The Mahabharata is replete with insightful conversations. Here is one such conversation that appears in the Anusasana Parva, between Gautami and Arjunaka the hunter. The conversation was narrated to Yudhishthira by Bhishma when the former was repenting that he had been the cause for the death of a large number of people in the war.
Gautami was a calm and intelligent woman. Her child was bitten and killed by a serpent. Angry with this act of the serpent, Arjunaka the hunter vowed to kill the serpent. Gautami, with immense tranquility, told the hunter that her son would not come back if he killed the serpent. In fact, the hunter would be committing a great sin by killing another being. The hunter, unconvinced with Gautami’s response, was determined to kill the serpent. Realising the danger it was in, the serpent pleaded that it was merely carrying out the instructions of Mrityu and it was not the cause of the death. Mrityu appeared before them and clarified that he had sent the serpent under the direction of Kala. Mrityu elaborated that all beings, animate and inanimate, worked under the influence of Kala and he was merely an instrument in the hands of Kala. At that very moment, Kala appeared in the scene of dispute and said that whatever happens to a person is because of his / her own Karma. Just as man makes anything he wishes from a lump of clay, so does he mould his own life. The child died because of its karma and Mrityu and the serpent were the means of carrying out the task. Hence no one is to be blamed. Gautami accepted this with serenity.
Bhishma pacified Yudhishthira by saying that the Kaurava’s death was their own making and Yudhishthira was merely an instrument in making this happen and establishing dharma.