What impact does dharma have on The Mahabharata?

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The idea of dharma is extremely important in The Mahabharata.  The natural order that must be respected and followed is intrinsic to dharma.  In the Bhagavad- Gita, the divine song, this becomes the essence of Lord Krishna's message to Arjuna.  Faced with the brutally agonizing task of having to fight family members who have sided with the Kauravas, Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna of the dharma that is part of consciousness.  Placing all worries and apprehensions at the feet of the Lord ans trusting in him, submitting one's ego to him, becomes a part of dharma.  Lord Krishna's analysis to Arjuna suggests that he is the order by which the universe is constructed:  "There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist."  This is where Dharma becomes essential in The Mahabharata.  Lord Krishna's counsel to Arjuna about keeping an eye to the social maintenance of the world as the reason to take action also enhances this idea of dharma as critical to one's being in the world.

In another sense, Bhishma would also embody dharma. While he fights for the Kauravas, he begs them not to pursue fighting against the Pandavas.  Bhishma does his duty, also adhering to dharma, but also recognizes the dharma, or universal order, that is intrinsic to Lord Krishna's support to the Pandavas, and to Lord Arjuna. The sacrifices and suffering that Bhishma undergoes in the epic help to spell out how dharma has to be embraced by all.  His own plight of pain reflects that one has no choice but to accept dharma with the certainty of the arrows that pierce Bhishma's body before his death.

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