Ques and Ans with students of Jaipuria School, Part I on 22 July 2004 - Part 1: Draupadi

As hindu mythology says.. this is Ankur Mehrotra. Is he here? Very good question.

Q: As hindu mythology says Draupadi was the main cause of the great war of Mahabharata. Why she has been called the ideal woman when she has been the cause of war? Does an ideal woman seek vengeance?

It’s a very, very interesting, very important question. Vengeance certainly can be regarded as a wrong movement of human nature, badla lena. This has been one of the modern trends of today. There is an ethical doctrine that if somebody slaps you on the left cheek, you give the right cheek, it’s a very great teacher in India. But in India we have said that to reach an ideal you have to pass through many stages. What is good for child may not be good for adults. What is good for a tamasic man is not good for a rajasic man. What is good for a rajasic man is not good for a sattvic man. What is good for a sattvic man is not good for the spiritual man.

If you don't make this kind of distinction wrong judgments will come up. Take, for example, in Indian ethics to eat, for good taste is not regarded to be a great virtue in Indian life. You should eat for the sake of nourishment and not for the sake of taste, but supposing you have a child who does not eat at all, does not like anything that you prepared, then you prepare something the child will like from the point of the taste. What is better to allow the child to starve or to give to the child a food which the child appreciates and likes? If you tell the child now that look, don't eat for the sake of taste, only for your nourishment. Ethics is a ladder. You rise from lower level to higher levels. Many people believe that ethics has no ladder, one general principle for applied everybody. You should not, therefore, judge all on the same plane.

There is a question of violence and non-violence. It’s a very big question today in India. For the last hundred years, there has been great controversy on violence and non-violence. According to one's idea, you should be all nonviolent. According to another idea, if you have to use violence for a great idea to be realised, then that violence is justified. This is the argument which has bewildered the Indian mind for the last hundred years. Bhagat Singh for example, recently you have seen some films on Bhagat Singh, he did not care for non-violence, he cared for India, he cared for freedom of India and he believed that the Britishers who were sucking the blood of India should be thrown out of India, should even be killed and he suffered a tremendous privation in his life, ultimately he was hanged. Was he wrong? Was he right? Did he have a sense of vengeance? Should he have had the sense of vengeance? Do we praise him for the sake of his vengeance?

Human nature is a mixture of many emotions and we have to judge an individual on the whole, totality of the man, his highest aspiration. An ascetic might say even eating food is not right, but we don't apply the same rule to everybody saying don't eat any food at all. It will be wrong.

When you judge Draupadi, you are not judging her vengeance. Actually, at that time, vengeance was regarded as a right motive of action. The question is: was she motivated only by vengeance? What is the overall energy of Draupadi? Was it only vengeance for which she was fighting? Is it because she was insulted? That therefore she was fighting? If that was the only reason your judgement can be of a very low order.

Was she free from vengeance? No, but the question was was any one of her times free from vengeance? Anyone excepting Krishna or Bhishma perhaps? Was there anybody who was free from vengeance at that time? She shared the idea of vengeance of the time with everyone, but it was not vengeance which was the cause that she was fighting for. She was fighting for the cause in which justice was denied and justice was denied by whom? By people who were themselves consumed by the fire of vengeance, they were fired by anger. They were fired by injustice, petty desires. It was under the leadership of a man who did not care for womanhood and wanted to humiliate womanhood in the presence of the biggest people of this country at that time. It was not vengeance, it was a tremendous sense. You see her demeanour when she comes to the court when she is dragged by Dusshasan, the quietude, the forbearance, the bravery with which she stands alone. Her husbands have all fallen, those who are ready to bounce upon her, they are in supremacy. It is at that moment if Draupadi is praised, it's not because of a sense of vengeance.

She stood alone at that time and she had the presence of mind to ask some of the deepest questions of ethics, which even Bhishma pitamah could not answer. Bhishma pitamah was one of the greatest at that time in the field of ethics, in shastra, he could not answer the question of Draupadi. It is this character, not a vengeance, she wasn’t a woman of vengeance at that time. She was only challenging everyone in the court and imagine the power of her character must have been so great that even Dhritarashtra the blind man who could not even see, he was shaken and Dhritarashtra was required, was forced to ask for forgiveness from Draupadi and even to offer boons after boons, whatever she would ask he would give. Was there vengeance in it? She won the battle at that time. Mahabharata was won at that moment when Dhritarashtra bowed to her and said you asked for anything and imagine her answer. She could have asked for everything at that time, even the kingdom of Dhritarashtra she could have asked. She would have said you please get down from your seat, let my husband sit on it. She doesn't ask for that. She only says give my husbands back, and that is all. If my husbands are with me, everything is with me. Was it vengeance? Not at all.

