This essay asks what the terms mokṣa and dharma mean in the anomalous and apparently Mahābhārata-coined compound mokṣadharma, which provides the title for the Śāntiparvan’s third and most philosophical anthology; and it further asks what that title itself means. Its route to answering those questions is to look at the last four units of the Mokṣadharmaparvan and their three topics—the story of Śuka, the Nārāyaṇīya, and a gleaner’s subtale—as marking an “artful curvature” that shapes the outcome of King Yudhiṣṭhira’s philosophical inquiries of Bhīṣma into a ”return” to this world to take up the topic of the fourth anthology, a King’s generous giving, in the Anuśāsanaparvan’s Dānadharmaparvan. Usages of the term mokṣa in the narratives in these units are considered in the light of The Laws of Manu’s usage of mokṣa to define the “renunciatory asceticism of a wandering mendicant” after the fulfillment of one’s debts (Olivelle et al., in Life of the Buddha by Aśvaghoṣa, 2008). Usages of mokṣadharma are discussed in conjunction with its overlapping term nivṛittidharma. With the term dharma itself, it is a matter of finding the best contextual translation. A pitch is made that these four units, and particularly the Nārāyaṇīya, should no longer be thought of as “late” additions.
Journal of Indian Philosophy – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 29, 2016
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