How to Cite

Christopher Key Chapple. (2022). YOGA AND THE MAHÅBHÅRATA: ENGAGED RENOUNCERS: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 14(2), 107–118. Retrieved from


The Mahåbhårata serves as a didactic text, a cautionary tale about epic figures who veer from the course of dharma. It employs a device of nested stories that inculcate the prime values of Indian tradition. The Mahåbhårata also seeks to reconcile the tension between the life of those who seek ultimate religious fulfillment through renouncing the world, and those persons who remain within the world seeking to uphold truth, nonviolence, and justice.
This essay examines three accounts that contribute to the discussion of Yoga-related practices in the Mahåbhårata, with a focus on nonviolence (ahiµså) and austerity (tapas). The first pertains to a conversation between a brahmin ascetic named Jåjali and a wise, nonviolent merchant named Tulådhåra, narrated by Bhîßma on his funeral pyre. The second centers on the vow of Såvitrî as she practices tapas to save the life of her husband. In the third, Bhîßma praises the vow of ahiµså as expressed through the abandonment of flesh foods. These stories will be summarized and then discussed in light of the tension between renunciation of the world and active involvement within the world.

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