Now, we start with Book 5. In this episode (Sections 26-29) Sanjaya, who is the trusted charioteer of Dhridrashtra , is sent as envoy to the Pandavas to seek peace. After listening to Sanjaya’s initial comments, Yudhishtra says; “Between war and peace, why would anyone want to seek war? Wars lead only to misery and death. If one just wants to be happy by satisfying his desires, there will be no end. It will be like pouring ghee into fire. I look for happiness based on righteousness (dharma)”. He asks Sanjaya why the king is looking for peace now, when he has all this prosperity, an army of his own and that of his friends and the support of Bhishma, Drona and others? Is it because he is not able to go against his own attachment to his son and his inability to stop him (Duryodhana) from doing unrighteous things?
Sanjaya then requests Yudhishtra to desist from going to war since that will lead to destruction of so many on both sides and that of the entire race. “Will it not be better for you to live in fame somewhere else than get sovereignty by waging war? Having lived such a noble life of virtues why do you wish to commit the sin of killing your own people and teachers?” Also, “you had ample opportunities to regain your kingdom earlier. You let them go. Why are you now particular about getting your share?”
Yudhishtra responds by saying: “I agree. But, what reason does one use to decide when an act is virtuous and when it is not? During a crisis, a virtuous act looks vice and vice versa. One should ideally follow one’s varna dharma (duties of the Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and sudra). But during stressful times it may seem otherwise. If one loses all his property and is unable to perform his duties according to his varna dharma, what is one supposed to do? I am a Kshatriya and I wish to get what is rightfully mine. I will not seek it by wrong means. I would rather rule the land which comes from my father without any battle than take someone else’s property through violence. I think I am on the right path. Let us ask Krishna (Lord Krishna) since he is interested in both parties”.
When Lord Krishna is presented with this question, He answers: “I am interested in both the parties. I wish for the issue to be settled in peace. I also know the facts. Yudhishtra has acted with great restraint in spite of having been cheated and mistreated. The worst offence was what all of the elders did to Draupadi in public. No one came to her rescue – not even the great Bhishma. The only on to speak up was Vidura. Action is superior to non-action. It is by virtue of work that the sun shines, fire burns, Goddess Earth supports. It is human action that sustains the Gods. (Basic idea of the Vedic religion that there is mutual support between the humans and the Gods, devas). It is perfectly reasonable for one to act according to his dharma. It is proper for a king to fight. If Yudhishtra can attain what is due without fight he will choose it. (Krishna then restates the duties of each of the four varnas). Duryodhana and his brothers and friends have behaved unreasonably all along. (Krishna even calls them fools). Dhridrashtra has gone along with them because he is blinded by his love for his sons”.
Krishna then compares Duryodhana to a big tree of evil passions with Karna for its trunk, Sakuni for the branches and Dussasana for the flowering blossoms and fruits. He also compares Yudhishtra to a tree of righteousness with Bhima for its trunk, Arjuna for the branches and the Madri brothers its fruits. Most important, Krishna says that He (Krishna) is the root of this dharma tree.
Later he says that Kauravas and Pandavas are like a forest and a tiger. They need each other. Outside of a forest, the tiger will get killed. If there is no tiger, men will cut down the trees of the forest. It is the mutuality Krishna points out.
Finally, Krishna says that he has to try personally to avert this war and decides to go to Hastinapura.
Yudhishtra sends Sanjaya back with kindly words and respects to everyone in the Hastinapura household. It is amazing how Yudhishtra remembers to mention every one, literally every one including maids, servants and the handicapped! He then says: “I am prepared to forgive all the hardships imposed on us; humiliations heaped upon Draupadi and us; I am prepared to even settle for as little as five villages because we do not want to see our clans slain. Duryodhana, either give back my Indraprastha or fight with me”.
The final words of Yudhishtra are memorable: “Sanjaya, I am equally capable of war and peace. I am prepared to acquire wealth as well as to earn virtue. I am fit enough for severity and for softness”.
One other point, not relevant here, is the description of gods (devas) as defined in the epics of India. The so-called Gods are defined by their absence of desires, absence of covetousness, absence of enmity and indifference to worldly affairs and desires. (Book 5, Section 61). The physical differences between humans and the gods (devas) is given in another episode. When Damayanti enters the hall where her suitors have assembled, Nala (human) is sitting in the midst of all the devas in human form. How is she to recognizes Nala. She does so, we are told, because Damayanti knew that devas never blink, their feet do not touch the ground and their flowers do not wither. She garlands the real Nala.