India / Mauritius


Sundar Caitanya Goswami Maharaja




Krishna instructing Arjun

The Mahabharata is one of the greatest literatures in the world.  It  brings out the complexity of human problems in such a profound and entertaining way.  It shows us the application of philosophy when it comes to deciding between the right and wrong in such cases where the answer is not straightforward.

The four most striking characters in the Mahabharata are :

Arjuna, Bhishma, Drona,  and Karna.

 These four were perhaps the greatest warriors of the era.  They lived their life by different principles and values  and came to different ends.  The Mahabharata shows that all four men were great in their own way, but three of them failed to do what is truly right.  

Out of the four, Arjuna is the character who stands out as the hero who the world admire the most.  The other three are remembered as tragic heroes. Their names are not associated with same awe and respect as that of Arjuna.   They all met sad deaths on the battlefield fighting on the side of evil, despite knowing  that they were doing wrong.   There is a fundamental difference in the outlook of these four great men that was responsible for their different  outcomes


KARNA:  Karna was in many ways a greater  warrior than Arjuna.  They may have been equals as archers, but physically,  Karna was by far the strongest.  Even in sticking to one’s principles, Karna was more  steadfast compared with Arjuna.  But in Karna’s life there was one fatal blow.  He made his friendship and loyalty to Duryodhana higher than anything else, including right and wrong.   While loyalty is a great value in itself, in such cases when it overrides dharma and the calling of Lord Krsna, such loyalty leads one to a tragic end.   Karna put loyalty to duryodhana as the highest.  His tragic story warns us to choose loyalties wisely.  Only Lord Krsna deserves such unflinching  loyalty.  


      BHISHMA:   Bhishma was another person who never performed a selfish action in his whole life.  He was mighty, respected, and learned.   But he too ended up fighting on the side of adharma, and came to a tragic end.  He was actually an impediment to the establishment of a religious Kingdom.  Why? because he put his personal oath on a pedestal and made it the focus and obsession of his life.   The oath was that he would unquestioningly follow and do the bidding of whoever was the King of Hastinapura.  He would never break this vow as long as he lived, even when it involved fighting his beloved nephews, the Pandavas.  Sticking to a vow is important, especially today when people make promises and break them the very next day.  But the Mahabharata demonstrates that if your attachment to a personal vow stops you from doing what is blatantly right, and ends up making you serve evil, such a vow should be discarded.  Bhishma put his personal vow above anything else, even when that vow became an instrument evil.  He even disregarded Lord Krsna’s  advice to drop the vow for the greater good.    


    DRONA:   Dronacarya as he is known, was an employee of the King of Hastinapura who happened to be Dhrtarashtra, the father of Duryodhana.   He was employed to teach all the princes the art of warfare and statecraft.  He was considered  the greatest  teacher of the era, and he was payed handsomely.  Before he got this job he was extremely poor, and therefore he was greatly  loyal to the King.  When Duryodhana was doing wrong he was fully aware of it.  On several occasions he even tried to stop him, at which Duryodhana would say,  “Do not bite the hand that feeds you.”    During the battle of Kurukshetra,  Dronacarya fought on Duryodhana’s behalf  and was eventually slain in a scheme engineered by Lord Krsna.  Despite being an outstanding warrior and well versed in morality, he put his loyalty to his employer before the more important question of dharma.   He was afraid of being called ungrateful.    

ARJUNA:   Arjuna was a great man, yet he had weaknesses that were absent in Karna, Dronacarya, and Bhishma.    He was in some way foolhardy, saying and doing several stupid things that could have landed him and his brothers in serious trouble.   For example, at one point, he had made a vow that he would take the life of anybody who insulted his Gandiva bow, which he was exceedingly proud of.   During the battle of Kurukshetra, it happened to be his elder brother Yuddhistira who dealt fatal insult.  Arjuna immediately drew his sword and was about to kill him, and he was restrained by Lord Krsna.  Instead of killing Yuddhistira Lord Krsna suggested that Arjuna should insult him in public, which was considered to be as bad as killing him.  But then,  Arjuna felt bad for insulting  such a virtuous person as  Yuddhisthira and said he would commit suicide.  Once again, Lord Krsna restrained Arjuna by giving him a loophole.  According to dharma, praising yourself in public is a sin that is as bad as one’s own death.   So, Lord Krsna said to Arjuna, “Just praise yourself in public, and your vow will be fulfilled. Thus the lives of both Arjuna and Yuddhistira  were saved.   Yet despite this foolhardy streak   in his character, Arjuna is the one who is etched upon the hearts of humanity as the ideal to which to aspire.  This story illustrate that while Arjuna was far from perfect, he had one over riding quality which sets him above and apart from others.  To Arjuna it was Lord Krsna’s words that were absolute.