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How righteous was Karna?

sravna

Well-known member
The character of Karna in Mahabharata is a very intersting and difficult to understand one. His is a very peculiar situation wrought with dilemmas. Specifically I would like to pose the question was the loyalty shown by Karna to Duryodhana a virtue great enough that absolved his position of fighting against the Pandavas?

I would like to quote

You can be absolved of anything but not of ungratefulness to one who has helped you in time.

This is considered as one of the highest virtues because steadfastness to values is very difficult to practice especially when you are faced with severe dilemmas. Karna did it without second thoughts even when Kunti tried to emotionally tried to drag him to the side of Pandavas. Yes he was on the wrong side of Dharma and he knew it but did not let his higher personal values falter.

What do you think?
 

renuka

Well-known member
The character of Karna in Mahabharata is a very intersting and difficult to understand one. His is a very peculiar situation wrought with dilemmas. Specifically I would like to pose the question was the loyalty shown by Karna to Duryodhana a virtue great enough that absolved his position of fighting against the Pandavas?

I would like to quote

You can be absolved of anything but not of ungratefulness to one who has helped you in time.

This is considered as one of the highest virtues because steadfastness to values is very difficult to practice especially when you are faced with severe dilemmas. Karna did it without second thoughts even when Kunti tried to emotionally tried to drag him to the side of Pandavas. Yes he was on the wrong side of Dharma and he knew it but did not let his higher personal values falter.

What do you think?
Honestly Karna is the best character in the Mahabharat.
He is grateful to the extent that blood was not thicker than water.
A rare find..one in a million.

He did the right thing by not crossing over to the Pandavas.
Krishna even tried to tempt him by saying the Draupadi would be his wife too if he crosses over.
Kunti was just playing mega serial drama..she never really cared for him..she just wanted Arjuna to live.

Karna didnt fall for lust or emotions or drama.


Pandavas were always casteist..taunting him as Suta Putra.
Draupadi too insulted him on caste lines during the svayamvara.


Personally I feel Karna should have been the one receiving the Bhagavad Gita..he being the son of Surya Bhagavan who also had received the Gita.
 

prasad1

Well-known member

Karna in Mahabharat – Hero or Villain?​

Karna is among the most popular and complex characters in the Mahabharata, showing both nobility and nastiness over the course of the story.

Karna

ArticleJul 27, 2020
In this article, Sadhguru looks at the basis of his undoing – his bitterness.

Sadhguru: In India, for people who are conversant with the Mahabharata, there is a whole culture where Karna is a kind of anti-hero. He is a sweet mango gone bad. He was a wonderful human being gone totally bad because he invested in bitterness. His bitterness took him into a disastrous life story. He was a man with a phenomenal sense of integrity and generosity but all this was lost. He died in the battle in a bad way.

The “Low-Born” King​

He was resentful because he did not know whose child he was. But the people who brought him up, did so with utmost love. His foster parents, Radha and Athiratha, loved him immensely and brought him up very well, the way they knew. He always remembered how much his mother loved him. “That is one person who loved me for who I am,” he says. Out of his competence and the will of fate, he became Angaraja – the king of Anga. He got many things and was given a position and place in the palace. In many ways he was also a big king’s sidekick. Duryodhana held him dear and took advice from him. He had everything that life could offer. If you look at his life, the fact of it is that he was a charioteer’s son who became a king. He should have been really happy. A child who is found floating on the water grows up to become a king. Is it not a wonderful thing? But no, he did not give up his resentment. He was always unhappy and miserable because he could not come to terms with what he was being labeled as. Wherever he went, people referred to him as a suta or “low-born” because of his ambitions. Throughout his life he complained about this. All the time, he nourished bitterness within himself about his so-called low birth.
This bitterness made a wonderful human being into such a nasty and ugly character in the Mahabharata. He was a great human being and showed his greatness in different situations, but because of this bitterness, in many ways it was he who turned everything wrong. For Duryodhana, it did not matter what Shakuni said or did, it was Karna’s advice which always sealed the deal. After everything was decided, he would look at Karna, “What shall we do?” Karna could very easily have turned the direction of the whole story.
 

