Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita (September 2000, Super School Auroville) - Track 4

But before we come to that still something more needs to be told in the background of the story of the war. As I told you last time Yudhisthira was proclaimed by Dhritarashtra as the prince who would become the king, the declaration of him as yuvaraj and this was not tolerated by Duryodhana. He went to his father and vehemently opposed this move of his father. Father had a great sympathy for this opposition that came from his son. He could understand. Why Duryodhana was so angry and so dissatisfied.

But his hands were tied because all the wise men particularly Bhishma had advice that only Yudhisthira should be given this title of yuvaraj. But the force of the opposition of Duryodhana was so great that ultimately Dhritarashtra asked Bhishma, "Is it possible to solve this problem so that Duryodhana is satisfied." Duryodhana in fact threatened that he would commit suicide and for a father to hear that his son would commit suicide, it was a great blow to him and he wanted to find a remedy. So ultimately, it was decided that Hastinapura should be divided − Hastinapura proper and Indraprastha on the other. It was divided into two parts.

The town or the kingdom of Hastinapura had also a part which was called Indraprastha. So Indraprastha, which was undeveloped, was given to Yudhisthira and the other one was allotted to Dhritarashtra himself and to Duryodhana. This is how the division took place. Once again, it was Indraprastha, which was a barren place, It was developed so greatly by Arjuna and Krishna and Yudhisthira within a short time, it became even more glorious than Hastinapura and when Duryodhana visited the palace of Yudhisthira, he felt a great envy in his heart and particularly there was one place which looked so smooth, but actually it was a pool of water. So he fell into the water; he could not avoid that pool of water. And Draupadi who was looking at the movement of Duryodhana could not stop derisive laughter and even spoke a word or a phrase which was terrible to hear, "Blind man's son is blind." He was a son of a blind man and these words went into the heart of Duryodhana and he decided to see that Draupadi is humiliated. I am only emphasizing some of the important events which took place. They may look small, but how great would be the ramifications in due course. Now Duryodhana began a game. There was a rule at that time that if one king invited another king to play the game of dice, invitation cannot be refused. This was a custom, right or wrong. If I invite you to play the game you cannot refuse it. So Duryodhana asked his father to invite Yudhisthira to play the game of dice with Duryodhana and his colleagues, his friends. Now Yudhisthira was very famous in the art of playing dice. It will be impossible to defeat him. And Yudhisthira, although he was a very virtuous man, he had this little weakness to play the game and to play the game very nicely and not to refuse or not to give way because he knew that he will be always victorious. But this time Duryodhana had planned a cunning game. He had his uncle, his mother's brother, whose name was Shakuni. (Too many names. No? difficult to remember all these names. Doesn't matter. When you hear the story again and again, they will be remembered automatically.) He was a master of cunning, Shakuni. How to deceive, that was his expertise and he was to represent Duryodhana in the game. And the game started and every time Shakuni won and every time Yudhisthira failed because of the cunning. Now, there was in this game of dice a system of putting something at stake, like gambling. No? In every game of gamble you put a stake of a hundred rupees, five hundred rupees, but he was, Yudhisthira was a king; he cannot put a small amount as stake. So little by little he began to put at stake everything, even his whole kingdom was put at stake and Shakuni won. But Yudhisthira was so sure that he will win ultimately and regain everything he began to put even his brother at stake. When he failed in everything, he still had four brothers with him and he was still invited to play the game. So one by one he began to put all his brothers at stake and Yudhisthira failed. Now what was left? He put himself at stake. Putting himself as take means he would also become a slave of Duryodhana if he failed. So four brothers had already become slaves, he himself became a slave. He failed again and became a slave. And now he had nothing else. Then somebody said, "why? You still have Draupadi." So he puts Draupadi at stake and Yudhisthira failed. Now he had nothing. The game came to an end because he had nothing now. So how could he play the game further? So now Duryodhana demanded Draupadi and said Draupadi is my slave now and asked his brother Dushasana to bring her in the courtroom. This is one of the most terrible chapters of Indian history where a princess and the queen was dragged into the court against her will and then Duryodhana in the courtroom, open courtroom, demanded Draupadi should sit on his lap. That was his great pride. You remember the humiliation that he had suffered from her and for that she was being dragged. And then they went further, Duryodhana went went further, and said she should be derobed, her robe should be taken away completely in the open court room. And the five husbands, Draupadi had all five brothers as her husbands; they could not stir because they were slaves of Duryodhana by that time. They were not free men. So they could not resist. They could not come to the rescue of Draupadi and even Dhritarashtra, Bhishma, all were sitting in the courtroom. And this great woman was dragged, an attempt was made to derobe and Draupadi had nothing with her excepting a prayer. The power of prayer was the only power that she had and she prayed to Sri Krishna to save her from infamy, from indignity, and it is said that miraculously as one robe was removed, the other robe came into being, and robe after robe, robe after robe. And a strong man like Dushasana, the brother of Duryodhana, he went on derobing and he himself became so tired that he fell down, he couldn't do anymore. It was at this stage that Dhritarashtra ordered that the whole thing should stop, − too late. And then Draupadi asked many questions and Dhritarashtra in recompense asked Draupadi for a boon. He said "anything that you ask for, I will give." So she said, "I don't want anything. My kingdom has gone, my husbands have gone, everything is gone in my life. You just rescue my husbands that would be enough." They were free, but Dhritarashtra said ask more and himself offered to give the whole kingdom back. So the kingdom also was given back and now all of them were returning to Indraprastha from Hastinapura, but Duryodhana felt that he was defeated because after all what happened? Nothing. He gained nothing so asked again all of them to return for another game of dice. And as I said, the rule was if you are asked, a king is asked, according to the custom, he had to agree. Once again, Yudhisthira lost. This is called tragedy of life. Once again Yudhisthira lost. And this time what was the stake? What was the condition? That if Yudhisthira lost, for 12 years they have to go into exile and 13th year they should remain incognito without being recognized, in one place. For one year they should remain in one place without being recognized and if they would be recognized then they had to go again for 12 years into exile. This was the condition. Terrible condition which was accepted and the five brothers and Draupadi left for exile. Now it is this period of exile during which there was a tremendous churning in the minds and hearts of Pandavas, in the minds and hearts of all the allies of Yudhisthira, all the friends, great Kings were also friends of Yudhisthira. Similar churning went also in the hearts and minds of Duryodhana and all the others, his friends. In fact, all the kings of all the parts of India, (at the time India was much larger than the present India) all of them at that time where concentrated upon what will happen to Pandavas when they would return after 12 years. Krishna was a constant friend of Pandavas, actually was a friend of all, even Kauravas were very friendly with him. In fact, he was recognized as one of the greatest politicians, diplomats, of his times, a peacemaker, the harmonizer. All used to take his advice.

But Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva, these five brothers, and Draupadi, they used to take advice of Krishna constantly. Bhima particularly was tremendously furious and his constant counsel was, − fight with Duryodhana, destroy all Kauravas, they are a great evil and gain a full Kingdom both of Hastinapura and Indraprastha. This was his advice. Such was the advice also of Draupadi, the kind of humiliation that should received at the hands of Kauravas. Yudhisthira, a man of great kindness, righteousness, dignity and glory, he was always hesitant and did not vote for war; so there was a great debate constantly going on among the Pandavas, whether we should go for war or not. What was the advice of Krishna? His advice was to have talks with Kauravas and to arrive at peace coupled with justice. Justice was that these five brothers should be given back Indraprastha and then the two kingdoms, side-by-side neighbouring kingdoms would live in peace and harmony forever and ever.

This was the demand. Why was Krishna giving this advice? Because he knew that on both the sides very powerful kings were involved on both the sides and if the war took place it will be one of the fiercest wars in the history of the world, unparalleled war − where hundreds, thousands, millions, would be put into the battlefield and there will be a mutual massacre, destruction, so many young people would die, so much of knowledge will be destroyed, the whole civilization would undergo a great upheaval. He wanted to prevent it. At the same time, he wanted to see that injustice is destroyed, how to save the civilization and yet to bring about justice this was the question before Krishna. So he advised utmost sense of peace and justice. Therefore when after the exile was over, when Pandavas came back, (it's a long, long story of exile and many things happened during the exile, into which I am not going now. I'm just rapidly cutting short) but they came back and then Krishna was sent by Yudhisthira as a messenger of peace. Even there Duryodhana insulted Krishna, tried to imprison him, which is against the rules of diplomacy, a messenger cannot be put into imprisonment, a messenger cannot be hurt, injured in any way, but Duryodhana did not mind injustice or something wrong at all. Anything that suited his purpose was right for him. Ultimately Krishna proposed that Indraprastha should be given away back to Pandavas. And Duryodhana refused. Ultimately Krishna said "you give only five villages, don't give the whole kingdom, only five villages so that each prince has one village under his command." then Duryodhana said, "I will not give even that much of land on which you can put a needle, even that much of land I am not prepared to give." It was then that Krishna came back and said war is inevitable. Now that is the background of Arjuna's question. The war is inevitable. It must be fought. The destruction is the only way by which this injustice can be rooted out from the earth and all the Pandavas agreed and so many kings of India came to help Pandavas.

But also so many other kings also came to help Duryodhana. Now this episode on which we are concentrating begins at this point. Both the armies are now to be found on this great battlefield of Kurukshetra, very near present Delhi, Kurukshetra where both the armies stood against each other. And Arjuna came in his chariot and Krishna was the charioteer of Arjuna's chariot. And on coming to the battlefield he asks Krishna, "Draw my chariot from where I can see my opponents." What does he see? What he feels?