to do with death. To interpret the body, Dr. Chakrabarti mentions the notions from the Upaniṣads and says that an interpretation of Upaniṣads explains the bodily as adhyatmik which means the body-mind. This adhyatmik of individual has the root for death, which is possessiveness, clinging on to things and then there is the feeling of giving up the sense of ownership (na-mama), giving up ahamtā and mamatā, this means eternal absolute. Explaining further on this eternal absolute, Dr. Chakrabarti said that this eternal absolute (brahma saśvatam) is not necessarily the god rather it can mean what the atheistic system of sāṃkhya explains Kevalya or liberation. This notion talks about taking away the feeling of I away from the self, thus leading to a realization of I do not exist, that there is no me and thus nothing is mine.


He further shared a story from the Mahābhārata narrated by Vyāsa to explain the situation of man in the world. From various allegories from the story, he explained the nature, situation, surroundings, suffering and choices of man. From the same story Dr. Chakrabarti further explained slightly more on the conception of suffering. He also brought a notion of western thought in order to explain the notion of individual ego and consciousness.


Dr. Chakrabarti then talked about the meaning of life and said that one of the most important lessons of the Mahābhārata is in the section entitled “ethics at the time of crises” in the Mahābhārata’s encyclopaedic twelfth book of Peace is that cannot determine the meaning of life by thinking in a one-sided manner or practicing a single branched dharma. Dr. Chakrabarti then says that since the human mind has the potentiality of egoistical possessive (mama) leading to death and then it also has the potentiality of being immortal and being identified with the Brahman it is in this allusion Dr. Chakrabarti explained a significant notion of “you can become that”, “you are that”.


Dr. Chakrabarti then explained a little bit more on the conception of death and explained stories from the Mahābhārata and mentioned phrases and explanations which clarified the role of death and the action of individuals towards life as well. He thus said that all individuals are born in the mouth of death, we all are bound to death and thus that’s the other meaning of life.


Towards the end of his enlightening and informative lecture he explained the relevance of yoga by explaining the notion of Samatvaṁ Yoga Ucyate he further explained his discovery of the moral meaning of the Mahābhārata and says that the whole Mahābhārata is a narrative, an enactment of certain non-obvious life lesson where one finds important moral messages such as “one should become powerful by becoming soft and mild. Thus, through many stories, tales, anecdotes, and shlokas from the Mahābhārata, Dr. Chakrabarti explained to the audience Vyāsa’s conception on the the meaning of life, death and free will.


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