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Killed by Karma or Krushna ?


Why is it that we 'blame' God for all the bad things in life, but take credit for all the good things that happen in our lives ? 


People who have not understood karma, dharma or lila aspect of Mahabharata often blame Shri Krushna for causing the death of various warriors by trickery.  What killed the warriors was their own karmas.  Shri Krushna simply brought those karmas to the fore and helped countless souls achieve completion in a single life time. 


God does not lie, trick or cheat.  If God wants to kill, he can kill without needing to use any stratagem.  But God never kills.  Our own karmas kill us. 
Let us look at how the principle Kuru warriors died and see how their own karmas conspired in their death.


Bhisma – Karmic bonds overlap several lives and several people.  Vengeance, born of Amba’s ruined life, took form as Shikhandi.  Shikhandi had been blessed by Shiva to cause the fall of Bhishma.  If Shikhandi had not been allowed to fight Bhishma, both would have had to be reborn again in another lifetime to complete that particular karmic dance.  How many people ?  How many lives ?  As Shiva's blessing can never fail, how many adjustments would need to be made to achieve that ?  Bhishma had to die and Shikhandi had to be the cause.  Because Shri Krushna knew this, he placed Arjun in the right place to take advantage of the Shiva’s blessing.  Nothing more, nothing less.  As Shri Krushna said at the end of SMB Gita – ‘be an instrument of change to achieve something great’.  If you go with the flow, you can go far.  If you go against the flow, you have to work very hard to achieve very little.  This was a great opportunity for Arjun to go with the flow and achieve victory he craved.  Krushna simply stated the obvious. 


Arjun had been prevaricating and not killing the one person who was annihilating the Pandava army for 10 days.  Krushna had to do something.  Having Shikhandi dampen Bhishma's onslaught and contain the loss was sensible strategy.  As an advisor, it was Krushna's duty, dharma, to suggest it.  This is not trickery, it was prudent use of secret intelligence during war.  Don't we expect ALL generals, advisers and statesman to do that !


Drona – Guru Drona wasn't fighting fair.  He was using desperate means to try and score points against the Pandavas.  He was aiding and abetting adharma.  Dhristadhuman was born to kill Drona.  Karmic bonds had to be played out.  Krushna simply acted as a catalyst to make sure what could have taken weeks, actually finished in days.  Once again, Arjun refused to kill Drona despite his ability to do so, simply because he was his guru.  His emotions got the better of him.  So Krushna decided to bypass Arjun and let Dhritadhyman's destiny take its course.


Yudhishthir felt guilty for saying Ashwathama was dead.  He need not have felt so bad.  An elephant named Ashwathama had died.  If only Yudhishthir had obeyed Krushna without question, his conscious would have been clear.  But, like Arjun, Yudhishthir wanted to use his ‘Free Will’ and have God help him out too.  You either obey or you don't.  You can't have it both ways.  Result was guilty conscious for Yudhishthir.   


Karna – Of all the villains on Kaurava side, Karna seems to be the nicest.  Yet, his own karmas ended up killing him.  Krushna simply pointed out the opportune moment for Arjun to take advantage of this. 


Karna was cursed by his own guru for having lied to get his education.  Even now, if someone is caught lying to get admission to a school / university, they are immediately expelled.  Karna was also cursed to die and his wheel was going to get stuck in the mud as a precursor to his death.  Karna was too proud to listen to good advice given by king Shalya.  Unlike Arjun who listened to Krushna’s advice, Karna had no time to listen to anyone but himself.  His self-agrandisation was so acute, he was unwilling to wait for his own soldiers to dig the chariot out and wanted to do it himself.  He always felt he could do things better than everyone else – even digging chariots out of the mud.  He forgot that as a great warrior and a general, his position was to fight, not dig out wheels.  Shalya reminded him what he should behave as Anga-raj and commander of the Kuru forces, but Karna would not listen.  Maybe his nurture as a charioteer got the better of him.  Maybe he reverted to his earlier training and tried to free the chariot 'his way'.  If a person refuses to listen to good advice, defeat is the obvious outcome.  Krushna simply pointed out the obvious and told Arjun to take advantage of the conjunction of various curses, pride and ego.


Shri Krushna had not given any curses, nor had he instigated them.  Karna’s own attitude to life had earned him those curses.  Karna’s own attitude to his peers and elders had made him ignore good advice and risk his life unnecessarily.  Krushna simply advised Arjun to fire his arrow at the most opportune moment.