So when we say it was for vengeance that Mahabharata was fought, no. True vengeance was present, but it was present among all the people. That is not the yardstick by which you are going to judge her. If we judge a person we must be, we must know how to judge a person. What is common at a given time, you should not bounce upon that. Even Krishna, for example, says to Arjuna slay your enemies. Today, inspired by our idea of nonviolence, we can say Krishna was very wrong. He should not have asked for slaughter, he should have taught non-violence at that time, but that was not the rule of the time. You should see what yuga dharma is. Yuga dharma is the law of life which is appropriate to the age in which you are living. It is that yuga dharma, in which battle and a sanguinary battle was the only means of securing justice. The only method. Today you have the international court, you have the United Nations Organisation. You could appeal to them. At that time there was no such court at all.

So where the means of justice are not available of the kind that are available today, and you apply the standards of today to that age, it will be quite wrong, inapplicable. As I say, what you demand from an adult, you don't demand from a child. It would be wrong for every stage of development. In India we say that there are four aims of life: dharma, artha, kama, moksha. At the lowest level work for kama, at a higher level work for artha, at a higher level work for dharma, at a still higher level work for moksha. You cannot apply the law of moksha to a boy who was just born and say now you start moksha. It will be a wrong idea, inapplicable. It only means that you do not know what life is and how life has to be guided.

This is the superiority of Indian ethics. Indian ethics says do not apply the same rule to everybody. Depending upon the age, depending upon the stage of development, there are laws for every stage and follow the laws of that stage and judge. Recognise as a leader of women the way in which she vindicated the cause of women, she stood before all the men who looked like impotent, even other wives, and who could not answer her questions and she threatened the whole kingdom only by her speech and made everybody silent against the criticism that she leveled against everyone who was present and on the basis of truth of justice, she had the presence of mind at that time that, if you are absolutely helpless, there is only one force that can save you—the divine grace. She prayed to Sri Krishna at the right time and believed in miracles. But her shame was saved by whatever happened at that moment and she knew how to get that particular help in the time of distress, one who has presence of mind who asks those questions, one who has got that humility to demand that kind of help which alone can save you in the condition of utter helplessness. This is Draupadi.

Does God Test You?

Q: Bhagwan hamesha acche log jaise Rani Laxmibai ki hi pariksha leta hai, aur jo duskarma karte hain unki pariksha kyun nahi leta, jisse log bure path par na chal paren? Why God tests only the good people? Why does he not test the evil people?

In my own life I have asked this question very often and therefore I like this question very much, and the conclusion I have reached is the following: God knows very well if you are good, knows very well if you are not good, he does not need to test you at all? He knows who is good. It’s not to find out whether a person is good or not. He is not like an examiner who doesn't know the pupil. The very starting point is, according to me, not correct. God does not need to test, and God never tests. This is my conclusion: God never tests.

He knows already that you are good, you don't need to be proved. If he needs a test, it means he's not God, he's not omniscient, he does not know you, it's an indictment of God. If God tests you, it means that really, God is not God, he doesn't know you. He needs some kind of testing. He wants to put a torch on you because he himself has no light. So this is my first conclusion. God does not need to test anybody, and God does not test anybody.

God always helps you, he's your helper, knowing what you are he is your helper, but there is a kind of testing in the world. There is testing. Who is testing? There are three kinds of people who test those who want your help, but they do not know that you can help. They test you. Secondly, those who want to claim, but who do not know how to establish that claim. I say I am a qualified engineer. It's my claim, but I don't know how to prove it. Then I ask Mandakini, she's an engineer and she asks me questions and I submit myself to the testing, so when there are claims made, but the claims are not capable of being proved. Third, those who want to torture you because they don't like you, they put you into a test. I know of some teachers who test only for the sake of torturing children. That is a very, very wrong thing to do, but that happens.