prasad1

Well-known member
Karna was appointed commander of the Kauravas and took charge of what was left of the Kaurava army on the sixteenth morning. His charioteer was the redoubtable Shalya – uncle of the Pandava brothers Nakula and Sahdeva. How the brother of Madri came to fight on the side of the Kauravas is a tale in itself, but how did the two warriors spend the morning before the battle resumed? Arjuna and Krishna had spent the time before the battle began by getting to understand the purpose of the battle itself. Krishna had delivered the eternal message of the Bhagvad Gita to Arjuna. How did Shalya and Karna spend the time on the sixteenth morning? By arguing. Shalya provoked Karna, comparing him to a child wanting to touch the sun, to “a stupid jackal” shouting “at a maned and angry lion.” The “stupid jackal” being Karna, while the “angry lion” was Arjuna.

How did Karna respond? Need we guess? Karna took Shalya’s bait, and thus began a long argument, a cacophony that was as ugly as the real battle being fought. Karna had the choicest of abuses for the king of Madra, Shalya, his charioteer – “evil in nature“, “You are stupid“, “There are no good feelings in a Madraka“, “He [a Madraka] always lies and is never straight.“, “Noble women [Madrakas], according to their own wishes, mingle with men, known and unknown“, “They drink liquor, eat the flesh of cows and dance and laugh. The songs don’t have proper rhymes“, “Women who are intoxicated by liquor cast off their clothes and dance around. … O Madraka! You are the son of one such“, “They drink liquor made from grain and molasses. They eat the flesh of cows, laced with garlic. They eat bread mixed with meat and fried barley that has not been sowed.

On and on went the bickering. Shalya recounted a tale about a crow and swan, comparing Karna to the crow “that fed on leftovers from a vaishya household.” Karna, in Shalya’s estimation, was no different, and had “subsisted on leftovers from the sons of Dhritarashtra.

This then was Karna’s state of mind as he entered the battlefield.

How did the end come? In the middle of the furious battle, Parashurama’s curse manifested itself, as did the brahmana’s. “the earth swallowed up one of the wheels of Radheya’s chariot.” Karna “wept in rage.” An anjalika arrow, invoked with the right mantras, affixed to Arjuna’s Gandiva, severed Karna’s head.

Karna was the eldest of the four sons of Kunti. He was elder to Arjuna, Bhimasena, and Yudhishthira. Yet his lifelong battle had been with Arjuna. If one looks at Arjuna, the image most likely to be imprinted on the minds of people would be of Arjuna in a chariot commandeered by Krishna, who held the reins of the horses of the splendid chariot. The image cannot, but remind oneself of these lines from the Katha Upanishad:

Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as
The charioteer, and the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the road they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow
.” [Katha Upanishad, tr. Eknath Easwaran]
How did Karna respond? Need we guess? Karna took Shalya’s bait, and thus began a long argument, a cacophony that was as ugly as the real battle being fought. Karna had the choicest of abuses for the king of Madra, Shalya, his charioteer – “evil in nature“, “You are stupid“, “There are no good feelings in a Madraka“, “He [a Madraka] always lies and is never straight.“, “Noble women [Madrakas], according to their own wishes, mingle with men, known and unknown“, “They drink liquor, eat the flesh of cows and dance and laugh. The songs don’t have proper rhymes“, “Women who are intoxicated by liquor cast off their clothes and dance around. … O Madraka! You are the son of one such“, “They drink liquor made from grain and molasses. They eat the flesh of cows, laced with garlic. They eat bread mixed with meat and fried barley that has not been sowed.

On and on went the bickering. Shalya recounted a tale about a crow and swan, comparing Karna to the crow “that fed on leftovers from a vaishya household.” Karna, in Shalya’s estimation, was no different, and had “subsisted on leftovers from the sons of Dhritarashtra.

This then was Karna’s state of mind as he entered the battlefield.

