Dharma's Chameleon Nature

A Tale of Two Titans – Bhishma & Veda Vyasa

Have you ever contemplated the nature of Dharma, a concept as old as Indian civilization itself? Why does it often seem elusive, adapting itself to the lens of the beholder? This question becomes vivid when we examine the lives of two towering figures from the epic Mahabharata – Bhishma and Sage Veda Vyasa.

Bhishma, the grand sire of the Kuru dynasty, and Veda Vyasa, the arranger of the Vedas and the author of the Mahabharata, share a confluence where Dharma's chameleon-like nature manifests most strikingly. So, what is this confluence? And how does it reveal the multiple facets of Dharma? Let's explore.

After Vichitravirya's demise, the Kuru dynasty faced an existential crisis - there was no heir to the throne. At this juncture, Satyavathi, Bhishma's mother, requested her son to sire children with Vichitravirya's widows, Ambika and Ambalika. Bhishma, however, was caught in a vortex of Dharma. He had made a solemn vow of celibacy, promising never to father children, to ensure his father's marital alliance with Satyavathi. Now, should he prioritize the continuity of his lineage, or uphold his vow? Bhishma chose the latter, upholding his personal commitment as his Dharma.

Then enters Veda Vyasa. Satyavathi called upon him, asking him to perform the duty that Bhishma had refused. Being an ascetic, Veda Vyasa too hesitated. But, when Satyavathi urged him by invoking the sanctity of a mother's order, Veda Vyasa acquiesced. To him, obeying a mother's command and ensuring the continuity of the Kuru dynasty became his Dharma.

So, here we are, two colossal figures, Bhishma and Veda Vyasa, both cornerstones of righteousness and yet, their interpretation of Dharma differed vastly. For Bhishma, Dharma was in adhering to his personal vow, while for Veda Vyasa, it lay in fulfilling his mother's command.

Their contrasting interpretations offer us an invaluable lesson about Dharma – it's not a one-size-fits-all principle. It's a unique, personal compass guiding each one's actions based on their life's context and perspectives. The rightness of an action, then, is derived from the individual's sense of duty, morality, and the circumstances they navigate.

Comparatively, while Bhishma's stern adherence to his personal vow showcases an unyielding interpretation of Dharma, Veda Vyasa's flexible approach reflects Dharma's adaptability, reminding us that rigidity and righteousness aren't always synonymous.

But, as we ponder over their lives, we stumble upon an interesting paradox. Are personal vows and societal obligations mutually exclusive? Is Dharma truly personal, or does it resonate with a collective conscience? And, as we navigate the labyrinth of our lives, how do we discern our own Dharma amidst the cacophony of differing perspectives?

These are questions worth mulling over, as we navigate the vast and often bewildering landscape of life. Our understanding of Dharma might change, morph, and even clash with others, but that's its very nature – as adaptable and unique as the individuals who interpret it. So, as we tread our paths, let's keep in mind that our Dharma is our compass, helping us journey through life while keeping our conscience as our constant companion.


More by :  P. Mohan Chandran

Top | Spirituality

Views: 292      Comments: 1

Comment Very nicely written based on the two vital characters of the great Mahabharata. As in the explained cases, the term 'dharama' varies from person to person and situation to situation. I feel 'dharma' something for which one adheres to but at the same time see to that it doesn't interfere and cross the paths of others life and put them in jeopardy. But, in certain cases, one has to take a strong decision even it is detrimental to an individual, if what that person can cause more damage than good

G Swaminathan
02-Aug-2023 23:12 PM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.