For those who follow my blog they know that from time to time I will go away. Usually for about a month It’s not that my well of ideas have run dry, It’s that I'm busy reading. I get sucked into books so easily, for Christmas I was given as a present Devdutt Pattanaik’s Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling Of The Mahabharata.
I’m a huge fan of the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, however unlike most I choose not to read it as a theological or historical text. I choose to read it as a psychological and sociological treatises. An insight into human behaviour and relationships from a Hindu and Vedic perspective.
For a little context the Mahabharata the story revolves around the dynastic struggle for the throne of Hastinapura, the kingdom ruled by the Kuru clan. The two collateral branches of the family that participate in the struggle are the Kaurava and the Pandava. Although the Kaurava is the senior branch of the family, Duryodhana, the eldest Kaurava, is younger than Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava. Both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira claim to be first in line to inherit the throne.
For this blog I’m going to talk about one of the central characters. Karna is the tragic character of the tale and he struggles with the present because of his unknown past. How often have we all failed to deal with consequences of our choices agonized over bridges that have to be crossed or roads not taken. I’m going to share an extract from the book and offer my insight and understanding to this feeling and state of mind.
Karna had grown up not knowing who his parents were. He was raised by the Kaurava Royal families stable master. Desperate to rise above the family station he learn’t the martial arts. Throughout the tale he is ridiculed and belittled for being little more than the son of charioteer. However in truth he was a Pandava the eldest Pandava their mother had given him up when she was blessed with a son before she was married.
This extract is from when his mother confronts him about switching allegiances and coming home.
Karna raised his head and recognised Kunti. Glances were exchanged between mother and son. A lifetime of unspoken emotions gushed forth. Karna bowed. The charioteers son salutes the mother of the Pandavas; he said. The sarcasm in his voice was like a poisoned barb.
Forgive me; said Kunti in tears.
Forgive me; said Karna, apologizing for his pettiness. She was after all barely a child when she had borne him. What can I do for you? It’s almost daybreak. I always grant the wish made to me at this time of day...
Truth was grating. Kunti nodded shamefully, I don't want you to fight your brothers, abandon the Kauravas and take your rightful place among your family and let there be peace. I do not want my sons to die.
Who do you refer to? The ones born after marriage or the one before? Kunti wanted to shout ALL! But a despondent Karna continued ‘The world knows you as the mother of five sons. At the end of the war, I promise you that you will still have five sons and one great archer either me or Arjuna.
Again this is just a small extract of the conversation, I encourage everyone read the Mahabharata It has always provided perspective in my life. The lesson that Karna demonstrates to me is the power of discipline when motivation has been compromised. The past is what informs our present and influences our future. Motivation is great it breeds ideas, creativity and energy. It’s discipline that sees those ideas become a reality.
In the case of Karna he is within reach of everything he ever dreamt of his whole life was a struggle. Yet he was a King, one of the greatest warriors in the world and a benevolent ruler. His motivations and discipline has carried him thus far. Should he now having learn't the truth of his past, his real family and heritage abandon everything that had got him there?
Karna was faced the truth of his past confirming his long held belief that he was more than just the son of a charioteer and really the son of a noble family. Yet he wasn't swayed by the emotion or moment he owed everything to his friend Dhuryodhana who bestowed upon him title [by merit], protection from insults and affection.
The trouble with wisdom is that It often comes to us a little late and even then sometimes never we never learn from it allowing for coincidence rather than Karma. We trap ourselves in a loop of same actions whilst expecting a different result. Cultivation of discipline is like building your house on strong foundations it will endure and so will you when you're disciplined.