CHENNAI: The Mahabharata is called the fifth Veda because it holds a microscopic lens over the infinite ways in which dharma and adharma are pitted against one another in a continuous battle. In chronicling the lives of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the story unfolds this eternal conflict to highlight the right way of living. Sengalipuram Sri B. Damodara Dikshitar pointed out in a discourse that association with the pious and holy can help in one’s effort to remove ignorance in matters of righteousness, while association with the evil can be harmful and destructive to one’s self, even though one might not be evil by nature. Association with the evil minded is dangerous in the same way as green trees feel the onslaught of forest fire when dry wood catches fire.

In the Udyoga Parva of the epic, Vidura discloses many facets of dharma to Dhritarashtra who is confused and seeks peace of mind. Vidura makes it clear that one with a sinful heart will never find peace and the only way to peace is to be engaged in good deeds, good thoughts and good words. One has to get over ill feelings towards others. One should be honest and assess one’s inner feelings in this regard. Vidura points out to Dhritarashtra the many mistakes he had committed especially in his treatment of the Pandavas, as he was blinded by the love for his sons. He himself was not free from ill will against them, since he knew them to be superior to his sons. By condoning his son’s actions, when the unfairly humiliated Pandavas were subjected to harsher ridicule, it was clear that sooner or later he would reap the results of these sins. A man is deprived of his good sense and judgment when his fall is imminent.

Among the Purusharthas, dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation), dharma alone leads to liberation. The other two are worldly pursuits and can confer only temporary benefits. The purpose of human life is to strive and remove the ignorance enveloping our consciousness so that one learns to conquer the senses and enjoy peace and happiness sanctioned by the Sastras. Ignorance is the cause of sorrow and hinders the proper perception of the value of dharma.