The Mahabharata lays emphasis on good conduct and virtuous behaviour. A deferential attitude to the superiors, performance of yagas and sacrificial rites, adherence to truth, freedom from anger, pride, lust and avarice — are to be practised by those desiring to be virtuous.

Those who reflect upon the sense of the scriptures with patience and carefulness develop good behaviour, said Srimati Prema Pandurang in a lecture. They are devoted to the study of the Vedas and follow only the practices of the honest and the good.

But those who do not have faith in the Sastras tend to become self-indulgent and mock, belittle or ignore the tenets enjoined in the scriptures. If they thus fall into wrong ways, they invite their own downfall.

The Yaksha Prasna episode is a dialogue between a Yaksha and Yudhishtira. The questions have a bearing on the philosophical and metaphysical aspects that govern human nature and conduct. A vast range of subjects is covered and Yudhishtira, by virtue of his upright nature and adherence to the code of Dharma, is able to promptly answer the questions accurately. The dialogue is a manual for good living and an individual would gain insight into the matter of dealing with problems that may arise when he relates to family, society, and country.

The story of Rantideva teaches a valuable lesson in sharing and caring for fellow beings. He spent his entire wealth to feed the hungry and the distressed people during a famine.

He vowed to observe a fast for 48 days without food and water; and at the end of it, even at the risk of his own life, he did not hesitate to give up the last morsel of food and the drop of water that he was about to partake.

He stated that he did not seek the bliss or attainment of the eight siddhis or even freedom from the cycle of birth. His only desire was to empathise with the sufferings of beings and serve them so that their misery could be alleviated.

The Rig Veda hails the man who cares for the poor and the hungry, and asserts that not only will he really enjoy his food but his charitable and philanthropic acts will confer on him plenty of wealth and friends who would offer help in times of need.

More In: Faith | Friday Review