So it is not true to say that God tests you. No. There are tests in the world, but the tests are limited to these three stages. If you don't want to be tested, then you should go straight to God. He will not test you. If you really do not want to be tested at all, you just go to God and God alone. But we should accept tests because we need to grow. We want to develop. Therefore, we should accept any test that comes in the world from all these three sources, and if you can stand these three tests in life, you'll be free from the entangles of tests in life. You have to cross this big river of testing. You become worthy afterwards to approach God, whoever he tests, he releases you from all the tangles, he takes you in his embrace. He embraces you. He gives you strength where strength is not there. As it is said by Kalidasa: panghum langhete giri, if you are lame, he makes you cross the big mountain. That is the power of God. He doesn't test you. If you are lame, then go to him. He will come with you and will take you over the great mountain. God is nothing but grace, but we do not know how to reach him. Therefore, we need these tests in our life. So if you are tested, remember that you have become subjected to any one of these three forces in the world and crossover. This is my answer to your question: why God tests? God does not test you.

Why only good people are tested? Because they're very often claimed.. that is true, they are claimed that they are law abiding therefore there is a test, but there is a deeper answer to this question. The deeper answer is that in the creation of the world, evil occupied the world first. You know there is a story in the Veda that first there was only light, Upanishads also say that first there was only light, then Veda says then came the evil, ratri, tatho ratro jayate then came the night, then came the gods, so demons came first then they occupied the earth. Then came the gods. And gods were told: now you fight the demons, so when they start any kind of fire, demons are already there seated, so they are attacked immediately by the evil forces. All the good doers are late comers and therefore they are under attack. The whole battle of life is to overtake those who come earlier and occupied the earth.

You see everywhere in the world you will find wherever there is evil, it is already in the occupation. It’s a law of life you'll see everywhere. Good people always come a little late. They are latecomers. If you are good, it means that you have come late and therefore they are constantly in the field of battle. This is really true actually. It may be a joke, but it's a fact. This earth is occupied already by the evil forces. We come here now to occupy that land which belongs, you see the landlordism, all landlords at one time, landlords were regarded to be very cruel masters, the whole history of mankind you will see, landlords were cursed and then they began to rule and the poor exploited people like us came later on and we have no power over the land. It is the evil who were masters over the land, then we have to fight and struggle against them, but that is what we are. Therefore, we should not be despondent. We have one great power in us.

The evil forces may be the first comers. We may be late comers. But satyameva jayate this is the promise given. If you stand for the truth, you will prevail, that is a promise given to you. Therefore, we should continue our battle in life, whether we are tested or not tested. We are allowed or not allowed. Now there is another question:

Q: Why was Raja Harishchandra tested?

That is a very nice question. Now that is a very interesting question: Why was Raja Harishchandra tested? By whom was he tested? By Vishwamitra it is said and by Indra. You know our stories in the Mahabharata, in the Ramayana, in the mythologies, they have to be read with a great care. Who are gods? Who are the rishis and what is the stage of the rishi’s development? Today we regard all gods, all rishis in one plane and we think they were the highest and the best. That is not true. There are gods described in the Veda. There are gods described in the Upanishads, there are gods described in the puranas and you will see there is no uniformity in the description of these gods.

We don't ask this question, but we should ask this question. It’s a very important question: why do we not find the kind of gods described in the Veda, the same in the Upanishads or the same in the puranas? Why Anusuya, a beautiful good woman devoted to her husband, the three gods come and they want that she should serve the food without any garment on her body, and he said these three gods came. Is it really the gods that are described the Vedas? There are gods and gods, according to Indian thought. Take for example the gods of the Kena Upanishad. I don't know if you read the gods of the Kena Upanishad.

