A great hero and the result of his one single lie

I wish to tell you a sad story. Durvasa thought that he had conquered everything. He said: “I have conquered anger, I have conquered passion, I have conquered everything. There is nothing left for me to conquer.”

Then one day, when he was meditating, a fly came and sat on his shoulder. Durvasa flew into a rage. He, who was so powerful, became very angry with the fly and said: “I have the power to destroy the world. How dare you sit on my shoulder!”

The fly flew away and took the help of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva came to him and said, “Durvasa, you have conquered everything, yet a fly can sit on your shoulder and you become angry!”

Durvasa was most powerful. He had spiritual power and occult power, but he had never conquered his anger. In the Mahabharata there are many authentic stories of his cursing people in season and out of season. His blessings, too, were very irrational. At times he used to bless people, but very often it was more of a curse. His very blessing was a curse.

Now the mother of the great hero of the Gita, Arjuna, was Kunti. Kunti came of a royal family and when she was young and unmarried, a virgin, it happened that Durvasa came to her father’s palace and she served him. Durvasa was so pleased with her that he immediately said: “I shall grant you a boon.”

She said, “Thank you. I will be so happy.”

“All right. The boon is that soon you will be the mother of a great hero.” This was the blessing! Kunti was unmarried, and this was his boon!

She said, “Now I am unmarried, how can I become the mother of someone?”

But poor Kunti had a child. As it was illegitimate, she placed the child into a casket and threw it into a river. The river flowed by and took the baby into the hands of an ordinary, common person, a charioteer named Adhirat. Adhirat brought up the child, Karna. He grew up to be the great Karna, as powerful as Arjuna. Finally Arjuna and Karna had to fight against each other on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Karna was one of the greatest heroes in those days but he did not know who his mother was. When the battle of Kurukshetra was taking place, Kunti came to him at the last moment crying: “My son, you are fighting against another of my sons. I want both you and Arjuna as well as my other sons to stay together.”

Karna said, “Now it is too late. I cannot do that. You have five sons and, if you consider me as your sixth son, then I tell you that when the battle is over you will have your five sons.”

“How?” she cried.

“Either Arjuna will kill me, or I shall kill Arjuna. I will not touch the rest of the brothers. The world knows that you have five sons and you will keep your five sons.”

We know that in the Kurukshetra war Karna was killed by Arjuna. He was killed because he once told a lie about his caste. Adhirat, who brought him up, was not a Kshatriya (warrior), so Karna was not considered to be of Kshatriya origin. For this reason the great archers and others did not want to teach him. They said, “You do not come from a Kshatriya family. We cannot teach you. You come from a low caste.”

Finally he went to Parashuram, one of India’s greatest archers and, when Parashuram asked him his caste, he said: “I come from a Kshatriya family.”

Parashuram believed him and taught him archery, so Karna became a great warrior. Then it happened that one afternoon, while Parashuram was taking a siesta with his head resting on Karna’s lap, Karna was stung by a scorpion. Karna’s whole thigh began to bleed profusely but he thought that, as his master was fast asleep, he would wake him if he made a noise. So he kept quiet and he didn’t kill the scorpion. After a while his master awoke and saw the situation.

He said, “You didn’t kill the scorpion. You have told me a lie! A Kshatriya cannot tolerate this kind of thing. Your thigh is bleeding profusely and, if you were a Kshatriya, you would have killed the scorpion immediately. But you are not a Kshatriya. You come of the Sudra caste. You are a man of service. You can never be a Kshatriya, you can never be a warrior. You have told me a lie. At the time of your need, your deepest need, you will forget the secret of applying your greatest weapon.”

Now we see how this happened in the Battle of Kurukshetra when Karna was fighting against Arjuna. Karna had the most powerful weapon which nobody on earth could overcome. He thought that he would utilise it only against Arjuna in the battlefield and not against anybody else. He said: “I shall use this weapon only against Arjuna.”

But in the battlefield, Ghatothkach, a son of Bhima, Arjuna’s brother, was killing hundreds of warriors on Karna’s side. He started coming closer to Karna and, when he was about to kill Karna, Karna said: “Now I have this powerful weapon given to me by Parashuram. With this I can kill anybody on earth. Why do I not use it?” So he used it and he killed Bhima’s son. Then when he came to fight Arjuna he was powerless and was killed by Arjuna. You see how Parashuram’s prophecy came true. You also see how Karna’s prophecy came true. Five sons of Kunti remained alive.