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Empathizing with Karna but Forgetting Krishna

This dis­cus­sion hap­pened dur­ing the Himalayan Yatra 2016.

It is not uncom­mon for peo­ple to shed tears when Kar­na dies in the war. Read­ing the pas­sages pains the heart as one of the great­est war­riors in the Mahab­haratha leaves his body. Dur­ing our Mahab­hara­ta ses­sions too there are sev­er­al ques­tions on the life of Kar­na. If we look at the life sto­ry of Kar­na, he was born under unfa­vor­able cir­cum­stances when his moth­er Kun­ti test­ed the mantra giv­en by Sage Dur­vasa. Not com­fort­able with the idea of giv­ing birth to a child as a maid­en, she set Kar­na afloat in a bas­ket. Grow­ing up in the house of a char­i­o­teer, Kar­na had con­flict­ing emo­tions with­in. He felt like a Ksha­triya but was treat­ed much low­er than that. Wher­ev­er he went, he was called “Char­i­o­teer’s Son” and was denied edu­ca­tion or par­tic­i­pa­tion in roy­al events. Feel­ing extreme­ly infe­ri­or with­in, he found great solace in the friend­ship of Dury­o­d­hana who was sin­cere in rec­og­niz­ing the great prowess of Kar­na. Much against the wish­es of senior mem­bers of the Kuru fam­i­ly, Dury­o­d­hana showed great respect, love and affec­tion for Kar­na. The read­ers of the Mahab­hara­ta look at Kar­na as an ill treat­ed per­son who was denied his rights. They blame his fate and des­tiny for his atti­tude. They call his death a work of deceit.

Peo­ple go to the extent of think­ing that Kar­na is the most insult­ed and under­rat­ed per­son in the Mahab­harat. The Mahab­hara­ta acknowl­edges that Kar­na was a per­son of great might, mag­na­nim­i­ty and ener­gy. What many for­get that Sri Krish­na was one of the most insult­ed per­sons in the Mahab­hara­ta. Born in extreme­ly dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances, he was sep­a­rat­ed from his par­ents the moment he was born. There was some demon wait­ing to kill him on every pos­si­ble occa­sion. Wher­ev­er he went, he was called a cowherd and low-born per­son. In the Raja­suya yaj­na of Yud­histhi­ra, King Sishu­pala open­ly insults Krish­na in front of the entire assem­bly of kings, call­ing him a cowherd, a mur­der­er, a thief, greedy and ungrate­ful fel­low who killed his own uncle! Sishu­pala ques­tioned the respect giv­en to Krish­na in the yagna. But Krish­na was an awe­some being. Even when peo­ple cursed and abused him, he was always intent on their wel­fare. Even when peo­ple stood against him, he was intent on estab­lish­ing Dhar­ma and ensur­ing that right­eous­ness pre­vailed. It is very impor­tant to note this dif­fer­ence between Sri Krish­na and Kar­na, in the way they respond­ed to their life prob­lems. One must draw inspi­ra­tion from Sri Krishna’s per­son­al­i­ty and learn from his life, and not wal­low in self-pity and bit­ter­ness like Kar­na. How we expe­ri­ence cir­cum­stances makes a big dif­fer­ent to our lives. The dif­fer­ence between joy­ful peo­ple and low-spir­it­ed peo­ple lies in the way they han­dle life sit­u­a­tions.

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