Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (September 2000, Super School Auroville) - Track 2

Now you understand the cause of difficulty. Duryodhana felt that since his father is now ruling and actually his father should have become the king, but for his defect. He himself does not have any defect; his body was perfect. So he legitimately felt in his own mind legitimately that he should be the king. Yudhisthira, he was not so ambitious. But in the eyes of law, he was the eldest son of the father who was a king and according to the wisdom of all the people concerned he should become the king. So there was a conflict.

This was the beginning of the story of Mahabharata. What happened then?

There were two claimants − Duryodhana on one side and Yudhisthira on the other. The advice of the wisest was to make Yudhisthira the king. And Dhritarashtra would normally obey the decision of the wise. In his own mind he had accepted it. When Yudhisthira and Duryodhana both came of age then although he had a great attachment to his own son, although he knew that his son had a great ambition to become the king. And although he believed that Duryodhana should become a king. He bowed down to the advice of the wise and declared that Yudhisthira will sit on the throne of Hastinapur. He was declared to be yuvaraja. Yuvaraja means the King designate. This produced a tremendous difficulty and a tremendous rivalry between Duryodhana and his followers and Yudhisthira and his followers. Duryodhana and his brothers were called Kauravas. In the story this word is often used − Kauravas. And these five sons were called Pandavas. The son of Pandu came to be called Pandavas. And the entire clan was called Kuru. So the sons of Kuru came to be called Kauravas. So there was a great conflict now between the Kauravas and the pandavas. Now the story is very long.

But for our purposes, I will make reference only to a few episodes. These five Pandavas, each one was reputed for his own special skill. Yudhisthira was famous for his knowledge, his truthfulness, sense of justice and pursuit of Dharma pursuit of Dharma. That was his specialty, his special skill. Bhima was very famous for his courage, boldness, strength, and heroism. He is described to have a very huge body. He could even kill a person by only embracing somebody that much was the power of his body. And Bhima was a special enemy of Duryodhana because Duryodhana also had a great strength of the body and he knew that in a war, even the battle wrestling, if the two had to wrestle only Bhima could succeed in killing him only by wrestling. So he was greatly afraid of Bhima and there was a great rivalry between Duryodhana and Bhima. Third was Arjuna. Now Arjuna, although the third son, he was the best man of the whole age, not only of the family. He was the best man of his own age, the entire age, entire period. His greatest achievement was in the field of archery. His capacity of shooting with arrows was so great that there was no rival of him in his time except one person; that was Karna. But nobody knew that Karna was actually the brother of these five brothers. It was known only to Kunti; not even to Karna.

Even Karna himself did not know that he was the son of Kunti. How come? It's a story which I will tell you later on because if I tell you all the stories, the main story will be left out in the middle.

Therefore Karna and Arjuna were great rivals; just as Duryodhana and Bhima were great Rivals. Karna and Arjuna were the greatest rivals. Arjuna himself believed that he was superior to Karna although he was mistaken in this regard.

Actually Karna was superior in his skill as a warrior and Karna knew this very well. He knew rightly that he was superior to Arjuna, but Arjuna had many other qualities. Not only archery but he was a man of a very developed temperament.

In India, we have three temperaments. Everywhere these three temperaments exist, but in India they are known that human beings can be divided into people of three temperaments. All the people of the world can be divided into three categories. The lowest category is called tamasic. Tamasic are those people who are dull in their mind, lazy, idle, inert. They are called tamasic. Then, second category belongs to people who are called rajasic − people who are passionate, dynamic, kinetic, ambitious. They are called rajasic.

The third category is sattvic. Sattvic are those who are balanced in their mind; harmonious with others; very quiet in their temperament; desirous of pursuit of knowledge; in all ways to do the right; full of love and joy spontaneously. Like many of you are sattvic here from whatever I observed you.

I feel that many of you are sattvic in temperament, who don't rush into action without seeing things properly. They take decisions rightly. They are concerned with the right decision.

