It's the last day of the year. I send out my newsletter every Friday but for obvious reasons I thought I should wait one extra day.
A few years ago, an anti-corruption movement arose in India as if out of nothing. It coincided with other popular movements in the middle east and in Ukraine and had some of the same characteristics. The movement was led by an unlikely figure - Anna Hazare - who transported himself to the national capital from rural Maharashtra for the occasion.
The normal understanding of the Jaya has the Pandavas as the good guys and the Kauravas as the bad guys. Of course there are parts of India where Duryodhana is worshipped - there's no rule to which we don't find an exception. Digging a bit deeper, we find that the Pandavas aren't all that good and the Kauravas aren't all that bad.
When I was younger, I was a big fan of world government. I remember reading about Einstein's support for such a state of affairs and understood the appeal after the disasters of the two world wars. I was even willing to excuse the idiocy of the existing attempts at global governance - the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Whether true or not, there's this widespread belief that mammals survived the asteroid strike because they were small and adaptable while the reigning species - the dinosaurs - died out. Of course, it's also true that most individual mammals and perhaps most mammalian species also died out, but what was merely a catastrophe for mammals was an apocalypse for the dinosaurs.
It's time to start wrapping up this year's Jayary - not that I have another year's Jayary planned. I am going to take a break before restarting. But that's for another time: the question at hand is: how to end a year of exploration?
One last Jayary about sacrifice.
So why did Janamejaya conduct a genocidal sacrifice?
Sacrifice is a generative concept, just like the concept law.
The first major event in the Jaya is the snake sacrifice. The snake king Takshaka is the ostensible target of the sacrifice but Janamejaya is persuaded to take genocidal revenge for his father's death by killing every snake in the world. Isn't that what Dubya did: taking revenge on all of Iraq to get at Saddam Hussein?
I am going to retire the term "Deep Embodiment" in a minute; it's a phrase better reserved for research papers, but one final academic rant before I set it aside.
There's no doubt that we are earthly creatures: we spend our days seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The pleasures of the flesh (and the pain of being fleshy) is the rope binding us to every other creature on this earth: not advanced mathematics, not philosophical discourse, not flame wars on the latest social medium.
Is the yogi absolved of all earthly responsibilities? Even better, do those responsibilities simply disappear with enlightenment? The traditional answer is yes, or I should say, that's the answer of the dominant tradition. From the Buddha to Shankara the yogi seeks the light away from home.
The subtle tension between discrete and continuous dharma marks the epic. It permeates our understanding of some of the deepest ideas of Indian philosophy and religiosity. Consider how the rishis Jaratkaru and Agastya are derailed in their quest for enlightenment by their rat-gnawed ancestors.
Why did the Pandavas spend thirteen years in the wilderness? Or, to put it somewhat differently: why were the Pandavas banished for thirteen years? Why did they agree?
I am wondering - if it's at all possible to speculate on the motives of a fictional character - whether Yudhisthira's thirteen years in exile was as long as it was because he felt he needed that much time to transcend the limits of discrete dharma.
We are easily seduced by language. It's the easiest thing in the world to sign over your inheritance to a predatory company or advisor and then be forced to hand over our wealth when they point out our contractual obligations.
Truth and Stability
If not belief, then what is dharma? The Jaya alludes to an answer: ritual.
There was a time when I was often asked whether I believed in God. It doesn't happen so much any more; liberal adults aren't allowed to be curious about one another. Anyway, my invariable answer was no. Not because I am an atheist or even an agnostic, but because I don't believe. I don't believe in 2+2=4 either.