Again, in the Mahabharata, which has the form of didactic work although
it contains poetic beauty, the great sage, who was its author, by his
furnishing a conclusion that dismays our hearts by the miserable end of the
Vrisnis and the Pandavas, shows that the primary aim of his work has been to
produce a disenchantment with the world and that he has intended his primary
subject to be liberation (moksha) from worldly life and the rasa of peace.
This has been partly revealed indeed by others in their commenting on the
work. The most compassionate of sage (Bhisma) himself asserts the same when
he seeks, by imparting the light of his pure knowledge, to rescue the
world from the cruel illusion in which it is plunged. He expresses it in
many ways, as in the following:
The more the world's affairs
go wrong for us and lose their substance,
the more the disenchantment with them
grow, there is no doubt.
The ultimate meaning of the Mahabharata thus appears very clearly: The two subjects intended by the author as primary are the rasa of peace and the human goal of liberation. The other rasas and other human goals are subordinated to these; and how there may be a relation of principal and subordinate among the rasas is a matter we have already explained. It is no contradiction to this to concede that if we disregard the ultimate inner truth, there may be beauty in a subordinate rasa or human aim [in the Mahabharata] regarded for the moment as paramount, just as there is beauty in the body [although it is in truth subordinate to the soul].
An objection may be raised that all the contents of the Mahabharata are
summarized in the Introductory Summary (anukramani) and that these subjects
[moksha and Santa rasa] are not mentioned there. Rather, it is specifically
stated in that Introduction that Mahabharata will inform us of all human
aims and that it contains all the rasas. To this it may be replied. It is
true that the predominance of the rasa of peace and the predominance of
moksha over other human aims are not specifically stated in the Anukramani.
But they are shown in suggestion, as in this sentence:
And the blessed Vasudeva,
the everlasting, is here glorified.
For the meaning intended to be hereby suggested is as follows. The adventures of the Pandavas and others which are recounted, since they come to a miserable conclusion, represent the elaboration of worldly illusion, whereas it is blessed Vasudeva, representing ultimate truth, who is here glorified. Purify your minds, therefore, in blessed God, the all-highest. Form no passion for insubstantial glories, not let your minds dwell whole-heartedly on virtues such as statesmanship, modesty, courage, or the like, so as to regard them as sufficient in themselves. The word "and" graced with the full powers of a suggester, appears clearly to be hinting that one should look farther [in the book] and see the worthlessness of all worldly life. The verses which immediately follow, "for He is the truth," etc. [MBh. 1.1.103c] are seen to reveal within themselves the same sense.
This sense is beautiful because it is concealed. The poet-creator Krsnadvaipayana has made it perfectly clear, however, by composing the Harivamsa as a conclusion to his Mahabharata. Since this sense stirs us toward an intense devotion (bhakti) to that other truth that lies beyond worldly life, all worldly activity appears now as a preliminary goal, to be rejected. He describes the power of gods, places of pilgrimage, and of asceticism, only because these are the means of attaining the highest Brahma, because the various gods and sacred objects are epiphanies of that Brahma. Even the narrative of the adventures of Pandavas, since its purpose is to generate a disenchantment with the world, since this disenchantment is a cause of liberation (moksha), and since moksha has been described in the Gita and other works as the chief means of attaining the Blessed One: even this narrative is indirectly a means of attaining the highest Brahma.
What is intended [by the word Vasudeva in the Mahabharata verse just quoted] is the highest Brahma, the abode of unlimited power, known under such designations as "Vasudeva" and made famous under that name in the Gita and other passages; the original whole, which possesses all the forms which were copied by the appearance at Mathura. But the appearance at Mathura, being a partial incarnation, is not meant, as it is excluded by the adjective "ever lasting". And [there is no reason for limiting the epithet Vasudeva to the son of Vasudeva], because we find the epithet used in such works as the Ramayana of a still different incarnation. Furthermore, this sense [of the epithet as referring to an eternal entity] has been determined by the grammarian themselves.
By that [one] sentence exhibited in the Anukramani, which shows that everything other than the Blessed One is transient, we are already informed that the Mahabharata as a work of doctrine (sastranaye) considers the supreme goal of man to be moksha and as a work of poetry (kavyanaye) intends the rasa of peace, which is a strengthening of the happiness that derives from the cessation of desire, to be the prominant rasa. As this matter is most essential, it is given by suggestion rather than by direct statement, for an essential matter carries far greater luster by not being stated in so many words. For it is common knowledge among intelligent and well-educated circles that one should suggest rather than state in so many words the matter which one has most at heart.