The Taittreya upanishad ends with an awesome if cryptic invocation: "I am food, I eat him who is food."
I am reminded of that saying as I approach the m-world with the Jaya, for the Jaya is both food and the eater of the m-world. Meanwhile it too is being eaten. Those who came before us have said that the Jaya is the fifth veda, the veda which subsumes the previous four and more. By consuming the Jaya, we can chew our way through the entire canon. By consuming the Jaya, we can consume the world in which we live.
That's the hope. Let's start with a few morsels: Jaratkaru, Garuda, Damayanti and Agastya.
Q: Who are they and why are they our first course? A: They are our guides through the digestive sea.
Remember, we aren't the self-endowing creatures of Descartes' imagination. We need gurus to guide us toward knowledge.
In Indian mythology - and every other mythology - constellations are named after divine or semi-divine beings. Since we have stopped believing in humanoid gods - only humanoid robots please our fancy - we have also stopped naming the heavens with more than human forms. Isn't that strange - it's perfectly OK to name a new planet/star/galaxy in honor of a famous scientist but it's not OK to name it after a god.
Such is our arrogance.
Let me ask the question once again: why Jaratkaru, Garuda, Damayanti and Agastya?
Here's one answer: because they're personifications of four themes in the Jaya that are of immense value today. Together, they are four spokes of the great wheel of the dharma, each leading to the next.
Jaratkaru stands for time, for our obligations to the past and even more so to the future. It's his reverence for his ancestors that makes him - against his wishes - to marry Manasa and beget Astika, who is to be the saviour of the snakes.
Then there's Garuda, mortal enemy of the snakes but also the personified force of animal nature. Garuda eats snakes by the million, but he also battles the gods for supremacy. He's stronger than them.
Damayanti also battles the gods, who come to her as chance, through the rolling of dice that she can't control. Her life is turned upside down by a vengeful god. Or is it a weak husband? I still don't know if Nala is a victim or an addict.
Finally, there's the good husband-heir Agastya, who listens to his wife and his ancestors. Agastya earns his keep by drinking up oceans and taming mountains.
I had no intention of choosing them as guides when I started reading the Jaya section by section, but I ended up expanding upon their fate as if there was a hidden attraction. Now I know why: they will help us digest four important aspects of the m-world: time, nature, chance and knowledge.
Odd and Even
Jaratkaru, Garuda, Damayanti and Agastya: four spokes. Or should I say, four spokespeople, for they will be representing me in the Jaya for all of 2017.
What about next year?
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time a young man sat down to read the longest book in the world. He read it for a day and couldn't understand a word. He read it for a week but he still couldn't understand a word. Then a month passed. No understanding. Finally, he decided - for he wasn't so young anymore - that he was going to read it for a year.
And he did. He read the book every day for a year. Every day. Days when he was happy. Days when he was sad. Days when it was light at 4:00 AM and days when it was dark at 4:00 PM. Remember, it is a really long book. The reader still didn't understand more than a couple of words, but he was now ready to share his misunderstanding.
Share, yes, but how? and with whom?
The not so young man had a clever idea: why not turn a year's worth of reading into a book? A book! Even the thought made the man feel a decade younger and a decade older at the same time.
But you see, the thought of a book is an insidious idea. It's a finicky idea, for it takes root only when the conditions are ripe. But once it latches itself onto mental soil, it doesn't let go. In fact, it spawns other ideas. Such as:
What if I read the very long book every even year and write a book with it every odd year? Eh, why not?
Two times Two
So there you go: it's taken me almost a year to have an idea that should have been obvious from the beginning. Or rather, it's two ideas that feed off each other. Wait, it gets better: it's two ideas, both of which are two ideas that feed off each other.
Idea one: read the mahabharata to understand the modern world. Which can also be formulated as idea one*: read the modern world to understand the mahabharata.
Idea two: read the mahabharata one year. Idea two*: write the mahabharata the next year.
The first idea is about space. Two spaces that start out being separate, and then they're mixed until it's hard to tell when the first ends and the other starts. Every era needs its Jaya, and not that I am about to write one, but I can dream. What's clear is that the mixing of spaces has to be irreversible - it should not be possible to turn the mixer counterclockwise and separate the two liquids.
We have to acknowledge the passage of time. Our world isn't the same as the world of Vyasa's Jaya. We can't assume that the Jaya is a battery that plugs into any time zone: unplug it from the Dwapara yuga and plug it into the twenty first century and you're ready to go. It doesn't work that way. That's why idea two is about time; it's less mixed than the spatial idea, but we know that time isn't as flexible as space.
Space, time and knowledge. That pretty much covers all there is, isn't it? No wonder the Jaya is confident that what's not in it is nowhere else.