1The shortest parva of the Mahabharata’s 18 parvas. But in the deceptive brevity lies profundity, because the emotional content of the Mahaprasthanika is amazingly rich and inspiring. The reason? Sloka 33 says: “Trailing the Pandavas on their forest journey was a dog”. An animal associated in the Hindu imagination with pollution. Indra warns Yudhisthira: “Heaven has no place for dogs”.
But Yudhisthira is adamant: he will not abandon a bhakta. If the faithful stray dog is refused admission to this elite celestial club, Yudhisthira chooses not to be a member. After all, it’s not only the canine species that is “imperfect”. Human beings have failings too.
His own brothers — and his lotus-petal-eyed common wife Draupadi — have been tested and found wanting. They have, as a result of their very human weakness, fallen, as it were, by the wayside. Who has judged them? Yudhisthira himself — and he has left them to their fate and proceeded on his journey.
This must be rankling in his mind. Who are we to judge — and whom do we judge? His brothers and wife were loyal to him. He abandoned them. The dog is loyal as well. He has made up his mind.
Enough is enough. No more moral judgments.
He may be Dharmaraja, but he has exceeded the limits of dharma. (Indeed, he has, for the dog is Dharma. Can Dharma judge Dharma?) It’s a lesson in ultimate humility. Instead of judging and condemning, compassion is the criterion of character.
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