Yudhishthira and Krishna on the same Dharma Chariot
Yudhishthira’s Dharma is apparently different from Krishna’s pragmatic Dharma.
Just after the Pandavas leave for forest exile, hearing that, the Bhojas, the Vrishnis, and the Andhakas goes to meet them one day.
Krishna suggests avenging the wrong by acting immediately and says in a fiery speech, 'The earth shall drink the blood of Duryodhana and Karna, of Dussasana and the wicked Sakuni! Slaying these in battle and defeating their followers along with their royal allies, will we all install Yudhishthira the just on the throne! The wicked deserve to be slain! Verily, this is eternal morality – nikR^ityopacharanvadhya eva dharmaH sanAtanaH (CE-3.13.6)
Though Krishna calls such action - dharmaH sanAtanaH, Yudhishthira does not approve it. He disagrees with Krishna on Dharma, and decides to stay in forest and incognito for 13 years in strict adherence to his promise. Krishna has to bow before Yudhishthira’s Dharma and leave for Dwarka. Why I use the word ‘apparently’ is owing to this.
Though Bhima and Draupadi are fuming, Krishna recognizes Yudhishthira’s Dharma, and it becomes clear that Krishna only proposes immediate war to show his solidarity with Draupadi, Bhima and others preferring war in violation of the promise of exile, but more willing to make it a point before them that Yudhishthira’s dharma should be the prime guiding force in the next course of action. In other words, Krishna bows before Yudhishthira’s dharma to raise the flag of Yudhishthira’s dharma.
It would not be wrong to say, Krishna understands Yudhsihthira more than anyone else, even more than Arjuna, who seems to understand Yudhishthira only after Yudhishthira has taken a decision or stand.
On being advised by all to perform Raajasuuya, Yudhishthira decides to take Krishna’s counsel. When Krishna comes, he tells him, 'I have wished to perform the Rajasuya sacrifice. That sacrifice, however, cannot be performed by one's wishing alone to perform it. Thou knowest, O Krishna, even thing about the means by which it may be accomplished. He alone can achieve this sacrifice in whom everything is possible, who is worshipped everywhere and who is the king of kings. My friends and counselors approaching me have said that I should perform that sacrifice. But, O Krishna, in respect of that matter, thy words shall be my guide. Of counselors some from friendship do not notice the difficulties; others from motives of self-interest say only what is agreeable. Some again regard that which is beneficial to themselves as worthy of adoption. Men are seen to counsel thus on matters awaiting decision. But thou, O Krishna, art above such motives. Thou hast conquered both desire and anger. It behoveth thee to tell me what is most beneficial to the world."(KMG-Adi.13)
And why Krishna wants Yudhishthira to be the ‘Centre’ is understandable from what he thinks about Yudhishthira. Advising Yudhishthira to perform Raajasuuya only after killing Jarasandha, Krishna tells him, ‘It hath been heard by us that in the krita age, having brought every one under their subjection, Yauvanaswin by the abolition of all taxes, Bhagiratha by his kind treatment to his subjects, Kartavirya by the energy of his asceticism, the lord Bharata by his strength and valor, and Maruta by his prosperity, all these five became emperors. But, O Yudhishthira, thou who covetest the imperial dignity deserves it, not by one but by all these qualities, viz., victory, protection afforded to thy people, virtue, prosperity, and policy.(KMG-Sabha.15)’
Once, during their forest exile, the wandering Pandavas reach Prabhasa. The Yadu leaders come to visit them there. Satyaki proposes war, but Krishna politely cuts his enthusiasm short saying, ‘this bull of the Kuru race (Yudhishthira) would never accept the sovereignty of the earth, unless it were won by the prowess of his own arms. Neither for the sake of pleasure, nor from fear, nor from covetousness, would Yudhishthira ever renounce the rules of the caste - na.hy.eSa.kaamaan.na.bhayaan.na.lobhaad;yudhiSThiro.jaatu.jahyaat.sva.dharmam; nor would these two heroes, who are mighty, when mounted on a car—Bhima and Arjuna; nor the twin brothers, nor Krishna, the daughter of Drupada.(CE-3.120.22-23)’
Krishna’s respect for Yudhishthira’s svadharma is evident. Krishna also understands the ‘unique glue’ of the Pandavas and Draupadi, even more than they understand!
In reply to Krishna Yudhishthira says, 'It is not strange that thou shouldst speak thus, O scion of Madhu's race! but to me truth seems to be the first consideration, above that of my sovereign power itself. But it is Krishna alone who precisely knoweth what I am; and it is I alone who precisely know what Krishna (really) is- kRSNas.tu.maam.veda.yathaa.vad.ekah;kRSNam.ca.veda.aham.atho.yathaa.vat. O thou endued with valour! O scion of Madhu's race! as soon as he will perceive that the time is come for feats of bravery, then, O most valiant of Sini's race, he also of beautiful hair (Krishna) will defeat Suyodhana. Let the brave men of the Dasarha race go back today. They are my patrons; and the foremost of human beings, they have visited me here. O ye of immeasurable strength! Never fall off from the path of virtue- dharme.apramaadam.kuruta.aprameyaa. I shall see you again, when ye will be happily gathered together.'(KMG-Vana.120/CE-3.120.26-28)
Yudhsihthira’s saying – ‘Krishna alone who precisely knoweth what I am; and it is I alone who precisely know what Krishna (really) is’- makes it all the more evident that he and Krishna are the true Indra-Vishnu pair in Mahabharata.
Once, Krishna and Satyabhama visited the Pandavas in forest, and then Krishna told Yudhishthira – ‘'O king, Virtue is preferable to the winning of kingdoms; it is, in fact, practice of austerities! By you who have obeyed with truth and candor what your duty prescribed, have been won both this world and that to come! First you have studied, while performing religious duties; having acquired in a suitable way the whole science of arms, having won wealth by pursuing the methods prescribed for the military caste, you have celebrated all the time-honored sacrificial rites. You take no delight in sensual pleasures; you do not act, O lord of men, from motives of enjoyment, nor do you swerve from virtue from greed of riches; it is for this, you have been named the Virtuous King, O son of Pritha! Having won kingdoms and riches and means of enjoyment, your best delight has been charity and truth and practice of austerities, O King, and faith and meditation and forbearance and patience! (KMG- Vana.182)
Krishna respects Yudhishthira’s Dharma, because his Dharma is in accordance to ‘svadharma’.
The man who advises Arjuna –
‘shreyAnsvadharmo viguNaH paradharmAtsvanuShThitAt.
svadharme nidhana.n shreyaH paradharmo bhayAvahaH -
One's inferior natural work is better than superior unnatural work. Death in carrying out one's natural work is useful. Unnatural work produces too much stress. (Gita-3.35)
- certainly does not want to ‘change’ any one’s svadharma, or impose his svadharma on others.