Monday, 3 August 2015

Lessons from Great Personalities – Life of Draupadi

Excerpts from Sathyopanishad

Shrikanth S

Draupadi ensured that her husbands stayed on the path of righteousness and morality several times.   One such episode which reflects her greatness and magnanimity is an incident after the Great War.     On the night of the 18th day of war, Ashwattama wanted to avenge his father’s death and wanted to kill Pandavas in their sleep.    After entering their tent, thinking the five children were the Pandavas, Ashwattama gruesomely massacred the young Pandava children in their sleep.   Realizing that the perpetrator was Ashwatthama, Arjuna tracked him down, and dragged him before Draupadi and Subhadra.  

At this moment, if you put yourself in Draupadi’s shoes: Here is a person who was supposedly close to Pandavas, almost brother-like, and he killed her unarmed children in their sleep; this person tried to destroy the lineage of the Pandavas by aiming the powerful astra towards her daughter-in-law Uttara’s womb; and this Ashwattama entered the Pandava camp in slyly in the night to kill her husbands and was full of hatred towards them.    Imagine how one would have react.    Given her chastity, she could have easily cursed the offender of this crime and pronounced punishment. 
Instead, falling at the feet of Aswatthama, the son of her husbands' most respected Guru, Draupadi said
“It is at the feet of your father, Dronacharya that my husbands have learnt all that they know. Being the son of Dronacharya, was it proper to kill my children. How could you have the heart to kill them who were unharmed, young, quietly asleep, were not having any grudge against you, and were not contemplating any harm to you?”
 – Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Witnessing this, the Pandavas were shocked.  Bhima and Arjuna exploded in anger and Bhima roared that Draupadi is a stupid woman, as she pleaded for Ashwattama’s freedom and she felt no anger against the murderer of her sons.
When Arjuna and Bhima were about to kill Aswatthama, Draupadi fell at his feet and articulated her views that by killing Aswatthama will her sons be revived?  Will not Ashwatthama’s mother feel similar kind of sorrow she underwent?   She then coaxed Arjuna and Bhima to maintain their tranquility.   Furthermore she stated it is not proper to kill one who is fast asleep, one who is intoxicated and one who is resting without safety and security, and that it is not dharma to do such an act.  
Arjuna reminded Draupadi of his vow to kill Ashwattama.  To this Draupadi replied, tonsuring Ashwattama’s head and removing the crown jewel from his head would be equivalent to killing him.   Accordingly Ashwattama was forgiven magnanimously with a token punishment.  

Lessons to be Learnt
What is Papa (sin)? Hurting, abusing and killing others is sin. What is Punya (merit)? Helping others is merit. Therefore, one should not retaliate to an evil act with an evil act. Instead, one should be magnanimous in forgiving the offender. There are many such sacred teachings in the Mahabharata.

People around, who were witnessing this scene, were wonderstruck. They were wondering whether Draupadi was really mad! In fact, the world will be better if everyone is afflicted with such madness. Thus, when Draupadi pleaded with her husbands for saving the life of Aswatthama, Aswatthama prayed for forgiveness. Draupadi was happy at the change of heart in Aswatthama and advised him, "Brother! You need not beg for my forgiveness. Instead, you pay your respect and do service to your mother. Do not drown her in sorrow. Never cause her anguish; take good care of her." Even the loss of five sons did not make Draupadi shed tears of sorrow.
 – Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Maintaining equanimity is vital.   One of the reasons for her patience and equanimity could be her surrender to the Lord.   To be honest, it is easy to state equanimity, surrender etc.   It can be extremely difficult to follow.   For instance, I can lose equanimity even at simple things – if someone praises, I am happy and if someone abuses I am sad.    Sometimes, I do wonder at the journey to be travelled.  But as our Lord says don’t look at the journey to be covered, be happy by seeing the journey that has been covered.     To cover the journey ahead, I can draw inspiration from events in Draupadi’s life, which set a very high standard for us to emulate and benchmark.     

Incident 6: Did Draupadi cause the Mahabharatha war?

Several TV serials showed that Draupadi laughed at Duruyodhana while he was in the Mayasabha.  There was some commentary that said that laughter could have made Duruyodhana vengeful and angry leading to the game of gambling and finally to the Kurukshetra War.   Bhagawan Baba provides clarification
“These are words of those who do not know the reality. Draupadi was not an ordinary person. She was a queen, known for her chastity. She was the wife of the great Pandavas. It is ridiculous to say that she laughed at Duryodhana in the Mayasabha. You are mistaken if you think so. She was not of the type to laugh at people. Those who don’t know what had actually happened think like this.
On that day after taking a head bath, Draupadi was drying her hair and was about to come out of the palace through the main door. It was at that time that Duryodhana fell down mistaking the place for open ground when there was water. Watching, this, the maidservants started laughing at the ludicrous, sight. As Draupadi was coming out just then, Duryodhana saw her and mistook that she was laughing at him. In fact, she did not laugh at all. So, it was the fault of Duryodhana to think so.
There was no flaw in Draupadi. She never raised her voice at any time. Contented with whatever she had, she was never tired of serving the Pandavas under any circumstances. She was the noblest of them all. It is your foolishness to think that she laughed at Duryodhana or at any other person.”

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
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