“He (Vidura) indirectly hinted, ‘A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy, and he who knows this is never killed.’ That is to say, he hinted that the party of the Pandavas was being sent to Varanavata to be killed, and thus he warned Yudhishthira to be very careful in their new residential palace.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.8 Purport)
Watch any famous spy movie or spoof about the same and you’re sure to see people talking in code. Various signals are given to other members of the team, but they are verbalized out in the open. Since others are within audible range, the instructions must be cryptic and yet informative at the same time. The recipient of the information must be able to decipher the code so that they can act upon the intelligence. Some statements like, “The eagle has landed” and “The hen is in the nest”, can take on the humorous tone when used in situations where code is not necessary. Comedy writers have imagined their own variations of these kinds of statements to delight members of the audience. It appears from the ancient history documented in the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam that the same practice of speaking in code was followed a long time back.
The Mahabharata is often considered the fifth Veda, or the supplementary division of work to the original Veda, which was later on divided into four parts by Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of Godhead. The original Supreme Lord is one without a second, so He can accomplish all of His tasks alone. He doesn’t need any other forms or expansions, as He can see with His ears and hear with His eyes, but He nevertheless brings forth innumerable sparks of Himself that have independence in their actions. As their spiritual link to the original storehouse cannot be completely eradicated, there are varying gradations of particles of spirit.
The more purified versions are better acquainted with their constitutional position. Then there are the almost direct incarnations which carry out divine functions. Vyasadeva is one of those incarnations, and his divine nature is evidenced by the volume and quality of his output. It’s easier now to mass produce literature with the advent of modern technology, but imagine doing the same thing thousands of years back. In addition, what you were producing was unique and committed to memory. This begins to tell the story of Vyasadeva and his tremendous brainpower. He spoke the Mahabharata, one of the largest works ever composed, to his disciples. When written down, the work spans thousands of pages, but since it was crafted in Sanskrit and according to a specific style of implementation, the entire work could be sung and remembered.
Of course more important than the length was the content. If not for the proper information contained within, the Mahabharata wouldn’t be so significant. The original Veda sprung forth from the Supreme Lord at the beginning of creation, and it was rather concise. Just a small collection of hymns praising God and His qualities. The songs didn’t need to be large in number or lengthy because just from the sound vibration representation of the Supreme Lord one is able to get God within their reach. That gift brings a closeness in proximity but has no bearing on control. The Supreme Controller cannot be compelled to do anything, but if His name is recited with love and devotion, He kindly agrees to remain within the immediate vicinity of the reciter. Hence the best way to approach God, stay connected with Him, and enjoy His association is to recite His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
As further time elapsed from the beginning of creation, man’s interest began to divert towards other areas. The original Veda wasn’t cutting it anymore, as just singing songs was difficult to do when other enticements were available. To address the fallen condition, the Supreme Lord partially incarnated as Vyasadeva and then subsequently divided the original Veda into four branches, with each one focusing on special areas of interest. This made the highest truths of life a little easier to understand and expanded the reach of the songs to more people.
The Puranas next addressed an even further descent from the original position of pure consciousness. If you weren’t in the mood to sing songs, at the very least you could spend some time hearing stories about God and His associates. The accounts described the supernatural and the surreal, but they weren’t fabricated. Sometimes the events took place on the current planet and sometimes on other ones. Some events were from the past and others portended things to come.
We see that in the present age one of the desired methods of relaxation is sitting down in front of the television and watching a program. There is no pressure in this activity, and typically there is no finite time allotted to the engagement. This stands in contrast to the grind of work or school, where there is constant pressure to meet deadlines and fulfill expectations. In the relaxed state, one simply has to watch, without applying too much mental effort.
