In the Mahabharata, Vyasa has spoken about the Purusharthas — dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (desire) and moksha (liberation). He has established beyond doubt that dharma is the most indispensible goal and is the only path to salvation, pointed out Sri O. R. Devanathan in a discourse.
Vyasa has captured the essence of the teachings of the Vedas which are not easily accessible to all, since their import remains hidden. It is held that ‘there is no Sastra greater than the Vedas and no God greater than Kesava.’ The greatness of dharma is pitted against the entire range of forces in life that run counter to it in many forms and ways. Surprisingly, it is shown that ‘Santi Rasa’ emerges from this work that so vividly portrays the din and fury of war.
The main teaching is simple. Sorrow and joy are not permanent. Human life is very temporary and the body succumbs to old age, disease and death. The story illustrates that all fights have their source in the desire for material gains. With incredible effort and Krishna’s assistance, the Pandavas gain the kingdom. But Yudhishtira is unhappy and restless. He knows only too well that this kingdom thus won is not the end of life which is to seek true and permanent happiness. But his commitment to dharma is extraordinary. That is why he could tell Arjuna to assist Duryodhana in dire straits, though he is their sworn enemy. Yudhishtira sees the hostile Duryodhana as his own brother and points out that though this fight is between the five of them and the hundred brothers, they would certainly join hands if a situation arose when Hastinapura had to fight a common enemy. Dharma survives when the moral conduct shown by the sastras is upheld.