The source of knowledge for this series of blogs on the Mahabharata, are the talks by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Any error in understanding is mine alone.. Not all situations from the Mahabharata are blogged upon; and for those situations blogged upon, parallels are drawn to day to day living.

When MAnvi’s thAthA walked into his room, he saw MAnvi deeply engrossed in talking to herself – an act she does when she is introspecting or disturbed or joyous about an experience. He waited for her to sense his presence.

MAnvi: When Karna was sixteen years old, in his dream he would see a lady who looked like a princess and also looked sad; and when he would ask her who she was, she would walk away. When he recounted his dream to his mother Radha, she explained about how he came to them. Radha expressed that he was not a sUta (one who is bron to a Brahmin and a Kshatriya). As he had the characteristics of a Kshatriya, Radha said that she was sure he was one. Karna felt at home with what Radha expressed as he also did not feel himself to be a sUta. He did not feel as though he ‘belonged’ in that family, despite his fondness towards Radha. Hearing what Radha expressed made him feel the need for fame, the need to prove himself and to earn a name for himself.

thAthA: Hmmmn!! MAnvi, you said that Karna felt at home when he heard what Radha had to say. Does that mean that he also felt that he was a kshatriya?

MAnvi: Perhaps, he did. He would have seen Kshatriyas or heard about them and if he was aware of himself, he may have felt he was one of them. When Radha expressed the background behind his being brought up by them, she just confirmed what he may have been feeling already. That may have fuelled his need for name, fame and his desire to be a great archer. Doesn’t that happen with quite some of us as well, thAthA? We feel that we don’t fit into the family we are born in or brought up by. We don’t feel at home with a group of people we may call ‘friends’. At that time, all we need is someone to talk to us about it; someone we value and who matters to us. That small nudge, that small talk (no pun intended), that trigger.. Suddenly there is a paradigm shift that happens in us. After that, how we think of ourselves changes significantly. A different search begins and this is precisely what Karna felt as well.

thAthA: That is indeed an interesting parallel, MAnvi!! Tell me, what did Karna do?

MAnvi: Since Karna wanted to be a great archer, he approached Drona who was considered an AchArya (learned person / teacher / mentor) of this craft. Sadly for Karna, DronAcharya could not teach him as Karna was a Suta and the princes in DronAchArya’s school would not accept him as their peer. It is like the thoroughbred not accepting the so called half-bred!!! Though in Karna’s case, he strongly felt that he was a Kshatriya and not a half-Kshatriya.

That must have been frustrating for him, thAthA – to want to prove himself and not having the means to do so. Well, the denial of an opportunity that he thought he deserved, made him to do something that he may not have done, if he had got the opportunity the first time.

thAthA: What did Karna do that he would not have done, if he had got the opportunity learn from DronAcharya?

MAnvi: He approached Parasurama, the teacher of Drona and asked him to teach archery to him. Parasurama would not teach Kshatriyas. Karna knew that if he revealed to Parasurama that he was a sUtaputra, he may again be denied an opportunity to learn archery. Once bitten, twice shy!!

thAthA: So what did Karna do?

MAnvi: Karna told ParasurAma a half-truth – that he was a brAhmana (ParasurAma did not teach Kshatriyas); he did this knowling fully well that only then he would be taught archery by ParasurAma. He consoled himself that it was fine to tell only half the truth, as he would use what he learnt in archery to uphold dharma; and would not use it against people for adhArmic intentions. Trusting what Karna revealed about himself, ParasurAma taught him archery and was proud of his student and his accomplishments in archery.

thAthA: Wait, MAnvi. Are you saying that if one is denied an opportunity that one thinks is deserved by them, they can do something that is adhArmic? Let us leave aside what happened after ParasurAma came to know the truth.

MAnvi (knowing she was caught in a catch-22 situation): thAthA, it is difficult to answer this question. The first time around Karna did say the truth, but was he accepted? No. His desire to become an archer and an opportunity to prove himself, was not fulfilled. That made him think that if he will be accepted as a student with half-truth only said, then why not say only half the truth! I am not saying what he did in the situation with ParasurAma was right or wrong.

The thought that he was a Kshatriya was so strong in him, that he did what he thought would befit a Kshatriya – to learn archery. He felt that he ‘belonged’ with the Kshatriyas. He needed that name and fame and he thought that since he did not have it, he needed to prove himself to get it. And when he was denied that opportunity to prove himself of learning the skills of a Kshatriya, he decided to tell a half-truth to get an opportunity again

thAthA: MAnvi, I see that you have been consistently using the term ‘half-truth’ and not ‘half-lie’. Why?

MAnvi: thAthA, Karna’s value for honesty stands out for me. Karna started with saying the truth to DronAchArya and that didn’t work. In the situation with ParasurAma, while he may not have revealed the complete truth, he didn’t hide comeletely behind a lie either. He had attached a great value to learning the skills needed for a Kshatriya. He also had a value for honesty. A conflict between two of his values made him choose one over the other, based on the stake he attached to it.

thAthA: Your choice of words is indeed beautiful to hear, MAnvi. I cannot but help relating it to situations in life.

MAnvi (with a smile): Thank you, thAthA. I love this character called Karna. He had no choice over his birth or who he was brought up by. He felt a sense of belonging to the Kshatriyas and learnt what he needed to, to fit in there. He had a value for honesty and though he may have half-lied for reasons valid to him , he retained half the honesty. At this point in time in the story, he comes across as vulnerable in his search to find who he is and as a person who charts his own path, based on where he thinks he fits in. While he maybe frustrated at the turn of events, there is nothing to say that anyone was blamed for the situation he found himself in. So much to learn from this character called Karna.

thAthA: MAnvi, ‘what’ we take-away is more important than ‘who’ we take-away from!!

MAnvi marveled at that ace of a statement from her thAthA!!