Dharma and Bhakti
Dharma and Bhakti
This chapter attempts to “map” dharma in relation to bhakti, proposing that such a map must begin with the divine plan or plans one has been hearing about. It becomes a project of mapping the Mahābhārata in relation to three other texts—not only the Rāmāyaṇa and the Harivaṃśa, but Manu as a text that “resists” bhakti. Such a map involves locating implicit bhakti usages of the names Dhātṛ and Vidhātṛ, the Placer and the Ordainer, and tracing the emergence of notions of avataraṇa. This complex concept takes in not only themes of divine “descent,” including Kṛṣṇa and Rāma as “avatāras” of Viṣṇu, along with Kalki, who in the Mahābhārata is prophesied to end the Kali yuga, but descents of the goddess Gaṅgā. With Gaṅgā, it also takes in dynastic descent through generations into a carefully targeted dharmic geography of madhyadeśa, the Middle Land. By attending further to how dharma and bhakti interrelate in the lives of Rāma and Kṛṣṇa on this terrain, it maps dharma and bhakti in relation to what the Mahābhārata calls Rṣidharma (the dharma of Ṛṣis), which is illustrated through the practice of gleaning, and through the interpersonal themes friendship, hospitality, and separation.
Keywords: bhakti, mapping, divine plans, Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa, Harivaṃśa, Laws of Manu, Dhātṛ, Vidhātṛ (Placer, Ordainer), avataraṇa, avatāra, Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, Kalki, Gaṅgā, Madhyadeśa, Ṛṣidharma, gleaning, fiendship, hospitality, separation
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