Monday, February 9, 2009

The Virtue of Truth - A story from the epic Mahabharata to Children

The following story is from the epic Mahabharata:

After having lost his kingdom in the game of dice (Indian Ludo) with Duryodhana, Yudhishtra, the eldest among the Pandavas, was living in the forest along with his four brothers and their wife, Draupadi. The Pandavas roamed about freely in the forest and thus got acquainted with many seers (Rishis) who dwelled there.

One day while roaming in the forest, Arjuna and Draupadi came across a tree bearing a very large gooseberry (nellikai). Draupadi had never seen such a huge gooseberry before. Desirous of tasting the fruit, she asked Arjuna to pluck the same for her. Arjuna also heeded her request and plucked the fruit for her.

Just then a sage came by and having witnessed the act of Arjuna, addressed him thus-“Vijaya! You have acted improperly in haste. This tree yields a single ripe fruit only once a year. Sage Amitra partakes this fruit alone once a year. You are already undergoing days of hardship and now you have added to your woes by this act. Tomorrow is the day sage Amitra usually comes here to partake the fruit.”

On hearing this, Arjuna and Panchali (Draupadi) were remorse-stricken. They took the fruit to Dharma Putra (Yudhishtra) and narrated the entire incident. Yudhishtra regretted what had happened, but was unable to decide on a future course of action. Bheema suggested, “We will go in search of the sage and handover the fruit to him. That is the only way to escape his wrath.”

But Nakula said, “Misfortune befell us only because we played the game of dice without getting the consent of Lord Krishna. Later, when Lord Krishna inquired as to why we refrained from asking him, we were dumbfounded. Lord Krishna saved us when we surrendered unto him in order to escape the wrath of sage Durvasa, who was sent by Duryodhana. Even now, if we pray to Lord Krishna, he will show us the way out.” Everyone, including Yudhishtra, appreciated Nakula’s suggestion and prayed to Lord Krishna with fervent devotion. Heeding the prayer of his ardent devotees - the Pandavas, Lord Krishna appeared before them. After inquiring about their well being, Lord Krishna asked the Pandavas, the reason for their prayer. The Pandavas and Draupadi, after prostrating at the Holy feet of Lord Krishna, explained their dilemma and prayed to relieve them from the crisis.

Filled with love for his guileless devotees, Lord Krishna said, “I will see to it that the wrath of sage Amitra does not befall you. In order for that to happen, each one of you must speak only the truth.” Saying thus, he took them to the gooseberry tree. He placed the large fruit under the tree and said, “Each one of you should now speak whatever is in your mind without any deceit. The fruit will go and cling to the tree on its own accord.” Having said this, he invited Yudhishtra to speak first.

Yudhistra said, “Truthfulness, honesty, tolerance and righteousness should flourish in this world while wickedness, conceit and dishonesty should banish entirely. This is my wish. I hold Panchali responsible for the whole event.” At this, surprisingly, the fruit moved two feet above the ground and remained in the air. Next, Lord Krishna asked Bheema to speak.

Bheema said, “I wish I could kill Duryodhana this very moment - the meanest of all the petty-minded people, who does not consider teasing others as a sin, who does not sympathize with others’ sufferings, who is not free from the desire of appropriating others’ belongings and who does not respect another man's wife as his mother. I also feel that our trials and tribulations have increased because of our staying in the forest.” The fruit moved two feet further up.

Arjuna spoke next. He said, “Prestige and fame mean more to me than even my life. Unless I kill Karna in the war, the ambition of my life will not be fulfilled.” The fruit moved up two feet further.

Then Nakula said, “Virtues, a noble birth, wealth or beauty do not give a person what he desires. I believe that a man can attain fame just by leading a life in this world that is based on his discrimination alone.” Again, the fruit moved up two feet.

Lord Krishna looked at his beloved Sahadeva and Sahadeva said, “Truth is my mother. Intelligence is my father and good deeds are my siblings. The love that I shower on others is my friend. My calm mind is my wife. The attitude of eradicating the thoughts of hatred, enimity and vendetta is my son. I believe these to be my real family.” The fruit moved up by two feet again.

Lord Krishna looked at the grief stricken Panchali with benevolence and she said, “I have five husbands like the five senses, namely, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and body. Though I have five husbands, I am being the cause of agony for all. I feel penitent for having acted thoughtlessly inspite of being well educated.” Just as she completed her statement, the gooseberry moved up and stuck to the tree.

Lord Krishna bid farewell to the Pandavas happily.

So children, we must always be truthful in our lives. We saw that God loves only those who are truthful. We also see from this episode that if we surrender unto God when faced with trials and tribulations in our lives, he will free us from all sorrows.

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