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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Maha Bharata - Some Hidden Gems 10: Discussion between Yudhishtra and Draupadi

When the game of dice is played for the second time, Lord Krishna is away in a country named Anarttha. Does this have a symbolic meaning? Anarttha means “no wealth or no substance”. Evil happened when the Lord was in a land of no substance?

Anyway, Krishna comes back and talks to Yudhishtra and says that if he were present, he could have prevented the calamity. He also says: “Women, dice, hunting and drinking are four evils that deprive a man of prosperity”.

Starting with chapter 28, we read discussions between the brothers and Draupadi after the Pandavas are exiled. Draupadi in particular is incensed and asks Yudhishtra how he can be so cool and collected. She asks: “Are you not a kshtriya? How is it you are not angry when you have been exiled? Your brothers are great warriors and are capable of killing the kurus in no time. They are quiet because of respect for you. Don’t you see me, a princess and wife of the Pandavas living under these conditions in the forest? Does it not make you upset? People will take advantage of weak people. One has to show might and forgiveness on appropriate occasions. (In other words, this is not a time for forgiveness).”

Then Draupadi lists conditions under which one should forgive: those who serve you sincerely but make a mistake, and those who make mistake out of ignorance. If one offends you knowingly but pleads ignorance, that person should be punished. You can forgive someone for the first mistake; but not if he keeps repeating.

Yudhishtra then lists all the consequences of anger and points out how the ignorant think that showing anger is strength  whereas it only leads to calamities and destruction. It is not that wise men do not get angry. But they know how to show it appropriately and channel it. An angry man cannot see things in their true light. A man by forsaking anger can exhibit proper energy, when and where needed. Excessive and uncontrolled anger leads to the destruction of the world.

“If a man who is attacked with harsh words returns with harsh words, if an injured man injures the one who hurt him, if fathers slay sons, and sons slay fathers and if husbands slay wives, and wives kill husbands, O Draupadi, how can birth take place in a world where anger prevails? The birth of creatures requires love and peace!”  “O Draupadi, one should learn to forgive. The continuation of species is due to our ability to forgive. He, indeed, is a wise and excellent person who has conquered his anger and who can forgive even when insulted, oppressed, and angered by a strong person”.

He then quotes Kashyapa:  “Forgiveness is virtue; forgiveness is sacrifice, forgiveness is the Vedas, forgiveness is the Shruti. Forgiveness is Brahma; forgiveness is truth; forgiveness is stored ascetic merit; and by forgiveness is it that the universe is held together. Forgiveness gives peace of mind. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue. O Krishna, (Krishna is the other name for Draupadi) how can one like us abandon forgiveness?”

Draupadi says: “I have heard that virtue protects everyone. But I do not see virtue protecting you, a virtuous man. May be this is Gods’ will or fate. But, why does God behave unfair persecuting the superior and well-behaved while the sinful are happy? Why does he allow the crooked Dhrithrashtra in prosperity and punish you and us?  If this is the act of God, it is God himself who is stained with the sin”. She then talks about action and inaction; about karma in relation to prior births etc and says that those who believe in destiny and chance are worst among men.

These are powerful stinging words from the princess. But, Yudhishthira does not show anger. He says: “Your speech, is delightful, but the language is one of atheism.  It is the Lord who is behind whatever we do; creatures are inert by themselves. If man’s actions alone are adequate, everything should be successful. If God alone decides the outcome, everything should be good and pleasant. Since neither is true, I believe destiny and chance are the outcome of our action in the prior birth (karma)”.

“I never act, desirous of the fruits of my actions but follow the rules of Dharma and the examples of the good and the wise. I give away, because it is my duty to give; I sacrifice because it is my duty to sacrifice! I act regardless of the fact whether those acts bear fruits or not. The man who works to reap the fruits of virtue is a trader in virtue. His nature is mean and he should never be counted amongst the virtuous. Why the virtuous suffer and the sinful ones enjoy is a mystery even to the gods. Therefore, even though we do not see the fruits of our virtuous acts, we should not doubt the Vedas and the Gods. We should perform sacrifices and practice charity willingly. Reflecting on this, I hope your skepticism gives way to faith. Do not slander God; but learn how to know Him. Do not disregard the Supreme”.
Don’t you agree that these are profound conversations we should all read and think about?

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