A tale of epic proportions, the Mahabharata, weaved around a dispute between Kaurava and Pandava princes set in an ancient Indian narrative, binds the entire Hindu philosophy about life, death, honor, pride, good and evil in a karmic cycle.
This drama unfolded several thousand years ago but its relevance persists in all our lives till date. Here in this write-up, we will shed light on some really wise lessons anyone can draw out on desires from the great epic.
1. The deepest desires, as powerful ripples in your mind, create the world you live in.
Devvrat (later known as Bhisma due to his vow) was the rightful heir the throne of Hastinapur. He was the first surviving child of King Shantanu and Goddess Ganga; the young prince was the ablest and bravest among all warriors of his time.
But Shantanu’s second consort, Satyavati, wished that her offspring should instead rule the kingdom and not Devvrat.
Eventually, Devvrat gave up his right to the throne and pledged to serve the offspring of Satyavati till the end of his life. Satyavati was the great-grandmother of Kauravas and Pandavas.
It was this desire of Satyavati that sowed the seed of Mahabharata, the epic war. In her old age, however, she regretted her decision of emotionally blackmailing and tormenting Shantanu and ended her life a day before the Mahabharata began.
2. We must not impose our desires on others; everyone has the right to exercise their own choices.
Bhisma imposed his desire on the state of Kashi; the three princesses of Kashi had a choice to pick their own grooms but Bhisma compelled the king to make this fair selection a contest; he intended to marry off all three princesses to his step brother, heir to the throne of Hastinapur.
The Kuru prince had his way but the result was that Amba, the eldest daughter swore to be the cause of Bhisma’s death.
The princess was reborn as Shikhandani, who later became the cause of Bhisma’s death, the most powerful warrior for a period spanning over 4 centuries.
3. When you desire something, do not worry; it will distort the outcome.
Ambika and Ambalika, wives of the dead Vichitravirya yet-to-be king of Hastinapur desired offspring and were ready to be granted the boon by Sage Vyasa through Niyoga.
The desire was strong and so was the blessing.
But, Ambika closed her eyes in fear upon witnessing the formidable form of the sage. She got a blind son – Dhritarashtra.
When it was Ambalika’s turn, she got pale due to fear. She got a pale son (Pandu) after Niyoga.
The duo, out of fear, sent their maid Parishrami the third time. Parishrami was confident and got a healthy son – Vidur – a highly knowledgeable person believed to be an incarnation of Yama Dharma Raja (god of justice).
4. What you resist because of fear or doubts, will persist with as much force.
Our fears give birth to dark desires that ultimately lead us to results that we despise but subconsciously create in our lives.
Gandhari, the princess of Gandhar was so afraid of darkness that she couldn’t even sleep without some lamps lighted up in bedroom. The fear continued till adulthood and she later ended up marrying Dhritarashtra, a blind prince.
5. Wishing anything noble and acting on it will eventually make you stronger and capable to the point of giving away powerful blessings.
Gandhari embraced the darkness in her husband Dhritrashtra’s life and lived as a dutiful wife all her life. A fierce Shiva devotee, the Kuru queen, due to her penance got an ultimate chance to save Duryodhana, her last surviving son on the 18th day of Mahabharata. She almost turned all of Duryodhana’s body into an impermeable piece of metal, potentially changing the end of the Great War.
She even had the power to curse the gods and she did. In a fit of rage, she held Lord Krishna responsible for the destruction and cursed him that his clan too would be wiped out like hers.
6. Do not ask for misery; what you seek shall be given.
King Drupad, when forced by the gods to ask for a daughter from the fire god during a yagna, in a fit of rage asked for a daughter who’d have all the miseries in the world all through her life and still maintain her sanctity and righteousness.
He asked for a daughter who’d have to face injustice time and again throughout her life. The result – Draupadi, a princess, deemed to be the queen – who had to struggle at every step of her life.
7. Do not desire selfishly if you have been blessed with great power.
Bhisma was a dutiful son, an epitome of nobility and the greatest warrior of his time. Yet, his desires were limited to his clan and the people of his kingdom.
He had the power to restore order in the entire world but due to his skewed understanding of righteousness, he ended up watching his family members thirstily murdering each other during the epic war.
Even Lord Krishna deemed his righteousness as a mistaken ideal. The warrior could have wished for so much more and his power could have benefitted one and all on the planet but alas, his desires were only motivated by selfish goals.
8. What society or family members expect of you due to your background shouldn’t keep you from desiring what you are truly passionate about.
Karna, raised in a family of charioteers, paid no heed to reprimands from his father or the society for his love of archery. He went on to become one of the greatest archers of his time and was trained by Lord Parshuram Himself. At that time, it was a formidable challenge for the son of a charioteer to even think of learning the art of war.
It was much later that his Kshatriya roots came to be known to the people.
9. Do not resort to wrong methods or turn evil just so you could materialize your desires.
Although a shrewd administrator and an excellent mace fighter, Duryodhana never had a chance to sit on the throne of Hastinapur. The young lad died a painful death on the 18th day of the mahabharata. From early teenage, the Kuru prince let his desire to harm and eliminate Pandu princes take over and pollute his intellect.
He sought the wrong ends and resorted to the wrong means. You know the rest.
10. Some desires are best suppressed on some occasions.
King Pandu, the ablest among the two Kuru princes (Pandu and Dhritrashtra) mistakenly killed a sage and his wife while the latter was making love with his consort, disguised as deer.
The sage cursed Pandu that he would die the moment he gets intimate with a woman.
Pandu gave up the throne at once to do penance and lived in the forests with his two wives for some time. Madri, Pandu’s second wife did not keep tab on her sexual desires and ended up luring Pandu.
The king died at once and the regretful queen too jumped on his pyre later.
11. Be careful of what you wish for your loved ones.
Shakuni, the Gandhar prince, wanted to avenge the injustice meted out to Gandhari. He wanted the Kuru clan, and specifically the loved ones of Bhisma to suffer but in the process, he ended up passing on endless agony to his sister Gandhari, the queen.
All 100 sons of his sister he loved so much were wiped out in a war that was directly a consequence of Shakuni’s evil schemes.
12. Good, bad or ugly – your burning desire shapes your life.
Karna, although a fierce warrior with best of the divine weapons in his stockpile, ended up siding with the evil.
His burning desire was to defeat Arjuna and it was this desire that got him introduced to Duryodhana.
While he remained dutiful to his friend Duryodhana, he made Arjuna a symbol of all hatred and rejection he had received from the society as a son of charioteer, striving to learn and master the ways of warrior clan.
13. Concentration and surrender – these are two prerequisites for materializing great desires.
A true warrior, Arjuna became one of the greatest archers only through the concentrated effort and unconditional surrender to his master. He later became the recipient of the Bhagwad Gita Gyan because he surrendered himself completely to Lord Krishna.