Journal of Vaishnava Studies — Mahabharata

I want to thank Steven Rosen and others of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies (JVS) for their Spring 2011 issue, which focuses on the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata. It presents articles by seven scholars discussing the impact of the Critical Edition on Mahabharata scholarship. They expose the prejudices of early Orientalists that influence scholarship to the present. Synthetic and analytic approaches to the epic are compared.
Here are some insights I come away with: The Mahabharata was never meant to be a historical narration. Rather it deals in a nonlinear mythic way with the mortal problem of how to live in time. It presents the wisdom of of the Vedas in a manner accessible by non-brahmins. Krishna’s divinity, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Harivamsa are original integral parts of the earliest complete manuscripts rather than later additions. Purvashikaha Brahmins from the Kuru-Panchala wrote the manuscript ca. 3rd BCE, took it with them, and disseminated it when they migrated to the South. Various manuscript traditions branched off from the original and adapted to local languages and traditions through additions and changes.
I have subscribed to the JVS or several years and find it helpful to keep up with current scholarly thought about Vaishnavism. I find that critical scholarly approaches to the teachings are essential for clear their clear understanding and interpretation.

2 Responses to “Journal of Vaishnava Studies — Mahabharata”

  1. I purchased Penguin Classics _The Mahabharata_, abridged and translated by John D. Smith. It is based on the critical edition, and it seems quite well done from what I read of the introduction. It is low priced. At Amazon, I paid $13.60 for this 834 page book, which is about as much as I care to read and more affordable than many editions.

  2. I’m enjoying reading this. It makes me wonder however. It is called the fifth Veda. It was written for non-brahmins who had no access to the Vedas and it focuses on tales of the warrior caste. It is the basis for devotion to Krishna. Yet today, many Krishna devotees who are born in non-brahminical families and societies aspire to be brahmins. Krishna says in the Gita that one should follow one’s own path rather than that of another. Universalist Radha-Krishnaism avoids this and encourages the practice of natural devotion.