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Dr. Shyam Ranganathan - Justice and Consciousness: Arjuna’s Transformation

Updated: Jan 23

Dr. Ranganathan began his talk with the episode of Game of dice which is regarded as a pivotal junction of the Mahābhārata. He said that there we can find a remarkable discourse by Draupadi and also one can find disappointing replies that she gets by the people from the assembly. Dr. Ranganathan here says that it’s a turning point of the Mahābhārata because until this incident everything was fine as the Pandavas till this movement had space for their existence. In this rigged game of dice, Dr. Ranganathan, says that the position of Pandavas is so questionable as they can see what is happening and what can be the consequeses yet nobody stops Yudhiṣṭhira from keeping everything at stake. It seems, Dr. Ranganathan says, as if the Pandavas are the spectators of their own demise.

Focusing on Arjuna’s reaction, the speaker remarks that while annoyed, he was not so annoyed as to prevent anything to happen. Similarly, there were many who intervened and argued yet not in a manner to stop the wrong from happening. Dr. Ranganathan mentions the discourse of various people from the Mahābhārata who were present in the assembly such as Bhisma. Here Dr. Ranganathan says that the arguments that Bhishma gives are from the point of view of conventional morality.

After briefly explaining the outcome of the game of dice Dr. Ranganathan talked about methodology of understanding philosophy. He says that once we understand the methodology the understanding of the events in Mahābhārata and Gītā becomes clearer. Explaining basic rules and methods of Logic such as Reason, validity, and explanations derived from Mahābhārata, Dr. Ranganathan gave a lucid account of the dialogues and stories of the Mahābhārata, while also brushing upon the scholastic notions of Dharma.

The four ethical/dharma theories that Dr. Ranganathan lists are: Virtue theory, Consequentialism, Deontology, Bhakti/Yoga. He said that these theories are not something that you will understand or find in a single text rather you will find them in conflicting areas of thoughts. Explaining a little bit more on the Bhakti/Yoga theory Dr. Ranganathan explained that right action is devotion to the procedural ideal which consists in un-conservativism and self-governance. The good is the perfection of the practice and it further claims that the right is not in the terms of good rather it is Ῑśvara which is right. So basically, what this exposition tells us is that the importance or the focus is in the right action and not in the good action. Dr. Ranganathan then in order to explain various instances from the Mahābhārata to explicate number of theories of ethics which are present there. So, he explain Arjuna’s lament and talked about consequentialism, virtue ethics and deontology. Dr. Ranganathan then moving on came back to discuss the game of dice and explained the same ethical theories, good and action from the perspective of these theories.

Dr. Ranganathan then talks about Kṛṣṇa’s teachings and explains that whatever happens in a war is an outcome of everybody’s choices and thus explains that the key to Kṛṣṇa’s discourse is that you do not really get to choose the outcome what you can really get to choose is what your actions are towards a thing but who wins is not in your hands. This, Dr. Ranganathan says, brings us an understanding that what we are acting around is not in our control and thus from a psychological perspective it becomes depressing. It is in such situations the teachings of Kṛṣṇa are of great significance. Dr. Ranganathan explains this by explaining instances from Mahābhārata where Kṛṣṇa guides Arjuna by emphasising on what is right and bringing the importance of Bhakti Yoga and so on, after explaining this Dr. Ranganathan briefly explained Kṛṣṇa’s ethics as well with the help of instances from the Mahābhārata. Dr. Ranganathan then in brief gave an account of Arjuna’s transformation in the Mahābhārata where now he is focused on the challenge ahead.

Moving towards the end of the lecture Dr. Ranganathan gave an account of teleological consciousness and says that this consciousness is a product of conventional morality where the result is dependent on luck, good outcomes are not under your control, and throughout Kṛṣṇa’s emphasis is not on the goodness of the practice rather it is on the rightness of the practice. After thus he explained to the audience about the significance of Yoga/Bhakti consciousness and thus while talking about Justice and consciousness explained the relevance of proceduralism of Yoga.

To listen to the lecture, please visit out YouTube Channel!

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