How did the end come? In the middle of the furious battle, Parashurama’s curse manifested itself, as did the brahmana’s. “the earth swallowed up one of the wheels of Radheya’s chariot.” Karna “wept in rage.” An anjalika arrow, invoked with the right mantras, affixed to Arjuna’s Gandiva, severed Karna’s head.

Karna was the eldest of the four sons of Kunti. He was elder to Arjuna, Bhimasena, and Yudhishthira. Yet his lifelong battle had been with Arjuna. If one looks at Arjuna, the image most likely to be imprinted on the minds of people would be of Arjuna in a chariot commandeered by Krishna, who held the reins of the horses of the splendid chariot. The image cannot, but remind oneself of these lines from the Katha Upanishad:

Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as
The charioteer, and the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the road they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow
.” [Katha Upanishad, tr. Eknath Easwaran]

The contrast between Karna and Arjuna could not have been starker. All through his life, although Karna was a man, who possessed the greatest of talents, he could not bring himself to focus with single-minded attention to any one task. Distracted, he killed a calf, and got cursed. In the Kuru dyuta sabha, he could not keep his mouth shut, ordering Duhshasana to disrobe Droupadi. At Virata, he could not go after Brihanalla, and got distracted in arguing with Drona. Later, before the Kurukshetra battle, he would not ignore Drona and Bhishma’s taunts and walked off the battlefield in a huff. While on the one hand Krishna had dispelled the demons of doubt that raged in Arjuna’s mind at the start of the battle, Shalya, on the other hand, filled Karna’s mind with rage, doubt, and fear.

Thus, when Karna’s end came, the “Self“, for all practical purposes, had already dismounted the “body“. The “intellect” had refused to cooperate with the “Self“, as we witnessed. Karna was a distracted person. In a final assessment, the only thing that separated Karna from Arjuna was focus. One possessed an “intellect” as Krishna, the other Shalya. Shalya himself had not exactly distinguished himself, when he had allowed himself to get fooled by Duryodhana, had he? Karna chose such a person as his charioteer. A starker contrast between the marriage of the self and intellect could not be found than what was on display with Jishnu and Vishnu on the one hand, and Karna and Shalya on the other.
A last question that reinforces this contrast was raised by Dhritarashtra himself, when he asked Sanjaya after Ghototakacha had been killed by Karna’s Shakti weapon. He wanted to know from Sanjaya, “Why did he [Karna] not forget everyone else and hurl it [Indra’s spear] at Partha? Had he been slain, all the Pandavas and Srinjayas would have been killed too. Had that brave one alone been killed, why should victory in the battle not have been ours?” The answer was provided by Krishna himself, to a similar question posed by Satyaki – “The thought of killing the wielder of Gandiva was always in Karna’s heart. O foremost among warriors! But I confused Radheya.” Through his yogic powers, Krishna had been able to distract Karna’s mind. Day after day, for four days, till Karna had been forced to use the Shakti against Ghatotakacha.

I forgot to mention one thing. When Bhishma had assessed Karna’s capabilities, Drona had also weighed in. Before rating Karna as “half a ratha,” Drona had said this about Karna, to Karna himself – “Karna is generous. But he is also distracted.


 

prasad1

Well-known member
Karna and his supporters often claim that Karna had no choice but to lie in order to get a good education – education worthy of his talent. They claim that the whole system of ashrams and gurukuls was rigged against those of the lower caste.

So Parashurama and Drona were unwilling to teach Karna for their own ideological reasons. Karna could have gone to other teachers who were not so strict and they would have taught him. Krushna went to Sandipani rishi’s ashram where brahmins and vaishyas were taught vedas side by side. I am sure he would have accepted a suta too. He could have asked Shiva, who was always generous with his teachings. Why did he not ask his divine father Surya to teach him ? Karna’s desire for learning was not learning sake. He wanted to show off his skills and prove he was better than his peers. Once he achieved the status of a “king”, he didn’t bother to learn any more. He stagnated because his desire for learning was induced by pride and not wisdom.

