Mahabharata - Yudhishthira and Krishna - Indra & Vishnu on One Chariot

Birth of  Yudhishthira Dharma

The  first poetic hint of the nature of Yudhishthira’s dharma manifests in Drona’s  examination.

To test  the comparative excellence of all his pupils in the use of arms, one day, Drona  had caused an artificial target-bird, to be placed on the top of a neighbouring  tree (KMG-Adi.134/ CE-1.123.46-57).
As the  disciples stood, Drona told them 'Take up your bows quickly and stand here  aiming at that bird on the tree, with arrows fixed on your bowstrings; shoot  and cut off the bird's head, as soon as I give the order- I shall give each of you a turn, one by one, my  children.'

Drona  first told Yudhishthira to take up the bow and aim at the target-bird. He did  so. Then Drona told him again to behold the bird again, and Yudhishthira  replied in affirmative that he did do.

But  next moment, Drona again asked him, 'What dost thou see now, O prince? Do you  see the tree, the bird, myself or your brothers?' Yudhishthira answered, 'I see  the tree, my being, and my brothers and the bird’-
  atah.vRkSam.imam.maam.vaa.bhraatRRn.vaa.api.prapazyasi.//  (CE-1.123.53-54)

 At first Yudhishthira could see the bird only,  but when Drona wanted to test his firmness in concentration further, he set a  ‘trap question’, and tagged the previous question with multiple choices. It  should be noted that Drona’s question has the word ‘vaa’ i.e. ‘or’, implying he  wanted to divert Yudhishthira’s mind towards any other ‘single’ thing, and  wanted to see his preferential sequence; whereas Yudhishthira’s reply has the  word ‘ca’ i.e. ‘and’, implying his vision would not exclude anything, nor make  a preference at the exclusion of another even if his Guru suggests so; he  would, however, not go beyond his Guru’s suggestion and include all as  suggested by his Guru, making a preferential sequence within that broad vision.  In other words, he would not ‘tick’ a particular answer from a multiple choice  question, nor arrange them in a preferential sequence, nor scratch any other  answer from outside, but tick all the answers and then number them as answer  1,2,3,4…

The  order in which Yudhishthira sets the ‘items’ are also to be noted; first tree,  then Guru, then his brothers and finally the target-bird. It is this  arrangement that reveals Yudhishthira’s character about what he would become.

Drona  put himself after the bird, but to Yudhishthira, Tree or Nature comes first,  then Guru, then his brothers – humanity, and finally the target, which being a  personal target is less important to him than the previous three.

He  ‘sees’ his Guru second to Nature because his Guru is ‘shruuti’ to him, and  placing his Guru second to Nature, he actually places ‘shruuti’ as the centre  of his being, as a timeless aspect that defines his very being. He thus pays  the highest regard to his Guru, by acknowledging him as his being, and through  that acknowledgment he pays the highest regard to ‘shruuti’, the universal and  timeless aspect of wisdom.

Yudhishthira’s  answer, however, shows, he is not a blind adherer to ‘shruuti’, but within the  framework of ‘shruuti’ he would define his vision with his svadharma – his  originality.
  Drona  does not have the talent and potential to understand Yudhishthira, so he  removes him displeased with him - apasarpa.iti.droNo.apriita.manaa.

When  Drona next asked his other disciples, they replied in exact way as Drona said –;iti.kutsitaah.//  (CE-1.123.57)

Yudhishthira  thus stands out as an exception against the background of all his brothers,  with the exception of Arjuna, who, being focused on the bird’s eye and nothing  else, is an exception, from another perspective, against the backdrop of all  his brothers including Yudhishthira.

Yudhishthira  and Arjuna – both are ‘winners’ from two different perspectives – though Drona,  too eager to have his personal agenda of chastising Drupada fulfilled through  his disciples, places the laurels on Arjuna’s crown. Herein lies the meanness  of Drona as a teacher, and herein lies the greatness of Vyasa’s vision of  relativity.

The  main force of Yudhishthira’s dharma is, thus, to define ‘shruuti’ according to  his svadharma within the broad framework of ‘shruuti’.

As  Vyasa shows us, Yudhishthira’s ‘attempt to define dharma and live by it’ would  not be so easy, because Life follows a dharma of contradiction that often poses  man as its opposition.

This  episode is sufficient to give us a glimpse of what Yudhishthira would be in  future, but perhaps, the later poets rightly thought that such a subtle clue to  Yudhsihthira’s character has been lost in the chaos of war, and so they  introduced two elaborate narratives – Yudhishthira-Yaksha dialogue and  Yudhishthira’s Svargarohana – to do ‘justice’ to Ydhishthira’s brand of Dharma  - so that Vyasa’s message is not lost, so that Yudhishthira’s Dharma is not  eclipsed out by Krishna’s!

Drona  rejected Yudhishthira’s answer, but Yaksha-dharma appreciated them, though the  single question of Drona and the multiple questions of Yaksha have the same  spirit. The Drona-Yaksha opposition is thus an adharma-dharma opposition,  confirmed in Drona’s taking up arms in favour of adharma.

Yudhishthira  would not focus on a particular target meant for personal advancement, and will  have a place for that target within a broad canvass of everything. Arjuna on  the other hand, will focus on a particular target when occasion calls so, at  the exclusion of everything else.

Yudhishthira  will locate the target in everything and Arjuna will locate everything in the  target.

And  here, the two Indras are in opposition – the Old Indra and the New Indra of Rig  Veda. Through the two brothers Vyasa shows two different possibilities of  approaching Life, amd going through it with karma and dharma.

Focused  target in everything, and everything in a focused target - Particular in  Universal, and Universal in Particular – Vyasa and Krishna resolve this  apparent opposition by the philosophy of svadharma based yoga that endows one  with ‘samadarshhana’-
  Sarvabhuutasthha  maatmaanam sarvabhuutaani chaatmani
  Ikshate  yogayuktaatmaa sarvatra samadarshana

And who  is the best practiser of this Dharma, if not Yudhishthira?