Karna parva is the 8th Parva in the Mahabharata. Karna is appointed as the third commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army. This parva also describes the extreme frustration of warriors on both sides as they try to vanquish each other. Unable to handle each other’s prowess, members of the same clan engage in conflict with each other.
When teams undergo extreme pressure, conflict and blame game among the team members is not unknown. When its a modern software team, nothing drastic may happens (generally). A few verbal assaults and life goes on- may be a ! In a battle field, the story is of a different order. With access to all kinds of weapons, in-fighting can lead to drastic situations and this is what happened once. Krishna pitched it and restored harmony among the Pandavas.
Shouting Match: Yudhisthira and Arjuna
Knowing that Karna was still alive, Yudhisthira, extremely angry with Arjuna and burning with wrath said ” Oh Arjuna! You had promised in Dwaita vana that you would slay Karna. You have brought such disrespect to Kunti. If you had told that you wouldn’t be able to fight karna, we could have made some arrangement. You have now broken us into pieces. ..it would have been better if you hadn’t been born to Kunti. How could you let Karna go! If you had given this bow of yours to Krishna, he would have killed Karna. You wicked soul! Fie on your Gandiva, fie on the might of your arms, fie on the inexhaustible arrows! Fie on the banner with the gigantic ape on it, and fie on the car given by the god of fire!”
The moment Yudhisthira mentioned insulted the Gandiva, Arjuna drew his sword. The Pandava brothers observed in shock. Krishna asked ” Why do you draw your sword. There is no enemy here.”
Arjuna replies ” Krishna! I had taken a secret oath that whoever insults my Gandiva will be slayed. I now cannot spare Yudhisthira who has not just insulted me but my Gandiva bow”.
Krishna advices Arjuna to choose the path of ahimsa and censured him for moving away from the path of Dharma. He talks about 5 kinds of falsehoods that become truth because of the intricate situations in which they are uttered. Dharma is not a stiff but fluid and dynamic.
Krishna then proceeds to narrate the story of Valaka and Kaushika.
Valaka was a hunter. He hunted all kinds of animals for the welfare of his family. One day, unable to find any animal to hunt, Valaka was feeling dejected. He suddenly saw an animal that he hadn’t seen before. He slew the animal and immediately there was a shower of flowers. The animal had obtained a boon of killing all animals. Having killed such an animal, Valaka went to heaven.
Kaushika was practicing austerities and had vowed to speak the truth. He was practicing in the forests. Once a group of people, fearing robbers hid in the forest. When the robbers came there, they looked at Kaushika and asked the whereabouts of the people. Unwilling to utter a life, Kaushika gave away the hiding place and the robbers killed everyone. Ignorant of the subtlety of morality, Kaushika went to hell.
Krishna explained the subtleties of Dharma to Arjuna and Arjuna was convinced about that his reaction to Yudhisthira’s words were wrong.
Krishna’s Unique Solution
Arjuna returns to his senses and explains his position. Krishna explains how Karna was invincible and his tough fight frustrated everyone. He had to be vanquished for Dharma to be restored and at the same time, Arjuna’s vow also has to be kept up.
Krishna came up with a unique solution. He said, address Yudhisthira in the singular (without the respectful plural) and talk to him. This is the worst form of killing any respectful person. Arjuna said to Yudhisthira ” It is for you that we have been doing all this. Yet you speak such harsh words? I do not derive any pleasure as you are addicted to gambling. It is because of this that we have all fallen in hell today. It was because of you that we lost our kingdom..” Arjuna poured all his pent up emotion and calmed down. He also took out his sword to kill himself as he had insulted Yudhisthira.
For the second time, Krishna had to pitch in and save the Pandava. When the butter is about to be formed, the pot was broken, goes a saying. This situation can be compared to that saying. Krishna said “Oh Arjuna! why do you want to kill yourself. Listen to me. Speak your own praise. This is equivalent to killing oneself”
Arjuna spoke at length about his own achievements and then hung his head in shame. He put the arrows back and vowed to kill Karna.
Both Yudhisthira and Arjuna calmed down. Understood the grave consequence of what just happened. They thanked Krishna for his timely intervention.
The Mahabharata is filled with such emotional sequences which find parallel in our own professional and personal lives as well. We all need that guide who can bring us out of such complex scenarios and restore peace and harmony.