Ved Vyas’s reasoning to Vrishketu.
“Pranam, Gurudev!” Vrishketu reverentially bowed before Ved Vyas, the legendary author of the epic Mahabharata.
“Gurudev, the world is well versed with my father, Karna’s story. Today, I am his only surviving son. I have seen my father and all my brothers killed in the Kurukshetra war. I also saw how my father’s death was brought about. Gurudev! You are an immortal, the witness and the writer of this epic tale of Hastinapur. I seek the light of your wisdom to clear the darkness of confusion that looms over my father’s demise.”
Ved Vyas raised his hand to bless Vrishketu. As if he could read his mind and preempt the questions that bothered him, he nodded with a faint smile,
“Ask Vatsa (disciple)... Tell me what confuses you?”
“I don’t understand why was my father cursed even when his intentions weren’t bad? He hid his identity from Lord Parshuram only in the quest to learn, to gain knowledge. And as we know, the cow was killed by him accidentally, not intentionally. And yet he was cursed with words that eventually led to his defeat and death. Isn’t this unfair and unreasonable? And how can someone’s words be so powerful that they bring down someone’s life, that too, a legend’s life?” Vrishketu asked in anger and sadness.
After a thoughtful moment, Vyas replied,
“Putra, there are two paths to reach the answers to your question. One is, the understanding that it was - Karna’s destiny. Destiny always designs the path as per the chosen destination. And to do so, it paws on people and circumstances. Karna sided adharma, he stood by the Kauravas. Pandavas, on the other hand, represented dharma. And as you know, to establish dharma, adharma had to be abolished. Although Karna was a divine child of the Sun God and an outstanding and a skilled archer, he supported adharma. Hence, destiny had to remove him. To do so, it used Lord Parshuram’s and the Brahmin’s curses as its medium. This is one way to understand why things turned against your father. It was destined!”
“So that means, we mortals are like puppets tied to the hands of Destiny. And what is the second explanation behind his defeat?” asked Vrishketu, listening attentively.
“The second path to understanding the tragedy of your father is to analyse his personality. Karna’s persona and choices led him to his doom. Ever since his birth, he was unable to build a strong personality. His persona was developed based on others' perceptions and opinions of him. He was greatly affected and moved by how the society saw him and spoke of him. That’s why he rebelled against everyone - whoever called him a ‘Sut Putra’. He made Arjun his biggest rival for no personal reason, but because he always felt that Arjun was more popular and more loved by all. Resulting in jealousy and envy. He blindly pivoted his life on defeating Arjun to prove himself to the world.”
“What’s the harm in centring one’s life to one goal?” interrupted Vrishketu.
“Life is like a wheel. For its smooth momentum, the weight should be evenly distributed. But like Karna, when an individual exerts all the pressure on just one aim, the wheel of his life is bound to get stuck at some given point. Just as it happened during the Kurukshetra war, the wheel of his chariot was stuck in the mud. It symbolised the fact that Karna had put the weight of his entire life to defeat Arjun. Consequently, when the most awaited moment of life arrived, the feeling of overwhelm lead to a blackout. He had eagerly waited for the moment to defeat Arjun. And when it happened, his mind went blank; because after that moment would have passed, Karna’s life would become purposeless.”
Choked with emotions, Vrishketu asked,
“And how were his choices responsible for his tragedy, Gurudev?”
“He always chose to see the darker shades of his life. He hung on to people’s mockery and indulged in self-pity that eventually generated frustration. To explain better, I will draw a parallel example of Krishna. Even Krishna was given away by his parents. His birth was shadowed by death. Although born a prince, he was raised as a cowherd. Even he was accused and mocked often as a Makhan chor, and as a shrewd politician. He didn’t master in any major weapon skills. But unlike Karna, his strength lay in acceptance, in swimming with life’s flow. And that’s what his weapon, Sudarshan Chakkar is symbolic of. The movement of life’s chakkar is the strongest weapon to fight against any challenges. To flow and not resist. Karna’s inability to laugh at life, to accept circumstances, to see the brighter side made him bitter. Unlike Krishna, he was driven by emotions and not objectives. He chose Duryodhan based on emotions, not reasons. And that was a wrong choice.”
Deeply contemplative, nodding at the insightful reasons cited by Ved Vyas, Vrishketu touched his feet and walked back with much more to ponder upon.