Mahabharat Episode 72: Heaven or Hell? Yudhishthira Makes an Unusual Choice
After ruling their kingdom for 36 years, the Pandavas relinquished the throne and went for a pilgrimage to Mount Sumeru. On the way, Draupadi, Nakula, Sahadeva, Bhima, and Arjuna all fell to their death while only Yudhishthira made it to Devaloka, where he discovers that a dog has been accompanying him all the way from Hastinapur! The story continues…
Not Without the DogSadhguru: The hospitality escorts from Devaloka said, “Dogs are not allowed in Devaloka.” Yudhishthira looked at the dog. The dog looked at him, hopefully. Then Yudhishthira said, “I cannot leave this dog. I did not call him, but he has traveled all the way. My wife and four brothers, who I believe were virtuous, fell off because they were unfit to come this far. This dog must have some karma to make it here. It is not for me to reject him. We will take the dog.” They said, “No dogs on our craft.”
He said, “Then I am not going either. I will just sit on this mountain and leave my body here.” They were very amused, “What? If you cannot bring your dog, you will not come to heaven?” He said, “It is not my dog. I do not know whose dog it is. All I know is that it has made the journey, so maybe it is fit to go to heaven. It is not for you to judge.”
Yudhishthira’s Rigid Sense of Justice
It is not attachment to the dog that made Yudhishthira do this. He felt that since the dog made the journey, it would be unjust to deny it the prize of going to heaven. That was his sense of dharma. So, they landed in Devaloka along with the dog. The first thing Yudhishthira asked was, “Where are my brothers? Where is Panchali?” The escorts said, “First let’s go into Indra’s assembly.” They walked into Indra’s assembly, and Yudhishthira saw Duryodhana sitting there in his usual arrogance and glory.
Yudhishthira was taken aback. “Duryodhana has made it here?!” Then he looked the other way. Dushasana was sitting there even more arrogantly, and Shakuni was there too. But there was no sign of his brothers, Karna, or Panchali. He said, “This is not fair. How could Duryodhana get here? He is the cause of so much killing, so much pain and suffering in our lives and that of many others. How did he find entry? And where are my brothers? Where is my wife?” They said, “Your brothers and your wife are in another place.”
Yudhishthira said, “Then I am not interested in this assembly. First I want to go there and see how they are doing.” They asked, “Do you not want to sit with Indra?” He said, “No, it does not mean anything to me. I do not like Duryodhana, Dushasana, and Shakuni sitting in such prominent places in Devaloka. I want to see my brothers.” So they took him down a winding path.
A Voluntary Trip to Hell
As they went down, it was getting darker, and Yudhishthira started smelling all kinds of evil smells, and hearing moans of suffering and screams of pain. It was worse than the Kurukshetra battle. He asked, “What is this place?” Then he heard a female voice screaming. “Is that Panchali? Why is she screaming? Are you torturing her?” One by one, he heard the voices of all his brothers. He said, “Why are my wife and brothers in hell when Duryodhana and his clan are in heaven? This is not fair.”
The gods who took him down said, “That is not for us to decide. The dharma and karma is decided by Chitragupta, who keeps accounts. If you do not like the place, let’s go back.” He said, “How can I leave my wife and brothers here? I have to take them with me.” The gods said, “That is not our business. We cannot do that.” Yudhishthira thought for a long moment and said, “I do not want to go to Devaloka. I will stay in hell with my wife and brothers.” They asked, “Are you sure?” He said, “Yes. This is where I will stay.”
Then Indra himself appeared and said, “Your sense of justice is something that we really appreciate. There is no other man like you in the world, but you have still not given up your hatred for Duryodhana and his brothers. You were taken aback the moment you saw them in heaven. You did not even look back when your wife and brothers fell down the mountain. You had that much dispassion. But the moment you saw Duryodhana, Dushasana, and Shakuni sitting in Devaloka, everything came back to you. Unless you give up your hatred, you and your brothers will not make it back there.”
Yudhishthira sat down cross-legged, looked into himself, and saw that the seeds of hatred in him had been suppressed but not burned out; they could sprout anytime if the situation nourishes them, and there would be a war again in some other form. So, he destroyed the seeds of hatred within himself. When he managed to do that, all the gods came down to him and said, “Jaya!”
There are two kinds of victories. One is Vijaya, which means to conquer something outside of us. Success in the material world – whether by study, craft, or conquest – is called Vijaya. But when you have transcended all the obstacles within you and managed to have an inner victory, that is Jaya. Yudhishthira achieved Vijaya through the Kurukshetra war, but that would not have delivered him anywhere. When he conquered every seed of negativity and crossed every little hurdle within himself, it was Jaya.
To be continued…
The articles of this series are based on talks by Sadhguru during the Mahabharat program at the Isha Yoga Center, Coimbatore, in February 2012. Guided by Sadhguru, participants went on a mystical exploration into the wisdom of this immortal saga, through music, dance, and spiritual processes.