Better than watching is hearing, because then at least the brain starts to engage a little more, crafting responses to the opinions set forth, or at least mentally picturing the scenes being described. The ear is sharper than the eye because visions can be distracting, while the ear is accustomed to taking in information in a certain pattern. One can look at the difference in proofreading techniques to see evidence. If you were to proofread something that you or someone else wrote, you could gloss over many of the misspellings. This is because the eyes are accustomed to seeing words as a whole, so if there are only one or two letters off or transposed, the eyes might overlook the mistakes.
Sound vibration is different. Take off a letter from a word and it will sound completely different to the ear. If you were to take the same text that you had to proofread but this time hear it pronounced out loud, you would be able to pick out so many more errors without even consciously looking for them. Of course mistakes in context and ambiguity with respect to words that had the same sound but different spellings could be missed, but these defects are more relevant to the written word and not to the meaning during oral presentation.
Take that same superiority in hearing and apply it to discourses about the Supreme Lord and you get an easy way to attain enlightenment. From a higher way of thinking you can find a better way of living. Thus Vyasadeva composed the Puranas so that man could find God just by hearing and nothing else. The Mahabharata was the lengthiest work that he authored, and it contained pretty much every type of information relevant for living in a temporary land. It’s essentially the encyclopedia of Vedic teachings, with the heart and soul of the work being a small conversation held between a hesitant warrior and his charioteer.
The warrior was a member of the Pandava family and the chariot driver was the Supreme Lord Himself, Shri Krishna. While there are expansions and partial incarnations, Krishna is considered God in His complete form. He is purna, so He is not lacking anything, including wisdom. When the unsure warrior Arjuna needed help in deciding what to do, Krishna stepped in and offered sound words of advice. Since God was speaking, the words of wisdom never lost their relevance. The teachings presented by Krishna to Arjuna are as relevant today as they were on that day many thousands of years ago on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
The Mahabharata presents Vedic truths through the story of the five Pandava brothers. They were pious by nature, so it was not surprising that Krishna favored them. On the flip side, their cousins, the Kurus, did not like them at all. The leader of the rival cousins was named Duryodhana, and he tried in various ways to kill the brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi.
The Pandavas had several well-wishers helping them, either secretly or in the open. One of the key players behind the scenes was Vidura, the older brother of the Pandavas’ departed father Pandu. The Pandavas were lured into so many traps set by Duryodhana and his clan, but Vidura would secretly give the brothers information to be used as warnings. Without Vidura’s help, the Pandavas would not have survived.
At the same time, the different cryptic messages sent forth by Vidura can be taken in a humorous light, as they showed cleverness from both speaker and recipient. The Mahabharata is an ancient work, but just because the events described took place so long ago doesn’t mean that the human beings inhabiting the earth were bereft of variety, color and humor. The Vedas give you everything, including humorous incidents and delightful interactions between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and parents and children.
“Maharaja Yudhishthira said: My uncle, do you remember how you always protected us, along with our mother, from all sorts of calamities? Your partiality, like the wings of a bird, saved us from poisoning and arson.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.8)
Maharaja Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers, years later remembered Vidura’s partiality with appreciation. Through some way or another the saints look out for the innocent, the people who are willing to accept their instructions. In more recent times, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His spiritual brother Nityananda Prabhu took that benevolence to another level by offering sound words of advice to every single person, regardless of the reception they gave. Friend or foe, Shri Shri Nimai Nitai asked everyone to chant the names of Hari, the Supreme Lord who removes the distresses of His devotees. That security arrives from both the Supreme Lord and His representatives, which include the dear servants like Mahatma Vidura.
Strange phrases out in the open make up spy talk,
Reveal signals for things like knowing where to walk.
“The eagle has landed, the hen has returned to the nest”,
These phrases known to some but not to the rest.
Such talk found in works Vyasadeva compiled,
Through hearing find eternal wisdom and also a smile.
Vidura, to the five Pandava brothers a well-wisher,
To save them from danger, acted as secret instruction giver.
Shri Shri Nimai Nitai similarly to the world grant,
Best kept secret, holy names of Hari always chant.