The Moksa Anthology of the Great Bharata: An Initial Survey of Structural Issues, Themes, and Rhetorical Strategies

Author: 
Fitzgerald, James Leo
Year: 
1980

     This dissertation is an investigation of the general nature and structure of the set of 63 texts titled the "Moksadharma" parvan (MDh) found in the Santi Parvan of the Mahabharata (MBh). The investigation focuses on the MDh from two perspectives: (1) The position and function of the collection in the MBh, and (2) the internal nature and structure of the collection. The MBh is approached in broadly structural, not historical, terms, and the MDh is studied primarily in formal, rather than doctrinal, terms.
     This study of the MDh in the MBh reviews the MBh's characterization of itself and the structure and narrative progression of the "Great" Bharata and demonstrates the continuity of the MDh in the Great Bharata. Functionally, the MDh is the part of the Great Bharata which, more than any other part, justifies the Great Bharata's claim to be an all-encompassing source of instruction on the topics of most importance to ultimate human welfare -- a source of knowledge commensurate with the Vedas. The MDh is the most extensive and most highly esteemed (by the Great Bharata itself) part of a long series of divinely authorized and inspired instructions imparted to the victorious new king of the Bharatas, Yudhisthira. This series of instructions is given to the sensitive new king in order to quell his disabling grief in the wake of the grotesquely fratricidal and quasi-patricidal Bharata war, as he inaugurates his rule in the new era initiated by the war. This instruction is part of a general santi (pacification) of the earth and the Bharata kingdom and it is an extension of an effort to persuade the new king to rule the kingdom in spite of the grotesque war (an effort which, with the Bhagavad Gita, brackets the war, the heart of the epic narrative, between two ethical examinations and justifications of the dharma of Ksatriyas).
     The MDh is then examined in terms of several internal features in a search for the highest degree of meaningful continuity in the text. The set of 63 texts is surveyed thematically and it is concluded that though there is general unity among the texts in the topic moksa, it is in fact an anthology of discrete texts of varying provenance. A search for potential redactorial continuities focuses on the narrative frame introducing each text, the internal arrangement of the texts, and 18 texts which are, atypically, not attributed to some authoritative figure other than Bhisma. With the exception of certain small elements of structured arrangement within the anthology, these investigations turn up no superior text in the anthology which might be attributable to the anthology's redactor.
     Finally, the texts of the collection are examined from a rhetorical point of view. They are distinguished into two rhetorical types -- the homiletic and the expository -- and these are briefly demonstrated and compared, speculatively, with the general rhetorical strategy of the Upanishads. It is concluded that while the texts of the MDh contribute only a few new elements beyond the Upanishads in doctrinal terms, both of these rhetorical types represent rhetorical transformations of the Upanishadic rhetoric by which the esoteric themes of the Upanishads were articulated for audiences wider than and more critical than the Brahmins."