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“Vyadha Gita” What is it? And why do most get it wrong?

In Vyasa’s Mahabharata, the Shanti Parva chapter recounts Yudhisthira's dialogue with Bhisma on Purushartha. Among its tales is that of Anamika, who humbles a Rishi directing him to Vyadha, a butcher, for wisdom. Despite disdain, the Rishi learns from Vyadha, only to question his lifestyle. Anamika's parable illustrates the distinction between knowledge and understanding. Vashistha's teachings in the Ramayana echo this, condemning ego and meat consumption. Vyadha's story serves as a timeless lesson on transcending ego for true wisdom. It prompts reflection on the deeper meanings of knowledge, wisdom, and realization, vital for individual growth and collective well-being.

In Vyasa’s Mahabharata, there exists an epic chapter entitled Shanti Parva. This is a colossal chapter where the eldest of five PandavasYudhisthira engages Bhisma – the grand sire of Kuru Dynasty in a lengthy and elaborate discussion about the many facets of Purushartha (i.e., Dharma, Artha, Kama & Moksha) along with complex subjects of Neeti, Rajaneeti & Kootaneeti.

Among the many interesting, as well as important stories is one concerning a woman named Anamika who humbles a great Rishi. After being humbled, by the seemingly ordinary housewife, he seeks to be her student. “But I am a housewife, I barely get time to take care of my household chores,” she declares, before suggesting “go the Vyadha at the village market. He has all the knowledge I have….” This Rishi dutifully goes to Vyadha. In Vedic Sanskrit, Vyadha translates to butcher.

As a person following the Parivrajaka, also known as Vanaprastha, Dharma the Rishi finds Vyadha’s personality and outlook contemptful. He is unable to bear the very sight of blood. But the desire for knowledge is so immense, that he somehow manages to ignore anything and everything he would otherwise find disgusting.

He even addresses him with respect, due to a teacher. And the conversation is not just long, but full of fascinating stories and anecdotes. which adds to the profound knowledge of the Rishi. However, in the end the Rishi asks Vyadha a question “Why is it that you, who knows all these great stories, live such a contemptful life. Strangely, Vyadha is unable to understand the very question and, therefore, unable to answer it. He then goes back to Anamika, the housewife who had recommended him to visit Vyadha.

Her answer fascinates him even more. “O great Rishi! There is this parable which could help you understand things better,” and then she narrates the short conversation between Bhagiratha and his guru Tritala.

One day Bhagiratha visits his guru Tritala and declares, “O revere sire, I have studied and memorized every bit of knowledge you have provided. I fully know that I am neither this body nor the mind – yet my mind is caught in a quagmire. I cannot but suffer stupidity and make silliest of mistakes, knowing fully well, that they would only bring in more misery. Why this be so, sire?”

To this Tritala answers “My son, there is a difference between knowing, understanding and realizing. Your problem is that you only know and haven’t tried to understand what you know – let alone realizing it.”

“You see O Rishi, Vyadha is like a book which can tell you what is written on it; the book is incapable of even knowing, for it has no consciousness. Vyadha is such that he can only memorize with great accuracy but is unable to practice or benefit from that knowledge. It is because of his fascination for carnal pleasure, including meat, that he will never be able to walk the path of wisdom (Yoga). Not just Vyadha; always, there will be a great many minds, storing great knowledge, but never be able to truly benefit from it. For they will lack compassion and, owing to their ego, blame their misery on the limitations of the knowledge taught to them, instead of their own actions (Karma).”

“Vyadha Geetha” never supports meat eating. On the contrary it shuns it.

In Bala Kanda chapter of Valmiki’s Ramayana, popularly known as Yoga Vashistha, Vashistha says to Rama “Meat is tamasic; humans who desire to live a life of peace and prosperity must always shun meat. Only compassion to animals can help humans to respect Mother Nature and treat all its children as equals. The ego of ignorant humans, makes them believe that all animals are inferior to them and therefore objects of enjoyment. Ego is detrimental to people seeking greater knowledge and wisdom… therefore shun meat.”

One must understand that meat eaters, and all other types of ignorant people, existed even during Vedic times. Yet the Vedic Rishis suggested, how to live among them or even despite them. The objective of the Vedas, is to inspire people to know their own true Self, by being able to see their own true conscious self in all beings – animals included. Hence, to use Vedic texts to support meat eating is ludicrous.

Vyadha, in today’s world can be compared to people, with high degrees and certificates, but without the wisdom to apply their knowledge. Needless to say, these people often have huge educational debts and financial stress, thereby blaming their “knowledge” and others, instead of their own limitations. Unless we understand knowing, wisdom and realization, and the differences between them, all our knowledge will be a little more than data and information, which are time-sensitive, therefore fleeting and superficial. And more than animals, the whole of life and all humanity may suffer from it.

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