For all his generosity and valor in the battle field, Karna was rude, crude and insolent. He was always interrupting elders and other advisers in the Kuru court. His sense of “injured pride” stopped him from supporting the war effort while Bhishma pitamaha was heading the army as its commander. His personal ego was so huge, he could not let anyone else take the honour of beating Pandavas ! If the elders called him Suta-putra, he certainly wasn’t taking it lying down, he called them plenty of demeaning names including impotent, eunuch, traitors and worse. Even by today’s standards, such open insult of elders and seniors would be insolent and considered bad manners.



Bravado in battle –
Arjun baiters often claim Karna was better than Arjun. For all his bravado, Karna ran away from the battlefield when the gandharvas defeated Duryodhan and when Arjun fought on the battlefield of Virat. Even in the battle of Mahabharata, Karna joined the battle on the 11th day, fresh and unhurt, when Arjun had been battling the Kaurava army and the grandsire for 10 long days. For supposedly being better than Arjun, Karna didn’t last in the battle more than 7 days.

For being a self-confessed man of action, Karna consistently supported all of Duryodhan’s mad-cap under-handed, dishonest ideas to hurt, kill or humiliate the Pandavas. Not a good sign for a man of honour or valour.


Many Karna and Eklayva supporters rage and rant at society and its structures claiming it was unfair and offered no career options for those lower down the caste or class ladder. Is it any different now? Don't we still have private and government schools offering different quality of education to those who can afford it? In fact, the time of Mahabharata’s was very progressive. Sutas had just as much chance of social and financial advancement as anyone else. Lets not forget - Sanjay – the narrator of Gita was a suta and he rose in rank to become a very well respected royal adviser. Yadavas as vaishyas ran a prosperous republic. Vyasa and Vidur were also mixed caste and both were at the pinnacle of their own chosen profession. There were teachers like Sandipani in Ujjain who taught all worthy students regardless of their class or caste. Shri Krushna and Sudama, prince and pauper, Vaishya and Brahmin studied a variety of subjects in that ashram.

No matter how many hundreds of reasons Karna might have had for rebelling against the inequalities of the world but – and its a crucial but – he had no reason to take out his frustration on a defenceless woman. His insult to Draupadi was the lowest point in his life. Even if he felt aggrieved at being denied the chance to marry her at the svayamvar, if he was a real man of honour, he would not have asked a married woman to be stripped in public. That was the real “blow below the belt”. To hit out at a woman when he could not harm her husbands shows how low Karna could go. Rape or incitement rape is sinful. Full stop.

This – above all is unforgivable.

Life is unfair.
Deal with it.
Karna never learnt to “deal with it”.

Karna raged and ranted at all and sundry for his own failures till he lost his moral compass and hit out at a woman. For all his other great qualities, Karna was failed by his own utter disregard for morality, especially when it came to Pandavas and Draupdi. What a sad waste of such great potential !

 
OP
OP
sravna

sravna

Well-known member
All said and done Karna was a human being. He reached the heights any human could inspite of nature scheming against him. If he had not been bitter, if he had not been distracted we need to call him divine. Forget those inevitable lapses. He still stands as high as one could imagine for the only reason he stood steadfast with Duryodhana amidst irresistible pressure and temptation. He indeed tried to breach that human divine divide. But he was not with the plot of nature and so had to bungle now and then and eventually succumb.
 

prasad1

Well-known member
No matter how many hundreds of reasons Karna might have had for rebelling against the inequalities of the world but – and its a crucial but – he had no reason to take out his frustration on a defenceless woman. His insult to Draupadi was the lowest point in his life. Even if he felt aggrieved at being denied the chance to marry her at the svayamvar, if he was a real man of honour, he would not have asked a married woman to be stripped in public. That was the real “blow below the belt”. To hit out at a woman when he could not harm her husbands shows how low Karna could go. Rape or incitement rape is sinful. Full stop.

This – above all is unforgivable.

Life is unfair.
Deal with it.
Karna never learnt to “deal with it”.

Karna raged and ranted at all and sundry for his own failures till he lost his moral compass and hit out at a woman. For all his other great qualities, Karna was failed by his own utter disregard for morality, especially when it came to Pandavas and Draupdi. What a sad waste of such great potential !

