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

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Yudhishthira’s  Gurus: The Four Krishnas

Interestingly,  at different phases of Yudhisthira’s life, the four Krishnas – Vyasa, Krishna,  Arjuna and Draupadi – appear as his Guru. Yudhishthira learns as much through  trial and error of firsthand experience as much through debates and discourses.

Gautama  Dharmashashtra places great importance on dialogic discourse as a means for  arriving at the truth - nyaayaadhigame  tarko.abhyupaayaH {Gaut.2.2.23 (11.23)}. Instead of blind adherence to any  injunction of authority, one shall come to a conclusion through that,  and shall decide properly -  tenaabhyuuhya yathaasthaanaM gamayet {Gaut.2.2.24 (11.24)}

The  Pandavas and Draupadi had differences in opinion on ‘Dharma’, and often had  debates on the topic, and Vyasa’s mimesis is impeccable in showing us the  inevitable relativity of perception. There is no absolute Truth, and every  human truth is relative.

At different phases of earthly life,  Yudhishthira’s brothers doubted his Dharma in different degrees. Only one man  never said a word against him. Krishna!

Krishna, perhaps, was helpless  before this man, and felt; perhaps, he was ‘trapped’ in his own philosophy in  respect to this man. And yet Krishna knew his  Dharma could not be translated into political action without this man. It was  not for nothing that he shifted the power centre of Bharata Rashtra from  Jarasandha’s East to Indraprashtha-Hastinapura. There was no Yudhishthira among  the Vrishnis. Is it not natural, then, the Vrishnis would kill each other in  drunken debauchery?

Krishna preached  ‘Svadharma’ – Dharma according to one’s own Nature. If Yudhishthira stood by  his own Dharma despite all obstacles and objections, and despite all practical  limitations of his Dharma, it was his ‘Svadharma’ then.

In the Yaksha-Yudhishthira dialogue,  God Dharma admitted –
   ‘I am greatly pleased, O thou of great wisdom,  with thee, O son, by thy devotion to me, by thy truthfulness of speech, and  forgiveness, and self-restraint. This, indeed, is the third test, O king, to  which I put thee. Thou art incapable, O son of Pritha, of being swerved from  thy nature or reason.’

Dharma uses the word ‘svabhaavaat’,  acknowledging that Yudhishthira’s Dharma is his Svadharma. Is there any doubt  then that, Yudhishthira was the most sincere and genuine follower of Krishna’s Dharma?

And Yudhishthira himself said – ‘I  do not practice Dharma to obtain Karmaphala –
  dharmam.caraami.suzroNi.na.dharma.phala.kaaraNaat.  (CE-3.32.4)
        - and this is his ‘svabhaavaa’

If Krishna exemplifies  Nizkaama-Karma, Yudhishthira exemplifies Nizkaama-Dharma, and both are same  because both have their base in Karma and Jnyana – two sides of the same coin,  for Krishna himself has said that all Karma has its base in Dharma, and more  importantly in ‘svabhaava’- svadharma. If Krishna’s  Dharma is the practice of ‘Detached Attachment’, Yudhishthira’s is ‘Attached  Detachment’!

And the courage with which  Yudhishthira defended his own Dharma, like one protecting a lamp amidst storm,  would not have been possible, unless Yudhishthira had Viirasukha in this Karma  of living in his own Dharma.

Viirsukha is the spirit of living,  nay, the art of living, in an ever hostile world, a Kurukshetra forever.  Viirsukha is also the art of survival. Deciding to stay in Naraka with his  brothers, sons and wife, what was his motivation, if not ‘viirsukha’?

Yudhishthira’s ‘niskaama Dharma’ is  similar to Krishna’s ‘niskaama karma’ in that,  though he practices Dharma not for any ‘phala’, the ‘phala’ nevertheless is  there.

He tells Draupadi – ‘O thou  faultless one, if the virtues that are practised by the virtuous had no fruits,  this universe then would be enveloped in infamous darkness. No one then would  pursue salvation, no one would seek to acquire knowledge not even wealth, but  men would live like beasts. …. Knowing it for certain that God is the giver of  fruits in respect of virtue, they practise virtue in this world. This, O  Krishna, is the eternal (source of) prosperity. When the fruits of both  knowledge and asceticism are seen, virtue and vice cannot be fruitless.  (CE-3.32.23-29)’

Yudhishthira thinks his Dharma has  no personal attachment to ‘phala’, but his belief in a ‘universal moral value  and order’ – ‘virtue and vice cannot be fruitless –  sa.ca.ayam.saphalo.dharmo.na.dharmo.aphala’ is the cause of his personal  attachment to ‘phala’ of which he is not aware of. His reaction to Duryodhana’s  presence in heavenly glory is born of an error – ‘moha’, and he learns about  the unconscious side of his mind and self through that error.

Yudhishthira’s ‘theory’ has its base  in ‘dRzyante phalaani’, i.e. in perceived reality, which is also similar to Krishna’s ‘dRSTa.phalam’ (5.290.6)

Yudhishthira’s Dharma places more  importance on ‘pramaanaH’ offered by Rishis than on ‘own reasoning -  aatma.pramaaNa’.
  ‘The fool that doubteth Dharma and  disregardeth virtue, proud of the proof derived from his own reasoning,  regardeth not other proofs and holdeth the Rishis, who are capable of knowing  the future as present as mad men. (CE-3.32.14-15)’

Here he is diametrically opposite to  Krishna’s Dharma that places more importance  on ‘aatma’ –
  uddharedaatmanaatmaanaM  naatmaanamavasaadayet.h .
  aatmaiva hyaatmano bandhuraatmaiva  ripuraatmanaH -
  ‘One must elevate, not degrade,  oneself by one's own Self. The Self alone is one's friend as well as one's  enemy.’             (Gita-6.05)

To Yudhishthira, a cynic in  Scriptural proof goes to Naraka –
  ‘A rejector of proofs, a slanderer  of the interpretation of the Vedic scriptures, a transgressor urged by lust and  covetousness, that fool goeth to hell. O amiable one, he on the other hand, who  ever cherisheth Dharma with faith, obtaineth eternal bliss in the other world.  The fool who cherisheth not Dharma, transgressing the proofs offered by the  Rishis, never obtaineth prosperity in any life, for such transgression of the  scriptures. (CE-3.32.18-19)’

Vashishtha  Dharmashahstra defines ‘ziSTa’ as one whose ‘aatma’ is free from ‘kaama’ - ziSTas^punar  akaama.aatmaa (Va.1.6)
  Yudhishthira is not yet ‘ziSTa’. He,  however, learns with an open mind, because when Narada advises him to give up  discrimination, he listens silently. In silence, is his recognition of the  ‘kaama’ in his heart.

His faith is in ancient Dharma  practiced by ‘shishta’. He argued with Draupadi – ‘Doubt not, O Krishna, the  ancient Dharma that is practiced by the good and framed by Rishis of universal  knowledge and capable of seeing all things! (CE-3.32.21)’

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