Understanding Sadness, Depression and Anguish the ancient way

According to the Hindu epic Mahabharata, there are 14 main reasons for Sadness, Depression, and anxiety or anguish. The words are wise, worth your read.

Mahabharata may be ancient, but it is very precise in describing the reasons for these negative emotions. When we understand these reasons, we are in a better position to recover from them. Do note that Mahabharata along with Shree Bhagvat Gita is a strong inspiration for lots of management formulae used by businesses today.

14 Reasons for Sadness According to Mahabharata;

After the Kuru war, in the moment of a victory that has come at a great cost, Yudhishthira goes to meet Bhishma, who is in his dying breaths.

Yudhisthira’s inquisitive dialogue with Bhishma, which takes place here, spans Shanti and Anushasana parvans of the Mahabharata.
In this dialogue, Yudhishthira asks Bhishma, “Why does one feel sorrow? why does one feel pain?”

Bhishma’s answer is comprehensive, it nearly spans 18 shlokas. The reasons he enlists are both intrinsic and extrinsic in nature.

1. Sadness when one is in a foreign land

Despite worldly comforts, when one is in a foreign land, away from home and away from loved ones, one feels gnawing loneliness. That makes them long and yearn.

(In the Welsh language, there is a beautiful word that captures this longing for home – hiraeth)

2. Sadness when deserted by their friends and loved ones

Maybe because of personal flaws, but when a person is deserted by their friends and loved ones, then the home itself feels like a foreign land, and that this makes the person sad.

3. Sadness when treated badly

Sometimes even when a person has been noble and kind, and if their friends treat them badly, then that does lead to anguish.

4. Anguish due to disrespect and apathy

Rich and influential people, who might not be as good a human being as you are, if they treat you with disrespect and apathy, sometimes that leads to pain.

5. Resentment due to a capable person not getting the rewards

Oft despite being a learned, honorable, and capable person, does not receive the justified rewards. Yet when the undeserving ones do, this leads to resentment.

(In human resource management, there is expectancy theory of motivation, which is similar in nature)

6. Sadness due to livelihood

When one does not have proper means of livelihood (lack of a unique skill), it makes one anxious.

And yet if the person is too proud to ask for a helping hand out of a false sense of self-respect, it leads to suffering.

Fortunately, Feeling happy does not need a reason!

7. Anguish due to perceived weakness by others

When your generosity and goodness of heart are perceived to be your weakness by those who benefit from the very qualities, when they take it for granted, and in turn reduce you in your own eyes, it causes deep anguish.

8. Disappointment due to insult by lacking people

When a learned and deserving person is belittled and insulted by those who lack knowledge and kindness, it could cut deep and cause them pain

9. Sadness due to distrust

When an enemy behaves like a friend, earns trust, and then eventually betrays; this manipulation and betrayal leads to resentment and anguish.

10. Due to ignorance

A person understands the material world well, has a knack of explaining complex phenomena well, and yet if the person is ignored and belittled by the learned and the respected, it leads to pain.

11. Due to shortcomings

Devoid of money and devoid of intelligence, when one still aspires for higher things and fails due to own shortcomings, it leads to sorrow and suffering.

12. Sadness due to family Troubles

Familial troubles such as the lack of harmonious relations with the family, disapproval of your decisions by your own family, betrayals and malice by sons and sons-in-laws can lead to deep pain.

13. Sadness due to money stolen by market/thieves

If the money a person has set aside for retirement is stolen, and they have to depend on unworthy people of subsistence, it makes the person anxious, afraid and awkward.

14. Sadness due to helplessness

A person dear to you has been distant and angry due to their own doing/misunderstanding, and you are unable to pacify them and make amends, it leads to suffering.

The description of this passage of the interaction between Yudhisthira and Bhishma is taken from the lecture by Dr. Pradeep Apte, which is a part of the course on “18 Parvans of Mahabharata”.
In the lecture, Dr. Apte points out a poignant juxtaposition.

In this conversation, the one who asks the question, Yudhishthira, has suffered immense anguish through ignominy to the victory. The one who answers is Bhishma, who has lived a life full of difficult choices, and who even in his last moments experiences a prolonged agony.

Maybe it is this complexity of these characters and their gravitas, which enables exploration of such diverse and expansive topics in such a timeless manner.


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