For them action is less important than the right decision, that is sattvic nature. They would prefer failure, but they would like to do the right thing. They would not mind to be destroyed even but they would like to uphold the right action.

According to Indian theory after sattvic there is another higher degree that is called divya, divya temperament; the divine temperament.

Now Arjuna belonged to sattvic temperament. So not only he was a great warrior, the best archer of his time, he was the best sattvic man of his time. And his capacities, his skills of war, were so great that everybody knew that on the side of Pandavas, the most important man is Arjuna. He was recognized, he was respected, so greatly, not only by Pandavas and the friends of Pandavas, but also by Kauravas, except as I told you Karna who rightly believed that he was superior to Arjuna, but actually he was also the brother of Arjuna, all the five brothers.

Now, there is one very nice important episode in the life of Pandavas just to show you the capacity of archery on the part of Arjuna. That episode refers to a stage where all the five brothers were living in a forest along with their mother Kunti. And these five brothers were taken to a nearby place where a princess was to choose a bridegroom. In those times there was a system where princesses used to choose their own bridegrooms in public. So, many young men, princes, would come, assemble, and each one would show his efficiency, proficiency, skill, his greatness, and the princess would go around each prince and a bard, or a singer, or poet would go on describing the greatness of each one. And if the princess felt that this one was the best then she would garland him. That will be the sign that she has chosen her husband. In Sanskrit this occasion was called swayamvara.

Swayamvara, swayam means oneself; vara means choosing; self-choosing; the occasion of self choosing.

Now the princess who had to choose the husband was called Draupadi (it’s a very important name in Mahabharata). She was the best woman of her times. One day, we should be able to give you the full story of Draupadi.

Abha, is preparing a good account of Draupadi. Once it is ready, I will present it to you. She was the best woman of her times.

And therefore many kings and many princes had come to be chosen by Draupadi. Even Duryodhana had gone there to be chosen. And so had Karna; he also had gone there to be chosen. Now, there was a very difficult condition to get the hand of Draupadi. The father of Draupadi had put up a very difficult problem, which had to be solved by anybody who wanted the hand of Draupadi. Draupadi would garland only that man who would succeed in the test which was put up. Now, what was the test? There was a small pond full of water. Above the water pool there was a revolving wheel, a wheel which was revolving. On the wheel there was a fish which was also revolving. Now the test was − the shooter should not look upwards; he can only look downward in the image which was reflected from above and he was supposed to shoot the eye of the fish above. You can see the intricacy of the whole test.

There was a wheel which was moving. So it was not a fixed point, the fish was revolving on the wheel. And the eye therefore is a small part of the whole body of the fish because not only to shoot the fish (which should have been quite easy) but the eye of the fish straight, absolutely small target which was revolving. You don't have to look upwards. You can't look upwards. You only to see the reflection by looking downward putting your arrow upward you have to shoot in such a way that exactly the right time it was just shoot the eye of the fish upwards. This was the test. All failed. So many suitors had come, all failed. But Karna knew that he could. He was the greatest archer of his time. But when he stood up, Draupadi announced, “I shall not select you” even before he could try. This was a tremendous insult to one of the best of his times. What was the reason? The reason was that, although Kunti was his mother, nobody knew that his mother was Kunti and he was brought up by the wife of the charioteer who is supposed to belong to a lower stratum, status of a society. So she announced that since he is a son of a charioteer she would not marry him even if he would succeed in the test. He was disqualified to enter into the test right from the beginning. This was felt by Karna as a very great insult; is a part of the whole story so I am bringing out this particular episode. Now, at that time, these five brothers were present in the court, but they were disguised as brahmins not as warriors that was a condition in which they were reduced. How and why I am not going in to that story.

Later on we can deal with that story. They were not known to be kshatriyas, but known as brahmins and Arjuna was asked to try his hand by his colleagues. They knew that Arjuna was the greatest archer so he came forward and he accomplished in no time.