There's a short story in the Kena Upanishad. What is that story? It’s a story of three gods—Indra, Vayu and Agni. These three gods had become conquerors, they have conquered, they had won the battle against Asuras, and they were celebrating the battle and the victory. Suddenly they find an apparition. Somebody comes and throws a straw on the ground and says you gods, such victorious gods, burn this straw. You are very victorious and powerful, now burn this straw, shake this straw. Tell me what this straw is. Agni comes up and says well I will know, because nothing in the world is born without my knowledge. I am jataveda, veda means the knower, jata means what is born. Anything that is born on the earth, I am jataveda, I know what it must be this straw, he noticed over the straw and he finds that he cannot burn it. He does not even know that straw, he comes back and says my lord this is something which I cannot answer. Remember the God saying I do not know, and I cannot even touch it. I cannot even know what it is. Then Vayu comes and says, yes, I can throw out anything in the world with hurricane power. He can't move that straw. He comes defeated back again. Then Indra comes forward. I too cannot know it. I cannot. Indra the knower of the knowers, the lord of lords who is supposed to know everything the lord of all the gods, and he says I cannot know it.

Evidently, these three gods are not the gods describe in the Veda. These three gods do not know that apparition which comes. The gods from the Veda know the supreme lord very well. This is the description of the Vedic gods, but here in the Upanishad, these three gods do not know, they fail. Who are these gods? It is afterwards that Indra is in search and ultimately finds that the apparition that came was apparition of the supreme lord and he comes to know only through the help of Uma Hemavati. And she tells Indra that this is the supreme lord. You think that you have won the battle because of your power. It is not true, if you have won the battle, it is won because of the power of the supreme lord behind you. This is the knowledge that Kena Upanishad gives us. Surely these are not the all-knowing gods. These are not the gods who are humble. They are proud who do not know the supreme reality behind them, who need to be told who need to be told by a woman. Therefore, surely these are not those gods who are worshipped in the Veda. In puranas you come to puranas, who are the rishis and the gods in the puranas. Even in Greek mythology, you see, there are also Zeus and Herald and Poseidon so many other gods. They are not divine, ordinary human beings, Zeus falls in love with a woman and then has children. What are these gods? In some respects you might say they are lesser than the men. The truth that is to be known is that even rishis and devils are at different stages.

They are not all of the same level, the God at the highest level, when he descends at the lower planes, he assumes the deficiencies of the lower levels and they even become asuras. They partake into that nature. So that is why if Harishchandra was tested, he was not tested by God. He was tested by Indra, who was at the lower level. He did not even know that Harishchandra was really truthful. He did not know he wanted to test. He was a competitor, he told Vishwamitra, who we don't know what was Harishchandra . Therefore, we should not be misled by the words. Rishis and gods in our Indian mythology do not all represent the same level of consciousness. There are gods and gods. If you read Sri Aurobindo’s great poem called Savitri, he speaks of the gods of the little world who are of the little world or even little gods of the vital world, of the physical world. There are all kinds of forces in the world and the world is peopled by various kinds of forces and Indian mythology has to be understood at a very deep level. So I’m very happy. You asked this question: was Harishchandra tested by God? No, he was tested by Indra and who were themselves at the same level, even lower level than Harishchandra. So this is my answer to this question. I think now we are merely getting to the last moments of our seminar in the morning.

I have now a question by Leena Thakral:

Q: Garbhavati sita ko Rama ne tyag diya tha. Phir me hum unhe maryada purushottama kyun kehte hain? Unki sirf praja ke prati jimmedari thi? Apni patni ke prati nahi thi?

It's a very important question and this is a question to be asked again and again, and we have to understand this question in depth. It’s a very good question. Therefore, I selected how to answer this question. There are many starting points for this answer. There are many versions of Ramayana. According to one version, the whole idea of exile of Sita was interpolation. It never happens, does not give any importance to this event at all. It seemed he had no answer to this question and he thought that Rama could have never done it in one of the versions that you have in the story of ramayana, which is filmed in Ramayana, the recent version. This is the version that is being presented, Sita herself decided and she requested Rama to exile her. Of course Valmiki’s Ramayana does not give this excuse at all. It’s a very straightforward statement, which only says that there was kim vadanti. There was a kind of a rumour, only Rama could take Sita back even when Sita was put into the palace of his enemy. Even an ordinary dhobi would not allow this kind of immodesty on the part that was done to his wife. Sri Rama heard this rumour. Now imagine Rama's condition. There is a criticism among the people. It is in the form of a rumour. Rama is not sure whether all the people believe it or not. So he commits an assembly of the prominent citizens of his city obviously, and puts this question to them. Members of the assembly are extremely respectful but they give no reply. All right.

