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Karna and Bhishma

Wednesday June 15 2005 09:36 IST

By Karmayogi

Karna was Suryaputra. Bhishma was Gangaputra. Surya is the source of light that is knowledge. Karna used to see a Sun when he closed his eyes. He was given at birth an armour that would always protect him. He was a born archer and a soldier, a Kshatriya by birth. On behalf of his devoted friend Duryodhana, he went on a military expedition. He defeated any king who resisted him and brought back a great number of crowns. Never once did he meet with defeat until he met Arjuna. Why, was his question. Parasurama was a great Rishi and a guru. Karna was his pupil. The other great pupil of Parasurama was Bhishma, the terrible. Bhishma was invincible. No one could defeat him unless he chose defeat. He had a boon from his father that he need not die unless he chose. Still, when Bhishma and Karna attacked Virata to expose the Pandavas living there incognito, Arjunas astras put both of them to sleep.

The question was burning in Karnas mind. Why did he meet with defeat from Arjuna? No answer was ever found. At last, it dawned on him that maybe Bhishma, because he too was the disciple of Parasurama, would answer his unanswered question. He met him and put the question to him. Bhishmas answer was short, pithy, cryptic and to the point: because you, Karna, are on the side of Evil, and Arjuna is on the side of Truth, you can never win against him. If this was true, what about Karnas exceeding skill as an archer? Individual skill is a part. Victory in battle is a whole. The part, however great it is, cannot win against the whole. In the Vietnamese war, as to ammunitions, there was no comparison between the US Army and the Viet Cong. Even in the training of soldiers, the Viet Cong had untrained villagers, while the US soldiers were conscripts who were fighting a war in which their heart was not there. As to money, the US had mountains of it, while the Viet Cong was poor. Still, the US had to withdraw ingloriously, as the Viet Cong was fighting for their Freedom, which is a greater cause and a whole.

Speaking on the Marina Beach in 1956, Nehru said, It does not matter what you do, but it does matter what you are. Life rewards you for what you are. In spite of his great endowments, Karna chose to support Duryodhana who was incarnate evil. Their friendship was unblemished and exemplary, but their cause was evil. Evil is always doomed to die an ignoble death. India is a great nation by virtue of her Spirit. She attained that status long ago. Therefore she is bound to succeed and overtake all other nations. No other nation has so much to give to the world. Her Spirit is there as inner light. But it is covered by a thick layer of falsehood, laziness, unreliability, inefficiency, lack of self-respect, all expressions of darkness. The Indian should choose the light in him and be truthful, dynamic, reliable, efficient, have self-respect, all expressions of Truth. Once the future generations sufficiently take to Truth and its expressions, the buried light will surface. Karna on the side of Evil can never win. The Indian on the side of Truth can never fail.

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