The scholar stared at the lines, again and again. It did not make sense to him- at least , not in the context of the presentation.
Here was Sage Markendeya, laughing and speaking, “Nese Balasyethy Chareda Dharmam,” to a set of bewildered Pandavas, languishing in the forests of self created oblivion.
The typical Sanskrit reading was, “Balasya Ise Ithy Adharmam na Charel,” which said, ” Even when you have strength in your side, do not do Adharma”.
But the examples Markendeya quoted, of an elephant listening to his mahout forgetting his own prowess, of the great Ram banished to the forests, of the seven Rishis shining as stars in the sky,of Bhagiratha who fought fates to bring Ganga to the earth…did not resonate with the conventional putting together of words. Besides, the Sage was laughing when he said it. Anything which is accompanied by laughter has to have a deeper secret within.
The night lamp burnt as Kutti Krishna Marar stared at the words again.
Can it not be interpreted as, “Accepting one’s fate like a weakling is against the Dharma. The fighting of fate with all of one’s strength is Dharma?’ Yudhistir had lost the kingdom to his human weakness of gambling.
Could it not be read as, “Whatever is your justification,you have no sense of your own power and worth, and hence whatever you have done is not Dharma.”
There was Sage Markendeya himself, who rebelled against his destined death at the age of sixteen and won back life! Would he laugh and advise, a submissive living?
Did not Bhishma advise Yudhistir, “Adharmo hi mridu raja kshmavaniva kunjarah?”
(A soft king is as useless as a patient elephant?)
Have not people, across countries and ages, quoted something equivalent to “Nese balasyety chareda dharmam”, (” Oh I am so weak and helpless to fight the fates” )and moved back from doing their real work in the world, hesitated in taking the reins of their own destiny in their hands and justified it to a hundred stupid reasons?
Sage Markendeya’s laughter spreads over all such self imposed frailties, weaknesses, self proclaimed helplessness that does not recognise self worth and the power of one’s own effort!
Has not Vivekananda written about Yudhistir as someone who justified in the name of dharma and goodness, a lot of evil deeds triggered by a helpless approach to life? Someone who chose not to act, in the name of Dharma, at the time when action was most necessary?
The scholar went to his friend who was ecstatic at the interpretation..”Yes, whatever you do with a sense of helplessness, saying to yourself that you are powerless, is Adharma.”
“This is a call for action, for taking control of one’s own destiny, not a justification to bow down before the fates.”
The scholar started writing…a new chapter called, ‘Nese Balsyety Chareda Dharmam,’ in his book, ‘Bharata Paryadana,’ . A Sojourn through Mahabharata- a compilation of incisively brilliant essays.
The interpretation created waves of protest, with special meetings to debate on the play of words and context, but his head remained high. He elaborated the chapter more with the next edition of his classic.
The poem “Invictus” of Henley, epitomises the shloka in Mahabharatha. Every human endeavour, to excel, to create, to design one’s own destiny is an act of Dharma. When we bow down, meek and helpless, and then justify our defeated lives with quotes and interpretations, Sage Markendeya laughs from somewhere…Nese Balsyety….
With gratitude to my brother, who let me borrow his beloved Bharata Paryadana. The sketch of Krishna, exhorting Arjuna to act, is out of context, yet well within the spirit.I loved copying it from one the illustrations by my favourite artist Namboodiry, dotted across enchantingly, in this little treasure trove of a book.