Now. You put yourself in the base of Rama. It was not merely a rumour started from one ordinary man in the whole city. It was confirmed that a large number of people, even the best people of his kingdom, none of them was sure about Sita. He was sure. Once again, you ask yourself if you were a king and you had this very important problem which collided with your personal problem as compared to the problem of the whole community. What is the method by which you will decide this question?

This question had come before to Edward VIII. We know the story. He wanted to marry a woman and the kingdom would not allow him to marry that woman, so he abdicated and George VI came to the throne. He abdicated from the kingdom. That was his decision. Was it a correct decision? Was it not a correct decision? We all believe it's a correct decision. He loved his wife so dearly and his loyalty to his wife was so great, he sacrificed the whole kingdom and we feel very proud about it, and we should be, why not? There are conditions, there are situations in life where loyalty of your own personal relationships is much greater. It’s a greater value than your loyalty to the society.

But is it always so? This is the question. In every circumstance is that the way by which you should decide this question? What is the best way of protecting my wife, of honouring my wife, when I know that my wife is totally dedicated to me and that my love for him for her and her love for me requires no proof of any kind at all. I want to prove to her that I am loyal to her. It’s already proven. I don't need to prove it to her. Second question I have to ask is what is it for which I am living? What is it for which she is living? There are stages of life where you have to weigh the importance of x, object, y or take c object. You have to ask yourself what is the object for which you are living today at present? It depends upon your judgement and any judgement that you give really, arguably, truly is, according to me honourable, you could have said that when honouring my wife's abdication of my kingdom, I don't bother at all about. He had already proved that, he had already accepted, he had thrown away the kingdom. It was not as if he was greatly enamoured of the kingdom. He had already shown in his life and he didn't care for it. He had even gone to his wife and said: don't join me because the life is difficult. I want to protect you. I want to see that you are safe, it is she who insisted: no, I must come with you and he accepted, even though it was a difficult task for him, as he himself says that my task in the forest will be difficult if you join me, because I have to protect myself and yourself against the wild animals and against various kinds of problems which will arise in the forest, even then he accepted that she said I must be with you. She even chides him and says: I thought my father made a big mistake, you are a kapurush who says to his wife I cannot take you with me. You are impotent man. That’s the bravery of Sita who tells us and Rama that you are a kapurusha.

And Rama accepts her and accepts all the problems, including his fighting with Ravana, if she was not present at that time this problem would not have risen, they can even he would not have come. You have therefore to see Rama’s character as a whole, it was not as if he was enamoured of his kingdom, greatly tired of his wife and could not take the trouble to support his wife. The question was why he had become the king. What was the reason for his accepting the kingdom? Actually Bharat had already become the king. He had given up the charge of people already. Even when Bharat came to him and said: please accept the kingdom, he says I won't accept the kingdom, but Bharah told him without you our kingdom will not achieve solidarity. There is a question of unity of the whole society as a symbol of that solidarity at least give your wood sandals, I’ll put them on the throne and I’ll work as your prime minister, as your servant, he had therefore accepted the kingdom for that reason, for the solidarity of the society. As I said at a given time, you should ask the question: what is of supreme importance when two three different alternatives are present before you and you can do only one thing and not all the three, then how will you choose? What is your best choice? As I said, was it to prove to his wife that I am very loyal to you? She knows it already, not only that he knows that under every circumstance, she'll be happy. If anything comes from him, so that was not to be established. If that were to be established one could have argued about it. If I am to prove to my wife that I am loyal to her then it there may be need, sometimes it is necessary, you can do it, but if that question is not there, but if there is a question that my society will collapse, for the sake of saving the society, I have to make a sacrifice. My wife has to make a sacrifice. I will tell my wife: you make a sacrifice. The greater aim is to be achieved. It is for that reason according to me, when Rama took a very powerful decision, such a decision, he did not care for the popularity of the present age. He knew he'd be criticised by people by generations after generations, but what is a brave man if he does not accept unpopularity? He does not accept misunderstanding by the people. He had a great aim to be achieved. This is how he decided. Could he not combine both of them together, keeping the wife also in the home and society also being very happy? He tried. He calls the people they did not respond. He tried to keep both the things together. In that condition, he had to take a very brave decision, a great decision.