Krishna’s Game of War
Lesser known among the many Mahabharata stories, this short South Indian tale is also a unique Krishna story, featuring an Udipi king and Krishna’s penchant for peanuts during the Kurukshetra war.
Questioner: Sadhguru, it is said that Sage Vyasa wrote Mahabharata even before it happened, and only then did all these events occur. It is also said that someone told Kamsa that Krishna would come and kill him. How can people know things before they actually happen?
Sadhguru: That’s called a prophecy. Are some parts of our lives predetermined, and if it is so, what is the point of all this striving? I have to tell you a story from the Mahabharata. During the Kurukshetra war, which was described as the Dharma Yuddha, the mother of all battles, no one could remain neutral. You had to be either on the Kaurava side or the Pandava side. Hundreds of kings started aligning themselves on either side. Since Jarasandha of Magadha, who used to be a major force, was dead, his grandsons had split up. Most of the Magadhas joined the Kaurava side; a few of them joined the Pandava side. Almost the whole of Arya Varta took sides. Only one chose to remain neutral – the king of Udupi.
This Udupi king said to Krishna, “Everyone is going to fight. Those who fight a battle have to eat. I will be the caterer for the Kurukshetra war.” You know, the Udupi cuisine is quite popular. Even today, a lot of the Udupi people are caterers. Krishna said, “Fine. Someone has to cook and serve, so you do it.” The Udupi king was serving food for both sides.
The battle lasted for 18 days. Every day, thousands of people died. It was a challenge to manage the catering. If you keep cooking for the same number of people, a lot of food would go waste. If you cook less and the soldiers do not have enough food, it will not be good either. But the Udupi king served well. Amazingly, every day when he cooked, the food was enough for all the soldiers, and no food was wasted. People were amazed how he managed to cook the exact amount of food, because no one knew how many people died on each day. By the time they took accounts, it would have been too late. Definitely, the caterer did not know how many people died on that day, but every day, he cooked exactly the amount of food that was necessary for the remaining soldiers.
When someone asked the Udupi king how he managed this, he said, “Every day in the night, Krishna likes to eat boiled peanuts. I peel them and keep them in a bowl. He eats just a few peanuts, and after he is done, I count to see how many he has eaten. If he has eaten 10 peanuts, I know tomorrow 10,000 will die, so I cook tomorrow’s food for 10,000 people less. Every day, I count these peanuts and cook accordingly, so it turns out right.”
Life happens on many levels. There is a poem in Eternal Echoes about knowing the beginning and the end – it is called “Pranam.”
My awareness knows yesterdays and tomorrows,
my love’s domain is only today
Knowing the beginning and the end,
still have to play the game in the middle
The joy of love was coupled
with life-taking venom,
the wondrous grace of the Guru
with heart-breaking sadhana
The fire of enlightenment
with ridicule and failure
the blissfulness of the being,
the rapture of fulfillment, enjoined
with the pain of the body
Is this a joke
Is this Shiva’s will
Is he compassion
O’ Shambho! Let me tell one and all:
I do not want it any other way,
I do not want it any other way!
In this story, Krishna’s predicament is the same – “Knowing the beginning and the end, still have to play the game in the middle.” People always want to know their future. The reason why you should not know your future is, if I tell you what will happen tomorrow, you will not participate in today. If I tell you that you are going to die tomorrow, you will say, “If I am anyway going to die, why should I meditate? Why should I go to work?” This is the state of mind you are in. Krishna is not like that – he knows tomorrow, but still, he totally participates in today.
Knowing the beginning and the end, you still have to play the game in the middle. Otherwise, there is no game, because the game is only in the moment. Now you may ask, “Knowing tomorrow, you are still making us play today?” You must play today – even if you know tomorrow. Or you must withdraw from all play, but you are not capable of that. Anyway you play – so better play well. You anyway have to perform action – why do it half-heartedly? Better to do it well.
Editor's Note: Watch the Leela series, where Sadhguru explores the life and path of Krishna.