Dr. Purushottama Bilimoria- Dharma's Grief: The Unsettling Moral Emotion in the Mahābhārata & Tagore

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

Dr. Purushottama began with an introduction and spoke about Valmiki’s empathy with the sorrow and explained the journey from shoka to shloka. He then quotes Abhinavagupta and says that even if a bystander is able to feel another's grief, a distance is necessary for an artist to produce a literary work on their traumatizing experience. He said that there are further suggestive literary and aesthetic works such as Kalidasa’s Raghuvaṃsha, that opens up certain vistas in hermeneutical possibilities, but he argued it from a sustained and convincing train of emotion analogous to which one finds the discourses of Bhāvas and corresponding Rasas (the corresponding sentiments). Dr. Purushottama explained a series of emotions and explained them from the way they are explained in the Indian thought system.

He then showcased the setup of the Mahābhārata having two clans. He then began to elucidate the stories from the Bhagavadgītā and explained a battlefield scene and talked about the Arjuna’s distress where before the battle he showed signs of fatigue and loss of strength. Dr. Purushottama explains the position of Arjuna and the various questions that he asks Kṛṣṇa about the war and the actions in the battle field. He in explaining this also mentions about the struggling moral emotions of Arjuna over the moral duty. He also mentions here various questions that we ask when we read about the battle field, actions and war in the Mahābhārata.

Dr. Purushottama then mentions that in the lecture, his concern is not to look into dead politics or died tribe on Dharma, Yoga, philosophy of death or an analysation of any transcendental go-through rather he is going to explain and look into the concern of how do we handle Arjuna’s melancholy. To explain this, he then turns to the broader canvas of Mahābhārata and mentions the game of dice where the grief has indeed struck the Pandavas when tricked in the game of dice. He then explains the time of exile of Pandavas again which is full of hardships and grief. But here came a wise Brahmin Śaunaka who wants to help Yudhiṣṭhira who is in the moment of grief. Dr. Purushottama explains the description of Śaunaka on grief which had a pinch of object-relational psychotherapy.

He further spoke about Bhāvas and corresponding Rasas and explained its relations, tensions briefly through various examples. He also spoke about Karuna as self-pity and compassion so on. He explained this further from the point of Mahābhārata (where he mentioned the emotions of animals) and also while talking about this what he majorly wanted to establish was that karuna, self-pity, compassion, empathy does not lead one to śanta rasa which he defined as the culminate Rasa in which one cannot go into as it is. He further explained how we can experience the grief and talked about it briefly.

Dr. Purushottama then began to talk about Tagore’s Art where he briefly began to explicate the paintings of Rabindranath Tagore’s Nephew Ganjindranath Tagore who have showcased many poems and heart wrenching experiences through his paintings. Dr. Purushottama showcased many pictures of Rabindranath Tagore and explained the thought and idea one gets from such illuminating art. Among the many artworks he also compared the ideas and thought with that of Mahābhārata like he drew a comparison of the art work of tagore “natures grief” with that of “Khandava Forest” from the Mahābhārata. Towards the end of lecture, Dr. Purushottama, gave a brief account on the conception of Nothingness and closed his talk.

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