 

renuka

Well-known member
Karna was appointed commander of the Kauravas and took charge of what was left of the Kaurava army on the sixteenth morning. His charioteer was the redoubtable Shalya – uncle of the Pandava brothers Nakula and Sahdeva. How the brother of Madri came to fight on the side of the Kauravas is a tale in itself, but how did the two warriors spend the morning before the battle resumed? Arjuna and Krishna had spent the time before the battle began by getting to understand the purpose of the battle itself. Krishna had delivered the eternal message of the Bhagvad Gita to Arjuna. How did Shalya and Karna spend the time on the sixteenth morning? By arguing. Shalya provoked Karna, comparing him to a child wanting to touch the sun, to “a stupid jackal” shouting “at a maned and angry lion.” The “stupid jackal” being Karna, while the “angry lion” was Arjuna.

How did Karna respond? Need we guess? Karna took Shalya’s bait, and thus began a long argument, a cacophony that was as ugly as the real battle being fought. Karna had the choicest of abuses for the king of Madra, Shalya, his charioteer – “evil in nature“, “You are stupid“, “There are no good feelings in a Madraka“, “He [a Madraka] always lies and is never straight.“, “Noble women [Madrakas], according to their own wishes, mingle with men, known and unknown“, “They drink liquor, eat the flesh of cows and dance and laugh. The songs don’t have proper rhymes“, “Women who are intoxicated by liquor cast off their clothes and dance around. … O Madraka! You are the son of one such“, “They drink liquor made from grain and molasses. They eat the flesh of cows, laced with garlic. They eat bread mixed with meat and fried barley that has not been sowed.

On and on went the bickering. Shalya recounted a tale about a crow and swan, comparing Karna to the crow “that fed on leftovers from a vaishya household.” Karna, in Shalya’s estimation, was no different, and had “subsisted on leftovers from the sons of Dhritarashtra.

This then was Karna’s state of mind as he entered the battlefield.

How did the end come? In the middle of the furious battle, Parashurama’s curse manifested itself, as did the brahmana’s. “the earth swallowed up one of the wheels of Radheya’s chariot.” Karna “wept in rage.” An anjalika arrow, invoked with the right mantras, affixed to Arjuna’s Gandiva, severed Karna’s head.

Karna was the eldest of the four sons of Kunti. He was elder to Arjuna, Bhimasena, and Yudhishthira. Yet his lifelong battle had been with Arjuna. If one looks at Arjuna, the image most likely to be imprinted on the minds of people would be of Arjuna in a chariot commandeered by Krishna, who held the reins of the horses of the splendid chariot. The image cannot, but remind oneself of these lines from the Katha Upanishad:

Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as
The charioteer, and the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the road they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow
.” [Katha Upanishad, tr. Eknath Easwaran]
How did Karna respond? Need we guess? Karna took Shalya’s bait, and thus began a long argument, a cacophony that was as ugly as the real battle being fought. Karna had the choicest of abuses for the king of Madra, Shalya, his charioteer – “evil in nature“, “You are stupid“, “There are no good feelings in a Madraka“, “He [a Madraka] always lies and is never straight.“, “Noble women [Madrakas], according to their own wishes, mingle with men, known and unknown“, “They drink liquor, eat the flesh of cows and dance and laugh. The songs don’t have proper rhymes“, “Women who are intoxicated by liquor cast off their clothes and dance around. … O Madraka! You are the son of one such“, “They drink liquor made from grain and molasses. They eat the flesh of cows, laced with garlic. They eat bread mixed with meat and fried barley that has not been sowed.

On and on went the bickering. Shalya recounted a tale about a crow and swan, comparing Karna to the crow “that fed on leftovers from a vaishya household.” Karna, in Shalya’s estimation, was no different, and had “subsisted on leftovers from the sons of Dhritarashtra.

This then was Karna’s state of mind as he entered the battlefield.

