Why did Krishna not save the Pandavas when they played dice with Duryadhana & Shakuni?
Today I am in a bit of a spiritual mood. And hence, I am going to tell you a story.
During Krishna’s avatar on earth, he had a friend and counselor called Uddhava. Some ancient texts mention that Uddhava was also Krishna’s cousin. After the great war at Kurukshethra, it was Krishna’s time to return to his original abode. But before he left, Uddhava had a few questions for him. He had always wondered about the apparent disconnect between Krishna’s teachings and actions, and wanted to understand the reasons for the same.
Uddhava starts asking – “Krishna, first tell me – who is a real friend?”
Krishna says, ‘A real friend is one who comes to the help of his friend in need even without being called’.
Uddhava replies: ‘Krishna, you were a dear friend of the Pandavas. They trusted you implicitly as Apadhbhandava (protector from all difficulties). Krishna, you not only know what is happening everywhere at any given time, but you also know what is going to happen in the future. You are a great gnani. You just gave the definition of a true, close friend. Then why did you not act as per that definition? Why did you not stop Yudhishtra from playing the gambling game? Or why did you not turn the luck in favour of him, by which you could have ensured that dharma wins. You did not do that either. You could have at least saved him by stopping the game after he lost his wealth, country and himself. You could have released him from the punishment for gambling. Or, you could have entered the hall when he started betting his brothers. You did not do that either. At least when Duryodhana tempted him by offering to return everything lost if he betted Draupadi (who always brought good fortune to Pandavas), you could have intervened, and with your divine power you could have made the dices roll in a way that is favourable to Yudhishtra. Instead, you intervened only when Draupadi almost lost her modesty and now you claim that you gave clothes and saved Draupadi’s modesty; how can you even claim this – after her being dragged into the hall by a man and disrobed in front of so many people, what modesty is left for a woman? What have you saved? Is this Dharma?’
These are not the questions of Uddhava alone. All of us who have read the Mahabharata have these questions. This is because we are taught to believe that God will be watching over us and will prevent any mishaps from happening to us. We surrender ourselves unto him completely, on the blind faith that he will guide us and make us do the right actions. On behalf of us, Uddhava had already asked Krishna.
Bhagavan Krishna laughed. ‘Dear Uddhava, the law of this world is: ‘Only the one who has Viveka (intelligence through discrimination), wins’. While Duryodhana had viveka, Yudhishtra lacked it.That is why he lost’.
Krishna continued – ‘While Duryodhana had a lot of money and wealth to gamble, he did not know how to play the game of dice. That is why he used his Uncle Shakuni to play the game while he betted. That is viveka. Yudhishtra could have also planned similarly and offered that I, his cousin, would play on his behalf. If Shakuni and I had played the game of dice, who do you think would have won?
I can forgive the fact that he forgot to include me in the game. But, without viveka, he did another blunder. He prayed that I should not come to the hall, as he did not want me to know that through ill-fate he was compelled to play this game. He tied me with his prayers and did not allow me to get into the hall; I was just outside the hall waiting for someone to call me through their prayers. Even when Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were lost, they were only cursing Duryodhana and brooding over their fate; they forgot to call me. Even Draupadi did not call me when Dusshasan held her hair and dragged her to fulfil his brother’s order. She was raging at her husband and arguing based on her own abilities; but she failed to call me. Finally good sense prevailed; when Dusshasan started disrobing her, she gave up depending on her own strength, and started shouting ‘Hari, Hari, Abhayam Krishna, Abhayam’ and shouted for me. Only then did I get an opportunity to save her modesty. I reached as soon as I was called. I saved her modesty. What is my mistake in this situation?’
Uddhava retorted: ‘Wonderful explanation, Kanna, I am impressed. However, I am not deceived. Does this mean that you will come only when you are called! Will you not come on your own to help people in crisis, to establish justice?’
Krishna smiles. ‘Uddhava, in this life everyone’s life proceeds based on their own karma. I don’t run it; I don’t interfere in it. I am only a ‘witness’. I stand close to you and keep observing whatever is happening. This is God’s Dharma’.
‘In that case, you will stand close to us, observe all our evil acts; you will just keep watching as we keep committing more and more sins, accumulate them and suffer.’, says Uddhava.
Krishna says.’Uddhava, when you understand & realise that I am standing as witness next to you, how could you possibly do anything wrong or bad. You forget this and think that you can do things without my knowledge; that is when you get into trouble. Yudhishtra’s ignorance was that he thought he can play the game of gambling without my knowledge. If he had realized that I am always present with everyone in the form of ‘Sakshi’ (witness), then wouldn’t the game have finished differently?’
And so I have realised, in the course of my life! We believe that God is there with us, we pray every day; but at the same time, we don’t call him for each and every problem that we face in life. We try to solve it to the best of our ability, rage and rant at everyone else’s inefficiency, and fume silently when things don’t go according to plan. Most times, all it takes for a problem to get resolved is for us to call Him, for help.
Ever since I came across this story a couple of days back, I realised that subsconsciously, this is something even the most spiritual and religious among us do frequently. A small example from my own life happened recently – The motor that pumps the bore/metro water to the overhead tank in our apartment stopped functioning. For two whole weeks, we called the plumber and electricians one after the other, but we never called God.
Ah well.. when it comes to plumbing, we certainly tend to think that the plumbers knows better than God. Well, in this case, the plumber tried various methods of fixing the issue, but unfortunately, the problem kept recurring. One fine day, I came across the story above from the Uddhava Gita. My immediate reaction was to be astonished at my own stupidity! How could I have forgotten to do something that is so simple?
I immediately prayed to God for a resolution for the motor issue, and asked him to give water abundantly. And presto! The issue was fixed within 24 hours! 🙂