Jayadratha – Here was an evil man who was also a coward.  His death was inevitable and necessary.  There can be no mercy for rapists and traitors.  Jayadratha was both.  No one compelled Jayadratha to kidnap Draupadi.  But he did.  It was his free will.  When he got caught and was punished, he begged to be let off.  Pandavas were too lenient and thought of Dushala their cousin sister and let the would-be-rapist go free.  The ungrateful wretch repaid Pandava kindness by joining the war on behalf of the Kauravas.  On the day Abhimanu died, Jayadratha stood between Pandava reinforcements and Abhimanu.  Arjun decided to kill him for having reneged on his promise to be good and the coward wanted to run away.  Karna and other Kaurava warriors prevailed on him to stay and they promised to have him safely ensconced at the back of the army.  They didn’t want him to stay because they loved him, but only because they wanted Arjun to fail in his vow to kill Jayadratha and see Arjun kill himself as a result.  Krushna's navigation and sense of priority meant Arjun did not stop to accept the challenge of everyone who came in his way and they managed to get to Jayadratha by evening.


Here the story gets 'cloudy'.  Did Krushna 'create an illusion of evening' ?  Was there an unexpected eclipse caused by a passing meteor ?  Did the dust of the battlefield add to the gloom of the dusk and make it seem as if the evening has come earlier than normal ?  
Who knows !


What is clear, is that Jayadratha the kidnapper, would-be-rapist, traitor, coward came forward to see Arjun die and Krushna reminded Arjun that this was his chance to kill him.  Was it wrong of Krushna to protect his friend's life by pointing out the obvious and kill an enemy rather than watch his friend die ?  Was it wrong of Krushna (God or man) to help a foolish, impulsive friend achieve his goal rather than commit sucide ?


If killing Jayadratha just at the time of Sun-down was so wrong, why did the Kauravas continue the battle into the night ?  Wasn't this totally wrong and against established rules of war ?  Why did six generals of the Kauravas gang up on Abhimanu to kill him ?  Is virtue to be the sole preserve of the Pandavas ?  Are Kauravas, who broke every rule in the book, allowed to claim victimhood if Pandavas bend the rules ever so slightly ?


Kauravas always want to have their cake and eat it AND deny it to the Pandavas in the bargain.  How fair is that ? 

Time had come for the Kauravas and their supporters to pay for their karmas.


Duryodhan – Duryodhan had publicly bared his thigh and invited his sister-in-law to sit on it.  In the parlance of the time, this was an invitation to have an affair with him.  He did this publicly and without shame.  He did this in front of his sire, grandsire and gurus.  No one censored him.  Like men at a modern 'Stag-Do', Karna and Dushashan laughed, encouraging him by slapping their own thighs.  Draupadi was being harassed and harried in public.  Duryodhan who instigated this humiliation was enjoying it for all it was worth.  Bhima, burning with rage, vowed to smash 'that rude thigh' with his mace.  Wasn't it right that Bhima should fulfill his promise ?  Shouldn't a woman be avenged for public attempt to dishonor her ?  Doesn't a woman so badly wronged deserve justice and restitution ? 


When a prisoner does not show remorse or feeling of wanting to change, what does a judge do ?  He throws the rule book at him and gives him the strongest punishment he can.  Kings who act as if they are above the law, because they can create the law, need to be punished with strongest punishment.  This has to be done to deter future despots.  Duryodhan had to be punished to remind all kings that they are not above rules of karma.


For 13 long year, Bhima nurtured just one thought – of smashing Duryodhan’s thigh to avenge the insult to his wife. 
For 13 long years, Draupadi smarted with the insult of having been dragged by her hair into the Kuru court by Dushashan at the bidding of Duryodhan.
For 13 long years Draupadi waited to be avenged for being insulted by Duryodhan. 
For 13 long years, the central topic of all their conversations was how Dushashan will have his arms ripped off and Duryodhan will have his thigh smashed by Bhima. 
For 13 long year of their bitter exile from their loved ones, Pandavas talked about their vows everyday, reminding each other to take vengeance in full.  


Krushna simply reminded Bhima of his vow and no more.  Isn't an advisor suppose to do that anyway ?  Wouldn’t Bhima have remembered to do this even without Krushna / Arjun’s signal ?  He remembered to rip out the arms of Dushashan, drink his blood and wash Draupadi's hair with it.  Surely he would have remembered Duryodhan's wickedness and his own vow to punish him !  Krushna did what he had to as an advisor to the Pandavas.  Everyday, every night, Pandavas spoke of the insults they had to endure at the gambling court and vows they had taken to exact revenge.  Krushna simply reiterated these one more time.


If Bhima had not smashed Duryodhan’s thigh, his karmic bond (runau bandha) with Duryodhan and his strong desire to smash that thigh (vasana) would have propelled them both to be reborn to repay the debt and complete the inborn desire for revenge.  At least in this life they both knew why they were fighting and why the thigh was being broken.  In life or lives to come, who would know this ?  How would they rationalize such an act ?  How many lives will it take for them to complete the circle of actions and reactions to achieve moksha ?



By acting as he did, Shri Krushna helped bring all these warriors karmic cycles to a close and by letting them die in his presence, Shri Krushna liberated their souls.


© Bhagwat Shah
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