Then there are the ordinary people, who seemingly lead very ordinary lives like the unnamed housewife, the grocer Tuladhara and the meat seller Dharmavyadha, all of whom become evolved enough to be able to teach even an ascetic what a truly virtuous life should be. Thus, the Mahabharata makes the point that true knowledge or wisdom can come from those belonging to any section of society and yet, those whom we look up to, can also fail sometimes. These are the rishis. There are several prominent and exalted rishi families descending directly from the intellectual sons or manasputras that Brahma created first. The rishis reiterate the basic concepts and assert that the only path to liberation and self-mastery is control over the senses. Without this control destructive emotions such as anger, lust, greed, arrogance, and egoism overpower and make the person helpless. This is, however, easier taught then done as the rishis themselves find it hard to maintain control over their senses. Immersed in the world of greed for power and wealth or motivated by desire, they sometimes even use their knowledge to cause greater destruction than ordinary mortals are capable of as they can curse and grant boons through powers acquired by their ascetic practices. What the Mahabharata shows is that power without wisdom is dangerous. Ironically therefore, we see many rishis and sages themselves become unscrupulous wielders of power, destroying wantonly, because they have no control over themselves and they give in to sensual pleasures. One reason for this could be that they get too involved in the world and develop too many vested interests. They are unable, therefore, to watch the affairs of the world with detachment as witnesses. The redeeming factor however, is that having reached a level of understanding, the rishis, who get caught in the web, are more often than not able to gather themselves in good time.
As Sri Krishna explains, those who realize the eternal Truth are neither reborn at the time of creation, nor are they 'disturbed' at the time of dissolution. The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth and the Supreme Godhead, that is Krishna himself, impregnates it. All species of life are made possible by birth in this material nature of which he is the seed-giving father. Material nature consists of three modes - goodness, passion and ignorance or sattva, rajas and tamas. When the indestructible one or the eternal living entity comes in contact with nature, he becomes conditioned by these modes. Sliding down from the level of sattva to rajas and tamas, is easy but staying steadfast in sameness is the one defining qualification of a 'realized one'. Sri Krishna elucidates ...one who does not hate illumination, attachment, and delusion when they are present nor longs for them when they disappear; is unwavering and undisturbed through all these reactions of the material qualities, remaining neutral and transcendental knowing that the modes alone are active; is situated in the Self and regards alike happiness and distress; looks upon a lump of earth, a stone, and a piece of gold with an equal eye; is equal towards the desirable and the undesirable; is steady, situated equally well in praise and blame, honour and dishonour; treats alike both friend and enemy; and one who has renounced all material activities - such a person is said to have transcended the modes of nature. It is only Sri Krishna who is the basis of the personal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable, and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness. Only one person in the entire Mahabharata can achieve being a part of the world and yet stay out of it, and that is Sri Krishna himself. As he says in the Bhagavad Gita, there is nothing for him to do in all the three worlds since there is nothing that he has not acquired. But he is still engaged in action because without it, the worlds will perish. Just as the ignorant work with attachment, the wise work without attachment. This is the ideal set by Sri Krishna and that is why he is regarded as the supreme teacher of the world or the Jagatguru.