Thursday, April 05, 2012
Suffering makes people ask 'why me'. A question that often leads us to look up our own upanishads, ithihasas and puranas.
Two characters - Son of Indra and Son of Surya play pivotal roles in our epics. They are pitted against each other in the battlefield of life and they bring out the inter-connectedness of life events across births. It is intriguing and very humbling to note the similarity of their choices and the mirror-image nature of their eventual destiny. In the epics these two characters are very dear to the reader. This is because their actions cause great conflict of human emotions and ethics within the reader's/listener's mind. An average person does not necessarily think of either character as flawless or good. But we are disturbed by what happens to the flawed heroes. Maybe because a third person - some can call it fate but I will call it simply as 'someone else' - plays a bigger role in their life than anybody else's. Maybe these two characters thread the needle of what is ethical and what is not. The role they play in across the two births and two epic stories brings out the very essence of life. Of God.
Take for instance the events that unfold in one of their re-births. When Son of Indira - by devious means - gets the power that allows him to steal away the strength of his enemy during battle. A glaring violation of war rules where a fair fight between two adversaries is measured by the duel of their own strengths. When one steals the strength of another through improper means it becomes an unequal fight and therefore - adharma. Indra-putra could have won many great adversaries using his own strength. But he chose to be a coward and swindled his enemy's strength. In a battle field - he often fought the weaponless and the defenseless. He has a choice to fight fairly. But by constantly making a choice to fight unfairly - he removed his right for a fair fight even if he wanted one. It didn't stop there. The Son of Indira ruled a kingdom with great cruelty and does heinous crimes on his people. He steals the wife of the Son of Surya and keeps her for himself. He steals the kingdom of son of Surya. The sin of coveting and stealing another man's wife being worse than violating mere rules of battle. The death of Indra-putra came when he made his choices. It didn't come when he actually died - during the one-on-one battle with Surya-putra. It didn't come when the arrow hit his chest. That was merely symbolic. The Son of Surya befriended people of dharma. Fought for dharma. And things were darkest for him for a long long time. The good always seemed to be going through suffering. But like it happens to all good people he just had to point a finger and justice was restored as easily as it was taken away.
In another life, in another birth - it was the turn of the Son of Surya to make his choices. The choices presented to Surya-putra were more nuanced but choices nevertheless. And he did not make good choices. The sequence of events in his life seems to be exact mirror image of Indra-putra's previous life. Surya-Putra lies about his birth to deviously obtain the supreme weapon that could be used to kill anyone in battle. He befriended children of adharma. He went against the wishes of his mother to support evil men knowing fully well what he was doing. He trampled a subject of his kingdom - a brahmin child - with his chariot. He supports the insult of (and thereby insults) the modesty the wife of Son of Indra. He helps adharmic people steal the kingdom of Indra-putra. He kills Indra-putra's son in battle when the victim was unarmed. He died several times, much before his death actually arrived in the form of an arrow to his chest.
What is fascinating is how they meet their ends. Both are killed in a fashion that seem to violate the rules of battle. Struck by an arrow to the chest in battle field, during a one-on-one duel with each other. Killed when unarmed or when not looking. But their death is heroic. It also fits the choices they made in life. It fits them very well. What is even more fascinating is during both these events there was a third person. The same One.