Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Mahabharata - the Rajsuya

Today was Mahabharata day, of course. The whole episode was devoted to Yuddhistira's Rajsuya - I'm not quite sure what this is, but it seems to be a formal annointing of a king, in the presence of and with the consent of all the other kings of the country. Hence, it's sort of making Yuddhistira the Supreme Ruler - they called him 'Emperor', although the other kings still retained their authority.

Everything was going fine, until Shishupal turned up, and began to shout insults at Krishna and everyone else there. Krishna had long ago promised to forgive him 100 crimes. When his brother Balram tries to intervene, Krishna stops him, and Balram expostulates, "He's insulting you, and you just stand there, smiling!" Krishna answers, "I'm not smiling; I'm counting." Then he tells Shishupal he's up to 97 crimes; he's got 3 left. Shishupal doesn't care, and proceeds to hurl 4 more insults at Krishna. At the 101st crime, Krishna stops him, and throws a magic discus at him, which cuts off his head. I was thinking again, how close this comes to Christianity, but swings just wide. Jesus said we have to forgive 7 times 70 wrongs; in other words, all of them. I remember Father Smith saying that Peter's suggestion of forgiving 7 times would have been considered pretty generous back then. Krishna allows 100, which also would have probably sounded quite liberal, especially for crimes against a god. But it's understood that there's a cutoff point; grace goes this far, and no further. Once you've used up all your chances, it's time for punishment, and no going back. Jesus takes it to quite a different level. As Chesterton said, these are the "good dreams" God sent to men before Christ. They're signposts along the way, hinting at where we're going, but not the full destination.

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