How did the end come? In the middle of the furious battle, Parashurama’s curse manifested itself, as did the brahmana’s. “the earth swallowed up one of the wheels of Radheya’s chariot.” Karna “wept in rage.” An anjalika arrow, invoked with the right mantras, affixed to Arjuna’s Gandiva, severed Karna’s head.

Karna was the eldest of the four sons of Kunti. He was elder to Arjuna, Bhimasena, and Yudhishthira. Yet his lifelong battle had been with Arjuna. If one looks at Arjuna, the image most likely to be imprinted on the minds of people would be of Arjuna in a chariot commandeered by Krishna, who held the reins of the horses of the splendid chariot. The image cannot, but remind oneself of these lines from the Katha Upanishad:

Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as
The charioteer, and the mind as reins.
The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the road they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow
.” [Katha Upanishad, tr. Eknath Easwaran]

The contrast between Karna and Arjuna could not have been starker. All through his life, although Karna was a man, who possessed the greatest of talents, he could not bring himself to focus with single-minded attention to any one task. Distracted, he killed a calf, and got cursed. In the Kuru dyuta sabha, he could not keep his mouth shut, ordering Duhshasana to disrobe Droupadi. At Virata, he could not go after Brihanalla, and got distracted in arguing with Drona. Later, before the Kurukshetra battle, he would not ignore Drona and Bhishma’s taunts and walked off the battlefield in a huff. While on the one hand Krishna had dispelled the demons of doubt that raged in Arjuna’s mind at the start of the battle, Shalya, on the other hand, filled Karna’s mind with rage, doubt, and fear.

Thus, when Karna’s end came, the “Self“, for all practical purposes, had already dismounted the “body“. The “intellect” had refused to cooperate with the “Self“, as we witnessed. Karna was a distracted person. In a final assessment, the only thing that separated Karna from Arjuna was focus. One possessed an “intellect” as Krishna, the other Shalya. Shalya himself had not exactly distinguished himself, when he had allowed himself to get fooled by Duryodhana, had he? Karna chose such a person as his charioteer. A starker contrast between the marriage of the self and intellect could not be found than what was on display with Jishnu and Vishnu on the one hand, and Karna and Shalya on the other.
A last question that reinforces this contrast was raised by Dhritarashtra himself, when he asked Sanjaya after Ghototakacha had been killed by Karna’s Shakti weapon. He wanted to know from Sanjaya, “Why did he [Karna] not forget everyone else and hurl it [Indra’s spear] at Partha? Had he been slain, all the Pandavas and Srinjayas would have been killed too. Had that brave one alone been killed, why should victory in the battle not have been ours?” The answer was provided by Krishna himself, to a similar question posed by Satyaki – “The thought of killing the wielder of Gandiva was always in Karna’s heart. O foremost among warriors! But I confused Radheya.” Through his yogic powers, Krishna had been able to distract Karna’s mind. Day after day, for four days, till Karna had been forced to use the Shakti against Ghatotakacha.

I forgot to mention one thing. When Bhishma had assessed Karna’s capabilities, Drona had also weighed in. Before rating Karna as “half a ratha,” Drona had said this about Karna, to Karna himself – “Karna is generous. But he is also distracted.


Drona saying Karna is distracted?
Well, Drona is the one who spent his whole life focussing on revenge even to the extent of making Ekalavya cut of his own thumb to make the revenge plot happen.

Drona isnt distracted..but too focus on revenge..what kind of life is that?

At least Karna was returning Shalya's insults with words..unlike Drupada whose revenge is out of proportion.

Drupada insulted Drona with words..so why not either forgive him and get over it or return the insult with words.
Heck no! Drona plots to kill Drupada..day in and day out his plans were on how to acheive that..his whole life was a series of planning and plotting.

God knows how one could survive with that much thoughts of revenge.
 
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sravna

sravna

Well-known member
If Krishna were asked who is He among human beings, He definitely would have said, I am Karna among human beings.
 
OP
OP
sravna

sravna

Well-known member
Among the greatest virtues I would say are helping others in need and never forgetting those who helped us when in need. Karna had both these virtues
 
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